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Area Rugs: Hooked Rugs

The art of rug hooking is centuries old, although just how old is debatable. Theories abound regarding when and where the craft actually started. Some rug hooking history books state that descendants of the ancient Egyptians made the first hand-hooked rugs between the third and seventh centuries. Other historians maintain that rug hooking originated in China or Europe. However, many authorities now believe that rug hooking is America’s one indigenous folk art, with the first hooked rugs appearing in Atlantic Canada and New England.

We do know for certain, however, that rug hooking experienced a surge of popularity in the mid-nineteenth century in the New England states and the Maritime provinces of Canada. Born initially out of necessity, hand-hooked rugs were created by rural women to cover the bare floors of their homes. Later, people began selling hand-hooked rugs, and cottage industries eventually sprang up across the continent.

By the 1940’s, rug hooking had become a well-established hobby in the United States and Canada. It has evolved into a popular means of personal expression as well as a practical pastime. Hand-hooked rugs can be found in art galleries and museums in New York City, Washington, DC, Toronto, and London, as well as in local museums, libraries, and community centers across North America.

Rug hooking uses a hand hook, similar in shape to a crochet hook to form a looped pile from fabric strips or yarn on an even-weave base fabric. Punch needles and speed hooks are also used to make hooked rugs, although the hooking techniques and rug appearance differ. Rug hooking is not the same as latch-hooking, which uses a hinged hook to form a knotted pile from short pieces of yarn.

Hooked rugs are cheerful, handmade rugs produced using scraps of fabric or wool. Antiques - especially early North American hooked rugs - can be expensive, but their modern equivalents are much more reasonable.

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