- Cut each dress into one long continuous strip. Each strip should be roughly two inches wide, but for heaven's sake, don't measure it - just do it by eye. You might be able to cut all the way around the dress in a long spiral, like peeling an orange. Or you might have to cut in a sort of zig-zag, as in the diagram. When you get to tricky bits like sleeves etc., use your own ingenuity. If you don't have any ingenuity, just buy a damn rug instead. Then roll the strips into balls. This step takes hours and hours. Making rag rugs is not a quick project by any means.
- If you are a neat freak, you can press your strips so all the ragged edges are hidden. You do this by folding the two raw edges to the centre, then folding in half so the raw edges are enclosed, then press. But I don't mind a raggy look - it is a rag rug after all. If you do press them, this stage will also take hours and hours.
- Take three strips and stitch them together at the top. Then fasten them to something like a chair and start braiding the strips. When you run out of one colour, or you want to change colour because you're going out of your mind with boredom and you're desperate to break the monotony, sew the new strip to the end of the old strip and continue. Roll the braid up into a ball until you have enough to start stitching the rug. Guess what? This stage takes hours and hours.
- Coil the braid into a spiral and sew it together with the toughest thread you can find, such as upholstery thread. Work on a flat surface such as a large table or your rug won't lie flat (we didn't do this and had to "block" the finished rug with steam and then stitch it to a hessian backing - if you work on a flat surface these stages will not be necessary). If you have a friend or a sister to work with, one of you can braid whilst the other coils. Funnily enough both stages seem to progress at approximately the same rate. Needless to say, this stage takes hours and hours.
I can't remember exactly when Steph and I started the maternity dress rag rug, but it was about two years ago. We've worked on it in fits and starts, sometimes quite intensively but often putting it away for months on end. I don't know how many hours we spent on it altogether, but it's a lot. This is no weekend project, it's much longer than that, but the end results are worth it.
It's finished now and is on the floor of my bedroom. It looks lovely, and is warm on my feet when I get out of bed. It's also full of memories - memories of my pregnancies, memories of breastfeeding the babies, and memories of working on the rug together with Steph. To me it's better than the finest Persian carpet could ever be.