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Sunday, August 12, 2018

Clippy Mat Making at Beamish

Researching for my novel Pearl of Pit Lane I spent the day at Beamish Museum on a clippy mat workshop. And if you're wondering what a clippy mat is, it's also known as a proggy mat or a rag rug.

The BBC puts it like this: Proggy mats were a common sight in working-class homes in the North East of England until the mid-20th Century. Made from old sacks and recycled fabric they were an economical option to keep feet warm and toasty in an era before fitted carpets were the norm.

I remember my grandma had proggy mats in her house and I also remember her making them, but I was never interested back then in learning how to make my own.

As Ione of my characters in my novel makes proggy mats, I could have read about how to make them or even watched on YouTube, I wanted to discover for myself what the process felt like, smelt like, sounded like. And so I booked myself on to a workshop at Beamish Museum, a place I love to visit.

There were six of us on the proggy mat workshop and we were whisked from Beamish entrance onto our very own VIP vintage bus. It was magical.  The workshop took place in the board room above the bank in the Georgian town.  Introductions were made, coffee was poured, biscuits shared and then we were seated at our desks and given a wooden frame and some hessian. I gulped. I'm not a naturally arty or crafty person and I began to wonder if I had what it took to make a decent job of my own proggy mat.

We measured out a rectangle of 20 x 12 inches onto the hessian, following the weave. Then we drew out a 1 inch border.

The next step was to pin the hessian to the wooden frame with heavy duty drawing pins given an extra bash in with a hammer.  Outside the board room the sounds of Beamish museum coming to life with families drifted in through the windows of the bank board room we were working in. It really added to a very special event.

With the hessian stretched tight on our fame we were given a pile of pre-cut strips of black felt for our borders. With our progger tools - and I used my grandma's old one -  we pushed a hole into the hessian. Into the hole we threaded one end of the black felt piece. Another hole was created and the other end of the black felt was pushed into that. A second piece of black felt was added, the first end of it going into the last hole created from the first piece of felt. And with that, we were off!

Here's the border of my mat starting to take place.  This is the back of it, of course. The strips of felt on the other side of this creates the front of the mat.

Then it was time for lunch!  Our picnic bags were brought into the workshop with sandwiches, fruit, crisps and water in them. More coffee was drunk, more biscuits shared. We were told we could take as long a break as we wanted to and wander around the outdoors museum but none of us did, we were all too excited to get back to our proggy mats.

Here's my completed frame.

And then I started adding the colours. I decided on a random pattern, which is traditional, while some members of the group decided to tackle circles, hearts and even a Christmas tree.

We were given sheets of felt and the tools to cut our coloured felt into strips to use in our proggy mat. The afternoon melted away as we were all in the proggy mat zone, concentrating on what we were doing, really lost in the moment of creating something unique.  Again, the sounds of Beamish museum filtered into the bank board room where our workshop took place. And what joy - it was a brass band playing in the field, we could hear every note as we sat and worked away.

All too soon the day long workshop was over and it was time to leave. We were given our proggy mats on frames to take home to finish and had instruction on how to finish them off after we removed them from the frame at home.

And here it is, my completed proggy mat.  I've got sore hands now after two days of proggy mat making. It wasn't as easy as I thought but repetitive work that has swollen my fingers and given me a blister too.  But it's all been well worth it.

I've learned a great deal about the mat making process and while proggying the mat, I thought of my character in my novel who will make the mats too. I know how she might have felt now and that can only help enrich my work when I start writing this week.

Buy Pearl of Pit Lane here.

Find out more about me and my books at: Glenda Young Books

I'm on Twitter @flaming_nora and Instagram @flaming_nora

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting, after having read about it in your books it just brings it to life.

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