Rug hooking is a practice that dates back hundreds of years. What we commonly call rug hooking today is technically latch hooking, named after the tool used to pull the yarns through and knot them in one smooth motion. The latch hook is derived from some of the first commercial knitting machines used in the late 19th century.
The process of rug hooking is pretty simple, and a lot of fun! Many companies offer pre-made kits, for kids or beginners, but you don’t really need a kit at all. The commercial kits usually use a plasticized waffle-matrix. Acrylic yarns are usually used as well. While they’re definitely user-friendly, and can make wonderful wall hangings, they don’t really lend themselves to creating functional rugs.
We favor art that is functional, so we’ll talk about how to make a wool hand hooked rug. The backing materials for rugs are usually a loosely woven, somewhat stiff fabric like burlap. Because we favor using the highest quality materials for your handiwork, we’re going to assume you’re using a burlap backing and top-quality wool yarn. A blended yarn, like an 80/20 wool and acrylic, may allow for a longer lasting rug, but we recently were in a wonderful bed and breakfast whose foyer was covered in a 100% wool floral-patterned rug in pink and white that was from the late 1800s and still looked fantastic!
Firstly, you want to sketch out your design on the burlap. Labeling the different areas with sharpie (that won’t wash out) is a really good idea because once you’re well into the project it can get confusing to see just where your borders are in the base.
Rug yarns typically are between 2mm and 8mm in width. Those commercial kits have you taking as many as five yarn pieces together to create a poof of yarn, not unlike a pom-pom, after it’s knotted. For finely worked designs, you probably want no more than 3 strands together. Once you start, you’ll quickly get the hang of centering the yarn on the hook so that both ends are even. However, don’t worry too much if you have long ends. Once your design is complete, a very sharp pair of scissors can be used to trim those dangling ends for a smooth surface.
You can use a commercially produced binding strip, sewn along the edges with heavy duty thread to finish your rug. This binding will not only look attractive, but will help to keep your burlap from fraying with use or washing.