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Rug Hooking

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Rug hookers use all kinds of materials to create colorful, decorative and functional floor cloths. Whether it's old bits of wool, torn pieces of T-shirt or the finest silk and linen, a skilled eye and creative touch can transform it into a work of art.

The art of rug hooking is centuries old, but no one can tell exactly how long it's been around. Some books claim that descendants of the ancient Egyptians made the first hand-hooked rugs between the third and seventh centuries.

Other sources say that China or Europe is where it has its roots. Many authorities now believe that rug hooking is an indigenous folk art of North America, with the first hooked rugs appearing in Atlantic Canada and New England.

Bare floors aren't very user-friendly in cold weather, so women in the mid-1800s began making rugs to cover them. By the time the west was settled, floor coverings were much more available, so the handmade rugs weren't as necessary. In the east, the rugs were first made of necessity. Then people began making them to sell.

By the 1940s, rug hooking was a well-established hobby in the U.S. and Canada. It was popular because it was creative, as well as practical. If you visit art galleries and museums across North America, you can view some hand-hooked rugs.

Rug hooking takes place in people's homes, community centers, churches and other meeting places where people congregate to share their favorite pastime. People display their creations at fairs and craft shows. This is often where new hobbyists get hooked.

After viewing someone's handmade rug, some people decide they would like to learn how to make something for themselves. Other times, the tradition may have been passed along from family member to family member.

Joan Foster is a rug hooker. "The first step someone should take when considering taking up hooking would be to sign up for a beginner class, if one is offered in your area," she says.

"Otherwise, you can visit rug hooking sites on the Internet to obtain information on the craft, or try to find out if there is a rug hooking group in your area who meet regularly. You may be able to attend one of their hook-ins to observe and decide whether you would like to try it. It is a difficult craft to pick up without receiving basic instructions and tips from an experienced rug hooker."

Rug hookers range in age, and so far, most are female. According to Deanne Fitzpatrick, the number of people involved in this hobby continues to grow. With that trend, maybe more men will become involved.

Dick LaBarge of New York, for one, has been teaching rug hooking for about six years.

"I was always interested in antiques and the country look," says LaBarge. "I was looking for rugs in this style and couldn't find any, so I decided to make them myself."

If you aren't familiar with rug hooking, you may get it confused with latch hooking, which uses a hinged hook to form a knotted pile from short pieces of yarn.

Rug hooking uses a hand hook, similar in shape to a crochet hook, to form a looped pile from fabric strips or yarn on an even-weave base fabric (such as burlap, monks-cloth, divider cloth, or linen).

Getting Started

The best way to start is to get a kit, hook and hoop. Rug hookers will tell you that this isn't a cheap hobby. It also isn't something that you can start and finish in a day. Rugs take a long time to complete, but the final product is well worth the work.

Being able to work with your hands and having determination to finish what you start will help you succeed in this hobby. One side-effect that a few people experience when working with wide strips of material is discomfort and even tendonitis in their hands.

Taking a break if things become uncomfortable is probably the best prevention. For those who want a bit more protection, there is a special glove available for this purpose.

Becoming involved with a club or association is an excellent way to meet people and share ideas. "You receive a quarterly newsletter, have the right to attend our annual rug school and regional hook-ins and, in general, are helping to preserve and promote a traditional craft," says Foster.

Some ways to turn this passion into a living could be to own a craft supply store, instruct classes, sell work at craft shows or make rugs on order.

If you have the chance, talk to someone who is involved with rug hooking. Better yet, ask to see some of their work.


The Complete Book of Rug Hooking
by  Joan Moshimer
Complete Rug Hooker: A Guide to the Craft
by  Joan Moshimer
Basic Rug Hooking
by  Alice Beatty and Mary Sargent


Rug Hooking Online
Offers articles and expert advice

Rug Hooker's Network
An online resource

Traditional rug hooking home page

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