MARYSVALE, Utah — Chances are, there are rugs in your home.
They were most likely manufactured overseas and bought online, or in a “big box” store like Kohl’s or Target.
But a century ago, many (if not most) rugs in American homes were made from leftover pieces of fabric, clothing and bedding that had been stripped into small pieces and assembled as a “rag rug.”
Many were homemade, but in Marysvale, Utah, residents often called upon Charlie Christensen and his loom to assist.
Charlie and his wife Lizzie opened a store in Marysvale in 1934, and rag rugs were a regular part of the offerings.
Generations of the Christensen family worked there until about 2002 when a fire damaged the living quarters on the back end of the store.
“When we moved here, there will still a handful of little old ladies in town who could remember their moms stripping their old clothes and rolling it in balls, taking it to Charlie, and he would make them a rug for 50 cents,” said Jeanne Knowles, who bought the building in 2010.
Her husband Jeff has since updated the building and even built new living quarters in the back.
“My plan was to have a quilt shop, but when word of mouth got out that someone was restoring the rug shop, people started calling and giving us looms," Jeanne said. "Because, say it was grandma's, and nobody else in the family knows how to use it. And they’re kind of white elephants, and they wanted somebody to use it. So we were given three looms before we ever opened up.”
Looms take up most of the floor space at what has since been operated as Charlie and Lizzie’s Rug Factory. The looms are antique, many dating from the 1890s, but operational.
“We have eight different weavers here,” said Jeanne.
The weavers are all regional, and collectively they keep the shop in stock of rag rugs made of different materials such as cotton, wool and denim.
Rugs typically cost between $60 and $90, depending on size.
The shop is typically closed in winter. The weavers use that time to build inventory for the busy summer season when tourists come through the area on their way to national parks or to ride the Piute ATV Trail.
People who find their way into the shop often linger to take in the sights and sounds of a type of craft once common across America.
“In this day and age, to compete with a box store or online, you have to give people an experience,” Jeanne said. "And the experience we give them is watching it being done here in the store. When they see it, they appreciate it so much more."
You can learn more about Lizzie and Charlie’s Rag Rug Factory online at ragrugfactory.com.
However, they don’t sell rugs on their website. Jeanne says that’s best done the old-fashioned way, too: in person.