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Little House Rugs ® PO Box 2003, Auburn, WA 98071
"If you never did, you should.
These things are fun and fun is good."
What is Rug Hooking?
Rug hooking is a craft which goes back hundreds of years in Europe. From its beginning, it has been a craft rooted in practicality. But like many home crafts, it was too humble to boast of a single creator or inventor. Most people did it, because it was useful and it provided a creative outlet.
According to art historian, William Winthrop Kent, it was started by weavers who wanted to find a use for the warp threads (thrums) that got cut off the loom after the fabric was woven. Kent then went on the theorize that the reason it seemed to be everywhere was because sailors took up the craft. It was a great way to pass the time on long voyages and it didn't take up space on a cramped ship. Among the other things sailors shared in ports of call, the craft became popular for that reason.
At the time, woven cloth was far too valuable to cut up into strips to hook into rugs, but nothing went to waste. When the pattern pieces were cut out, the remnants could be cut up for hooking, or if a woolen garment got worn out, that could go into a rug, too. Again, the craft was all about what's practical. You use what you've got.
Then a funny thing happened. Europeans started migrating to North America, and suddenly this eminently useful and practical craft surged in popularity. There were homes to be furnished, and since all they needed was a simple hook, yarn (everyone spun in those days) and feed sacks, the craft took off in a big way.
It wasn't just practical. I believe that the type of folks who went out into the wilderness to build a life from scratch were really very creative. The craft must have appealed to them because of the creative expression it offered.
Then the Industrial Revolution made its way to our continent, and crafts like spinning and rug hooking started to wane. Fast-forward to WW II, when the motto in North America was to re-use and recycle, rug hooking was again taken up on the Home Front. At that time, very few people were spinning yarn. Manufacturers started churning out acryllic yarns, which were okay for some things, but weren't preferred by the rug hooking teachers of the day, like Pearl McGown. Hooking with strips of woolen fabric became the style, and has remained prominent until recently.
Nowadays, 100% woolen fabric is harder to find, and it has to be 100% wool for rug hooking because wool felts, or binds together (otherwise those tiny strips of fabric would just fall apart). But there has never been a time in human history when there was so much great yarn on the market! Almost every yarn company carries a type of yarn that works for rug hooking, and most is very economical. As long as it is thick enough (worsted weight-bulky) and not slippery, you can hook with it.
Unlike hooking with fabric strips, the yarn we use doesn't have to be wool (although wool is preferred because of its ease of dyeing, and because it's just such a wonderful fiber!). Cotton, silk and even acryllics work, as long as they are thick enough and not slippery. Acryllics today are often indistinguishable from wool and wool blend yarns; nothing like what Pearl McGown knew about.
So once again, you hook with what you've got.
Now, as in the past, rug hooking is popular because it is practical, and for the versatility it provides the creative artist. Everyone approaches rug hooking in her own way, with style, color and design. There really is no limit to creative expression, so this time-honored craft is here to stay.
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