History of a Penny Rug

A Brief History of Penny Rugs

 Dating back to the 19th century, it is believed that penny rugs were a way of using up the remnants of cast off and used woolen clothing that wasn't large enough to cut into strips for hooking rugs. The term "penny rug" came from the use of coins as templates for varying sizes of circles that were cut from the fulled or felted wool of hats, and clothing.  The concentric circles were stitched onto burlap or feed sacks.  These earlier pieces done on burlap are difficult to find in good condition, as burlap can "break down" over many years of storage.  A large piece of wool was seldom used as a backing because it was too precious.  Not all penny rugs were made up of circles.  An appliqued pattern depicting things like animals, people, primitive shapes, florals, homes, and festive scenes, are also called penny rugs. 

Some rugs have decorative edging, done with elongated pieces.  Resembling the shapes of teardrops and tongues.  "Tongues" may also be known as "lamb's ears", "scallops" or "pen wipers".  There is much history about these true home made, cottage craft rugs and they are fun to research. 

Rugs were seldom used for floors in those bygone days, but as "ruggs" to cover beds for warmth and to cover table tops, or hearths, for decoration and purpose.