Friday, August 20, 2010

Rug Hooking Basics

Rug Hooking Basics
The art of creating rugs, and other things, by pulling fiber loops through an open weave fabric. You can decorate clothing, that has an open weave, with the art of rug hooking.
Backing Fabric: Open weave fabrics. Linen, Monks cloth, burlap fabrics are the most common foundation used.
Loop Material: Wool strips and wool yarn. Most common.
Rug hook: A hook that looks like a crochet hook. Most have a wooden base. Many sizes and kinds available. The hook you choose should correspond to the width of the strips you are using in your project.
Rug Frame: Used to keep the foundation fabric tight so you can push the rug hook through the woven fabric.
Loops are pulled through the backing fabric with a rug hook. Attention must be given to the height of loops. The goal is to try to have even height loops with spacing of loops consistent. You do not want the foundation to buckle because you are hooking to tight or have the foundation show through because you are hooking to loose. The loops if hooked right will actually keep the strip tight enough that it will not easily unloop.

Many patterns are available for Rug Hooking artists. Most designs come drawn onto the foundation of your choice. The designer must keep the design consistent with the warp and weave of the fabric backing. The pattern will usually come already sewn or surged around the outer edge to keep it from unweaving. Some patterns are just the paper pattern and the pattern must be transferred to the backing with a marker. Most rug hookers use rub a dub markers to draw on the backing. There are primitive designs usually hooked with wider width wool strips, like a #8 cut. Or finer designs hooked with rug yarn or other yarn.  Or with very narrow strips of wool #2 or #3 cuts.  (see chart below) You can hook with what ever fiber you want.

The wool strips can be cut with a good pair of scissors but most rug hookers will purchase a wool stripper. There are various wool strippers on the market. There are cutting wheels in the wool stripper that cut the strips into certain widths. There is a number scale for width of strips that correspond to inch scale measurements. Primitive rug hookers use wider width for their designs. You get more detail the finer your cut of wool strip.

The Scale below shows you the cutter wheel # you would need to cut the widths shown
#2 cuts 6 strips 1/16" wide
#3 cuts 6 strips 3/32" wide
#4 cuts 4 strips 1/8" wide
#5 cuts 3 strips 5/32" wide
#6 cuts 3 strips 3/16" wide
#7 cuts 2 strips 7/32" wide
#8 cuts 2 strips 1/4" wide

The backing fabric (which your pattern is drawn on) must be tight to open the weave so you can see the holes between the warp and weave threads. There are many frames available on the market. You can start with a good embroidery hoop. The thicker wooden kind would work best but a real rug hooking frame will be far easier to work with. The link below shows the, on a curve, gripper strips that are preferred to hold the pattern in place. A gripper strip has many metal pieces, kind of like a hairbrush but metal pieces that grip onto your fabric backing.  The grippers MUST be on a curve in order to work. There are frames that just sit in your lap, or floor stands to hold the frame or lap stands to hold the frame There must be room under the frame for your hand to work under the frame. Both hands are used to rug hook. Since you are using both hands you can see why a frame would be preferred over an embroidery hoop.
Here is my favorite frame so far. It has a locking system which seems to keep the fabric nice and tight with out loosing up.
The wool strips are brought through the backing fabric with the rug hook.  

The rug hook is inserted in the hole created as the warp and weave cross. Care is given to not put the hook through individual threads of the warp and weave threads.  Working from under the pattern you place the wool strip with you fingers under the hole you want to bring a loop through and at an angle push the hook through the hole from the top side, grab the wool strip from your finger and pull it up to form a loop. The wool is placed over the hook from the bottom of the backing fabric and the hook pulls the loop through the backing. The wool strip is pulled up taller then needed and then pulled back down to the height desired. This will help you to be consistent with height of the loops. A good rule is the loops should be the height of the hook or the width of the wool strip. A rug hooker will develop their own preferred style as they grow in the art of rug hooking. There are many hooks on the market here is a link that will show you some.

Most rug hookers start hooking the pattern design from the middle outward. Hooking the outside of each element first then working toward the middle of the element in the drawing. If you were drawing a design you would draw the outside then the inside details. That is how you would hook. 

The edges of the hooked piece are finished in many different methods. Most the edge is folded under and the backing is covered either with whipping wool around the edge, whipping yarn around the edge or sewing wool over the edge. These are just a few ways you can finish a rug.

Are you interested in learning more about the art of rug hooking? I would suggest getting a book. You could start with one from your local book store or even better borrow one from your local library. That is how I started. The next step would be to assemble the tools of the trade. You could purchase a kit. Most of the kits will have the design on the backing, enough wool or yarn to finish the design and many will come with a hook. At that point you would only need to purchase something to hold the backing tight.  

This art form is rather expensive. Wool, patterns, backing fabric, wool strippers, rug hooks and rug frames are the tools of the trade. Every one of them is on the expensive side. 

Knowledge of what types of wool to get and coloring planning are things you will have to learn. 

Links:  A great site for many of the rug hookers needs  Another good site for the rug hookers needs       This is a good visual of how to rug hook

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