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What is a Hooked Rug?

Mary McMahon
Updated Jan 25, 2024
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A hooked rug is a rug which has been produced by creating loops of wool in a backing such as linen or cotton. The end result is a rug with a soft looped pile which is typically dense, warm, and very durable. Some hobbyists like to make their own hooked rugs, using the same tools that crafters have been utilizing for centuries, and it is also possible to purchase a hooked rug. Many specialty stores and craft collectives carry hand-hooked rugs.

People have been making rugs for thousands of years. These durable coverings could be thrown on floors, hung on walls to provide insulation, and even draped over beds. A number of different rug making techniques have been developed over the centuries, ranging from flat weaving to latch hooking. Because rugs are designed to be used, rather than treasured, few examples of ancient hooked rugs exist, but evidence seems to suggest that they have been made since the time of the Ancient Egyptians, and possibly even earlier.

To make a hooked rug, the crafter starts by stretching a backing on a frame so that it is taut, much like he or she is preparing for embroidery. Hooked rugs have classically been made from burlap feed sacks and scrap linen, although modern hooked rugs may be made with more durable, long-lasting backings so that they can be enjoyed for many years. Once the backing has been stretched, the crafter pulls loops of wool through it, using a hook much like a crochet hook; wool yarns can be used, but more commonly crafters have used scraps of fabric.

As one might imagine, the original purpose of the hooked rug was purely utilitarian. Thrifty housewives would reuse scraps every way possible until they were only fit for hooked rugs, and once a hooked rug wore out, it was recycled to a rag collector who would sell rag scraps to paper mills. Rug hooking became an especially popular pastime in Colonial America, where drafty houses benefited greatly from snug hooked rugs. These rugs were also made by sailors at sea, who might have periods of boredom when they were not on duty.

There are a number of different hooked rug styles. Primitive designs, for example, are very simple and typically made with wide scraps of fabric. It is also possible to find more realistic patterns, which are carefully shaded to bring the pattern to life. Some hookers like to make landscapes, while others make complex geometric patterns which can be quite dazzling.

A closely related craft is latch hooking. Latch hooking uses a hook with a latch which grips wool or strips of fabric to make knots, creating a knotted pile rather than looped one. Latch hooked rugs can have very deep, soft piles with wide strips of fabric, or more short one with narrow strips used to create an intricate design.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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