Rug hooking is a time honored country craft that began as a craft medium for persons who had to make the most of whatever materials were available. Essentially, rug hooking involved pulling loops of fabric or yarn through some sort of base, such as the burlap from an old feed bag. From these humble beginnings, rug hooking has become a popular hobby that is capable of producing items that are both useful and attractive.
The origins of rug hooking are generally traced to the early years of the 19th century. Tradition has it that the art form was born among the working class in Yorkshire, England. Textile workers were allowed to take home the sweepings from the manufacturing floor, which were often called thrums. Thrums were considered to be too short and of lesser quality, so they were not appropriate for the creation of goods that could be sold. These worthless scraps were worked into mats that were ideal floor coverings in the flats and rented rooms of the day.
Rug hooking also caught on among the poorer classes in North America as well. During the 19th century, persons in the United States and Canada would take spare scraps of fabric and use them to create unique patterns for rugs that could cover the bare dirt and wood floors that were not unusual among frontier communities as well as among the poor of the cities. While many people engaged in the thrifty practice of rug hooking, it was decidedly a phenomenon among the poor. There were not books printed to aid in rug hooking, and none of the popular ladies’ publications of the day included rug hooking among the pastimes considered acceptable for a proper lady.
Over time, rug hooking began to be more respectable. By the middle of the 20th century, the hooked rug had become a hallowed part of folk and country art. Rug-hooking resources, such as books and patterns, began to appear. Today, thrifty persons of all economic levels, especially those who enjoy the primitive country look in the home, enjoy rug hooking as a hobby.
There are two forms of rug hooking that have proven to be enduring. Traditional rug hooking makes use of a crochet hook that has been embedded into a wooden handle and is used to create the loops that are central to the rug hooking process. Latch-hooking is very similar, but makes use of a hinged hook instead, which allows the formation of a knotted pile rather than loops. In both the traditional and latch hook methods, burlap is still considered to be an acceptable base. In addition, line and rug warp bases also provide an excellent working surface for the creating of hooked rugs.