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Antique Hooked Rugs


Antique American Hooked Rug 2358 from Nazmiyal

Hooked Rugs

by Jade Davenport
This was very interesting subject, to learn that at one time this was considered the pass time of the poor and now in today’s world it is considered fine art.  The hooked rugs were thought to have started in England, but with more research the hooked rugs originated with the Vikings and moved down the coast to Scotland and even as far as France.  The early hooked rug was used for floor mats in the early 19th century in England.  It started when the workers of the weaving mills could take home the scraps or "thrums" from the mills, usually these scraps were not large, general length was about 8 inches and pulled through backing to create the hooked rug.

This craft was then brought to the early colonies of the United States from England, mainly in the New England states and Canada.  In the early days this was the craft of the poor, due to the fact that the rich had rugs made in factories therefore the "handmade hooked rugs" were looked down on.  The women that created the rugs would use scraps of material to create the rugs.  The rich girls were sent to school to learn mannerism, language, quilting and embroidery, but they never learned about hooking rugs.  Also to show that hooked rugs were of the poor is that there were no articles ever written in newspapers or magazines about the skill of hooked rugs, because is was from the "country".  The rugs were created using material that was found on farms or in country homes.  Burlap from old grain bags or feed bags, scraps of material no longer used for clothing were put into the rugs.  Yarn was not used due to the fact that it was very expensive so in turn scraps were used in the beginning.  As time progressed the weavers started to use wool, this started in Cheticamp located in Nova Scotia.  In Cheticamp they used high quality yarn to do the weavings and also became highly collectible.  The rugs that were developed in Cheticamp were made from everything from yarn to scraps of clothing, the highly collectible rugs are known as Grenfell mats, which were made in the Grenfell mission located in Canada.

Today rug hooking has evolved to an art.  The rugs are very detailed and can be found showing all types of designs.  Hooked rugs can be found in stores like Crate and Barrel and even famous designers like Vera Bradley have added them to their line of design.  The rugs are made from wool and usually have a linen backing.  The rugs are still quilted by hand and some rugs are factory made.  Either way I found myself drawn to these rugs from the history and how far they have come in the centuries.  The detail the designs  and the materials, absolutely amazing,

Antique Hooked American Rug from Nazmiyal

Antique Hooked American Rug from Nazmiyal

I found a good article on how to make a hooked Rug and I think it helps us to understand these rugs if we know how they are made. JBOC

The Old-Fashioned Hooked Rug

There is no homemade rug more durable, more useful or prettier than the hooked rug of our grandmothers' days, if made along modern lines.

The best materials for these rugs are flannels, cashmeres, worsteds and other wool dress goods, gathered from discarded gowns, though men's lightweight suitings may he used if cut narrow.

For one rug select, if possible, the goods all of one weight, but if you must use two put the heavier in the border.

For the foundation of these rugs use twelve or fourteen-ounce burlap, which must be cut three inches wider each way than you wish the finished article. If the burlap must be joined, oversew the selvages with strong, double thread, leaving the stitches loose enough so that the seam may be pressed out perfectly flat.

Stretch this foundation securely on quilting frames and outline the size of your rug an inch and a half from each edge. This is for hem, when your rug is completed.

Now, stamp on your pattern. Avoid ornate designs. Conventional geometrical designs are much more satisfactory. Those used in stenciling are usually good and may be stenciled directly on to the burlap.

Nothing is prettier for the body of the rug than shades of one color applied hit or miss. These shades are easily obtained by taking all the material prepared and dipping it in the required color. The original color will influence the shade, but thev will all harmonize.

Outline your pattern in the border with black or a dark shade of the color that is to be used for the figure. Three rows of the same round the outside and two next the body are effective.

Cut your rags about three-fourths of an inch wide, fold half over and roll, but do not sew. It is much easier to handle short pieces while hooking.

As regards the actual work of making the rug, first procure a well pointed, heavy crochet needle large enough to hold the rag while you draw it through the burlap. 1 fold the rag with the left hand on the under side of the burlap and with the righthand thrust the hook through the burlap and draw the rag through, making a loop a half-inch long, then again and again, straight across the rug as you see the pile in a Brussels carpet. The closer you can place the loops the more beautiful the rug. Every two threads is about right. You may put in pattern or filling first, but have the loops in both run the same way.

As you work roll the rug as you would a quilt; when the rags are all in, the rug may be sheared or not. as you please, but make your loops a little longer for shearing. When the hooking part of the work is finished, remove the rug from the frame and hem it. Then replace it and size it, using paperhangers' sizing just strong enough to feel sticky between thumb and finger. Apply with a paint brush to the wrong side and leave in the frame to dry. Do not let your glue be too strong or the rug will slip on the floor.

This work is not fatiguing nor difficult, and the designing of special patterns and color schemes for particular rooms is interesting.

