Last summer I worked as a volunteer for the Swedish Red Cross shop, the “Röda Korset”. It is a friendly, cosy meeting place to take fika (coffee and something sweet) and to seek out bargains (clothes, books, trinkets.) Even better is that you can shop there knowing that the proceeds will go to charity.
Ostensibly, working “frivillig” (lit. free-willing) was indeed my effort (during a break in music studies) to support the greater good. Though, for an English girl looking to improve on her Swedish, it was also an ideal training ground. In rather provincial Krokom, most of the locals did not and – absolutely would not – speak English. Perfect!
During the quieter moments, the shop manager, Eva, kindly let me use some of the yarn in stock to crochet and knit over a complimentary cup of tea. Not exactly a tough working day! One afternoon, I noticed some large baskets containing something bright inside that caught my eye. Looking more closely, I could see that old sheets, curtains and clothes had been cut up with great care into equal-width strips. These strips were then wound up neatly into large balls to create a fascinating array of colour and texture.
Intrigued, I asked Eva what the fabric could be used for. These strips of fabric are often woven to make “trasmattor.” Yes, trasmattor, I knew that word. Rag rugs I guess we could them. They are everywhere in Swedish homes and offices as decorative and functional interludes to the endless wooden floors. No wall-to-wall carpeting and wearing shoes inside of the old UK days. Instead, wooden floors are commonplace here and complimented by many a rug of many of colour. And you can feel the cosy textures under your toes, or socked feet – remember no shoes inside!
Unfortunately, I don’t yet know how to weave. I say, not yet. It is a dream that one day I might learn. So instead, I bought two carrier bags of multi-coloured fabric balls and took the largest crochet hook I could find to improvise a circular rug reflecting the then bright July sunshine.
This post is perhaps a reminder to myself to go back to making more. I do have to do it little at a time, however, as using large, thicker material is a lot more tiring on my small hands. The work does grow very quickly, though!
I can’t remember what I paid exactly, but I think each stuffed bag was about 20 kronor, or £2. And you get a lot of material for that. So with patience, and not too-tired hands, there is are a lot of rug rags to be made at almost next to nothing cost. With all these wooden floors, Sweden is perhaps the best place to make them but I could see a pretty rug cheering up a home anywhere in the world.
All that, and it is pretty green to use recycled materials to create a decoratively useful item.
One final tip is that charity shops often stock cheap yarn and knittings needles/crochet hooks. It is always worth being on the lookout for low-cost and environmentally-friendly creativity.