Rag rug

When preparing the soldier’s cottage at Stundars for display in the early 1990s, museum founder and curator Gunnar Rosenholm (1912-1999) diligently researched the furnishings of such cottages in the late 18th century. He took special interest in the textiles of the bunk bed.

During his expeditions in the region in the 1950s, he had seen a rag rug in a seal-hunting boat in Replot. His research showed that in the 18th century only farmers and people of rank could afford rag rugs, so called proddy rugs, with pile made from wool yarn. Crofters had rugs made from rags. Still in the 1880s, crofters used the proddy rug as a bedspread. The rag rug was used in much the same way as a skin rug but sometimes the rag rug was more practical. A skin rug would turn stiff and cumbersome once it had become wet. This is why fishermen preferred proddy rugs in their boats well into the 20th century, and why the last rugs were found in the archipelago.

In the 1990s, it was no longer possible to obtain an old rag rug for the soldier’s cottage so a new rug modelled on an old pattern was custom made. The original for the rug found in the soldier’s cottage originates from Bergö, but can now be seen in the Ostrobothnian museum.

This rug, which measures 145 x 120 cm, is woven in two pieces, which were sown together. The bottom of the rug is woven in plain weave from hemp yarn, with fabric rags as the filling. The pile consists of narrow strips of wool fabric and wool and cotton yarn. The colours of the pile are brown, blue and white/beige.

The rug became popular in the Nordic countries in the late Middle Ages. It was used as a pelt for its warmth and was placed in the bed with the pile down. Colourful rugs with the pile facing up then came into use as bedspreads. At the end of the 19th century, the rag rug was being used as a floor rug and later as a decorative wall hanging in upper class homes.