House & garden: Volume 22 - Page 104, 1912

Examples of Antique Hooked Rugs

Antique Hooked American Rug
Antique Hooked Rug 2677from Nazmiyal
Antique American Hooked Rug 2358 from Nazmiyal


We may safely say that the hooked rug or the pulled rug, as it is sometimes called, is the most important of the handmade rugs. It has been more successfully developed under new conditions of craftsmanship than any other of the old-fashioned rugs. In nearly all the show rooms of the Arts and Crafts Societies there are examples of it in charming colors and appropriate designs. Two village industries have been started to make it; one in the mountains of New Hampshire and one at Cranberry Island, near North East Harbor, Maine. Besides these two industries there are many isolated workers making successful hooked rugs. The larger industries have been placed on a sound financial basis, and the workers who are mostly women are extremely well paid.
These women of the New England farms have been associated with this style of rug and its traditions for several generations. They are nearly all familiar with the gentle art of hooking and have therefore helped to revive this branch of craftsmanship in this section of the country. While they are familiar with the technique of hooked rugs, they have not been able to give their products a market value, because they could not plan them from the standard of modern craftsmanship without the knowledge of design and color arrangement.

I remember the first time I saw a hooked rug. I at once realized that in its technique were the possibilities for the development of a craftsmanlike rug. Though certainly the appearance of the one I first saw was anything but hopeful. It came from Prince Edward Island, Canada. The maker had evidently been carried away by the enthusiasm for her skill in hooking and had ingenuously and likewise ingeniously, worked in a pattern of raised roses in the center panel of her rug. This pattern was padded from underneath to give the roses the appearance of reality. It was very solidly constructed and much above the average level of the rug's surface. It was a real obstruction, but there its reality ended. It made the rug inartistic and unserviceable. First of all, inartistic because nature cannot be reproduced in woolen thread. It can be represented only in any medium with artistic reality. Second, because of this inappropriate plan the rug could not last well. The raised portions being more exposed than the lower portions would wear out sooner.
One of the greatest benefits which come from founding village industries is raising the standard of public taste. This influence comes directly through the individual worker, who in connection with rug-making begins to study a little design. So besides the benefit to the community, the individual worker has a keener interest in the work because of being able to plan it well.
The study of design is not a matter of technical complications. The workers are taught the application of decorative principles, learn line arrangement, placement of masses and the relation of tone and color values. They are also taught the use of reliable dyes which produce permanent and artistic colors. The workers themselves sometimes know of valuable old dye recipes. These can be made serviceable by a systematic revision replacing the rule of thumb by exactness in chemical proportion. One can never be too exact in chemical combination for even with the greatest precaution the unexpected is likely to happen. There are always factors present which produce unforeseen results; it is therefore wiser to exclude all possible elements of chance. The results of experiments are not always practicable and may be costly.
One of the dye recipes which I found in use among the women of Cranberry Island, is the iron buff given in the chapter of the needle woven rug. There it is called copperas yellow, and is used in the form of salts of iron and homemade soft soap. In the revised recipe with more exact proportion it will give better results.
Hooked rugs are made from either cotton or woolen materials. The same tools are used with both kinds, for there are only slight differences in their technique. The main point of difference being in the manner in which the loops of material are pulled up through the foundation on which the rug is made. The foundation is first of all stretched on a wooden frame. It is made of burlap or raw jute as it is sometimes called commercially. The principal technical feature of the rug is the hooking of the strips of material into the foundation, where the collective loops form the textile. The loops are crowded in between the meshes of the burlap and held by pressing one against the other.
The actual difference between the methods of making the two kinds of rugs is that in the cotton rug the loops are pulled up evenly; in the wool rug, unevenly. The woolen rug is clipped after it is hooked. Clipping improves the pile for the color in the flannel loop deepens when it is cut, and becomes velvety in texture. Another way to add variety of tone value or to get incident in color in the surface of the rug, is to dye the cotton and woolen strips somewhat unevenly. The cut ends of the loops in the woolen rug mat together and this makes the pile more uniform. This is due to the nature of wool fiber; its physical structure might be compared to that of an elongated pine cone. The outer cells are placed in one direction only and appear as horny scales of irregular shape overlapping each other in the manner of roof tiles. When a number of wool fibers lying in all directions are brought together in close contact, the opposing scales become interlocked, causing the operation which is technically known as "felting."
Cotton rugs are not clipped because the cotton strip has no tendency to felt; it only frays and fraying would weaken the texture of the rug. Cotton rugs, however, have the advantage of being washable. Consequently they can be made in light colors and used in bedrooms and bathrooms where darker rugs would not be as appropriate. Then too, the cotton rug is cheaper than the woolen rug.
The wool rug in dark tones of blues, reds, or greens is sufficiently substantial to be used in dining-rooms and living-rooms especially if the rooms are paneled with wood in a simple style and furnished with Norwegian painted furniture or in Mission furniture. In fact the woolen rug can be used in almost the same places as the Oriental rug, for in its revived form it is a dignified and artistic product. As it is not made with the fine silky woolen thread of the Orient it necessarily lacks a certain elegance and texture which is found in all Eastern rugs.
The cotton and wool rugs can both be made in large sizes; as they can be hooked in sections and sewed carefully together afterwards, the seams do not show. Hooked rugs can also be made of odds and ends of old materials. If there are not enough of some colors, whites and gray can be dyed in brighter shades to help out. It is wise to plan the rug carefully in the beginning and find out as exactly as possible just what quantities of material are needed for each color in the design. It is trying to stop work and hunt up material to dye some special color which has unexpectedly given out, before the rug is finished.
Perhaps it is less limiting to one's inventive faculties, to start out to make a rug of entirely new materials; to make an attractive plan and buy the materials to carry it out. With old materials one must cut one's coat to fit the cloth and it requires much patience and skill to work out a scheme to fit the different amount of colors on hand. Then too, it takes a great deal of time to prepare old materials whether in cotton or wool, for they are usually more or less tender and must be cut or torn strip by strip. The hooking cannot be done as quickly either, for old materials are liable to break when hooked into the foundation and must, therefore, be carefully handled. However, some interesting and original rugs are made in this way and if they are for home use all trouble is repaid.
A plan is given here for a rug made of old materials, though it does not pay to make rugs usually of them if one is pressed for time on orders. It takes longer to prepare them, and then rugs made in this way cannot be duplicated. When rugs are made professionally, orders for duplicates often come in. A customer has seen a rug in the house of a friend and must have one exactly like it, or wants to match a piece of furniture already in use. When told that the rug cannot be duplicated, she is quite naturally disappointed and not likely to come again.
There is so little essential difference in the technique of the two kinds of hooked rugs, that the same type of design can be applied to each, but in order to have as much variety as possible between the plans, a design of a quaint-oldfashioned kind has been chosen for the hooked rug in cotton. This design has a blue border and a basket of gaily colored flowers, falling on a background of cream-white.
Practically the only limitation in the technique of the hooked rug, is the coarse strip of woolen or cotton material which forms the thread which makes the loops. In this medium designs with much fineness of detail cannot be successfully carried out. The loops make the pile of the rug and while they are, decoratively speaking, the units of its structure, they are not particularly constructive in character, for they suggest surface ornament rather than line action. "With the medium of the coarse strip, therefore, arrangement of large masses of color

