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  • Carolyn Welch

Primitive Rug Hooking Has a Remarkable History: Part 1 ~

Rug hooking has become a very vogue craft for all ages; but do you know how it all began? ~

Although examples of pulling a loop of yarn through a woven textile dates back to 4th century Egypt where tufts of wool were pulled through a linen base, the origination of rug hooking is attributed to Yorkshire, England in the early 19th century.


As the story goes, workers in the English weaving mills were allowed to collect the off cast pieces of yarn less than nine inches long as they were useless to the mill.

These pieces of yarn are called thrums and though an ancient word, was referenced by William Shakespeare in "The Merry Wives of Windsor," in 1602.

It has also been recently documented in "Rag Rug Making," by Jenni Stuart-Anderson that the Vikings brought the origination of the loop rug craft to Scotland in the form of hooking wooden loops through a fabric base.

Burlap became the popular backing after 1850 for hook rugs because the wider weave structure not only made it much easier than other textiles for the yard to be pulled through, but just as important, it was a way to salvage and reuse feed sacks. However, yarn was not the loop material of choice because it was too precious a commodity needed for mending, so scraps of fabric was used instead.

Primitive hooking commonly used wool strips measuring 6/32 up to 1/2-inch wide.

In America prior to 1780 the poor people could not afford expensive, imported carpets, so the hook rugs offered them a way to emulate floor coverings for little or no cost.

Replica of a primitive hook rug circa 1880.

These rugs served a dual purpose. They were used on floors in the summer and on the bed in the winter to provide extra warmth. When they were used on the floors, they were put loop side down for the day to day wear and flipped over to dress the house up a bit when company came over which kept the rug cleaner.

We can see the popularity of what have become works of art by the poetry of the day:


"I am the family wardrobe,

Best and worst of all the generations from the first,

Grandpa's Sunday-go-to-meetin' coat,

And the woolen muffler he wore at his throat;

Grandma's shawl, that came from Fayal;

Ma's wedding gown, three times turned and once let down,

Which once was plum but now turned brown;

Pa's red flannels, that made him itch;

Pants and shirts; petticoats and skirts;

From one or another, but I can't tell which.

Tread carefully, because you see, if you scuff me.

You scratch the bark of the family tree.."


circa 19th century

Lavadna Hines works on her primitive hook rug project.

Primitive rug hooking, a type of fiber art, is a means of preserving family stories that are passed down from generation to generation. Whether these rugs are hung on a wall, placed on the floor, or made into pillows, these works of art become the heirlooms that connect the world that we live in today with America's rich past.

The above photo was taken at the Collins House during the First Christmas Holiday Event. It shows a sampling of primitive rugs hooked by Lavadna Hines.

Photo courtesy of Lois Metzger.

We are excited to have several primitive hook rug enthusiasts demonstrate their craft on Sunday, October 14, 2018 from 12:00 noon until 4:00 p.m.

Part 2 of the history of primitive hook rugs will explore how this art craft was saved thanks to two extraordinary individuals in 1937.

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Phone:  Call Lavadna at 618.420.0288         

Mail: c/o 104 Irene Dr., Collinsville, IL 62234 

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