We’re pleased to publish this guest post, written by Katrina Crossley, about Miriam Miller, who uses the techniques she learnt as a child in the North East of England of making ‘proggy’ rag mats to create rugs inspired by the landscape of her home in Australia.
Miriam Miller lives on the south coast of New South Wales, Australia. A beautiful landscape flows out from her veranda into the blue distance. Just beyond the veranda’s edge, sunflowers rise and bloom with the seasons. This landscape has been her home for more than 60 years.
‘My son plants sunflowers in the paddocks around my house. Not for any reason other than to look bright and happy’, says Miriam.
From her childhood home in England’s north-east Miriam brought the techniques of rug making using fabric scraps to Australia. Miriam wrote the first book on proggy and rag rugs to be published in Australia, and has travelled the world to meet other rug makers and spinners. At home she hosts monthly get togethers of local rug makers and spinners in her purpose-built studio.
Image: The landscape of New South Wales.
Miriam’s latest rug project was to create a wall hanging for her high-ceilinged living room; in such a space, the subject needed to have impact. Where better to look for inspiration than beyond the veranda where yellows and blues and greens inhabit the view.
Backed with primitive linen from Canada, Miriam worked three rows of blue for the outline, ready for her friend Annemaree to draw on the design of sunflowers with the mountains in the background. Miriam simplified some details, and added leaves in some of the spaces.
For equipment, Miriam used her Snapdragon Lap Frame, and a 6 mm hook made for her by Les Ritchie in Reeth, Yorkshire. She also used a cutting board and rotary cutter as used by quilters for cutting the fabric strips.
Miriam started with the sky, using many t-shirts in shades of blue from her fabric store. But for the mountains, she wanted to have a lot of the same colour, so she ordered wool flannel from Karen Kaiser in Canada which she then dyed. The wool flannel was also used for sunflower leaves to give a consistent green. Other materials used were tracksuits and overdyed blankets. T-shirts of many different yellows gave the sunflowers depth.
Landscape dyes were used for different areas: ‘Mountain Blue’ for the mountains and the shadows, sometimes mixed with other blues; ‘Alfalfa’ for the leaves, which was mixed with other greens for the stalks and the veins on the leaves. For the background behind the small flowers in the distance, Miriam used green spotted with blues.
To finish the edges, she left an edge of 5 cms and then spray glue to allow the raw edge to be folded over. Hessian tape secured the reverse of the fold along the sides and bottom. The top edge was then hemmed to create a pocket for a thin metal strip to keep the top firm and straight. Finally, Miriam made 5 loops along the top edge, to take the hooks when hung. The finished wall hanging is 3 metres (9’ 10”) by 80 cm (2’ 8”).
Now hung, the mountains and flowers beyond the windows inhabit the internal space of Miriam’s home for all weathers, in sunshine and showers, and day and night.
Annmaree Dawson, a friend of Miriam's, said, ‘I am a passionate gardener and have had the pleasure to enjoy the sunflower patches that Miriam and family plant. It was a little overwhelming to draw up a design for Miriam’s sunflower project as it was quite a large piece. It is also sometimes tricky to draw an image that is going to be interpreted by someone else. Miriam’s sense of colour and rug making skills beautifully brought the image to life. The end result is stunning isn’t it?’
Written by Katrina Crossley
Find out more about Miriam Miller on the Rughooking Australia website, a forum to connect Fibre Artists throughout the South Pacific and to aid the revival of traditional rug crafting in Australia. There you’ll also be able to read Connecting Us, a newsletter written by Miriam to connect and inspire rug hookers around the world.