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The Tale of the Rockefeller Rug

Mountain artisans inspire a standing wool creation

By: Karen Gaskin

Friends often give me old woolen skirts or shirts knowing that the fabric will be used in a rug, mat, or pillow. This is how the Rockefeller Rug began, with a friend’s contribution of an old woolen blanket.

After I had washed and dried the donated blanket, the resultant wool was too thick for me to pull through a foundation cloth. What should I do? I decided that it was a good opportunity to experiment in creating a standing wool piece.  

I took a standing wool workshop with Rose Ann Hunter at Old Sturbridge Village, but I’d never incorporated the standing wool into a rug. With no particular outcome in mind, I started to play with the wool to see what I could create. After all, I had an entire blanket to work with!

I dyed pieces of the striped beige blanket and then cut the dyed wool into about 1⁄4" strips to roll into coils (quillies) and to sew into shirred “worms” (gathered strips). The coils were made by placing two different color strips together and then rolling them up like a jellyroll. When the coil was rolled to the size I wanted, I cut off the extra, and sewed the coil together using heavy quilting thread. I stitched from one side of the coil to the other through its center and repeated this step over and over. The stitches are like the spokes of a bicycle wheel and hold the coil firmly together.

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