By Christina VanGinkel
The first time I was introduced to rug hooking was when I was all of about ten years old and my mother bought a pillow kit for my birthday that needed to be hooked. In no time at all, she was pushing the hook through the fabric and pulling up the yarn, hooking it so that it slowly filled in over the fabric below to create the plush top of the pillow. She then took the pillow top that she hooked and made a pillow out of it. It was small, sized to be a throw pillow for my bedroom, and when finished, it portrayed a picture of a tiger's face. I was quite thrilled with that pillow and I had it for many years. I made a similar pillow with a Dallas Cowboy theme for my boyfriend (who later went on to be my husband) when I was about sixteen years old. He kept it for many years until a puppy of ours decided it would work as a good chew toy.
Both kits came complete with pre-cut strands of 4-ply yarn in all the required colors, the pictures stamped onto fabric panels that looked somewhat like a cross between fabric and netting, and each had a wooden handled metal hook that rather resembled a crochet hook, but not. I worked on several other rug-hooking kits through the years, but those two are the ones that I recall most fondly.
Too often, when people think of rug hooking, they do recall some boxed project similar to the ones I was first exposed to in my recollections. The picture or form, possibly a rug or wall hanging instead of a pillow for example, might have been different, but the basic pre-cut 4-ply yarn, with a stamped picture, will be the same. Rug hooking has certainly come a long way since that time, in a sense.
I say, in a sense, because rug hooking was a popular art form long before someone thought to assemble the makings of a kit into a box. Not to mention that these basic kits barely touch on how beautiful of work rug hooking can produce. Thankfully, there is now access to kits that offer up much more detailed pieces when finished. There might have been even then, but not where at the local Ben Franklin where my mother shopped.
Rug hooking in its most elegant form can produce stunning pieces of artwork. Rug hooking can also produce some very utilitarian pieces, including rugs that are sturdy enough to stand up to both time and heavy use. Rug hooking can incorporate similar materials as to what I used in the boxed kits that I made, but it can also mean the use of wool and specialty yarns and fibers, fabric strips and even scraps.
Some who hook may prefer a certain yarn or fabric to another, using exclusively wool yarn for example, while others may find that they enjoy mixing fibers and fabrics for a variety in both texture and colors of their finished pieces. Others yet may choose to go with one choice over another, again using wool as an example, because they have access to it in its raw form and like to dye their own according to each particular project, and wool takes to dye quite easily, keeping this part of the process as simple as they can.
Rug hookers of various skill levels may also choose to follow a pattern, or design each piece they make from scratch. With all of these choices, it is no wonder that rug hooking is such a popular hobby, now and in the past.
If you are interested in trying rug hooking, I would suggest that you first browse online to various websites that offer up full color artwork of some finished pieces, to give yourself a better idea of all that is possible with this fascinating craft. A boxed kit is still a good way to try this hobby, just be sure to shop around for one that includes the fabric backing, yarn or fiber, and hook, all in a complete kit. Also, be sure to choose a pattern that you find interesting enough to want to complete. Kits have come a long way since I was given my first one, and there are many intricate kits just waiting for the right person to work them together into the fine finished pieces that they have the potential to be.