American Artisans: Vermont Rug Farm

American Artisans Series

The Vermont Rug Farm is the third in my Sunday series featuring American Artisans. There are so many exceptionally talented craftspeople across the country who share a love of all things handmade, and this is my chance to introduce them to you. These artisans are creating beautiful and useful products that elevate the experience of everyday cooking and eating, and they’re using skills and techniques that might otherwise be lost in our era of throwaway mass production. Their work makes me happy, and I hope it does the same for you. Each feature will be paired with a giveaway to give you the chance to experience their work for yourselves. I’ll be doing these features every other Sunday for the foreseeable future, so be sure to check back, and enjoy!

Rag Rug from Vermontrugfarm Today we’re traveling to snowy New England to visit with Hal and Wyfy Issente, a husband and wife team who’ve been weaving stunning rag rugs on their Woodstock Vermont farm for over 30 years.  Their colorful rugs and runners are woven from fabric scraps that would otherwise be discarded, and they turn cotton rags, (fabric remnants that are brand-new but considered “waste” by textile companies) into one of a kind creations.  In one sense they’re carrying on a centuries old tradition, but in another, they’re at the forefront of the contemporary craze for ‘upcycling’.  They currently sell their rugs on Etsy, and their pieces have been sent all over the country, and the world.  (Apparently, international buyers from Australia and New Zealand love rag rugs!)  They’ve done custom orders for movie set stylists and interior designers, as well as regular folks like you and me.  I’m so happy to have them here with us today, they represent the best of the best in their field.

Hal and Wifey Issente

If you ask me, every kitchen needs at least one rag rug.  I love their subtle colors and nubbly texture, I think they give a room a warm, inviting look.  I always keep one under the sink area to catch stray drips, and to keep my feet cozy, since I often cook barefoot.  Hey, I live in California — if I lived in Vermont, I’d probably cover every square inch of the kitchen with these rugs!

rag rug weaving Vermont Rug Farm

Rag rugs have been around for centuries, and they were originally a thrifty way of using up every scrap of valuable fabric.  Hal and Wyfy have made an art form out of what was originally a frugal necessity.  Plaids, stripes, solids, even polka dots, somehow come together in a subtle harmony once they are made into strips and tightly woven, row after row, into these lovely textiles.

rags to be woven into rugs

Rag rugs have a charming ‘random’ quality to them, with colorful stripes and micro patterns that change every few inches.  But while the designs might look random, a lot of planning goes into the making of these rugs.  According to Hal, every rug starts with “a color board of fabric swatches. Once the colors are chosen, we weigh the fabric (a certain amount of fabric is needed for different rugs) according to the colors. Then the fabric is cut into strips and sewn into a sequential pattern for the project. When we start to weave, the rags are arranged next to the loom in the intended weaving pattern.”  In addition to the familiar variegated stripes, the Vermont Rug Farm also makes rugs in other patterns, using both bright and muted shades, and will do custom colors and sizes, too, so it’s like having your own personal rug designer – how cool is that?

vermont rug farm rag rug

Mass produced rag rugs are available everywhere these days, and sometimes it can be a little bit of sticker shock when you see the price tag of a handmade item.  I’m guilty of it, for sure, I’ll grab the super cheap rugs at big box stores, but they last only until I happen to spill some brownie batter on them, and that’s the end of their useful life.  When a rag rug is hand made with a precise, tight weave, it will be washable and last for years.  One of the reasons I started this series was to highlight the wisdom of buying better quality (i.e. handmade) things to use and to cherish, instead of purchasing and repurchasing inferior products to use up and toss out.  It just makes sense.

closeup of a vermontrugfarm rug

These rag rugs are woven on looms, and the Issente’s have several custom made looms at their studio, the biggest one has a 12 foot weaving width and was handmade by Hal himself.  It is completely powered by human hands despite the enormous size. The front and back beams were custom-made by a local Vermont ski lift company with steel beams 5″ diameter and 12′ feet long. Coincidentally, the rug shuttles are made from vintage wooden skis!   So you can see there’s a little bit of Vermont woven into each and every one of these rugs.

