Many of you who are good handcrafters in your own right (cross-stitch, tapestry, embroidery, quilting, chocheting, knitting, etc.) but are new to traditional rugmaking techniques (hooking and prodding in particular) generally reach a milestone (or would that be kilometerstone?) of the “I’m-so-frustrated-with-this-craft-and-will-I-ever–get-it?” stage.
You tend to ask this question fairly early – generally by your second or third session.
Let’s face it. Intellectually you do understand how to do all this.
I mean really!
How hard is it to use a tool to poke a hole in some fabric and push a strip of fabric into it (prodding, remember?) or to use a hooked tool to poke a hole in some fabric and then pull a strip of fabric up to the top to create a loop (hooking – yes?)?
For those of you comfortable with your current handcrafts then you have already developed good fine motor skills (primarily using your fingers, hands and wrists) and have established good “muscle memory” (like athletes have) which lets you work on “auto pilot” with these crafts without thinking about how to do it.
That’s why you are able to watch TV and knit, or crochet, or embroider. You don’t have to consciously THINK about what you are doing.
BUT….new rugcrafters often put unnecessary pressure on themselves to learn this “easy” craft in a few hours (and occasionally someone does). More often than not, they will push themselves to tears of frustration because they want to learn this craft and feel “stupid” that they aren’t learning it as quickly as they think they should.
The answer is simple: The muscle and neural connections have yet to be created so you can hook or prod on “auto pilot”.
Think back….how long did it take you to feel comfortable with your quilting, knitting, embroidery skills? No doubt you spent a lot of frustrated time learning to smooth out your technique; rugcrafting is no different. Practice will help you develop your personal technique of how to hold the fabric strips, manipulate the hook or prodder, and develop the skills to design and draw patterns, make decisions about what technique you want to do (at least for now) – hooking or prodding; what kind of fabric you want to use and how wide to cut it (the weight and weave will play a role here); and whether it is a fabric you can or should cut (scissors, cutting mat/rotary cutter, etc.) or rip.
A general rule of thumb to follow is that you will need to pull at least 2000 loops before you develop your own pattern and rhythm for hooking or prodding fabric.
By pulling a seemingly endless numbers of loops – or prodding endless amounts of fabric – means that you well on your way to training your brain and muscles to work together in a new pattern.
What else does all this repetition do?
As you use your arm, elbow, shoulder and back to push or pull fabric through the backing materials – and particularly the wide cuts – you may a price in terms of RSI in your hands, wrist, elbow or shoulder or elbow if you “reef” the material though a too-small opening in the backing fabric.
Remember? That’s why I keep nagging (in that gentle nagging way I have!) about why you MUST “dig deep” or push your hook or prodder to the hilt to make the largest hole you can that will easily accommodate the strip you are pushing or pulling through.
BUT…Deliberately make a HOLE in the fabric?
I have a theory.
For many people who sew and knit or do other fine crafts, holes are JUST WRONG! Holes are things that have to be patched! Holes mean I made a mistake! Holes mean THERE IS NO GOING BACK!
When you make a “hole” in the backing fabric what you are really doing is simply pushing aside the warp and weft threads to accommodate the fabric strip. Then the subsequent holes will push the warp and weft threads back into position and serve to secure the fabric strip. That’s why hooked fabric stays in position without being knotted or glued.
So, the fact that rugcrafting is a “traditional craft” does not mean it is a craft that takes no skill. Making a rag rug – whether you’re hooking or prodding – means you have to make a huge range of decisions, and develop new skills.
Kinda gives you another level of respect and a different perspective on how our foremothers managed to produce the kind of rugs they did, doesn’t it?