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From rags to rugs

Barnum man recycles fabric to make rag rugs

-Messenger photo by Kriss Nelson
Denny Dunbar works on his loom making one of his rag rugs.

BARNUM – For Denny Dunbar old clothing and materials aren’t for the trash, but rather as an opportunity to create something not only useful for the home, but attractive as well.

Denny Dunbar, owner of Rag Rugs by Denny has been using fabrics to make an assortment of products.

“I take older, discarded fabric – denim jeans, flannel blankets, flannel sheets, other materials and recycle them,” he said. “I tear the fabric into small strips and weave them into rugs.”

Dunbar’s side business started as simply a hobby.

“I needed something to do. Something to do in the evenings,” he said. “I had done some woodworking for years, but I wasn’t able to finish it as well as some people. I didn’t have all of right equipment.”

-Messenger photo by Kriss Nelson
Denny Dunbar displays one of the rag rugs he makes using old fabric.

It was then, he decided to try his luck at making rag rugs.

“I kind of thought it was neat. I could take something from start to finish without anyone else’s help and do it,” he said.

Dunbar said he had always admired the craft of rag rug making.

“When I got out of the Marine Corp in 1967, my grandmother took my old uniforms and made them into rag rugs,” he said. “She made three or four rugs. In fact, there is one out in the garage now. It is 50-some years old, but it is still functional.”

Rag rug making can probably be considered a necessity of the past.

-Messenger photo by Kriss Nelson
Denny Dunbar has a large inventory of rag rugs for sale. He normally sells his products at craft and vendor shows and farmers markets, but due to COVID and those shows being cancelled, he hasn’t been able to move much of his inventory this year.

“Anybody that has a little bit of gray in their hair knows someone that has made or has rag rugs,” he said. “There wasn’t a Target or a Wal-Mart to buy a rug at. If you wanted something for your entryway or to block the wind coming in through the door, you made your own rug. Back in those days, you didn’t throw anything away – that is where they evolved from.”

Dunbar said in addition to making rugs with the recycled fabric he is given, he will also make custom rugs.

Denim is a popular fabric to use, he said.

One customer brought him 43 pairs of used denim jeans.

“I cut all the seams out because you don’t want the bump in the rug. You want it as smooth as possible,” he said. “Out of those 43 pairs of jeans, I made 22 placemats, 16 rugs – about four feet long, some a little longer, some a little shorter and four table runners. I think she enjoyed them. I think she was surprised how much I made and I think she was going to use some as Christmas gifts for her daughters.”

-Messenger photo by Kriss Nelson
Balls of stripped fabric wait their turn to be made into a rag rug or other items by Denny Dunbar

Dunbar said he typically sells his rugs at craft shows, farmers markets and vendor shows in the area.

But COVID deterred that for him this year.

“This year hasn’t been very successful,” he said. “Most of the craft shows I go to have been cancelled. I’ve struggled to sell rugs and be able to do too much with them.”

Dunbar estimates he will make anywhere between 200 to 300 rugs a year. All of his rugs are 27-inches in width and can be made as long as 10 to 12 feet. Typically, people he said, prefer their rugs four to five feet in length.

There is no rubber backing on the rag rugs, which makes them reversible.

“With the two sides to use, in a lot of sense, they are more practical than some rugs you get,” he said.

His rugs can be washed in cold water in a washing machine. Some people he said dry their rugs without issue, but he suggests hanging them to dry.

“They last a long time,” he said.

More than rugs

In addition to the rag rugs, Dunbar said he also makes placemats, table runners, coasters, hot pads, woven handbags and more.

His products are made with the use of two looms. One loom is used for making rugs; the other for the smaller items.

Dunbar has a large selection of rugs on hand and can be contacted by e-mailing him at: dundx3@wccta.net or visiting his Facebook page: Rag Rugs by Denny D.

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