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RAG CARPETS

Narrator: Kate Crawford, 66, of Hamilton, Missouri

Rag carpets are now almost out of style, but there was a time when they were in every woman's plan of living in these parts. You either had rag carpets or bare floors. As time went on rag carpets served for bed rooms and perhaps one could afford in ingrain for the front room or maybe trade two rag carpets for an ingrain at the store.

Miss Crawford was reared in the Dort home and they used rag carpets entirely up till about 1890 when they got in ingrain from the old Tilley store with Asa Thompson as salesman.

Sewing carpet rags was a regular spare time occupation for the women of the seventies and to some degress in the eighties. Women prided themselves on even rags and on getting a yard of carpet out of a pound of rags. The coarser the rags the thicker the carpet and fewer yards in weaving.

Many women were content with hit and miss (mixed colors) sewed but for front rooms it was nice to have the carpet woven in stripes. This meant they would dye bunches of rags different colors. They could buy dye powder or use bark, or polk berries. Some used chamber dye to make copper; indigo made blue. You could make shaded rags by the tie and dye method. When the rags were balled, there was the cost of the carpey warp and the weaving to be paid for.

Among the old carpet weavers in this community some are yet well remembered. Aunt Lizzy Butts (colored, Mother of Jim Butts) had a loom and wove in the seventies. When she began, she had a hard time with turns so Mrs. Van Note a white neighbor taught her how to do it.

Later Mrs. Horseback wove many carpets and had people on the waiting list. Later came Mrs. Ogburn in the north end of town, and still later Mrs. John Banks who still plies the old trade in weaving rag rugs. Looms might be erected in the front room or even in a clean barn. The old carpet weavers not only helped support the family but contributed their part to the community comfort.

The Interviewer was amused at a story told by another old timer. A new rag carpet had just been put down in a parlor in the early eighties and a neighbor had come in to admire it. The daughter of the house objected to a rag carpet in their parlor. The neighbor said "You must not be proud or you can't marry my son." (They did go together) The young woman straightway said "Well I don't want to marry him any way" and she did not.

Interviewed January 1934.

 

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All photos are copyright KingsCross Farm, 1997 & 1998
All written material other than reference material copyright KingsCross Farm 1998