+From small beginnings

By Marama Warren, Milton. As featured in The Country Web 2016 Annual

Rug maker, farmer and grandmother Miriam Miller and Jacqui Thompson are friends and neighbours from Milton who have not let distance be a barrier to following their passion.

Miriam Miller and Jacqui Thompson

Miriam Miller and Jacqui Thompson

Last October I followed (by email), the entertaining adventures of these two remarkable country women (in their 80s) as they travelled to Tel Aviv, Brussels, The Isle of Uist in Scotland, the USA and Canada.

Miriam’s family emigrated from England when she was 13. They lived in North West NSW for several years before moving to Nowra where she later met and married dairy farmer Alan Miller.

In the 1970s Miriam set out to make a rag rug to cover the hardwood floor in the big old family homestead. Her grandmother had made rugs in England and so she asked her father (who had helped his mother make these mats when he was a young man) to help get her started.

No one else seemed interested in this old craft but Miriam persisted and slowly, over years, made several large rugs for her home. Her four children were enthusiastic and helped cut up recycled clothing and worn blankets to make rugs.

In 1994 Australian Country Craft and Decorating magazine featured an article about Miriam. Her friend Jacqui Thompson thought it was timely to get others involved as people were beginning to be interested in recycling. Jacqui placed a notice in the local newspaper inviting others to a meeting at Miriam’s house on the first Friday of every month. Seven people came and the Narrawilly Proggy Ruggers was formed and has been meeting ever since. People travel from Sydney, Canberra, southern and western NSW to come to Milton and rug days are so popular the group now meets twice a month.

In 2001 the Australian Rug Makers Guild was formed and Miriam was elected President. She also published the first book on rug making in Australia, titled Proggy & Hooky Rugs.

Miriam Miller with local rugmaker in The Gambia

Miriam Miller with local rugmaker in The Gambia

Miriam and Jacqui have travelled the globe meeting fellow rug makers, sharing ideas and giving workshops—often overcoming language barriers by connecting through craft. Rug making has enriched these two women’s lives as well as the lives of others. They have hosted many international ruggers in Milton and even visited The Gambia in West Africa to work with a charity teaching blind and partially sighted people to make rugs so they can earn a living.

“From such a small beginning, living in a small rural town and reviving an old craft where people treasured every small scrap of fabric, we now have friends all over the world and use Skype to talk with people wherever they may be, show each other our rugs, send messages by email and share information through blogs and YouTube,” says Miriam.

These two passionate rural women have created a craft revival trend and become part of a vibrant international community that has brought the world to them as well as opened doors to take their skills and knowledge out into the world.

Narrawilly Proggy Ruggers Banner

Narrawilly Proggy Ruggers Banner

More information

Narrawilly Proggy Ruggers 

Call for stories – The Country Web 2017 Annual issue

The 2017 annual issue of The Country Web will explore the theme ‘Connect and Collaborate‘. We want to hear from you about creating meaningful connections, mentoring and sharing wisdom, books and people that have inspired you. Contributions are required by 21 April 2017 for publication in August 2017. Email your contributions to rural.women@dpi.nsw.gov.au

About nswrwn

NSW Rural Women’s Network is a government program working in innovative ways to promote leadership and action on rural women’s issues. The RWN team is dedicated to connecting and exchanging information with women and stakeholders in rural, regional and remote communities.
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