Friday, June 17, 2011

Denim rugs, clutter, and time

Today I finished a braided rug that I've been working on, off-and-on, for a few years.  I made it out of old jeans, torn into long strips.  In one sense, it's an incredibly frugal thing to make.  It hardly cost anything: the main materials were the old jeans I wore out.  In fact, my sisters and several of my friends donated their jeans to the rug once they heard I was working on it, so I had a lot of free material to work with.  A few years ago, at a yard sale, I bought a shoe-box-full of spools of thread for $2, so the cost of the thread I use is almost zero.

This is the second braided rug I've made, and I do it slightly differently than is standard.  Traditionally, you braid three strips of cloth into a long strand (I've read that wool wears best) and once that's done, you get a needle and some tough thread, and you stitch the strand into an oval or circle or whatever shape you want.  Instead of sewing the rug together, though, I do something like a french braid, weaving the rug together as I make it.  That is, I work with three strips of denim.  I braid them into a single strand.  When the end of a strip gets short, I'll use a zig-zag stitch to sew a new strip onto it to make it longer.  I braid the three strips together, but as I do that, I weave the braid in with the existing rug.  This makes the rug stronger; it also means that it's easy to stop mid-project but still have something to show for my efforts.

As I said, this is a cheap project in one sense.  But the fact that I didn't spend any money on it doesn't really mark this as a frugal project.  With a bit of patience, I can buy a half-decent rug for $5 at a yard sale -- so this didn't save me a lot of money.   The rug is about 4 feet across, and it took several years for me to finally finish it:  that took a bunch of time.  While I was working on it, I had to store the rug and all the strips of denim: that took space.

I say all this because I've read a bunch of books that are supposed to be about "saving money", but they devote a lot of space to how to make arts and crafts out of unusual items:  how to make a christmas tree angel out of coffee filters, or how to make refrigerator magnets out of shells and hot glue.  These books promise that these crafts make great gift items.  Faugh.  Christmas ornaments and refrigerator magnets are so cheap at yard sales that buying ANYTHING in order to make them -- even coffee filters -- is more expensive.  And knick-knacks are so abundant at yard sales that you can see for yourself their owners think they were not great gifts.  They're really just fancy clutter.

If I actually need to find some way to reduce the amount of money and time that I'm spending, I'll admit that arts and crafts aren't the best place to focus.   But making homemade things can be fun -- I am really happy with the rug I made.  I'm going to keep it, not to foist it off on someone else.  And as long as I'm doing some kind of craft and decoration,  I'm glad that this particular hobby doesn't cost a lot of money.

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