First, a little history on penny rugs from Wikipedia:
"In the 1800s, starting around the time of the Civil War, thrifty homemakers would use scraps of wool or felted wool from old clothing, blankets and hats to create designs for mats or rugs. Using coins as templates, they created circles and each piece was then stitched in blanket stitch fashion. (Thus, the name "penny" rug). Sometimes, the mats or rugs were backed with old burlap bags or feed sacks. Sometimes a penny was stitched inside the mat to make it lie flat.
Penny rugs are not actual rugs for the floor, but decorative coverings for beds, tables and dressers and mantles. Sometimes they are used as wall hangings or pillows. Most designs include circles and some include images from everyday life such as cats, flowers, birds and shapes such as stars and hearts.
Penny rugs are made by selecting good quality 100% wool. It must not be too thick. It may be hand-dyed or overdyed to give the piece dimension. The wool is felted then circles are cut from the wool in varying sizes and then stitched together concentrically using complementary colors. The circles are stitched to a wool backing in a pleasing design. When finished the entire piece should have a backing to cover the stitches and to protect it. The backing may be wool, linen or burlap."
Penny rugs have become very popular in these last few years and the way we make them and their uses have expanded. Still, they are mostly decorative, although we use them as couch arm covers, drink mats, or table mats - which is purposeful I guess. Anyway, they are FUN to make! No seams to turn under - which is awesome!
Just a little explanation of my wool before I start - I use either felted wool or wool felt on my projects. Now you ask - what is the difference? Felted wool is 100% real wool that is washed in hot water, then dried in a hot dryer, then rinsed in cold water. Have you ever washed a wool sweater and had it come out in a child's size? That's felting wool! The nice thing about felted wool is that the edges do not fray, so you do not need to turn them under. Yeah!
Wool felt is wool or a mixture of wool and rayon, that is commercially made and pressed. You can get it on the bolt, or individual sheets like 8" x 11" or 5" x 5" or other sizes. It is much cheaper than real wool - like $8 yard versus $20 and up for real wool.When using wool felt, I prefer 100% wool felt - like Papertrey Ink's felt, but when I can't find a color I want, or I need a piece wider than 5", I will buy from other sources. I attend a quilt conference in Hampton VA each year, and there are several wool vendors at the show. The amount of wool products is increasing each year at the show. I have bought wool felt packets and projects from The Village Mercantile at the shows. Their felt is 80% wool, 20% rayon, and comes in TONS of colors.
Here are some of the penny rugs and wool applique projects I have made:
These are two little neck purses, each done in a different colorway. They measure 6 3/4" tall by 5" wide. I taught a class at my quilt guild on how to make these and provided kits for everyone in the class. They are meant to hold a few sewing supplies, but would be darling as an over the shoulder purse for your cell phone or credit cards. These are made from felted wool.
Another of my favorite things to make with wool and wool felt is pincushions. I use pins alot in quilting, although I have been known to buy pins just to fill up my pincushions! Here is a sampling of some of the wool pincushions I have made or have been given to me by friends.The black and aqua pincushion in the lower left corner is made using Papertrey wool felt. I taught this one as a class at my quilt guild also.
These are two sweet little rabbit penny rugs I put out in the spring. They measure about 12" wide. The yellow rug is made from wool felt, and the bottom one is made from felted wool.They can be used for a hot mat, for a candle mat, on an armchair, or just on the back of a chair. I pin them to the backs of my sewing chairs during the rest of the year using little stick pins.
Bareroots pattern/kit. I love, love, love all her patterns - both wool and stitching patterns. Check them out.
This is one of my fall penny rugs. Sorry that the picture is just horrible (very blown out for some reason). It is made from felted wool and measures 26 1/2" x 16". I usually put this one on my dining room table as a center mat in the fall.
Probably my ultimate penny rug (or at least wool project - is my album quilt. It was a block of the month quilt. The background of each square, the sashing around each block, and the border background are all Moda flannel. Other than that, the rest of the appliqued decorations are felted wool. It hangs above my computer where I can see it every day, and know that Nothing is impossible! :)
Hope I didn't bore you with all these pictures and explanations. I just wanted to put up a blog post with all my wool projects in one place. Don't even get me started on needle felting (another wool craft I swore I would never get involved with) - but that's for another post! Thanks for putting up with this long post!