Rug Hooking and Antique American Flok Art Hooked Rugs

Antique Hooked Rugs and Rug Hooking: An American Folk Art Tradition

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American hooked rugs are as American as jazz music. Like the latter, it had a humble beginning. But it grew to become a unique American tradition.

Rug hooking is an old traditional and artistic craft. It holds a cherished place in American folk art. Among its most treasured creations are the hooked rugs. Each is a testament to the spirit of early American settlers.

The rugs made from humble materials. People transformed scraps of fabric into intricate works of art. Ones that reflect the cultural and historical tapestry of their time.

These captivating handmade rugs were not as loved when first made as they are today. People dismissed their rustic look and low quality till the early 20th century. Today people embrace their delightful folk art quality. A thriving modern rug making industry had grown around them. This is due to the strong demands of a growing number of collectors.

Rug hooking is a rug making technique. It involves pulling loops or strips of fabric through a stiff woven base. The base or backing material is linen, burlap or rug warps. A crochet-type hook mounted in a handle is used to pull the loops through the base.

The rug pile, in original ones, are from any materials available. These include strips cut from worn out clothing and curtains. That accounts for their reputation as a craft for the lower class.

Antique Hooked Rugs and Rug Hooking: An American Folk Art Tradition by Nazmiyal

Antique Hooked Rugs and Rug Hooking: An American Folk Art Tradition

Author William Winthrop Kent has done extensive research on rug hooking. He stated that technique began in the early 19th century Yorkshire, England. There, workers in weaving mills took home pieces of 9-inch long yarn called thrums. These were useless to the mill.

The workers used the thrums to pull loops through a coarse backing. This is how they made thier rugs at home. This was the closest poor families of those times got to owning a carpet.

That said, rug hooking, as we know it today, has its roots America. The more rural eastern seaboard of North America. Including New England, Canadian Maritimes, Newfoundland and Labrador. As stated earlier, the craft owes its existence to poor folks. Those who could only dream of owning the expensive area rugs. Like the ones that adorned the homes of the rich and the famous.

Antique Folk Art American Hooked Rug 2560 From Nazmiyal Antique Rugs

Antique Folk Art American Hooked Rug #2560

Factory-made carpets became all the rage in America in the 1830s. Poorer women who couldn’t afford area rugs began making their own floor coverings. They used materials and fabric scraps they could find. The result was the hooked rugs we know and love today. But they were “imitations” by the wealthy class of the time who shunned them.

The hooked rugs made after 1850 used a base of burlap. Burlap sourced from used old grain and feed bags. Discarded potato sacks were both free, and easy to find as well.

They used any useless disregarded fabrics for pulling the loops. Unlike in Yorkshire, yarn wasn’t used since it was costly. That is how the tradition of using scraps of used fabric evolved. This is a unique American tradition.

The art of making hooked rugs was dying out in the early 20th century. That’s when Pearl McGowan popularized the use of cut wool strips. Not the pieces of fabric that people used prior. McGowan established strict guidelines for rug hooking. She formalized its study in the 1930s.

Antique American Folk Art Hooked Rug 50007 From Nazmiyal Antique Rugs

Antique American Folk Art Hooked Rug #50007

But, author Paula Laverty’s book “Silk Stocking Mats”, calls this into question. She claims Lady Ann Grenfell made a similar guide in 1916.

Either way, rug hooking came a long way from those early days. By the 1920s the use of high quality materials became more common. The designs evolved to become quite decorative as well. This is when we see a wider range of motifs such as flowers and animals.

American hooked rugs are valuable collector’s items these days. They beloved examples of American folk art and textile art. Loved by people all over the globe, they are part of America’s history.

This rug blog post about antique hooked rugs and rug hooking was published by Nazmiyal Rugs

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