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Meet Rugby Jim: Making a Difference in the World with Rag Rugs

I met Jim in the summer of 2018 while I was teaching crochet classes at a local yarn shop in Williamsburg, Virginia. He wanted to learn how to make rag rugs.

So we got to work!

We started pretty simple, but Jim was motivated. He had a mission!

And no, it wasn't just to crochet in bars! Though he did delight in doing so. (So do I!)

A smiling man in his 70s crocheting with strips of fabric in a bar.
Rugby Jim crocheting in a bar!

He learned how to work in the round, the difference between working under both loops or the back loop only, and how to change colors. He practiced at home every day (or darn near it!) in between classes.

A short month in, Jim started his first rectangular rug after learning to work in rows instead of only in the round. It turned out he much prefered working in the round! He was also quite good at improvising as he worked to make sure the rugs would lay flat.

One day he brought in an example of a rug that inspired him. He wanted to try colorwork! And so we did.

Close up view of an elderly man's hands crocheting with strips of white and yellow fabric to make a circular rag rug.
Rugby Jim Learning How to Change Colors

And he excelled with that, too!

But before I get too carried away bragging on Jim, I'll let him tell you his story in his own words!

A man in his 70s wearing a white polo standing alongside his wife, who is wearing a black hoodie, both are smiling.
Jim with his wife, Connie

Did you ever meet the right person at the right time? I did. And to paraphrase Robert Frost, “Oh the difference it has made.”

For my 72nd birthday, my wife gave me three crocheting lessons at our wonderful local (Williamsburg, VA) yarn shop, Yarn Matters. My teacher: Connie Lee Lynch.

At the time I was looking for more meaning in my life. I had just heard U2’s song, “I haven’t found what I’ve been looking for”, and it resonated deeply with me. I knew something was missing.

Crocheting turned out to be a big piece of the puzzle. Connie taught me how to make rag rugs like grandma used to do. She made playing with color and patterns great fun. I especially liked the Fibbonacci patterns, which incorporated math with art.

Connie taught mainly by the Socratic method, asking a lot of questions, rather than just lecturing. That forces the student to think through problems, rather than just trying to remember what the teacher said. It also engages the learner more. I loved the approach.

The final piece of the puzzle came when I decided to use what she had taught me to make and sell rugs for $25 each, and donate the total amount to Doctors Without Borders. In three and a half years I donated $3,000 to them from my rug making. I branded myself at Rugby Jim. After all, I loved rugby, and I loved puns (Rug by Jim). Although I no longer make rugs for sale, I have recently enjoyed making rugs with my wife, an accomplished quilter who attaches appliqué designs to the rugs. My story can be seen on my web site:

Connie Lynch holds a special place in my heart. She was the inspirational spark which ignited the Rugby Jim project. She was always cheerful and positive and curious. I did so look forward to my weekly lessons, and I subsequently signed up for many more.

I have been very fortunate to have many wonderful teachers in my life - and Connie Lynch has been one the most important of those. I’m so glad our paths crossed at one point in time.

Jim Thompson

Williamsburg, VA

A smiling man in his 70s wearing a red Rugby hooded sweatshirt crocheting a rainbow colored rag rug while sitting beside a display of his rugs
Rugby Jim with a Display of his Rugs, Photography by Lisa W. Cumming

Jim has called me his crochet yogi but I have gotten such joy from teaching and knowing him. He is always excited to learn something new and just exudes this infectious happiness with life. Every time I hear from Jim it lights up my day!

Jim's story inspires me and makes me feel both proud and humble. I am absolutely blessed to have met him and had the privelege of teaching him how to crochet so that he could bring his dream to life. Encouraging him in this journey has been an absolute delight and I'm so glad I got to be a part of it!

Here we are together at Yarn Matters shortly before we moved in 2019. Jim made a red, white, and blue rug to give me just before the Army sent us back to Texas. It now lives in our guest room! Which, yes, has a bit of a patriotic theme!

A man in his 70s standing with a smiling woman holding up a red, white, and blue rag rug that he crocheted.
Jim gifted me with one of his beautiful, custom made rag rugs!

You know what? I think I want to be like Jim when I grow up!

Always learning. Always exploring. Always joyful.

You never know whose life you'll touch in a profound way. You never know how you might change the world, even with something as simple as crochet.

Rugby Jim sitting at a table with two thumbs up after just completing his largest rag rug to date at 49 inches in a rainbow of colors.
Specialty Rug: Giant Rugby Rainbow - 49 inch diameter

Here's to saving the world, one rug at a time! Cheers!

Be sure to visit Jim's website at to see more of his work. Interested in learning with me? Schedule a virtual coffee date!


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