Just a few excerpts from T-Shirt Treasures
Rug hooking has been around for centuries. Of course, it has changed over the years, due to fashion and the availability of materials, but the creativity and versatility of the craft has kept it strong through many generations. It excels as a craft that is unique to its creator; no two people will hook a rug in the same way. It’s a blank canvas, packed with possibility, just waiting to be filled with design and color to suit that individual rug hooker.
But beyond the creative side, rug hooking has always been about what’s practical. Hook with what you’ve got to create useful, durable rugs for the home. And do it with a simple, hand-held tool. Handcrafts may come and go; many crafts that our elders enjoyed like naalbinding and bobbin lace are all but lost to us today, but rug hooking has survived and thrived because at its core, it’s all about practicality.
Nobody really knows where rug hooking got started. Art historian William Winthrop Kent (The Hooked Rug, 1930) figured that European weavers in the 18th century probably came up with the idea, wanting to find something they could do with the leftover warp threads cut off the loom after the cloth was woven. In those days, woolen cloth was far too valuable to cut up
into tiny strips for rug hooking (like we do today), but once the pattern pieces were cut out, you can bet those fabric remnants didn’t go to waste. They were hooked right alongside the yarn. They hooked with what they had, to make useful, beautiful items for the home.
Rug hooking got a big boost when European migrants began to settle in North America. When you have to carry your worldly belongings on a ship or a wagon, space is a premium. People needed crafts that were portable and could be made with common materials. A hand-held hook won out over a large and bulky loom for those long journeys. There were whole homes to be built and furnished from scratch, and if you couldn’t make it yourself, you went without.
I like to think that those pioneers were a pretty creative bunch. They were problem-solvers. They had big ideas, and they poured that sense of innovation into the rugs they hooked.
Imagine I put in your hands a box of oil paints and a paintbrush. Would you dive in with abandon in quite the same way? Possibly not. When we grow up, we tend to fill our heads up with “no’s.” My goal with this book is to unlock your creativity, to get you to absolutely wallow in color, just like you did when you were a kid.
To begin, wrap the backing around your legs, design side up. You can also hook with a frame (see page 86), but for starters, all you need to do is tuck the backing around the outside of your legs, knees slightly apart. When I teach rug hooking, this is how my students do it. It's handy to find out if you like rug hooking before you have to invest in a frame.
In the picture (left) you can see I’m hooking a rug with yarn. Hooking with T-shirts is almost exactly the same technique. In the pages that follow, you’ll find step-by-step
instructions. Take your time at first. There’s a rhythm to it. You’ll speed up gradually. Before you know it, you’ll be hooking without even thinking about it anymore.
I’m right-handed, so I hold my hook in my right hand above the rug. You can see my left hand is under the backing, where the white yarn is coming up from underneath (the ball of white yarn is right next to my left hip, but you can also just let it drop to the floor underneath). My left hand does most of the work, feeding the yarn or strip onto the hook, making sure it gets pulled snug up to the back.
My favorite hook is 2 mm wide (the metal part), and I rather like the one pictured here, with the
bulbous handle. It keeps my hand very relaxed.
T-Shirt Treasures $29.95
Sale price: $24.95
Want to try hooking with T-shirts to see if you like it before you go in for the fallderall? How about trying a sampler? Here, you'll get 1 oz each in three colors, cut in strips and ready to hook.
T-Shirt Strip Sampler: $6.00