Before Fritz Haeg decamped to a revived commune in Northern California, he lived in a geodesic dome on the east side of Los Angeles. The dome was Haeg’s home and also his place of work, where he welcomed artists and community members for workshops and events, involving collective movement exercises, book discussions, lessons in radical gardening, and much else. It was here that Haeg evolved his technique of hand-knotting strips of old T-shirts and bedsheets into giant, colorful rugs. On his own or with the help of many, rug making is just one aspect of Haeg’s abiding interest in how we live and make a home, which he explores not only in his own domestic spaces, but also in the notoriously cold, formal spaces of art museums.
Haeg honed this method over time, scavenging old textiles and experimenting with crocheting, knitting, and making clothing. He put his hand-knotting technique to use for his series “Domestic Integrities,” which began with the creation of two rugs, spirally stitched by volunteers and collaborators who added local textiles to the rugs as they traveled from city to city. Inside museums, the rugs became what Haeg calls “Domestic Integrity Fields,” or sites for the presentation of goods and materials gathered from nearby land and gardens. Local contributors brought bread, pickles, flowers, and homemade remedies to present atop the rug, and visitors were invited to take off their shoes and make themselves at home.
It is precisely this idea of making oneself at home that is at the core of this assignment. Making a rug can be either a communal activity, with materials and labor shared among a group, or a solo endeavor, added to as time allows and textiles accumulate. Your rug will be a field for activity, no matter how you put it to use. It will be not only a document of your past, made up of formerly loved T-shirts and fraying bedsheets, but also a site where new experiences unfold and new histories accumulate.
The rug that once graced Haeg’s geodesic dome has followed him to his new home several hundred miles north, where it warms a cabin floor.
Have a stack of old clothes too worn or too beloved to give away? Make them into a rug. And don’t let a lack of crafting expertise stop you from giving this a try. It may seem awkward and lumpy at first, but as you add more stitches the rug relaxes and resolves into shape. You’ll get a feel for it as you go.
- Gather old textiles, such as T-shirts, sheets, towels, fabric scraps, anything.
- Cut the textiles into strips of relatively uniform width or density, tying them together to make longer segments.
- Using the technique below, make a rug.
- When your rug is finished, live on it and make it part of your story.