Rug Hooking: Necessity, Art Form, or Both?

Rug Hooking: Necessity, Art Form, or Both?

Aug 11th 2015

Ask a fiber artist why they do what they do, and you're sure to get a lot of different answers. It can be a stress reliever, a fun challenge, a form of self-expression, or a way to create useful objects for everyday use, among many other reasons.

The discipline of rug hooking has historical roots in necessity; for example, in the United States in the 1800s, rugs were made out of scrap materials as a way to reuse old clothing and blankets. The resulting rugs were then used on the floors in the summer and on beds in the winter for added warmth.

Early American Hooked Rug

Early American Hooked Rug

Interestingly enough, there is evidence that the Vikings may have used rug hooking techniques which they then introduced to the British Isles. However, the origins of modern rug hooking are generally traced back to New England and Northeastern Canada. Wikipedia notes, "In its earliest years, rug hooking was a craft of poverty. The vogue for floor coverings in the United States came about after 1830 when factories produced machine-made carpets for the rich. Poor women began looking through their scrap bags for materials to employ in creating their own home-made floor coverings. Women employed whatever materials they had available." This isn't to say that the results weren't eye-catching or artistic, of course, but it wasn't til the 21st century that decorative rug hooking really caught on in the United States.

Many credit Pearl McGown with reviving the craft in the early 1900s; McGown popularized strict guidelines for rug hooking and formalized its study. The 1950's especially seemed to see a sharp increase in interest for rug hooking, as evinced by the many photos dating back to that era such, such as this image from a rug hooking bee which ran in Life Magazine circa 1951:


Today, the McGown Guild is still dedicated to the preservation and promotion of this (nearly) lost art.  And while modern technology and mass production has seemingly removed the "necessity" of  many traditional handcrafts, there is still great interest in those who are interested in exploring the process or creating something unique that can't be found on the shelves of store! Not having to worry about the end result of the finished project allows fiber artists to explore materials, designs and techniques, and in the world of rug hooking, this has produced some astonishing results (click each image below to visit source site):


Broken Heart Mixed Media

If you're interested to give rug hooking a try, we invite you to check out these informative posts from our blog archive:

  • Rug Hooking Tools & Techniques Overview (includes video)
  • Rug Hooking Materials: Backings
  • Rug Hooking Materials: Traditional & Modern

All the best,

Wave, Perri & the entire Woolery team