Vermont Rug Farm Loom

I’m sure there’s a pretty huge range of kitchen styles between all of us here right now, but I think the ‘farmhouse chic’ of a beautifully crafted rag rug works anywhere, whether it’s just to keep your feet comfy, or to make a design statement.  I’m really proud to have Hal and Wyfy here as part of the American Artisan series, and I hope you enjoy their work as much as I do.  If you live in New England you may catch The Vermont Rug Farm at local craft fairs, including the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen events, as well as in Vermont State Craft Centers.  Please visit them and explore their work online, you can find their Etsy shop HERE.

large Vermont Rug Farm rag rug

The Vermont Rug Farm is generously giving away a kitchen-sized 3’ x 5’ rug or a pair of 2’ x 4’ runners to one lucky reader*

To enter, please visit the Vermont Rug Farm Shop, HERE, and sign up on my email list HERE

email list

If you are already on the mailing list, you’re good to go.

(Giveaway ends Friday march 6th.)

*The winner of the Vermont Rug Farm giveaway is Deborah Hawkes *

 

NOTE: my mailing list will not be shared with anyone, and is only used to send out notifications of new posts, and our weekly newsletter. From time to time I will be including subscriber only recipes and perks. You can unsubscribe at any time. I have not been compensated in any way by the artisans in this series.

*the item(s) must be in-stock and cannot be a custom order. The winner is responsible for shipping costs (>$13).

Vermont Rug Farm green stripe rag rug

I’d love to know what you think of these beautiful rugs, and how you are liking the series so far — leave me a comment and let me know!

 

 

66 Comments

  • Reply
    Elizabeth Knowlton
    March 7, 2015 at 5:33 am

    These are just beautiful!

  • Reply
    2 sisters recipes
    March 6, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    This is so so nice Sue ! Hope you are having fun in Vermont !
    And the rugs are just beautiful !
    Enjoy the weekend. Xo Anna and Liz

  • Reply
    Abbe+@+This+is+How+I+Cook
    March 3, 2015 at 7:46 pm

    Sue, this is a great series. I love reading about all types of artists and this is superb. I used to have some rag rugs that I inherited. Nothing fancy, but I loved them til the day they died! Never knew how they would get such gorgeous designs. Thanks!

    • Reply
      Sue
      March 5, 2015 at 6:51 am

      It’s so interesting to hear from so many who have inherited these rugs, that proves the point better than anything I could have said!

  • Reply
    Helene
    March 2, 2015 at 7:52 pm

    I use these type of rugs in my bathroom as a bath mat. It’s an easy wash & dry & comes in multitude of colors.

  • Reply
    Maria|PinkPatisserie
    March 2, 2015 at 2:34 pm

    Absolutely stunning! I’m such an admirer of handicraft and the people who dedicate so much time to creating such beautiful and one of a kind work.

  • Reply
    renee
    March 2, 2015 at 2:23 pm

    oh my I have been looking for one of these, my mother lost two when her apartment flooded, one was from Slovakia from a relative of my grandmothers who gave to her who has since passed away would so love to win it for her, but will be bookmarking this page!

  • Reply
    Jenny
    March 2, 2015 at 10:44 am

    What stunning craftsmanship! Thank you for sharing. I am loving your series. I can think of no room I’d enjoy these in more than my kitchen.

  • Reply
    Susan
    March 2, 2015 at 7:16 am

    I love this artisan series of yours, Sue. It really enables us to become acquainted with more of the talented people out there! What gorgeous rugs they make! Truly artistic.

  • Reply
    Martha
    March 2, 2015 at 6:17 am

    As a fellow hand weaver, I can attest to the high quality of Hal and Wyfy’s rag rugs. These handmade gems are woven with an artistic eye and firm beat. Handwoven textiles are long lasting and worth every penny spent on them. Hal and Wyfy’s rugs bring long lasting beauty to your home. Support small business (especially us hand weavers) ;-)

    • Reply
      Sue
      March 2, 2015 at 7:18 am

      Thanks Martha, it’s great to get feedback from another weaver!

