The Rag and Bone Man


Loyal Homegrown Revolution reader Ken M wrote us with a challenge for us to figure out what can be done with old rags. Ken says that he’s made a rag rug once and proposes the intriguing idea of “patching a pair of jeans with rags for so many years that eventually every single thread from the original has been worn away and replaced by rags.” This sounds a bit like a poetic inversion of Yoko Ono’s “Cut Piece“, in which she sat motionless on stage and invited the audience to slice off bits of her clothing.

So what to do with the rags?

1. Compost them–cotton rags will decompose just fine.

2. Mulch–a layer of cotton will make a good first layer. We’ve used newspaper in the past with organic material on top, but in our dry climate here in LA the newspaper can actually prevent water from getting to the soil when it rains. We’re guessing that cotton might work better.

3. Household cleaning–this is obvious, but we do go through quite a few rags with our too few household cleanings, not to mention keeping the bicycle chains clean.

4. Paper making–one traditional method of paper making begins with fermenting cotton rags in water for a few weeks and then beating them to a pulp with hammers. The rag and bone man pictured above is collecting rags for paper making (the bones went to make glue and other things). The contemporary version of the rag and bone man are the thift stores that ship our old clothes to the third world putting local garment makers out of business.

Ken also speculates about weaving rags, which as this website shows, yields some attractive results. The thought of weaving with rags reminds us of the late “Slim” Sirnes, a resident of the bizarre ghost town of Goldfield Nevada, who Homegrown Revolution was privileged to have met up with a few years ago. Sirnes found a way to shred aluminum cans and weave them on a loom of his design creating a unique metallic fabric that he used as a building material and to make art. Watch Slim in action here.

Share this post

Leave a comment

2 Comments

  1. Wow, I really enjoyed this blog! There are also lots of crafts you can make with old rags. My mom used to stuff cloth dolls with her old pantyhose, but any rags would work; that’s why they’re called rag dolls. And speaking of papermaking, you can make papier-mâché with old rags. Papier-mâché http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papier-m%C3%A2ch%C3%A9 is used to make masks, objets and toys, but also bowls and even furniture.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


8 − = 4