“F” is for “Frustration”

 kup karpet

 

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?)? 

Easy, eh?

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 Tenacious"  tall ship - Designed and Hooked by Judi Tompkins. Early stage
“The Tenacious” tall ship – Designed and Hooked by Judi Tompkins. Early stage

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.

Stitch sampler. Designed/prodded by Judi Tompkins
Stitch sampler. Designed/prodded by Judi Tompkins

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.

Hole in fabric large enough to accommodate the strip.
Hole in fabric large enough to accommodate the strip.

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!

Nope.

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.

Final note:

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?

"The Tenacious" tall ship designed and hooked by Judi Tompkins. In the private collection of T. Smith (Belgium)
“The Tenacious” tall ship designed and hooked by Judi Tompkins. In the private collection of T. Smith (Belgium)

Rug Hooking vs. Latch Hooking: Are they different?

(Rag) Rug Hooking vs Latch Hooking:

Is there really a difference?

 I have discovered (along with many other rug hookers / crafters) that during any discussion about rug making the most common phrase – and most frustrating to hear for us traditional (rag rug) hookers is, “Oh…I used to do that as a kid”.

Please don’t take our quiet head-shaking personally but the craft you probably know and refer to as rug “hooking” is better described as latch hooking. Both techniques do share some common elements: they use a “hook” to manipulate fabric; a frame is used to support a specific kind of backing fabric (foundation); and fibres/fabric are most often used to create the surface design.In spite of these similarities, there is a considerable difference between these two rug hooking techniques.

To add to the confusion, some terms are used interchangeably in both crafts and the both styles are generically referred to as “rug hooking”.

So, here’s an overview about these two styles of rug making.

Traditional Rug Crafting (Hooking or Prodding)

Rug hooking can best be described as an art / craft  where rugs (originally for floors) are made by pushing or pulling yarns or fabric strips through a stiff woven base fabric like hessian/burlap, linen, or other open weave materials. The fabric may be pulled through the backing fabric with something resembling a crochet-type hook mounted in a handle for leverage or it may be pushed through the backing fabric with a blunt pointed tool that resembles a very short knitting needle (tapered to be fatter at the base than at the point) with a ball handle called a prodder.

Sample hooking tools:

Rug Hooking tools - Examples
Hooking tools clockwise from 12 o’clock: 5mm straight brass hook; 3mm short hook; 5mm bent ergonomic hook; 5mm short hook with turned handle; 5mm brass ergonomic hook with ball handle; 5mm brass ergonomic hook with pear-shaped handle; 8mm straight brass hook; 5mm straight hook with soapstone handle; 5mm straight brass hook with pear-shaped handle; 2 brass punch needles; 2 wood handled punch needles;Shuttle tufting tool.

If the pattern is worked from the front (or “right” side) the strips of fabric are pulled to the front in a series of loops.

"Firedog" Designed and Hooked by Judi Tompkins 2009;
“Firedog” Designed and Hooked by Judi Tompkins 2009;

By keeping the loops the same height,  a carpet-like surface will be created.

"Firedog" Designed by Chris Smith (USA) hooked by Judi Tompkins 2009. Made from recycled wool blankets.
“Firedog” Designed by Chris Smith (USA) hooked by Judi Tompkins 2009. Made from recycled wool blankets.

A diverse range of materials, fabrics and embellishments can be used when hooking to produce specific effects.

If you like textural or sculpted pieces (as wall hangings) you can use fibres and techniques that are quite subtle.

Can you tell that this “Guardian Angel” is sculpted?

"Guardian Angel" Designed and Hooked by Judi Tompkins 2011. Hangs in the surgical waiting room in Mesa, Arizona. Made with alpaca/mohair yarns and recycled blankets.
“Guardian Angel” Designed and Hooked by Judi Tompkins 2011. Hangs in the surgical waiting room in Mesa, Arizona.
Made with alpaca/mohair yarns and recycled blankets.

What about now?

"Guardian Angel" Designed and Hooked by Judi Tompkins 2011. Showing depth of sculpting - Waldoboro style.
“Guardian Angel” Designed and Hooked by Judi Tompkins 2011. Showing depth of sculpting – Waldoboro style.

Sometimes the sculpting shows from a distance,….

"Draygon rips through the fabric of tyme" Designed by Tony Steele hooked by Judi Tompkins 2009. Made from recycled wool blankets and novelty yarns.
“Draygon rips through the fabric of tyme” Designed by Tony Steele hooked by Judi Tompkins 2009. Made from recycled wool blankets and novelty yarns.

…but even better up close!

"Draygon breaks through the fabric of tyme" Designed by Tony Steele (USA) hooked by Judi Tompkins 2009. Made from recycled wool blanket and novelty yarns.
“Draygon breaks through the fabric of tyme” Designed by Tony Steele (USA) hooked by Judi Tompkins 2009. Made from recycled wool blanket and novelty yarns.

