I guess you could say I’d always been interested in hooking (tee hee).
Rug-hooking, that is! It’s the art of making a rug by pulling loops of yarn or fabric through a stiff base, like burlap.
My aunt once hooked a truly amazing life-sized bookshelf rug for my mom, complete with plants, knick-knacks, and book spines with the names of her family members, friends and hobbies. It seemed incredibly complicated, especially when she told us she got most of her materials by cutting thrifted wool coats into tiny strips. Woah.
Over the last year or so, rug-hooking photos started popping up in my Facebook newsfeed because one of my friends is a “hooker.” It looked like so much fun! Although there is a drop-in group that runs near my house every week, I felt shy about just waltzing in, so I asked her to let me know if she heard of any beginner classes.
Not long afterwards, I was all signed up for a six-week class taught by a local rug-hooking expert. We would meet once a week for two hours at her home, and all I had to bring was a large embroidery hoop.
During our first class, I was surprised by how much I struggled. I’m not used to struggling at creative things. I felt a little like pouting. Despite having quite a lot of experience with hand-sewing, it didn’t come easily for me.
The little wooden and metal hook felt awkward in my hand. It was difficult to hold a strip of wool under my embroidery hoop, poke my hook down into the burlap, and tug the strip back up through the hole — leaving a loop that wasn’t too tall, nor too short or crooked.
Sometimes I’d crowd my loops too close together — a hooking sin known as “packing” — and other times they’d be too spaced out, leaving visible burlap. I worked too quickly and made mistakes. The back of my work was supposed to look as good as the front, but it was such a wreck that sometimes I had to pull out entire sections.
Week by week, I toiled over my little rug — technically it’s a trivet — and slowly I started to get the hang of hooking. My loops were more even. The hook felt natural in my hand. I wasn’t “packing” as much, or leaving wasteful “millionaire ends” of wool at the end of each piece.
I felt proud when it was finished, and even prouder after I’d trimmed and basted the around the outside, whipped it with black wool, and stitched on a circle of black wool backing. It was a real little rug, even though it was imperfect and crooked and wonky in quite a few areas. I even stitched a label on the back that says “Heather’s 1st Hooking” and the date.
Once I learned the basics of hooking, the possibilities exploded inside my brain — and my Pinterest boards.
You can draw anything you want on a piece of burlap and hook it into a comfy cosy reality. You can use wool strips (purchased from a rug-hooking shop, or cut from thrifted wool clothes, blankets, etc.) or use regular ol’ yarn. You can even use strips of fabric, lace or ribbon. You can colour your own wool with tiny capfuls of acid dye, and design the most beautiful colour variations — like a mixture of different blues for hooking a realistic sky.
I’ve already completed a small second hooked project — a Christmas tree ornament — and I have a chair pad well underway. I’m dreaming up dozens of rug designs (for when I’m a bit better at it) and definitely want to try wall-hanging at some point.
My husband is a little nervous that my wool collection might start to rival my out-of-control fabric collection, but he should be thinking about how our rug-shopping budget will be zero since I’ll be making them instead of buying them.
Although it’s hard for me to imagine, personally, I know a lot of people who struggle to find a hobby they love. If that’s you, I encourage you to try something creative — even if it scares you. If there’s something that’s always interested you, sign up for a workshop or a class in your area. Ask someone who’s already doing it how you can learn more.
It might give you a renewed energy and a wonderful source of happiness.
- COST: $20-$60
- EFFORT: 5 out of 5
- RESULTS: 5 out of 5
Heather Laura Clarke is a crafty maker who perpetually has paint smears on her hands, sawdust in her shoes and bits of thread stuck to her leggings. She lives in Truro with her husband, son, and daughter. Follow her adventures at HeathersHandmadeLife.com.