Handmade Rag Rugs & Hand Knit Scarves in Natural Fibers

Aspiring to practical art in the every day

Welcome to the Studio at Red Top Ranch. Red Top Ranch is the southwestern Nebraska home of a small outdoorsy family, three rescued dogs and one fiber artist who specializes in hand knit scarves and handmade rag rugs.

Handmade Rag Rugs:
I began making handmade rag rugs as a way to use up leftover and unloved fabric. As I studied rugmaking, it became a way to learn and preserve an art developed by women who made-do by repurposing clothes and curtains because they had no other materials available. I respect the artistry and talent of those rural women who lived a hard, duty-filled life and yet saw and created beauty every day. I aspire to the their skill and values using the same patchwork style in the same braiding, twinning, and hooking techniques.

Hand Knit Scarves:
Why Scarves? I love scarves of all kinds - fancy, casual, chunky, skinny, long, shawls, scarves in cable and lace patterns, solid colors, stripes, chevrons, and patchwork. I specialize in masculine and western patterns in extra long, full sizes. I love scarves because of their:

Comfort: it is very satisfying to create a product that will provide warmth and comfort - on a commute on a wintry day, in an over-chilled conference room, for a vendor at a holiday market, for a Mom at a changeable spring track meet. I believe scarf lovers are at heart those who had a favorite blanket when they were a child, but weren't able to keep it, or take it to school or work with them.

Versatility: I love to wear scarves and see how others wear them. I am always impressed by what a scarf can do to an unremarkable outfit to make it special - thereby reducing the need to buy, pack, and own so much.

Connection to Small Rural Businesses and Artists: I love purchasing yarns produced by small alpaca and wool ranches. My favorites are Lonesome Stone, Talking Feather, Silver Star and Deer Valley Alpacas in Colorado, Mountain Meadow Wool in Wyoming, and River Valley Alpacas in Nebraska. I enjoy supporting fiber artists who hand-spin and hand-dye yarn, as well as women's cooperatives such as Manos del Uruguay, and the Snow Leopard Trust in Mongolia.

Variety: as of this writing, I have finished over 250 scarves, the yarn for 251-300 is waiting attention. Not a single one is the same, and making every one has been a creative experience. I know where I bought the yarn, why I chose the pattern, what was going on in my life when I made it, and what I like best about each one.

Our Principles for Making a Great Scarf:
1. Start with Plenty of Beautiful Natural Fiber Yarn -- it will reward you when you wind it, knit it, wear it the first time, and wear it time after time. Great yarn comes from natural fibers, great scarves require plenty of it. Scratchy yarn that pills quickly is acrylic, abandoned scarves were skimped on. Visit the unhappy handmade section of your local Goodwill or ARC store to see for yourself.

2. Begin Slowly - get to know the yarn, its loft, halo, shine, talents and idiosyncrasies. Try it in various patterns and needle sizes to find out how the yarn itself thinks it looks best. Challenge yourself with new pattern options, stitches, artistic direction. Begin right to make it full, thick, and long.

3.Keep Going - like Julia Child said when trying a new recipe and encountering challenges, once you've taken a direction with a scarf, "keep going". There is a point on every scarf, about three inches in, when I lose interest, and put it down. I think I haven't quite gotten it. If I pick it up again and keep going, it will be clear that it's right, or not.

4. Enjoy the Flow - this is the best part. The pattern is set in the yarn and in your mind, and it's all about the rhythm and meditative joy of seeing the pattern develop, the colors meet and feeling the wonderful yarn flow through your fingers.

5. Take a Close Look - upon nearing completion, lay the scarf out flat and leave it there. Then drape it over a chair and leave it. When you walk into the room, your eyes will find color pools or tension problems, your hands will go to areas with stitch issues or any other mistakes. Find those areas that you aren't entirely happy with, or that could be better.

6. Make It Right - the depression-era woman who owned the local fabric store when I was growing up used to say "if you don't have time to make it right, when will you have time to do it over?" Once you've identified a problem or a way to do something better, back up, take it out, make a pot of tea, start over and Make it Right.

7. Finish Slowly - Knitting isn't a race or a competitive sport, making the most isn't the gratification, it's having created something truly beautiful and functional. Rather than rushing to the finish when you are close to the end, take a break, set it aside and come back when you have time to do those final steps really well. It will make all the difference when you finish, when you wash it and when you wear it time after time.
owner, maker, designer
Professionally, I am a project management consultant who specializes in web sites. In the Studio I am an avid knitter & rug maker. Working with my hands helps me to develop my creative side, see the world more clearly, and solve problems more easily.

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