Air Date: Week of June 21, 1996
Steve Curwood talks with a listener in Trout Creek, Montana who gives old clothes a new life by weaving them into rag rugs which she sells.
CURWOOD: If you think about it, clothing can be one of the most recycled items around. Garments are often handed down from sibling to sibling or passed from friend to friend, and resale shops do a booming business as well. But eventually the threads are worn bare or the style attracts no one. And that's when people like Catherine Regier of Trout Creek, Montana, step in. Ms. Regier takes old worn out clothes and weaves them into rugs. She says she got started when she found an old rug loom at a yard sale.
REGIER: I was a young mother at home and I wanted to stay home with my children, and I've been knitting and spinning my own yarn from wool for several years. And that I really wanted to try weaving.
CURWOOD: Is this something a lot of people in Trout Creek do? Or is this something special to you?
REGIER: Not very many people do it at all in the United States any more. It's an old craft, very popular in the late 1800s, early 1900s.
CURWOOD: Tell me, what kind of clothing do you use?
REGIER: My favorite is blue jeans, denim. I also use corduroy; I like those because of the bright colors. And I also use old wool clothing.
CURWOOD: How may articles of clothing does it take to make a good-sized rug?
REGIER: A 2 by 3 rug will use about 7 to 10 pairs of old bluejeans.
CURWOOD: Uh huh. So you've gone through a lot of old clothes then, in your time.
REGIER: [Laughs] My daughter and I were playing. She likes to do math problems, and she figured out I've done about 1,400 rugs, and she figured out that I've probably used 4 to 6 tons of old clothes.
CURWOOD: So where do you get all these old pants and skirts and stuff from?
REGIER: Well, I go to rummage sales and yard sales, and now people know that I'm doing it, and I come home and there will be just black plastic garbage bags full of old clothes that are waiting for me. People just donate it.
CURWOOD: Now, years ago my grandmother and my mother would do a process. They'd roll up the old rags and sort of make a cord, a braid as it were.
REGIER: That's right.
CURWOOD: And then stitch it together. This is what you do, huh?
REGIER: That's what I do. I rip all the old jeans into one-inch strips, and then I sew them end to end. If it's corduroy I sew them in a color combination I like, and then I roll them up into big rag balls. Lots of people remember doing that for their moms or their grandmothers. And then I wind those long strips onto shuttles and weave them as the weft into the rug.
CURWOOD: And do you sell them?
REGIER: Yes I do.
CURWOOD: Does it take -- can you make them fast enough to actually make money, or is this a hobby?
REGIER: It's a hobby. It helps, kind of pin money for our family.
CURWOOD: Can you tell me about your favorite rug, the one that you're perhaps most proud of?
REGIER: Ooh, there are several. My favorite is a wool rug that was all Pendleton wools that I gathered, and I did it in an elaborate stripe pattern that I really like.
CURWOOD: And where's that rug now?
REGIER: Upstairs in my bedroom.
CURWOOD: Ah hah, keeping those toes warm in those Montana winter nights, huh?
REGIER: You got it. That's right.
CURWOOD: Well, Ms. Regier, thanks so much for joining us.
REGIER: Thank you.
CURWOOD: Catherine Regier, rug weaver, hails from Trout Creek, Montana.
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