“When I walked in the door of this studio I choked up. It is beautiful – the mats on the walls, the colours of the dyed swatches, the light – and most of all, the faces of the owners. Open, warm, welcoming faces that say, ‘We’re so glad you’re here.’ I felt I’d come home.” Janet Barkhouse
The Hooked Rugs of Joan Stephenson
We are thrilled to present a new show featuring the hooked rugs of Joan Stephenson.
In 1993, Joan took a rug hooking course at Spruce Top Studio in Mahone Bay. She has been an avid and prolific rug hooker ever since. She has always been interested in early rug designs and has copied many, saving these designs for posterity. Traditionally, she has hooked with found wool (Frenchy’s), often dying to get early colours. She usually hand cuts her wool and her new rugs have a wonderful old look.
Joan is the mother of well-known fabric artist, Susie Stephenson. When you look through Susie’s book Designing and Hooking Primitive Rugs, you can see the influence Joan has had on her daughter’s work .
We hope you enjoy the exhibit as much as we have enjoyed presenting it.
Each year Anne Murray pays a visit to Suzanne Conrod’s Hooked Rug Shop in Chester to buy a piece of hooking. This year her visit took her to the “Hooked Rug Museum of North America” in Queensland. Anne is pictured here with Suzanne holding her purchase.
The piece is a Moose River Rug Hooking Studio design hooked by Barbara Surette of Yarmouth.
Rug Hooking: A Traditional Craft Alive and Well in Nova Scotia
What is rug hooking?
Rug hooking is both a craft and an art in which rugs are made by pulling strips of wool fabric or wool yarn through a backing such as burlap, linen or rug warp. Rug hooking first appeared in Nova Scotia in the mid 1800s when burlap arrived on the market as bags for grains. The burlap bags were reused as a backing for hand hooked rugs. Long narrow strips torn from salvaged clothing were hooked into the burlap with tools fashioned from nails shaped into a hook then hammered into handles of wood, bone or antler. Rug hooking is as popular today as ever.
What tools will I need?
You will need a hook, a frame (or hoop) and scissors. Hooks come in a variety of shapes and sizes. If possible, try a few to find which one you prefer. Frames also come in a variety of designs and once again, it is a matter of personal preference. When you are starting out, a simple hoop will do fine. You will also need a pair of scissors to snip off the ends of the wool.
Traditionally, 100% wool is recommended for hooked rugs. It dyes well and will not dull the blades of your cutter. Many people use recycled wool from clothing and others use new wool. Hooking with wool yarn is also popular. If you use other materials, cut the strips with scissors as anything less than 80% wool will dull the blades of your cutter.
When determining how much wool you will need, the rule of thumb is that you will need 4 times the area you wish to cover.
How do I cut wool into strips for hooking?
The wool is usually cut on a cutter which can be purchased with your choice of standard cutter width blades. The blades are numbered from #3 which is 3/32″ wide to the widest #8 which is 1/4″ (8/32) wide. More primitive rugs are hooked with a #8 cut while more realistic rugs with fine detail often use a #3 or #4 cut. The width of the wool strips you use is a personal preference. You can purchase extra blades for the different widths strips that you want to cut. Some people prefer to use scissors because they like the primitive results.
There are a few different kinds of backing available. Many people use linen but burlap is also widely used. Other backing materials include rug warp and monk’s cloth. Once again, the kind of backing you choose to use is a personal preference.
Once your pattern is traced onto the backing of your choice you are ready to start hooking. Hold the hook in your right hand (or left hand if you are left-handed) above the surface of the backing fabric with the wool or fabric strip in your opposite hand under the frame. Stick the hook down through the opening where you want to begin your work and pull up a loop. A rule of thumb is that the height of the hoop should be approximately the same as the width of the wool strip. Pull wool strip (or wool yarn) up and down in this manner until you reach the end of the strip. Start the next strip in the same hole. Later you will trim all the ends that are sticking up.
Start with an outline and fill in toward the center of the portion of the design you are hooking. Do not hook in every hole otherwise your work will bulge. Hook so that the hoops are not crammed together but not so far apart that the backing is showing. You should hook just inside your pattern outline, otherwise your design will be a lot larger that you intended. Hook your background last… it should complement the design – not be the focal point.
Most important of all – hook in the style of the hooked pieces you have seen and love!
Thanks to Amy Oxford for the illustration. http://amyoxford.com
Moose River Hooker Cookies (Oatcakes)
3 cups flour
3 cups oatmeal
1 cup sugar
1 lb 20/80 spread or butter
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup water
Mix above ingredients well. Divide in half. Sprinkle 12 x 15 cookie sheet with bran. Roll 1/2 of dough flat with rolling pin. Sprinkle top with bran. (Same for other half.) Bake at 350 for 20 min.