Rug Hooking Techniques
A handcrafted rug is a family heirloom that can be passed on for generations. The history of rug making goes back to a time of necessity when floors were cold and hard often made of dirt or simple planks of wood or cement slab. Even though we now have wall to wall carpet in many rooms, there are still hard surfaces to cover with beautiful rugs made by your own hand. You may also choose to cover your wall to wall carpet with decorative handmade rugs to protect them from heavy use traffic patterns.
The technique of rug hooking is easy to learn and with a little practice you can turn out a beautiful and unique rug that will be custom made to suit your decorating needs.
There are four basic techniques for rug hooking. The traditional hooking, latch hooking, punch hooking and prodded hooking. Although punch hooking and prodded hooking are not exactly hooking they still fall under the umbrella of the hooked rug style.
Traditional Rug Hooking
Begin with wool strips typically cut in thin strips of around ¼ inch but it depends on your design and backing cloth. You can purchase a wool cutter that looks much like a pasta machine for cutting strips.
The backing cloth that you will be using to hook your strips through can be made of almost any woven material but commonly it will be Monk’s Cloth, burlap or some sort of linen.
Traditional rug hooking uses a hook shaped much like a crochet hook with a larger handle made of wood or plastic.
You can purchase patterns that are already printed on monk’s cloth or you can draw your own pattern.
You will need to stretch your fabric tight over a hoop or frame with the pattern face up. The top side of the fabric from which you will be working is the actual top side of the rug.
Beginning with a strip of fabric in your left hand, hold the fabric strip under the fabric. With your right hand, poke the hook through the fabric and wrap the strip around the hook and pull it up through the fabric.
Start by pulling a tail of a strip of wool up through the fabric with the hook. continue pushing the hook through the fabric pulling up one loop at a time matching the height to the previous loop. When you get to the end of your strip you will pull the end tail up through the next hole and also pull the beginning tail of the new strip up and through the same hole. These tails will be trimmed to match the loop height.
This video by Gene Shepherd is an excellent demonstration. He also conducts online rug camps as well as retreats.
Punch hook technique is a fast and easy way to complete a project and is often preferred by beginning rug makers. The punch needle is also called a shuttle hook or speed hook but is not actually a hook. The needle is threaded with a long piece of yarn or wool and is punched through and pulled back up over and over as you work the pattern. Each time you push the needle through and pull it back up a loop will be formed on the underside of the fabric. You will be working with the underside of the rug facing upward and punching yarn through to the other side. Understand that your design will be reversed from what you see on top (which is actually the underside of the rug).
As in punch hooking you will be working with the under side of the rug facing up. This is the side you will have your pattern on (or no pattern if you are working spontaneously). The basic technique is to use strips of fabric and poke the ends through the holes in the canvas using any kind of poking tool. You can buy a prodding tool or just use any pointed but dull implement that fits your hand. That is it! These rugs usually have a shaggy look to them but you can have more control if you like and use strips of fabric that are cut to lengths and sizes that are suitable to your design.
Latch Hooking is generally done using short precut pieces of yarn or thin short pieces of fabric. They are precut twice as long as the depth you want the pile of your finished piece plus some additional length to allow for the knot.
The latch hooked rug is done on latch hook canvas with a consistent square grid of holes that the hook can be pushed through. Kits are easily purchased at any craft supply store. The kits, however, don’t always come with the latch hook so you may have to purchase this item. They will often come with the canvas pre-printed with the design and all of the yarn pre-cut and separated into colors. Some come with a pattern that is similar to a cross stich pattern.
The hook itself has an end like a crochet hook but also has a hinged latch that closes and traps the yarn as you pull it through the hole and around each canvas thread.
The process is worked from the top side of the rug. Each piece of yarn is wrapped around the shaft of the hook and then the hook is inserted in one hole, under a thread and back up through the adjacent hole. The yarn ends are then hooked onto the end and are captured and latched in as the hook is pulled back through the holes. This secures each piece of yarn in place with a loop. Tug on the yarn to tighten the loop.
No matter which technique you choose you are sure to get hooked on rug making. Another easy rug making technique that you may want to try is a painted floorcloth technique using heavy weight canvas and paint. This is an easy inexpensive craft with a rich tradition and history. If that doesn't suit your creativity then try the Braided Rag Rug technique.
Cover picture is downloaded from Wikimedia Commons and is copyright free.