Pupils go proggy as artists teach traditional skills

Margaret Kenny, left, and Jane Jackson, right, with some of the budding proggy artists.
Margaret Kenny, left, and Jane Jackson, right, with some of the budding proggy artists.

A class at a north Northumberland school spent an afternoon learning about the history of proggy mats and making their own samplers with local artists.

Oak Class at Warkworth C of E First School were shown examples of the mats, which are traditionally made by progging small pieces of recycled fabric into a hessian sacking base, by Jane Jackson and Margaret Kenny.

Margaret described how and why proggy mats were handmade in many North East homes until the middle of the last century, explaining that the whole family would get involved in making a new mat every year.

She said: “We’ve been told by lots of older people, that when they were small children they were not allowed to go out to play after coming home from school until they had spent at least half-an-hour cutting up fabric for mat making”.

The children examined and used a selection of vintage tools, including an animal bone that had been shaped into the head and beak of a bird, which proved very popular.

Jane and Margaret run regular workshops in the region under the name, Rebel Rag Ruggers, and their visit to the school was arranged by the Alnmouth Arts Festival Committee as part of its aim to foster an interest and participation in arts and crafts in the local community.

The group of eight and nine-year-olds set about making their own proggy samplers with considerable enthusiasm and no small amount of artistic talent and skill.

Jane said: “It was so rewarding to see how excited the children were about learning the craft and how quickly they became totally absorbed in such a simple activity, especially in this modern electronic age where children have so many sophisticated toys to amuse them.”

Teacher Janet Moloney said: “We are very grateful to Jane and Margaret for giving us their time in this way.

“The children had a lot of fun, and were delighted that they could create something so effective in such a short space of time.”

“Although we were learning about life in the home some years ago, the children noticed that proggy mats would fit in very well with our modern-day challenge to Reduce, Re-use, Recycle!

“They were all very keen to continue their samplers in future lessons and some even to try making one at home.”

Last year, Jane Jackson won the competition, organised in conjunction with the Gazette, to find the poster image for this year’s Alnmouth Arts Festival, which takes place in June.

The Gazette, which is the festival’s official media partner, will be running a competition in the coming weeks, where one lucky reader will win a limited edition print of Jane’s winning image.