Rug hooking is a form of folk art that surfaced in New England and the Canadian Atlantic during the eighteenth century. At that time, our predecessors gathered precious bits of family garments and blankets that were worn beyond any other use and created rugs for cold bare floors. Early designs for rugs were simple, even primitive—proportion and perspective were often disregarded. Even in the simplest of circumstances, creative expression sprang forth.
The fibers were colored with native plant dyes and hand-cut into thin strips. Loops were pulled through rough burlap with a bent-tip nail embedded into a hand-carved wooden handle. Today's process is largely unchanged, but the availability and durability of materials is remarkably improved and supports the resurgence of rug hooking for function and fun. Like the patterns of those who came before me, my rug patterns reflect the things that touch my soul and the world I have lived in.
From thrift stores to garage sales, I search for wool in excellent condition. The fabrics are washed, dismantled, and torn into small sections ready for the Cushing dye bath. Only a small percentage of my wool is new yardage from the bolt. Most of the wool is over-dyed by hand into many rich colors and textures. Some of the wool is wonderful and used as I find it—this is called "as is" wool. Increasingly, I am using wool and silk yarn and even repurposed wool sweaters and scarves to create texture and dimension.
Thousands of quarter-inch strips are cut by hand and by machine. The strips are hooked into sturdy, long-lasting linen or cotton foundations stretched tautly over a frame. Each strip is chosen for its color and texture to "paint" the rug canvas. The strips are hooked loop by loop by loop. The loops have their own rhythm that sings quietly to the soul.
May you enjoy your rug as much as I have enjoyed hooking it for you…loop by loop by loop.
Ann Manees is a native Arkansan, retired nurse, quilter, beader, gardener, wife, grandmother, and hooked-rug artist.
The rugs are very durable but should not be exposed to direct sunlight. They can be walked on but may lose some of their appeal as art if they collect dirt or the loops become worn. Do not saturate the rug with water. To store, vacuum gently, then roll the rug with the top on the outside and the back rolled into the inside. Roll in white cotton fabric to protect from dust and light. If desired, the hanging sleeve on the back of your rug may be easily removed by pulling the basting thread out.
Gallery of Images
Click any image to enlarge or view the slideshow