Heather Ritchie and her community rugs are spreading camaraderie and hooking throughout the Lake District of Great Britain--and beyond.
Reeth Memorial Hall. Designed by Heather Ritchie and hooked by a community group, Reeth North Yorkshire, England, 1999.
Community rugs—rugs that are made by the people of a community for the people of a community—are a tradition in Great Britain. A 1960s' exhibit at the Swaledale Museum in Reeth, which documented the history of these rugs, included a photograph of women sitting around a large stretcher frame working on a proddy rug to raise funds for the Methodist Chapel in Arkengarthdale. The caption of the photo lamented that community rugs were becoming less popular as television and women's increasingly busy lifestyles intruded on modern women's leisure time. That statement was made about the Great Britain of the 1960s—imagine what the authors of the exhibit would say about women and leisure time today.
Heather Ritchie, a resident of Reeth, decided to revive the idea of community rugs. Her plan was to make a rug to illustrate life in Reeth at the end of the 20th century. She called a meeting to organize a group, making it clear that previous rug-making experience was not needed, that newcomers would find rug making easy to learn and enjoyable, and that enthusiasm and commitment were more important than artistic skill.
This article is from the September/October 2010 issue. For more information on our issues, check out our issues page.