  • Reply
    Tricia @ Saving room for dessert
    March 2, 2015 at 5:21 am

    My mother-in-law used to make rag rugs – she was very crafty. But this are amazingly beautiful and don’t look like the rugs of old. Gorgeous! Love this series Sue – you rock! Thanks for the opportunity!

  • Reply
    clare
    March 2, 2015 at 5:18 am

    I have always loved rag rugs–these are so beautiful and I just love this series!

  • Reply
    sherry klusman
    March 2, 2015 at 5:13 am

    Handmade rugs are such keepsakes. Reminds me of home! Would love to own one.

  • Reply
    Vicki Bensinger
    March 2, 2015 at 5:01 am

    Wow this is fascinating. I never knew how these were constructed or even thought about it. What a great art form and beautiful. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Reply
    TAMARA
    March 2, 2015 at 3:35 am

    I LOVE THIS SERIES. IT’S NICE TO HAVE SOMEONE SHOWCASING VARIOUS HANDCRAFTS MADE RIGHT HERE IN THESE UNITED STATES. MY GRANDMA USED TO MAKE THESE RUGS. I’M SORRY TO SAY WE DON’T HAVE ANY OF THEM TODAY. WHAT A PITY. I AM HAPPY TO SAY THAT ALL THE GRANDKIDS AND GREAT GRANDKIDS ALL HAVE QUILTS AND AFAGANS MADE BY OUR GRANDMA. ALL OF MY GRANDPARENTS AND MY PARENTS ARE GONE NOW. I EVEN HAVE A QUILT MADE BY MY GREAT GREAT GRANDMA I ALSO HAVE A OIL LAMP THAT BELONGED TO HER. THESE THINGS ARE PRICELESS TO ME.

    I REALLY LOVE THESE RUGS AND WOULD BE SO HONORED IF I AM THE WINNER.
    YOU CAN SEE THE QUALITY JUST IN THE PHOTOS. YOU CAN ALSO SEE THE LOVE THESE ARTISANS PUT INTO THEIR WORK. THANK YOU FOR SHARING.

    • Reply
      Sue
      March 2, 2015 at 7:32 am

      I was hoping to inspire people with this series, Tamara, I love that it made you think of all the treasures that have been passed down in your family.

  • Reply
    Gloria R,
    March 1, 2015 at 9:27 pm

    These rag rugs are the most beautifully done rugs I have seen in ages. Those are the kind that I remember as a child but most of the ones that I have seen of late are poorly made and would never hold up to the traffic of a busy kitchen. So nice to see that there are still true artisans carrying on American traditions.

  • Reply
    Kimberly
    March 1, 2015 at 9:24 pm

    My grandmother and mom both had rugs like this in their kitchens. :sigh: I like the aqua and chocolate rug combo. Nice modern colors for a timeless piece.

  • Reply
    Kelly
    March 1, 2015 at 8:44 pm

    Ohhhh, so many memories of standing next to mom in the kitchen on rugs like that. They were very colorful. :)

  • Reply
    Cailee
    March 1, 2015 at 8:34 pm

    Wow!! This is beautiful! So wonderfully made too! :) Love it!

  • Reply
    Debbie G
    March 1, 2015 at 6:51 pm

    Wow…these are way cool!

  • Reply
    Patricia
    March 1, 2015 at 6:23 pm

    Sue, I am loving your series. You introduce us to wonderful, talented artists. Thank you.

  • Reply
    Susan
    March 1, 2015 at 5:46 pm

    I’m so happy you show cased these rugs. I’ve always used rag rugs any place I can put them, and love that they have so many with red in them. Thanks.

  • Reply
    Gina Guthrie
    March 1, 2015 at 5:06 pm

    Wow, these rugs are just stunning. Great giveaway!

  • Reply
    Nancy Buchanan
    March 1, 2015 at 5:06 pm

    I thoroughly enjoyed this post!!! Their rugs are gorgeous and are going on my “to buy” list!! This is such a fun series and I can’t wait for the next installment!

    • Reply
      Sue
      March 1, 2015 at 6:22 pm

      I’m so glad you’re enjoying it, Nancy, I get so excited to write up the next feature, I can hardly wait either!

