Rug hooking is a craft that involves pulling pieces of fabric or yarn through a foundation material like burlap, monk's cloth, or linen using a special hook. A simpler variant of rug hooking is latch hooking, which only uses short, pre-cut pieces of yarn that are knotted onto a canvas mesh. Hooking typically uses wool strips or very thick yarn in much longer pieces. Today, these pieces may be sliced by a mechanical cloth-slitter, but traditionally, they were cut using scissors or simply torn by hand.

History of Rug Hooking

Some historians believe that the first hooked rugs were made using leftover bits of yarn collected by people working in the weaving mills of Yorkshire, England, in the early 1800s. However, the craft really took off in New England and eastern Canada. Floor coverings became popular in the U.S. starting around 1830, but factory-produced rugs and carpets were more expensive than most families could afford. People who wanted these decorations but couldn't afford them began trying different ways of using scrap fabric to create durable, pretty floor coverings. The popularity of rug-making grew, but it was very much considered a pastime of the poor. For example, none of the ladies' magazines of the 19th century wrote articles about the craft, although they published many articles about other needle and fabric crafts. Burlap was typically used as the backing fabric for these early rugs because it was readily available in the form of feed and grain bags.


When people in Denmark began making rugs in the 1930s, a Danish man named Ernst Thomsen improved on the primitive hooking tools that had been used by crafters to that point. Thomsen's tool allowed crafters to make rugs much faster and lessened the chances that they'd hurt their arms or hands while making rugs. It was first sold on the market as the Aladdin Carpet Needle, but in the late 1950s, it was rebranded as the Danella Rug Hooking Tool.


Today, people often use wool when hooking rugs. Worsted-weight wool with some bulk works best. Yarns labeled at 3.5 to 4 stitches per inch of yarn are ideal. Historically, though, scrap fabric was used, and many crafters still use upcycled material today. Slitters make it easier to turn old clothing or bedding into uniform strips of material. The foundation material is also key: Look for material with a strong, tight weave.


Many rug hooking techniques date back to the 19th century. The basic technique is to hold the fabric or yarn against the back of the backing, then pull small loops through the backing to the front. Watching other people hook can make it easier to learn, and they may also have tips and tricks to share with you. Once your rug is finished, you'll also need to bind and finish it; there are many approaches to this step.

Tips and Advice

Rug hooking may look difficult, but it's actually a craft anyone can learn with a little patience and preparation. Experienced crafters love sharing their skills, and many have published guides designed to help beginners understand the craft and successfully complete a rug of their own.


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