Early American Penny Rugs

I tried knitting. I tried crocheting. I joined knitting and crocheting groups only to become another “no show” when I didn’t attend because I didn’t finish my project.

I love fiber arts. I love all things that are made by hand and have a real respect for all craftsmen, whether it’s furniture, sculpture, jewelry making, painting…you get the gist.

I also like to have some little project (at all times), that I can just pick up, whenever I feel like it. So, after some searching, I came back to something that I enjoyed doing when I was a little girl…sewing.

My mother-in-law started rug hooking and soon the scraps of wool in rich colors and soft patterns started whispering to me like a long breeze on a summer evening. So, the ol’ creative wheel started churning and I did a little research and PRESTO! Penny Rugs!

Penny Rug

This is one of my hand made penny rugs with a 19th century cutlery tray.

What the Heck Is A Penny Rug?

Back in the mid to late 1800’s, around the time of the civil war, resources were scarce and so was money. Imagine that you’re chillin’ at home with no TV, no Smartphone, and no internet. What is woman to do? Your sheep got stolen by some soldiers in the middle of night, so you can’t whip up some new yarn or wool for your clothes. But you do have some rags and scraps lying around your clap-board house.

These woolen scraps where then traced into circular shapes with coins (a penny) and then sewn together in stacks. The stacks were then sewn onto a larger sheet of material, usually burlap, using the blanket stitch method. These “rugs” where not used on the floor either (would you want someone walking on all that hard work you just did?). These penny rugs were decorative and often used on a table, a bed or a blanket chest and weighted down with an actual penny that was sewn inside the rug.

Awesome antique penny rug featured on CountryLiving.com

Why Do I Love These Things?

They’re whimsical, they can be colorful or muted, and as with all my beloved treasures, they make me feel connected to the past. I’ve seen these things used as lavender sachets, table runners or even beautiful pillows. And the real deals…the ones created around 1865 or so, well…they don’t come cheap. I saw one last year at the Fisherville Antique Expo for around $850. And yes…I drooled a little.

Copyright 2012. The Savvy Seeker blog by Erin Hurley-Brown. All Rights Reserved.

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