can be used successfully. These masses of color should be as nearly as possible the same degree of tone value. If there is much contrast, the effect of large masses of different colors is too striking.
If the design is to be carried out in several colors, an outline will help to harmonize and bring the various tones together. Sometimes two outlines may be used with good effect: One in a lighter tone value and the other in a darker tone value, than any of the other colors in the design.
The treatment of the hooked rug differs radically from that of the Oriental rug. The Oriental rug is made on a loom and is really a woven fabric. The fine woolen thread of which it is made is knotted piece by piece into the woof which forms the foundation of the rug.
In this medium, designs with great intricacy of detail can be worked out. Formerly the Oriental rug-maker used only camel's hair and goat hair in rug weaving, and to this fine silky hair is due the great elegance of texture in the Eastern rug. It is also said that these rugs grow more lustrous from the clay dust which is trodden and rubbed into their surface by the bare feet of the Orientals. These facts make the antique Oriental rug vastly superior to the modern Oriental. The effect of hundreds of years of wear cannot be artificially reproduced in the texture by commercial means.
American handicrafters cannot produce rugs similar to the Oriental unless working under like conditions. Neither can the modern Oriental do it. Each must take advantage of his circumstances. Oriental design cannot be successfully applied without using Oriental material and methods of working. The long and tedious process of knotting each little bit of woolen thread into the woof of the rug, does not appeal to our handicrafters especially because , they are not familiar with the conditions which, produce this method. Conditions in this country are not conducive to years and years of work on the same piece of handicraft. We are not living here from the Oriental standpoint. Besides, a rug like the Oriental cannot be made in this country at a cost which could sell with profit. The experiment to make them in a village industry established for the purpose made the cost $5.00 a square foot of rug. This fact alone makes this variety of rug unmarketable.
There are minor rugs, the rag-bit rug and the raveled rug which might be called forerunners of the hooked rug. These rugs are chiefly interesting because they show how a real technique may grow out of small beginnings. They deserve mention in this connection only, for their methods are far too crude to suggest constructive design.
The rag-bit rug is the most primitive and is made by sewing small bits of woolen cloth on a foundation. This foundation is frequently made of a piece of old carpet with the nap worn down. Odds and ends of cloth of all shapes and kinds are used and consequently no effect of texture or design is produced. These minor examples of rug-making demonstrate the idea of using what one has on hand carried to an extreme of thriftiness. Though no doubt it was in this same way that the more important handmade rugs were developed.
In some instances the center of the rag-bit rug is found surrounded by a border made of narrow strips of carpet.
The raveled rug is made from thread raveled from old pieces of carpet. These threads are drawn through the meshes of a loosely woven foundation with a crochet hook. The crowding of the threads between the meshes of the cloth holds them in as in the hooked rug. Sometimes the groups of thread in the raveled rugs are merely caught down with a thread and needle on the foundation.
There are several other instances of these simple methods of rug-making but they are quite similar to the ones here mentioned, and only serve to emphasize the origin of the hooked rug.

The craft of hand-made rugs byAmi Mali Hicks, McBride, Nast & Company, 1914

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