The objective of this chapter is to preserve and encourage the art of rug hooking and to foster the highest standards of excellence in the practice of the art through a program of education and study.
Rug hooking was one of the earliest crafts practiced in colonial America by the English settlers. America's earliest hooked rugs had both utilitarian and aesthetic value. They prevented drafts and chills and offered a touch of beauty in rustic homes. Their creation was also a means of recreation that revealed the artistic skills and talents of the early settlers. The craft became an ideal way to spend a long winter evening after a difficult day's work. Later, groups of women met for "Hooking Bees" when making rugs in the same way that they gathered socially when making quilts.
Most colonial homes had one or more hooked rugs that were originally designed in America or were copied from an older European pattern. The early rugs were subdued in color, for the pioneers had little or nothing that they could use for dyes. Except for rare, luxury dyes imported from Europe, the settlers resorted to using dyes from bark and roots of trees, blossoms, leaves, and berries. Creative and resourceful women used discarded woolen clothing that was cut in individual strips by hand. Hooks made from old nails, hardwood, bones, or porcupine quills were used to draw the strips of wool through the mesh of burlap or other backing material.
At the beginning of the 18th century almost every housewife in the northern colonies knew how to hook a rug. Interest reached a peak during the Civil War with techniques being passed from generation to generation. Today's traditionally hooked rugs are fashioned in the same manner as the early rugs. Some refinement and improvement has been made -- merely to copy something old is to stand still! The basic equipment for hooking rugs today is a solid, well built frame; a small, fin hook with a wooden handle; a pattern on a good, firm backing; old or new woolen material; and scissors. A cutter is desirable but not absolutely essential.
Rug hooking is "painting with wool". Yesterday's craft is becoming today's art.