  • Reply
    Vickie
    March 1, 2015 at 4:31 pm

    Beautiful.
    Like many have said, these rugs bring back fond memories of my grandmas home.

  • Reply
    Susan Perry
    March 1, 2015 at 3:41 pm

    Beautiful rugs, love the fact that all the so called waste fabric is used so creatively instead of added to landfill. I think the price is attractive. I’ve paid quite a bit more at art fairs in Michigan. Love your blog.

  • Reply
    Deb Jackson
    March 1, 2015 at 3:06 pm

    Amazing, I would love a rug in colors to coordinate with my kitchen. These are stunning.

  • Reply
    Blythe McDonald
    March 1, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    Gorgeous rugs, I love the designs they create with the bands of color. So different from the mass produced variants.

  • Reply
    Karen M
    March 1, 2015 at 1:16 pm

    Gorgeous rugs! Handmade is definitely the best!

  • Reply
    Stephanie Dunphy
    March 1, 2015 at 1:01 pm

    Handmade really is best. Quality is important and you just can get that from mass production. I always prefer to pay more for the love and care craft folks put into their creations. These are gorgeous and I love that they already upcycled before it was what all of the “cool” kids were doing!

    • Reply
      Sue
      March 1, 2015 at 2:34 pm

      And isn’t it nice to put a ‘face’ to the beautiful things we enjoy so much? Thanks for stopping by Stephanie…

  • Reply
    Susan
    March 1, 2015 at 12:46 pm

    I love these rugs. Went to the shop & favorited some. I’ll be showing a friend who is looking for something similar & I know she will like the handmade much more.

    I love the series, Sue. I would not have known about any of the artisans without your posts. Thank you!

    • Reply
      Sue
      March 1, 2015 at 2:36 pm

      Thanks Susan, I hope it will encourage people to check out the arts & crafts scene where they live and maybe get out to a few shows this spring.

  • Reply
    Karen
    March 1, 2015 at 12:31 pm

    Their loves are amazing. I just love the rainbow of colors in them.

  • Reply
    Catherine
    March 1, 2015 at 11:57 am

    Dear Sue, What a wonderful series. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Hal and Wyfy’s story. Their work is beautiful…I would love to welcome one of their rugs in my home. Thank you. xo, Catherine

  • Reply
    SusanR
    March 1, 2015 at 11:41 am

    Funny that you posted about rugs today. I was out shopping for them yesterday. My 14-year old, blind pooch slips and slides on my laminate floors. I have a mishmash of rugs and mats for her, but want a more colorful, coordinated look. And I need washable with all the pets. These will fill the bill.

  • Reply
    SusanR
    March 1, 2015 at 11:35 am

    These are just my style!! And I cannot believe how reasonable the prices are for handcrafted quality. I am ordering a bunch!!!

    This series of posts is fun! Like I need more inspiration to shop. Oh, my….????

    I feel like you are my personal shopper!

    • Reply
      Sue
      March 1, 2015 at 12:09 pm

      You know I wanted to say how reasonable the prices are for what you are getting, I’ve seen this kind of thing go for much higher, thanks for bringing that up. And I’m a shop-a-holic from way back, so being a personal shopper comes naturally to me!

  • Reply
    sandy evans
    March 1, 2015 at 11:21 am

    My great-grandmother and my grandmother used to make these. Sadly, they are both gone, and so are most of the rugs, because we used them in our summer cottage, and also stored them there. It blew away in a tornado in 2001, and they were lost along with the cottage.

    • Reply
      Sue
      March 1, 2015 at 11:25 am

      That is such a sad story Sandy. It just proves the point that keeping these skills alive is so important!

  • Reply
    Judith
    March 1, 2015 at 11:20 am

    Loving your new Sunday artisans, Sue. I realize I have never actually owned a rug of this quality, but, as I think back, my Grandmother had a blueish one for as long as I can remember. She plopped me down on it with pencil and paper while she bustled around the kitchen when I was little. And, it was around 20-odd years later. Off to see their site.

    • Reply
      Sue
      March 1, 2015 at 11:27 am

      Teddy is, right now, as I type, conked out on the rug beneath my sink, which I can see from my office. They are made for kids, dogs, and bare feet!

