A Work of Art in Wool and Appreciating Ruth Holden
Proika and Yiayiades
I left the UK in my late teens and came back in my early thirties. Until I moved back to the UK, I had never had carpet in my houses as an adult. Living in the mediterranean, carpets were frowned upon as unnecessary and quite frankly dirt catchers that were unsavoury and carried disease!
We had marble floors in the kitchen, sitting room and bathroom and wooden floors in the bedrooms. In the winter when our feet would get a little chilly on the marble floors, out came the rugs. Beautifully handpicked fleece, dyed in natural dyes, hand spun and pulled then hand woven. They had been made back in “ the village” by the “yiayiades”( Grandmothers) and were passed down as part of a “ proika” ( a dowery consisting of a chest full of house linen, crocheted items, embroidered table linen, rugs etc & all hand made by members of the family) when you were married. The rugs came in various sizes and thicknesses. The thinner ones were used to decorate and insulate walls in village houses or as bed covers for colder nights. The thicker ones were laid down in the main rooms and their colours and designs reflected the village, traditions, and folklore of the area.
Beating The Rugs that Came in From the Cold
So, when the evenings became chillier out came the rugs and with the rugs came the trusty carpet beater. The carpet beater was a standard household appliance along with a bucket, mop and brush. No need for a hoover or carpet cleaner. It was typically made of wicker or cane and crafted by hand. It consisted of an intricately woven head with a strong, flat surface on the end of a long handle. Once a week the rugs would be slung over the railings of the balcony or out in the garden and beaten repeatedly until there was no sign of dust ofrdirt floating around in the air above. It was my worst household chore, although on reflection , I must say it also brought about a sense of release and calm! Simple! Rugs cleaned and all was calm and peaceful.
Making Memories and Preserving the Past
On retuning to the UK , I had some possessions shipped back along with a few rugs. The rugs are still going strong. The colours still as vibrant as the day I received them. I have one on my sofa in my room, another adorning the wall of a cabin in the garden and the thickest floor rug hasnt be rolled out for the winter yet ,32 years after I received it. All have stood the test of time and have many more years left to see another generation through, I hasten to add the carpet beater didn’t make it back to the UK…..
The Handwoven Rug Appreciation Society
And that is where my appreciation of handmade rugs came from. The skill, time and dedication it takes to produce items which can create memories and hold stories, part of our personal history. I really don’t think people appreciate how much time, effort and love goes into making these stunning pieces and what a treasure they are. We have some absolutely stunning rugs in the gallery. They are handmade by Ruth Holden.
The Rugs of Ruth Holden
A Work of Art In Wool
Ruth has been making things from material since she was a child. About twenty years ago, this grew into her crafting rag rugs, and more recently working with fleece to create her colourful creations. The coming together of the wool fibres to make a whole new ‘piece’ which has a whole new life ahead of it , is something which Ruth finds really exciting, a continual transformation.
The process is labour intensive and slow; she begins with the dirty raw fleece, washing it, carding, spinning and mixing with dyed fibres. Nevertheless, there is satisfaction in the physical nature of the early stages of the work, which develops into complete absorption when working with the threads she knows so well. Her use of colour and texture allow her work to feel quite painterly (?)and tah dah she produces some of these beautiful rugs:
Please help support artisans and keepers of the traditions that are dying out ( no pun intended) by taking a look at some of Ruth’s work and getting yourself a little bit of living history.
How to Tell if a Rug is Handmade
- Check the back of the rug – if the knots and weaving are not perfectly uniform you will know it is handmade.
- Handmade rugs are likely to have variations in colour due to the method being entirely manual including the dyeing process as well. Wool that has been dyed in different batches may have slightly different shades.
- When you look at the back of a machine -made rug, you can see the white grid lines that have been made electronically – handmade rugs will not have these pronounced lines.
- On a handmade rugthe edges are overcast by hand and you can see the hand stitching on the back.
- Cuddle the r ug – if it feels like you are cuddling a sheep – then you are on to a winner – it is in fact a rug made from wool!