What are the Basic Tools of Rug-Making?

Mary Elizabeth

There are many rug-making techniques, from braiding to weaving. Several popular methods employ a hand tool, and four of these are discussed below, including two hooking methods and two knotting methods. We will look at the tools for hand and punch needle hooking and for knotting with a latch hook and with rya stitching.

The latch hook technique may be employed to make rugs.
The latch hook technique may be employed to make rugs.

Hooked Rugs

Punch needle hooking may involve several different needles.
Punch needle hooking may involve several different needles.

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Hand Hook Rug-Making. Sometimes called traditional rug hooking, hand hooking generally uses wool flannel and is done on an even-weave base, often burlap, but sometimes monk’s cloth, or linen. Hand hooking uses a tool that looks similar to a crochet hook set in a handle. The largest size, #1, is for the widest fabric strips, while the smallest size, #10, is for the narrowest strips. Hand hooking is used to create chair seats, wall hangings, and clothing, as well as rugs and many other items. Both patterns and kits are available.

Another useful tool for hand hooking is called a cutting machine. It is used to cut the even fabric strips needed for rug making. It is operated by a rotary handle that the user turns by hand.

Some people distinguish two branches of traditional rug hooking. Fine hooked rugs are made with thinner fabric and shading techniques. Primitive hooked rugs use wider fabric and are made without shading techniques.

Punch Needle Rug-Making. Punch needle hooking may involve any of several different needles, each equipped with a gauge to control the length of the yarn loop left. Loops can be left as is or trimmed, and by controlling the gauge, the rug can be sculpted. The punch needle method can be used with either fabric or yarn, and often uses monk’s cloth or burlap as its base. Both patterns and kits are available.

The three needles used in punch needle hooking are the punch needle, the speed needle, and the Oxford needle, named after its inventor, Amy Oxford. The punch needles are similar in appearance to stitching awls, with the needle and its eye at the tip of a tube that guides the thread. The Oxford needle is somewhat similar, but unlike some of the others that can only handle yarn, it can handle wool strips. Speed needles have been likened in appearance to egg beaters. There is also an electric punch needle model to speed up the routine parts of rug-making.

Knotted Rugs

Latch Hook Rug-Making. The latch hook technique, which employs a tool with an end similar to a loop turner, uses short, pre-cut rug or rya yarn strips, each of which is knotted once. 2½ inch (~6.3 cm) lengths of yarn produce a 1 inch (~2.5 cm) rug pile. Latch hooking is practiced on a base formed of doubled threads in each direction, called rug canvas.

Latch hooking kits are available that include the backing, a pattern, and the precut yarn. For crafters who prefer to design their own products, cutting gauges are available to help guide accurate yarn preparation. The hooks themselves are available in two styles – one featuring a straight handle and the other with a bent shank, which some users feel assists in pushing the tool through the canvas.

Rya Stitch Rug-Making. The rya stitch method uses a size #13 tapestry needle and generally employs Swedish backing as a base, but can also be made on rug canvas. Rya yarn is a distinctive, two-ply, wool yarn with a twist. The rya knots create loops that can be left as is or cut. They are similar to Ghiordes, a symmetrical knot used in Oriental rugs. Rya rug kits are also available.

Oriental rugs are made using a symmetrical know technique.
Oriental rugs are made using a symmetrical know technique.

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Discussion Comments


I'm wondering if the latch hook method can be used to make a traditional shag rug, not the rag shag, but the 60's shag. I want at least a 2.5 to 3" pile. What do you think?


I want to make a true shag rug with a 3" pile. What type/weight yarn should I use and what would the method be. Can I use monk's cloth? These rugs are so expensive and I would like to make my own.

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