(Article first published on Squidoo by Gail Martin about using yarn and rags for crafts)
My husband and I tackled a variety of crafts over the years. Many of these crafts linked back to our Kansas pioneer heritage. Examples of those include rag dolls and the wagon wheel rag rugs.
Until Clyde retired, I was always the crafty one, but once he had some free time, he joined in with many of the crafts. I’ll share with you photos of many our crafts and the instructions so you can try them out for yourself.
This photo is my husband, Clyde Martin, working on a round rag rug using a wagon wheel metal rim for the base.
I tried all sorts of crafts over the years, from stenciling on pillowcases in the 1950s to macrame plant hangers in the 1970s. After retirement, we worked on some crafts together like the wagon wheel rugs based on a vintage craft from our Kansas pioneer background.
We made large Christmas decorations from pom-poms which looked great on a wall or door. One design was a yarn wreath and another was a giant candy cane. We also made Santa faces with yarn, felt, and a bleach bottle base. People loved those and also the fluffy cats made from pom-poms.
Sometimes we get the supplies very cheaply at yard sales. The old sheets and skeins of yarn can be good buys. You don’t always find the exact colors you want though. Let your friends and family know what your needs are and they can rummage around in their excess stuff to share with you.
Here’s Clyde making a pom-pom cat.
Making useful things out of worn out clothes or linens was a necessity back in our grandmother’s day and the “how-to” of it all was passed down from one woman to the next.
In the photo below, you see my mother with an antique quilt that’s been passed down in the family. The signatures stitched into the quilt include her mother, great-aunts and their neighbors from the 1930s. What a treasure!
Gail explains the names on the autograph quilt.
When I was a child, I remember Mom making two Sunbonnet Sue quilts with yellow squares between the designs. Those decorated the room that I shared with Susan. Those wore out years ago, but recently, I saw the one shown below and it reminded me of the pretty one Mom made.
On my father’s side of the family, there were notable quilters, including his mom, Cora Joy Martin, and his sister Dorothy (Martin) Jones. One of our cousins even opened a quilt shop that sold fabric and held quilting classes.
When I lived in Baltimore, I was president of the large quilt guild there and organized some of their quilt shows and was the newsletter editor also. Then we lived for a few years in Australia and I was delighted to find the small town of Alice Springs had a very active quilt club.
Even more than the quilting itself, I’m passionate about old quilts. They speak to me.
Here’s a gallery of family quilts.
Shannon (Martin) Hyle with a Martin family quilt. The design is called cathedral windows.
Cynthia Ross with a quilt made by an aunt, Dorothy Jones.
A quilt made by Cora Martin
“I think mom, Gail Lee Martin made fabric balls like this one Christmas. Reminds me of the many Christmas projects both Dad and Mom worked together on. Like the yarn candy cane and the Santa head. Both were very nicely put together. They had to start early in the year to get them all made.” – Cynthia Ross
Here’s a YouTube video tutorial for making these no-sew folded fabric ornament balls. They give a quilted look but there’s no glue or sewing required. Just cut, fold and pin the fabric.
Here are more of Gail and Clyde’s Christmas crafts:
Make a Candy Cane Wall Hanging from Yarn. This is an earlier blog post, in case you missed it. It uses yarn to create a huge candy can to hang on your door or on the wall.
This reindeer ornament is made from gluing 3 wooden clothespins together. Two serve as the legs and the one pointing upwards makes the antlers. Glue on felt to serve as the tail, the nose and a bit of Christmas holly. Some googly eyes and a string to hang it. Really cute!
I’ll post Mom’s complete instructions for this tomorrow. She wrote about it for the eHow site.
Candy cane reindeer with pipe cleaner antlers and googly eyes. Made by Gail Lee Martin.
You don’t need much explanation for this candy cane reindeer. It’s pretty clear how to assemble it. It’s a fun project for kids during the holiday season.
You can get a package of wiggle eyes from Amazon or check your local craft store. Click on the photo to see the details or to look for other wiggle eyes, candy canes, pipe cleaners, felt, wooden clothespins and other craft supplies on Amazon.
My husband, Clyde, and I revived a long-lost family craft by making Wagon Wheel Rugs.
