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Tufting Tails: Creating My First Rug Tufted Pet Portrait!

If you’ve had a look at the artwork on my website or Instagram, you'll see I rarely veer away from the comfort of my preferred artistic medium: coloured pencils. I do however, love to try my hand at just about any art or craft going, and when I learned about rug tufting I knew I absolutely had to give it a go. I first heard about it through my job, (I work for a booking platform specifically for all kinds of art, craft and cookery workshops) and after a bit of research, something about the rifle-like ferocity of the tufting gun was calling my name.

yarn at rug tufting class
Tufting London's amazingly colourful yarn wall

Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find a rug tufting class near me in the North East of England, but having already planned a visit to London for my friend’s birthday, I scheduled in a workshop at Tufting London for while I was there. Due to my ever increasing forgetfulness, I’m very last minute when it comes to organising birthday gifts, BUT coupled with my love for crafting, I’m also a big fan of home-made presents, so I decided the rug would make the perfect gift.

A few days before the workshop, you have to send your rug design to the teacher so that they can outline this on the canvas prior to the class. As my friend is the new owner of a gorgeous Airedale terrier called Juno, of course the design I created was dog-themed, though not in my usual photo-realistic style. Guidelines for the rug design, especially for beginner tufters, were to keep the image fairly simple and not too detailed, and so a very cute cartoon version of Juno’s face was born.

Beautiful Juno and her cartoon interpretation

Armed with my cartoon photo reference, I made my way to Tufting London, tucked away next to Nine Elms station. The venue was light and airy, decorated with unique tufted rugs and a beautifully eye-catching wall filled with shelves of yarn in every colour. After a brief but thorough introduction to the tufting gun and a quick trial go, myself and the rest of the attendees set about creating our rugs. I personally loved the hands-off approach

in the class and having the freedom to crack on by myself, however tutors were on hand if you needed assistance (or a new yarn colour).

I'm still not sure I fully understand the mechanics of how the tufting machine works its magic, but it effectively involves punching short pieces of yarn through the canvas to create loops. While I thankfully got the hang of it fairly quickly and Juno's face began taking shape, there was a surprising amount to think about to make sure things didn't go pear-shaped along the way - the angle of the tufting gun, keeping enough pressure on the canvas (but not too much!), making sure to go in one direction, and leaving enough (but not too much!) distance between the rows. Rug tufting requires you to create the design on what will be the back of the finished piece, so peeking around the front every so often to see how it was coming along was my favourite part of the process!

step by step of rug tufting process
Some progress pics along the way!
Progress shots from the front

After about 2 hours of solid tufting and lots of umm-ing and ahh-ing while trying to decide when to stop adding to it, I finally declared Juno's face complete. The next step (which I wasn't expecting) was to generously cover the back of the rug in what I think was a super thick PVA glue, then heat it with a hairdryer until touch dry. Next came extracting Juno's face which involved hacking through the canvas with a pair of scissors (I happily let the tutor assist with this part, lest I cut through the middle of all my hard work...) Then the tutor carefully attached a nonslip backing and, finally, left me to tidy up any loose pieces of yarn and shave down any longer patches with an electric trimmer. And of course get some photos of me and my tufted rug!

Me and my finished piece!

I'd kept my expectations of what I would produce super low given that I'd never tufted a rug before, so I was genuinely so happy with the final outcome. So much so that I was actually a bit sad I'd decided to give it away as a birthday gift...! Thankfully my friend had the most fabulous reaction when I surprised her with it (along with a very excited Juno the dog trying to eat her own rug face), so I wasn't too sad that I didn't get to keep it.

All in all, I absolutely loved trying my hand at rug tufting, to the point where if the tufting gun, yarn and the rest of the equipment weren't quite so expensive, I'd be taking it up as my new favourite hobby immediately. Though if one day I do actually decide to make the investment, I will definitely be adding rug tufted pet portraits to my artistic offerings. Feel free to place your orders in advance....!!

Up close finished piece!



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