I promised to try rug hooking this month and I did! The February 1967 issue featured an article on rug hooking purses, and the sample was cute! I’ve wanted to try rug hooking for several months and already had a frame, and then recently got some tools in an ebay lot. The lot contained a standard rug hook, and also a rug hooking gadget.
If you didn’t know what it was in the tool post, this is the gadget. You thread yarn or wool into the tool, and then by “walking” the tool across the fabric it does the stitches for you. It has a needle tip to push the yarn/wool in, and then a blunt tip to hold that stitch while you make the next one. It just click-click-click-click up and down and does the work. So I played with it and with the standard tool. First I started with plain burlap, which is what many books and patterns call for, but it was awful. It was much worse with the gadget than with the standard tool, but the pressure of creating loops caused the burlap to simply shred apart where it touched the frame.
Notice the huge gaps at the top of this piece, simply by the small sections I created. This was my initial test of tool vs gadget. The gadget puts the loops on the bottom of the work, but the standard tool brings them to the top, I didn’t think to flip my work for a better example. Derp! The large rectangle on the left is the chunk I made using the gadget, and about 10-15 minutes. The top middle section was trying to use the gadget to create a shape, a basic circle. Then the lower middle was using the tool to create a circle. Obviously the tool fared much better. The small thin line on the left is what 10-15 minutes does with the standard tool. Not much.
The gadget is MUCH faster on basic filler stitches. After buying burlap, trimming burlap, fighting burlap, hooking on burlap, being annoyed by burlap, I remembered I has purchased some “linen burlap” several months ago. I easily cut of a silky chunk, hooked it to my frame, no problem, and got to work again. To the right you can see a better example of tool versus gadget. These squares took me the same amount of time. The much larger square utilized the gadget, but I had some struggles filling the center, and there are a few tension issue. The smaller square has better tension, but was slower going. The linen burlap made all the difference in the world! It was SO much better to work with, didn’t tear on the frame. I could flip it over to switch from gadget to tool with it fraying or fuzzing. Only downside is $$$. I got one yard of linen burlap, 30″ wide, for the same price as 3 yards of cheap standard burlap at 48″ wide.
After doing my basic tool versus gadget test I decided to fill in my frame with a geometric design. Utilizing the gadget for large areas and the tool for filling in and details I was able to make this small pillow sized design in about 2-3 hours. I can honestly tell you this, I will not be hooking any purses anytime soon. Probably not any detailed designs either, BUT I did really enjoy the general process. Well, except the fact that my rug frame tore my forearms up. The barbs that hold the fabric stick up just enough to rub you raw, but not enough for you to notice it happening until you’re bleeding. True story. I’ll spare you a photo of that detail. (For the future, I asked in a rug hooking group and got the tip to wear old socks as arm protectors, or to add an old towel on those frame parts.)
I’m pretty proud of my pillow top, just have to actually make it into a pillow one day. If you haven’t tried rug hooking I really suggest giving it a chance! The gadget can be purchased for around $6 by itself on ebay, and I can’t recommend it enough! Add in the cost of a rug hook, some linen burlap, and you could make a rug for around $20-25. If you don’t have a frame I feel certain you can make small designs in an embroidery hoop. I utilized balls of scrap yarn, but you can also use wool strips, other fabric, etc. My son (age 10) may attempt his own rug using the gadget. And I do have to say, the click-click-click-click-click was very relaxing. I have mad respect for anyone who has made a rug without it and just used a standard rug hook. AND I’m already on the next project! Stay tuned for that. If you’ve tried rug hooking before, or have any questions, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.