  • Reply
    Averie @ Averie Cooks
    March 1, 2015 at 11:13 am

    These are the kind of rugs my mom used to have in our house when I was growing up….wow, thank you for sharing this post and the links!

    • Reply
      Sue
      March 1, 2015 at 11:27 am

      I so appreciate you coming by Averie!

  • Reply
    David M. Dunn
    March 1, 2015 at 11:12 am

    The first time I saw examples of “Op Art” way back in the 60’s, when I was a teen who knew Everything, I told the art instructor teaching me that these were close up photo’s of rag rugs.
    I don’t think he accepted the words of wisdom from a long haired 19 year old, but I was right. So rag rugs are -and always were- art.
    Thanks for showing these crafts people to a wider audience.

  • Reply
    Molly
    March 1, 2015 at 11:10 am

    Wow, these are gorgeous! I love that they do customs orders.

  • Reply
    Kristie P.
    March 1, 2015 at 11:09 am

    Yes, these would make lovely kitchen rugs. Rag rugs always bring a warm, homey feeling to a space!

  • Reply
    Life With The Crew
    March 1, 2015 at 11:03 am

    I would love one of these rugs! I have several smaller rag rugs and they are perfect in a house with pets since you can easily wash them.

  • Reply
    Christine
    March 1, 2015 at 10:59 am

    These rugs are beautiful! Thank you for teaching me about the makers, and for this series. It’s fun to see the beautiful things that people make.

  • Reply
    Jan R
    March 1, 2015 at 10:55 am

    I love rag rugs…always have 2 in my kitchen. I would LOVE one of these. Almost to pretty to put on the floor.

    • Reply
      Sue
      March 1, 2015 at 10:59 am

      Thanks for stopping by Jan, and I know what you mean – I can picture one hanging in a huge two story foyer…

  • Reply
    Kaye
    March 1, 2015 at 10:39 am

    Lovely rugs!

  • Reply
    Linda
    March 1, 2015 at 10:32 am

    Beautiful rugs – reminds me of my Grandma’s work of many years ago. I no longer have any of her rugs as they do eventually wear out at least at my bouse. I need to get some new ones and thanks to you I know where to get them.

  • Reply
    Laura+Schroeder
    March 1, 2015 at 10:32 am

    Great series, good stuff and I don’t have to leave my cozy couch.

  • Reply
    Kristi @ Inspiration Kitchen
    March 1, 2015 at 10:26 am

    Wow, what beautiful rugs! I love them! Love this series of sharing artisans!

  • Reply
    Sharon
    March 1, 2015 at 10:25 am

    Beautiful …and such quality. I would be so proud to have one of these in my home.

    • Reply
      Sue
      March 1, 2015 at 10:26 am

      I agree Sharon, I have a friend who has a large rag rug in her living room, in place of the more common Oriental, or something like that, and it has such a fresh look, I love it.

  • Reply
    Tara
    March 1, 2015 at 10:11 am

    Enjoying this series. It’s like attending a craft show without ever leaving home. And given the cold and snow here, that’s a major bonus!

    A friend is a weaver and I’m going to send her a link. She’ll drool over that huge loom.

    • Reply
      Sue
      March 1, 2015 at 10:13 am

      I love that Tara — that’s exactly the feeling I’m going for. I love nothing more than going to a great craft show, and it’s hard waiting through the long winter for the spring events. Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for passing along the link, I know the Issente’s will appreciate it.

  • Reply
    jean miller
    March 1, 2015 at 9:14 am

    Omigosh! These are so beautiful. Susan, I’m loving this series so much. I want one of everything! Thank you for sharing all the good stuff.

  • Reply
    Elizabeth
    March 1, 2015 at 6:15 am

    I frequently visit your blog for great recipes. I have to admit that I live in the same town in Vermont as the Vermont Rug Farm folks, and I just learned about them today! Now I’ll go down to the village and find one of their gorgeous rugs!

    • Reply
      Sue
      March 1, 2015 at 7:10 am

      No way! This is the BEST first comment!

      • Reply
        Sue
        March 1, 2015 at 7:15 am

        …and I’m sooo jealous of where you live :)

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