Lovely proggy cushion by Debbie Siniska
All these names refer to the humble rag rug! Before anyone had even thought of the term recycling, people were cutting up their worn out clothes and recreating them as cosy rugs to keep their toes toasty in the days before central heating. Known as tab or peg rugs in Yorkshire, Clootie Basses in North East Scotland, proggy mats in County Durham and Northumberland and going by the name of proddy, clippie and peggy mats in other regions. All are a variation on a similar theme.
Nowadays the method of proggy and hooky rug making is very much associated with the Northern counties of England, especially Northumberland and County Durham, but rag rug making was once common throughout the whole of Britain. I remember my Nan used to make them and she was born and bred in Sussex, down south we simply called them rag rugs. But, as I meander around the counties of Britain looking at traditional crafts associated with different regions, I thought I would stop at Northumberland and feature their version; the proggy mat.
image from Beamish Museum Peoples Collection
But what is a proggy mat? And what has proddy, peggy, clippie, tab and hooky got to do with anything? Basically proggy, proddy, peggy, tab, clippie and clootie mats are all regional names for the same thing. Hooky mats are slightly different, but all the names refer to how the mats are made or the tool used to make them.
This is a lady making a proggy mat – note – they are made stretched on a frame and worked with the wrong side facing up. (Image from Beamish museum)
Proggy mats are made by taking a old burlap, jute or hessian sack and prodding lots of small strips or clips of material through the sacking to form a pile. This is done with a wooden tool called a progger or simply with a sharpened clothes peg. Hooky mats are slightly different and are made with longer strips of material which are pulled through the sacking with a hooked tools to create lines of small loops. The image below is a selection of very simple progger tools which are all you need to get started in rag rug making.
The craft of proddy mat making is still very much alive and well. It is both a hobby craft – where mats are created by many for the pure joy of it and it has also been elevated into an art form by some textile artists.
There are oodles of resources out there for those who wish to learn more. Courses and online tutorials are also available.
www.makings.co.uk - For all your rag making needs
www.beamish.org.uk - large collection of proggy mats and run workshops and demonstrations.
www.oldandinteresting.com – This website is great!! It is my new favourite
www.fishingarts.co.uk - This had some interesting info on regional variations and traditional patterns.
woolshed1.blogspot.com - Describes how the proggy mats used to be made in Northumberland.