For my take on the “Through the Keyhole” event I decided to approach it with a hands on activity. Having spent a lot of time recently learning to produce ragrugs for use within the historic properties here at St Fagans, I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to mix a demonstration of the technique with allowing our visitors to come and have a go too.
With the idea of reusing and recycling fabrics to create new rugs in mind I decided that the Prefab, built as a response to housing shortage after the Second World War and furnished as it was during the early 1950s, would be an ideal backdrop to showcase the ethos of “make do and mend” which had carried on after War. In order to deal with shortages that took place during the War, the Ministry of Food introduced a system of rationing. As well as food rationing, clothing, soap, fuel and paper were affected. It was not until the early 1950s that most commodities came 'off the ration'. Clothing was rationed from 1941 to 1949. Importing clothes from the Continent was not an option, and factories usually producing clothes now had military demands to deal with. Each person received a rations book – items were purchased with money and tokens from the book. The rationing of clothing prompted a movement of “make do and mend”, in order to make the most of all clothes and materials individuals had. A booklet to encourage women to be creative and inventive with their clothes was produced, and magazines and newspapers began featuring a character named Miss Sew and Sew to promote the message.
I set up my table outside the Prefab with all the equipment I needed – hessian sacking, dolly pegs filed into points (known as a bodger) and plenty of scraps of fabric. A display of Wartime posters and music from the era helped to draw in visitors, and create a nice atmosphere. I continued work on my ragrug, using the peg to thread strips of material through gaps in the sacking, building a pattern up layer by layer. I use natural materials such as wool and cotton so that the rugs will be in keeping with the historic properties they end up furnishing. I had prepared some small sections of sacking for visitors dropping by to work on. I was pleased that I met a really wide variety of people - children who wanted to have a hands on go at making something, parents who were looking for craft-based activities that they could do with their children at home, and visitors who remembered doing ragrugs themselves, or their parents or grandparents. I was able to offer tips and advice to those who wanted to have a go at home. Many of them already had the items needed to make a rug, but were unsure how to go about it. Older visitors were able to give me further information on what knowledge I already have, and interesting stories and anecdotes. They really enjoyed reminiscing about it, and talking about the era in general. It was really lovely to hear their tales throughout my time at the Prefab.