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?