Crafty Throwback: Proggy Heart Cushion

I haven’t posted about any crafty makes in a while but I found some pics of this so thought I’d write about it.

Known as proggy mats here in the northeast of England, but variously called clippy mats, peggy mats among others names elsewhere, they were a way of recycling old fabrics to make rugs. This would provide welcome warmth underfoot when carpets were unaffordable. In that respect I suppose it has much in common with the American quilting tradition of producing beautiful home furnishings from old recycled fabrics. I’ve seen some amazing proggy work in local heritage museums like Beamish and Woodhorn .

The technique involves poking strips of fabric (cut from old clothes and bedding) through a backing of hessian (recycled sacks) using a “progger”. This was basically a spike either whittled from a piece of wood or made from anything else that did the job. A similar technique, making hooky mats, involved hooking loops of the fabric strips through the backing fabric.

I’d seen a demonstration of it done using old t-shirts. When these are cut into vertical strips and stretched slightly the fabric curls up to form a sort of tube, which gives the finished object a really interesting texture. I had to give it a try. I had lots of old t-shirts that Daughter had grown out of, that seemed to be mainly in shades of pink and red, which made me think of the heart design. A cushion seemed a good starter project – not to big for a first go at proggy. I cut the t-shirts into strips, about 2cm by 10cm, lining up vertically with the grain of the fabric. I found a few other old red and pink items that were destined for the charity shop and when the project progressed and I was running low on fabric I supplemented these with a couple of very cheap t-shirts from Primark. Men’s size XXXL represented the best value!

I drew my heart shape onto a square of hessian, hemmed the edges and tacked them onto a tapestry frame which could be wound tight to hold the backing fabric taut. Then it was time to fill in the heart outline with the fabric strips. I put them in quite close together to create a thick pile and each subsequent row would tighten up the weave of the hessian, locking the strips tightly into place.

The different shades of pink and red and varying fabric thicknesses gave a lovely texture to the piece.

When full. I cut out the heart shape with a 2cm margin, zigzag stitched all the way round to stop it fraying, then machine stitched it to a heart shape of plain canvas, leaving a gap for stuffing with polyester filling, which was hand stitched closed.

I was really pleased with the finished article, with it being my first go at proggy.

Do you have a favourite item that you’ve made from recycled old fabrics?

Lockdown Crafts: A Trio Of Baskets.

I have a set of shelves in the utility room, where I store things like tea towels, cleaning cloths and freezer bags: not the easiest things to store on shelves, so I was after some baskets, but couldn’t find anything the right size so I decided to make some. All I used were some old glossy magazines and glue (hot glue and PVA). Don’t you just love repurposing things?

Using a craft blade and a ruler to get a straight edge, I cut the pages out and started by folding them into strips, long edges to the middle, then long edges to the middle again, then in half. Wherever possible I kept the most colourful side to the outside.

When I needed to join strips I either joined two or three sheets together with a thin line of glue before folding or joined two folded strips together by wrapping one round another with 1-2cm overlap and securing with glue.

Starting with the basket base, I secured the first few strips to the table with low-tack tape, using the grid lines on my cutting mat to keep them parallel to each other. I then began to weave strips through these, keeping them a right angles to the initial strips and parallel to each other. I tried to keep the weave as tight as possible, applying a dab of hot glue every so often to keep the strips secure.

When the base was the right size I folded the unwoven ends up and began to weave a strip round the basket. I made some strips with magazine covers and attached these to the strips that were forming the corner verticals, for added strength. I joined in new strips as I went, trying to keep joins behind upright strips. When the first round was complete I joined the two ends, making sure that the weave stayed tight and even to avoid the sided of the basket bulging. I also kept the upright strips as straight as possible, easing them into place to forma tight weave and not bulging out. I started each new round in a different place – joints are the weakest part, so I didn’t want to concentrate them all on one side. I found it helped keep things secure if the uprights (apart from the stiffer corner struts) were bent over as I wove the strip round and the upright were also already in the right position for the next round.

When I got to the second last round I found it was important to use as little glue as possible to secure the weave and limit it to the lower edge to allow for tucking ends in.

Once the last round of strips was woven in I made some edge supports by rolling a magazine page diagonally into a thin tube (I started it by rolling it around a thin knitting needle) and securing with a dab of hot glue.

These tubes are surprisingly strong and make a rigid top edge for the basket. I wove the uprights through as if the rod was another round of strips joining them at the corners by inserting the end of one tube into another and securing with a little hot glue (one end of each tube is thicker than the other

I finished by trimming each upright strip to about 6cm long and tucking it into the second last round of strips. I started with the outside and then did the inside, securing with a little glue around the tube.

With all the ends tucked in I gave the whole basket a couple of coats of diluted PVA glue, inside and out. This makes the whole basket more rigid as well as sealing the surface.

I’m really pleased with my made to measure baskets. I wouldn’t use them for heavy item storage but they are perfect for lighter things.

Have you tried any new crafts recently?