Rug hooking can be based on “real” life photos or designs:

"The Tenacious" - Designed & Hooked by Judi Tompkins 2012. Owned by T. Smith (Brussells)
“The Tenacious” – Designed & Hooked by Judi Tompkins 2012. Owned by T. Smith (Brussells) Waldoboro style (sculpted) made from recycyled blankets, knitting yarn, sari silk and cord. Overall dismensions: 24in x 27in (61cm x 70 cm).

Or may simply spring from your imagination.

But, your rug hooking isn’t restricted to making floor rugs or wall-hangings.

You could make wearable art, like pins:

Prodded Flower Pin. Designed and prodded by Judi Tompkins 2012
Prodded Flower Pin. Designed and prodded by Judi Tompkins 2012

Or you could make a child’s toy (or even one for an adult!)

"Writer's Block" Designed and Hooked by Judi Tompkins 2011. Made with recycled wool blankets, Novely yarns, antique buttons and bead.
“Writer’s Block” Designed and Hooked by Judi Tompkins 2011. Made with recycled wool blankets, Novely yarns, antique buttons and bead.

If you feel like a challenge, you can even hook a series of blocks together to make the fold ontop of one another.

"Moveable Cube" Designed and Hooked by Judi Tompkins 2011. Made with recycled wool blankets, Sari silk, novelty yarns.
“Moveable Cube” Designed and Hooked by Judi Tompkins 2011. Made with recycled wool blankets, Sari silk, novelty yarns.

If you like to swap collectibles with other people, you can even make business card or postcard-sized pieces to exchange.

Artist Trading Cards "Banksia" designed and hooked by Judi Tompkins  2010. Made from recycled wool blankets.
Artist Trading Cards “Banksia” designed and hooked by Judi Tompkins 2010. Made from recycled wool blankets.

What about making a carry bag?

Jute bag designed and hooked by Judi Tompkins 2013.. Made with recycled wool blanket and knitting yarns; bead.

Jute bag designed and hooked by Judi Tompkins 2013.. Made with recycled wool blanket and knitting yarns; bead.

Your options are endless!

Prodding/Proddy/Proggy Rugs:

Prodded rugs (still considered part of the family of rug hooking) are worked from the “wrong” side (or the back) using a pointed tool to push the cut fabric strips through a hole:

Prodding Tools - Examples
Prodding Tools moving clockwise from 12 o’clock: Bodger; Dolly Peg (one leg removed and the other sharpened slightly); turned timber; sharpened cow’s horn with deerhide handle; turned timber with finger grip; Brass prodder.

Working on the back allows the rug hooker (or prodder in this case) to see the design and can work evenly over the surface since the fabric strips are “in the way” on the front (see the following examples)

Prodding - Working (or "wrong" side) with guidelines to work around circle.
Prodding – Working (or “wrong” side) with guidelines to work around circle.
Prodded Rug (Back) (Replica circa 1865) Designed & Prodded by Judi Tompkins.
Prodded Rug (Back) (Replica circa 1865) Designed & Prodded by Judi Tompkins. Centre section finished – the “evil eye’ or “eye of God” – made from recycled wool kilt; backing is 1940s feed sack with edge folded over and prodded to hold it in place and to finish edge.

Here a pattern has been worked from the back (or “wrong” side), and the short strips of fabric have been  pushed or prodded to the front (or “right” side) to create….

Prodded Rug (Front) (Replica circa 1865) Designed & Prodded by Judi Tompkins.

… a “shaggy surface” that can be clipped or left “as is”.

When completed, the back (“wrong” side) shows the design in some detail.

 Replica Prodded Rug (Back) - circa 1865 Designed & Prodded by Judi Tompkins 2011

While the finished front shows the design in a softer focus.

Prodded Rug (Front) (Replica circa 1865) Designed & Prodded by Judi Tompkins.

                Prodded Rug (Front) (Replica circa 1865) Designed & Prodded by Judi Tompkins. Centre section               – the “evil eye’ or “eye of God” – made from recycled wool kilt; Blue section is recycled wool                               dressing gown; 4 quaters are recycled wool blanke; edge is black wool skirt. Made on a backing                   of 1940s hessian feed sack.

The rug here is a replica of the type I made with the intention of illustrating what we would have expected to see on floors in Australian homes (circa 1865). This one was prodded on a 1940s Australian hessian feed sack and the fabrics used include a recycled wool kilt, 1940s wool men’s dressing gown (Okaparinga) and a recycled wool blanket and skirt.

Latch Hooking

By In contrast, latch hooking uses a hinged hook ( a bit like a crochet hook with a short hinge piece on the shank) to form a knotted shaggy pile from short, pre-cut pieces of yarn (rug weight or knitting weight); on strip per knot the backing material is stiffer and has larger holes that used in traditional rug hooking. Latch hooking emerged as a craft in its own right long after rug hooking was well-established.

Latch hooked rugs are also “shaggy” (generally) and appear like the shag pile capets that were popular during 70s and 80s.

I hope that helps!

Judi