Using a combination of oral history and a trial and error method, we have succeeded in making the rugs the same way his Great-grandmother Kennedy probably did. Our great-grandmother was Elizabeth Rosebaugh, and she was born on the western frontier of Pennsylvania in 1826. In raising a large family, Elizabeth always had to make do with what she had, so it would be natural for her to come up with the idea of the wagon wheel rugs.
Things You’ll Need:
- cotton sheets or material
- a wagon wheel rim (without the spokes)
- an old blanket
Today we make them from cotton sheets, as well as dress material. The hardest part of the whole rug process is finding suitable cotton material. We search garage sales looking for cotton sheets for making the rugs. Most sheets with a blend of fifty percent cotton work well. If there is too much man-made material in the fabric, the material stretches as you weave and the rugs won’t lay flat. In fact, some of my first rugs looked more like baskets than rugs.
Most sheets from garage sales are on sale because the owners have changed bed size or are redecorating and changing color schemes. These sheets are usually still in good condition and can be purchased for a dollar or so in our area. The rugs can be made with brand new material but that would add to the price of the rug. Pioneers didn’t have the opportunity to make designs like we can, using the vivid colors of modern sheets. Depending upon the color scheme, some of the rugs have vivid spokes that dominate the rug, while others have a solid band of color going around, giving the rug a wheel effect. Flannel sheets make warm rugs for the winter.
Tear the sheets into long strips.
The old iron rim of the wagon wheel is over 140 years old and is still being used. We wrapped the iron wheel with strips of an old blanket.
Clyde Martin, early stages of the wagon wheel rug
Then pin the cotton material to that to form the spokes. The early pioneers tied their strips to the rim. We start by crisscrossing the rim with an odd number of spokes, usually nine and pin the ends.
Then we start weaving in the middle where the spokes intersect. As the rug making continues, more spoke strips are added and the weaving resumes. In the process, the wheel rolls round and round many times before the rug is finished. This makes for strong, arm muscles.
The rug is about 1/4th done.
On the large wheel, the completed rug will be 33 to 34 inches across with a 2-inch fringe. Clyde found a smaller, easier to handle wheel that we can make smaller rugs about 24 inches across that are ideal for small areas like the bathroom. I use this wheel when demonstrating our craft.
Finished rug, still on the loom
Clyde also experimented with making half rugs that are so attractive and handy by the kitchen stove or sink area. He says that half rugs are the hardest to make so he just make them for family.
The rugs last a long time. To wash them, gently slosh it around in a sink of sudsy water. A washing machine, even on the gentle cycle, is too rough for them. Rinse, then lay out flat to dry. Press down any areas that lump up.
Partially completed wagon wheel rug
Tips & Warnings
The wagon wheel rugs can be used in many ways. A small rug tossed down on a wall-to-wall carpet for accent is an ideal accent for a large basket of flowers.
Draped over a small antique table they make an attractive addition to any room.
These rugs are as useful today as they were in bygone days as they are reversible as well as washable.
- We have used other circles to make rugs but some worked and others didn’t. We used Hula Hoops with fair success. The flexibility of the Hula Hoop is a problem. The best modern results came from having a machine shop make us an inch and half wide rim with a 30-inch diameter of metal welded into a hoop. It is not as heavy as the real wagon wheel and I use it for demonstration.
Gail Martin demonstrating wagon wheel rug making at a pioneer day.
Since we retired we demonstrated our rug-making skills as we travel across the state to craft fairs. Rug weaving is a time-consuming occupation, so we set up the wheel and weave wherever we are and soon find ourselves the center of attention and a topic of conversation. Probably Great-grandmother Kennedy did the same.
One of the finished rugs made by Gail and Clyde Martin – blue/white/yellow
veryirie said on 1/6/2009 – Excellent pictures and instructions. I’ve done off-loom weaving, but I don’t know where the heck I can get hold of a big wagon wheel over here. I’m determined to think of something to use though. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful craft!
smidgen said on 1/2/2009 – This is wonderful and so practical! I bet that you sell tons of these at craft fairs that you go to and sell! I love the pictures and directions!
prism said on 11/25/2008 – It is so wonderful that you are passing on this skill! I’ve never seen these before but I can tell they are sturdy and last a long time. Growing up in New England, I am more familiar with braided rugs that have that same look and quality. I know there are still many in our family made by my Grandmother.
From the Wayback Machine, I retrieved these 2008 articles from eHow for other methods of making a round rag rug.