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Remember This? The Art of Rug Hooking

North Bay’s “Rags to Riches” group will be on hand to demonstrate the craft of rug hooking at Discovery North Bay.
Rug Hooking 2
The Rug Hooking Exhibit at Discovery North Bay Museum

For many, history still has a place in the modern society. 

Rug hooking is a craft that has been practiced for centuries.

In today’s society, there are still many contemporary competitions for rug hooking.

At Discovery North Bay, rug hooking is one of the exhibits on display this month.

A hooked rug is made by pulling loops of yarn or rag strips up through a loosely woven foundation cloth, usually burlap, using a tool like a crochet hook.

Eventually, these loops create a design that covers the whole foundation and also forms a sturdy mat. 

In the mid-19th century when hooked rugs were first made, floor covering was a luxury in Canada and rug hooking was a craft of poverty. 

The wealthy might have an imported oriental rug or perhaps could afford commercial loom-woven carpeting.

Others not so affluent might make a catalogne rug, consisting of rag strips woven on a widely spaced warp of cotton string.

The hooked rug solved the problem of covering cold floors cheaply and was the final stage in the recycling of hand-me-down clothing.

Unlike quilts, which were often passed down as family heirlooms, rug hookings were often used until worn and abandoned.

Rugs were rotated to various areas of the home: from the parlor when new to the bedroom and kitchen when worn out.

As a result, surviving antique rug hookings are often from unknown makers.

In recent decades, rug hooking has become a popular hobby and art form.

“Hookers” have formed crafting clubs where they explore contemporary materials and techniques.

North Bay’s “Rags to Riches” Rug Hooking Guild was formed in 1980 and meets weekly to discuss techniques and projects.

Beulah Hamilton is one of the groups founding members and helps lead the meetings each Wednesday at the Golden Age Club.

North Bay is also home to a large variety of guilds which focus on other forms of folk art including:

  • The Gateway Guild of Spinners and Weavers
  • Three quilting groups including the Near North Quilters, the Northern Lights Quilters, and the local chapter of Victorian Quilts.
  • The Stitches in Tyme Embroidery Guild. 

These groups bring traditional crafts to life and create amazing artwork and social ties.

Competitions and themed exhibitions provide the chance to engage the wider public.

The Huronia Branch of the Ontario Hooking Craft Guild created “The Barn Raising Project” in collaboration with the Simcoe County Museum. 

The exhibit features rural scenes from across Canada and commemorates our rural roots. 

The colorful display of fibre art was handcrafted using traditional rug hooking techniques. 

The “Barn Raising Project” is on display at Discovery North Bay Museum until February 28, 2016. 

North Bay’s “Rags to Riches” group will be on hand to demonstrate the craft of rug hooking on Wednesdays from January 13 to February 24 from 10:00 am until 2:00 pm.