by Jessica Kosinski
What Hooked Rugs Are
Hooked rugs are typically rugs made with fabric or yarn. A special hook tool somewhat similar to a crochet hook is used to pull the yarn through a stiff framework. By wrapping each individual piece of yarn or fabric around the framework, a rug is eventually created. The frameworks can be made out of many different materials today, but burlap was the preferred choice originally because it was readily available due to its everyday uses in such fields as farming and as sacks for goods in general stores.
The Latch Hook Kit Craze of the 1980s
If you are like me, when you hear the phrase “hooked rug” you might think of the latch hook kit craze of the 1980s. At that time, it seemed like rug kits were for sale in every store. They usually consisted of a rug “framework” full of uniformly-sized holes. In some cases, the holes were actually colored to match the included yarn colors to create a pattern to follow. Either way, the process was a lot like doing paint-by-numbers projects.
The Origins of Hooked Rugs in North America
There is no concrete evidence showing when rug hooking started in North America. Some conclusions have been reached based on certain identifying factors. For instance, hooked rugs made in the mid-1800s are known to exist, so the tradition goes back at least that far. Another clue is the material the yarn was hooked onto to make the rugs. Early American and Canadian hooked rugs were hooked on burlap. Burlap was not a material that was widely available before the 1850s.
It is also clear the tradition of rug hooking in North America came over from England as evidenced by records of English rug hooking practices and examining rugs over time across North America. In Canada, it was first popular in provinces along the coast. Similarly, in the United States, it took hold in the area of New England before spreading south and west into states like Pennsylvania. That suggests immigrants who traveled here by boat introduced the practice to North American shores.
Changing Hooked Rug Materials and Designs
In the early days of North American hooked rugs, materials were not always easy to come by. Yarn was especially uncommon in many areas. Families were often poor and had to do their best with what they had, utilizing fabric scraps from clothing or bed linens to create rugs.
Early Hooked Rugs for Display and Purchase
Early hooked rugs from the United States, Canada, and many other countries are routinely displayed in museums around the world. Special hooked rug exhibitions are also held regularly. For example, Sauder Village, Ohio holds a week-long rug hooking event every year. It typically includes amazing displays of early American hooked rugs, as well as classes where visitors can learn early rug hooking techniques.
Price can be another indicator of age. Most early American hooked rugs in good condition fetch at least several hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars or, in certain instances, more. A lot depends on the size of the rug and the intricacy of the pattern, as well as provenance.