Thursday, 15 March 2012

Podged rugs

Anyone who grew up in the Black Country in the 1950’s or earlier will know exactly what I am talking about as they will have probably been a party to this activity as a child or even observed mother or grandmother podging a rug.  No household worth its salt would have been without its podged rug on the hearth in front of a roaring coal fire and a wonderfully comfortable place for a small child to lay and also a wonderful habitat for another resident, the silverfish.  Anyway back to podging,  all you needed was an old erden bag (hessian sack), usually obtained from the husbands place of work, a broken dolly peg, the remaining leg whittled into a podger, and old worn out clothing , cut into strips approximately an inch wide and 3 inches long.
I can remember quite clearly when from about 8 -10 during the school holidays and while my parents were both out at work,  I would be ‘child minded’ by a woman down our street who had twin son’s a couple of years younger than me and a daughter the same age.  Our time, and our minds were always engaged during the whole time by educational activities.  These consisted of putting hook and eyes, press studs, knob pins and safety pins onto printed cards.  A local manufacturer in Tipton called Newey & Aires employed lots of local women as ‘home workers’ who went to the factory, collected the above cards and products in large quantities and returned home to ‘assemble’ them then return them to the factory and get paid.  No doubt very little payment (pre minimum wage days)  I remember going with this family on a couple of occasions armed with an old perambulator loaded up with empty ammunition tins to load with the educational toys.  Manny a happy hour I have spent sat on their hearth fitting thousands of pins or press studs.  Another activity she had us participate in was podging rugs.  One would sit cutting the old material into inch wide strips, another cutting the strips into 3 inch length and the remaining two armed with podgers making the rug.
How it’s done.  The podger is pushed through the erden bag, opening up the strands, then back up through missing out a counted number of strands (3 or 4) a strip of material is held over the pointed end of the podger and pushed through the holes created in the sacking taking the material with it, finally being pulled to equal out the two ends of material sticking out.  This process is then repeated a couple of strands away for the next loop of material and gradually the whole of the erden bag is filled to complete the rug.  It has become quite popular in recent years to have a podged rug in the back cabin, however this would have been highly unlikely years ago as 1 boat people would not have had the time to sit podging and 2 by the time boat people stopped wearing an item of old clothing there would not be a lot left of it to make into rug strips.  Over the last couple of years Dawn has took to podging rugs although she uses a modern podger

This is pushed through the erden bag then back up the opposite way, then the material is then gripped in the jaws of the podger and pulled back through.  She now sits on winters evenings with a pile of strips on her chest, the erden bag on her lap, and watches her favourite TV programs while busily podging, completing a small rug in several nights depending on the pattern of cause.  Traditionally podged rugs would be made from dark materials, so as not to show the dirt, and in the centre would be a red circle or diamond.  This was said to be attributed to their men folk off fighting the Crimean War. Dawn has followed this tradition with the red centres but tends to use brighter colours in a lot of cases.  Below I have pictured just a few examples of her podging.

And so there you are, so get podging, and if you don’t fancy it but would like a rug, why not ask Dawn next time you see her out and about as I’m sure she would oblige, so till next time,
Don’t bang ‘em about


  1. As a child in Sussex in the fifties I can remember my Grandmother and assorted aunts making what we called rag rugs in the same way, no house was complete without a rag rug in front of the fire and in the spring when you took them out and set about them with a cane carpet beater the dust didn't 'arf fly.

  2. Nice to read a new post Blossom.
    I did always wonder how boat people found the time or the rag to make rugs.

    I remember first seeing one in a restored miner's cottage on a school trip to South Wales, and being fascinated by it.

    Now I've finished Baz's jumper, perhaps I should get my podger out again.

  3. Welcome back Blossom... Nice post to open 2012 with too :)

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