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Rag Crochet: A Vintage Technique

Contributed by staff

Rag crochet has been widely practiced in the mountains of Appalachia for many years, because all the bits and pieces of worn fabrics were too precious to waste. Just as early quilters valued every little scrap of fabric, so, too, the mountain women crocheted their own type of patchwork with long strips of fabric, cut from garments or household items.

As the strips were cut fairly wide, the crochet had to be done with a large hook. These were not commercially available until recent years, so the menfolk-husbands, brothers, perhaps even suitors-carefully carved primitive hooks from local woods. These charming tokens, usually well worn from hours of use, can often be found at flea markets and antique shops.

Probably the first use of rag crochet was to make rugs to keep cabin floors warm during the winter months, and mats were made to protect a wellworn wood table from the assaults of daily meals.

Today, most rag crochet is made from new fabric, carefully chosen to create interesting color patterns. Fabric yardage can be used, which you can cut or tear into strips yourself, or precut strips can be ordered from several sources.

Our updated version is a bit more whimsical than the original Appalachian practical pieces, which were more about function than form. Our pretty hearts add a homey touch to a dining table. What originated from necessity has become a fashion statement.