Rug hooking has a very special place in the hearts of Americans. This craft accompanied the country through the years of its development and even today remains a powerful statement about North America’s past. The process of weaving is a simple one: it starts by pulling loops of yarn through a stiff base, usually made of burlap or rug warp and then pulled by the loops through the backing material.
Although just few years ago rug hooking was perceived as a pastime for elder ladies, nowadays due to the increased interest in handmade goods, more people than ever try to learn this craft and proudly show their creation on the Internet. Old textbooks and magazines are an invaluable source of knowledge on the subject of hooked rugs, but we can observe a wave of new tutorials appearing every day. What’s more, some of the most distinguished interior designers start to include hooked rugs into their interiors, sparking even more interest!
Short history of hooked rugs
Rug hooking in its present form developed in the 19th century along the Eastern Seaboard in New England in the United States, the Canadian Maritimes, and Newfoundland and Labrador. However, there are evidences that this craft was practiced by… Vikings, who in turn brought it to Scotland during their conquests. It was largely perceived as the “craft of the poor”, because hooked rugs were usually made using scraps of textiles such as burlap by those who could not afford elegant flat woven machine-made carpets, imported from England. At that time, cotton and silk had to be imported from Europe, which further increased their already high price. However, with time, hooked rugs started to gain popularity in all social classes, making their production more profitable for artisans. Due to the amount of skill needed to make a carpet it was a time-consuming process. In the 1870s, Edward Sands Frost’s idea of printing the designs from stencils, made of old copper boilers took the market by storm. Hooked rugs started to be produced on a mass scale, but their quality sharply declined. Around 1950’s the craft started to lose its popularity, as people turned their attention to machine made rugs. Rug hooking became almost forgotten, but thanks to two remarkable individuals, Pearl McGown and William Winthrop Kent, who wrote books and organized rug hooking workshops, it was saved from disappearance. Soon rug hooking started to spread outside U.S to Europe, where it gained tremendous popularity in Denmark. Nowadays rug hooking remains a quite popular form of pastime and self-expression for those involved in DIY community.
Vintage hooked rugs
Although antique hooked rugs were often created out of necessity, it was not always the case when it came to vintage ones. After World War II, when majority of Europe was in ruins, some people picked up rug hooking as an inexpensive way of creating decorations. This craft was also popular in the United Stated during Great Depression, when people struggled with their money. Most popular materials used to make such pieces were usually spare scraps of materials, such as jute or old cotton, saved from being thrown away. Things like old flour sacks, which were at that time brightly colored and patterned, could be re-used as both dress material and base for a new carpet. However, as world started to slowly get back on its feet, hooked rugs started to lose their popularity. They were perceived as old-fashioned, but also served as a constant reminder of those harsh years of poverty.
When it comes to their patterns, vintage hooked rugs had rather conservative set of patterns. Still life scenes were very popular and so were floral compositions. Back then, hooked rugs were supposed to inspire a sense of coziness and warmth that befitted a happy household. For that reason, you can still found vintage hooked rugs with inspirational quotes.
Modern hooked rugs
Nowadays rug hooking is treated mainly as a hobby and it had a considerable influence on the craft’s development. You can find numerous shops both stationary and online, where you can find supplies necessary to make a rug and although some people still cultivate the tradition of using scraps of materials, you can get much better quality textiles for your craft. The Internet is a bottomless supply of rug hooking tutorials, tips and patterns for those interested enough. It is not unusual to see exhibitions of locally made hooked rugs and there are even quite a few museums dedicated to them!
Patterns of contemporary hooked rug are extremely diverse. You can still find people making vintage-inspired rugs, with well-known and loved motifs, but as more young people get into rug hooking, the trends start to change rapidly. You can find amazing modern patterns in fashionable colors, that could be easily mistaken as parts of a new collection of top designer. There is no shortage of people who use rug hooking as way of recreating masterpieces of art and even family photos. Skilled weavers can create rugs that could be easily taken for a picture. This is possible thanks to the very precise tools, such as needles, which allow artisan to recreate a pattern. Final effects of their work will enchant even those, who have little love for DIY craft. Rug hooking gives them a completely new tool to work with and express themselves as artists… Not to mention that it is also utilized as a form of therapy for those affected by mental and physical disorders.
Rug hooking evolved considerably as a craft throughout the years, but somehow its philosophy remains unchanged. Anybody can pick up rug hooking, as it is one of few DIY’s that do not need much money to be practiced and thanks to the fact that almost any scrap of material can be used to make a rug, it helps to promote responsible recycling! Is there anything better? Who knows what will happen to it in next one hundred years or so? We can’t wait to find out!