Hooking The Night Away…
By: Carolyn McNeil
When I use the term "hooking" I am referring to the craft of latch-hook rug making. Why, what did you think I was going to write about? Well, let's not go there.
First, let me begin with a quick history of rug making. Rug making is a very old form of needle art. It is widely believed that rug making began thousands of years ago with the nomadic tribes of Europe and Asia. Wool harvested from herds of sheep was used to create the first rugs. The oldest rug, found frozen and perfectly preserved in ice, is believed to have been hand-made around the fifth century BCE. The earliest rugs were created by hand, with no needles, latch hooks or tools. They were made using a technique called "knotted pile" rug making. Basically, this style of rug making involves a length of wool being tied – or "knotted" – by hand over and over again. This traditional rug making technique is still used today in some of the Asian countries. Traditional rug making changed a few hundred years ago by adding a hand held hook tool to make the process quicker and easier.
Today, the latch-hook is the most commonly used tool used when creating rugs. The punch needle runs a close second in the rug making popularity race. We will explore thelatch-hook method in a moment. First, let us take a look at some of the needlepoint stitches that may be used to create rugs. These stitches fall into the category known as "looped stitches", aka "pile stitches". All of these stitches create a texture with a three-dimensional look. The pile surface is created by the loops contained in the stitches. Some stitches remain with the loops intact; some require the loops be cut. Other than the basic Loop Stitch, some of the more common rug stitches are the Chain Stitch, the Astrakhan Velvet Stitch and the Surrey Stitch. It should be mentioned, however, that all of these stitches require some knowledge of needlepoint and should not be attempted by a beginner. For the rug making beginner, I would recommend the latch-hook type rug.
Latch-hook rug making, as I stated earlier, is probably the most popular type of rug making today. Not coincidently, it also happens to be the easiest type of rug making today. Basically, a hook (with a latch, hence the name) is used to work the precut lengths of yarn into the rug canvas. The rug canvas is generally 3.3 mesh, however, smaller meshed canvas may be also be used. I have seen two methods of latch-hooking rugs. The first method, the one that I use, is the easiest. Loop the piece of yarn around the end of the hook – the actual "hook" part of the latch-hook – push the hook and yarn down through one square and up under the canvas thread, bringing the hook up into the square above until the latch part of the latch-hook has cleared the canvas thread. Wrap the yarn around the front of the latch hook, while pulling the latch closed as you move the latch-hook back down through the canvas. This will pull the yarn through and create the knot. You may tighten the knot by hand if necessary. The second method requires you to hook the yarn from behind the latch and come around to the front, using more yarn. This method is too complicated and does not make the rug more durable.
The greatest challenge to latch-hook rug making is finding quality rug kits to work. Shillcraft has been a leading source of latch-hook rugs for many years. They recently re-vamped their website and appear to have added some interesting rugs to their catalog. Currently, I have been working rugs that have been designed by an EBay seller. These are some very exciting designs. The finished rugs look as beautiful as the sample picture promises. I recently completed a rug with a dog design – a pug. I call him "Pugsly, the pug rug" (see image). If you are looking for new and interesting designs, I strongly recommend these rugs.
Enough of the blatant product promotion! Regardless of what type of rug making you choose, it can be a relaxing and rewarding experience. Take a seat on that comfortable couch, turn the tunes on, adjust the lighting and start hooking the night away…