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Winifred Nicholson: Cumbrian Rag Rugs

Winifred Nicholson: Cumbrian Rag Rugs


Richly illustrated with colourful, quirky rag rugs (also known as hooked rugs), this delightful book examines Winifred Nicholson’s relationship with the Cumbrian craft, the way in which she helped revive the tradition in the 1960s and ’70s, and her influence on contemporary makers. For anyone interested in textiles, naive art, British folk traditions or mid-century craft, this book will be a treasure trove.  


British artist Winifred Nicholson (1893–1981) initially encountered rag rugs in Cumberland in the early 1920s, when, with her husband Ben Nicholson (1894–1982), she visited her neighbour Margaret Warwick, who was sat in her kitchen making a rug from scraps of old clothing. The Nicholsons were interested in ‘naive art’ at that time and had explored the work of Rousseau, as well as African sculpture, but this was the first time they had come face to face with naive art being made in their own country. 


In 1960 Winifred moved back to Banks Head, the old Cumbrian farmhouse she had owned since 1923. It was here that she helped to revive the local ‘hooky’ rag rug making tradition. Through Winifred’s efforts, well over a hundred new rugs were made. Notable makers included Mary Bewick, Janet Heap and Florence Williams. Winifred herself designed a number of rugs, and she also encouraged her grandchildren, who were paid a pound a time for a design. 


This beautiful book also presents a number of contemporary rag rug makers, with direct links to Winifred. Emma Tennant, who lives in Scotland not far from Winifred’s house, was inspired to start making rugs after seeing the ones in Winifred’s home. Also included are works by Winifred’s nieces Louisa Creed and the late Jenny Steinbugler. 


The author also discusses the extensive rag rug collection at Chillingham Castle, Northumberland, which has interesting parallels with Winifred Nicholson’s approach to rug making, as well as the rug by Lucie Aldridge in the Fry Art Gallery, Essex.

Expected to ship October 2024
  • By Jovan Nicholson

    ISBN: 978-1-913645-75-5

    Hardback, 220 x 245 mm

    112 pages, 80 illustrations

  • Exhibition Details

    Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art 

    Late October – 23  March 2024


    Tullie House, Carlisle

    1 April – 22 June 2025

  • About the Author

    Jovan Nicholson curated and wrote the accompanying catalogues for Art and Life: Ben Nicholson, Winifred Nicholson, Christopher Wood, Alfred Wallis, William Staite Murray, 1920–1931 (Dulwich Picture Gallery); Winifred Nicholson in Cumberland (Abbot Hall Art Gallery); Winifred Nicholson: Liberation of Colour (MIMA). He is an acknowledged expert on Winifred Nicholson’s work, and grandson of Ben and Winifred Nicholson.

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