About this objectThe rug is machine sewn from an assortment of pieces of woollen fabric of various plain coloured squares and rectangles, each of which is a different size. The pieces appear to be either offcuts from garment construction or recycled clothing which has been cut down to salvage the greatest area of usable fabric. The patches have been machine sewn together, without any particular pattern, in order to create the desired rectangular shape. The printed backing fabric is also a series of rectangles of the same floral pattern which may have been cut from recycled curtain fabric.
The original Australian Waggas (or Woggas, Woggers or Wagga Rugs) were ‘quilts’ made by men from 150lb jute flour bags. The unopened bags were sewn together along the long seam using a bag needle and lengths of twine found in every shed. It is possible that the name derives from the NSW town of Wagga Wagga and an early centre of wheat production. During the terrible depression of the 1890s, the Wagga Flour Mill would leave flawed wheat/flour bags in a particular place and men were welcome to collect these for their personal use.
The name wagga rug has since been extended to cover domestic waggas or ‘make do’ quilts made by women for domestic use in times of hardship. Many of these originated in the depression years of the 1930s.
MakerMrs Sid Nash
Medium and MaterialsThe coloured woollen patches are all of different sizes and appear to be offcuts and pieces of recycled clothing backed with floral printed cotton. The patches have been sewn together without any apparent pattern in mind except the overall finished rectangular shape of the quilt. The fabric is in reasonably good condition although there are some holes in the woollen patches and some small sections of stitching have come apart.
The rug is quilted with a few vertical and horizontal rows of machine stitching, most of which are crookedly sewn. The number and quality of these rows probably reflects the degree of difficulty encountered in sewing through varying thicknesses of bulky padding.
Subject and Association DescriptionDomestic waggas made by women were an excellent example of the same tradition of reusing materials when resources were scarce. Suiting samples were obtained from travelling salespeople or local stores, or the patches were cut from the parts of existing clothing showing the least amount of wear, and the remainders were cut up and used as padding in the quilt. This resulted in a very heavy, thickly padded, long wearing quilt, many of which have survived intact and were still in use into the 1960s.
Waggas are well represented in Australian collections large and small. The National Museum has a Wagga which was found in an abandoned hut near Orbost near East Gippsland. The rug is fragile and worn but has been well constructed and contains some interesting and decorative fabrics.
The Powerhouse Museum also has a Wagga c 1930-40 made by Clare Chamberlain from 178 pieces of men’s suiting samples, backed with a single piece of hessian. Unlike the rug in the National Museum there is little evidence of wear in this rug and the backing is in near new condition.