Choosing and preparing fabric for hooked rugs

Hooked rugs became popular in the nineteenth century. Made from scraps of material, they are richly textured and make varied and inventive use of colour.  These guidelines will show you how to choose and prepare fabric for your hooked masterpiece.

Choosing and preparing fabric for hooked rugs

A bit of history

The earliest home-drawn designs were used to decorate small floor spaces like entrance or fireplace thresholds; the best are sought-after works of art. When printed patterns and chemical dyes were introduced in the 1860s, rugmakers began to create more realistic designs using finely cut strips and a wider range of colours; a rendition of a flower or a bird might comprise many hues. While most home-made rugs are used on the floor, a large hooked rug can often make a cheerful wall hanging.

Choosing and preparing your fabric

Creating a hooked rug is an excellent way to recycle torn or moth-eaten woollen or cotton clothing and blankets. Medium-weight, tightly woven fabrics, particularly flannels, are usually the easiest to hook.

As your technique improves, you will be able to incorporate different weights and weaves, such as gaberdine, denim or the cotton found in T-shirts and tracksuits, to produce a variety of textures. All-wool fabrics wear best and are resistant to soiling.

To prepare cloth for hooking, remove linings, facings and other "foreign" elements.

  1. Wash the material in warm water. To shrink and tighten the weave, wash even new or freshly dry-cleaned woollens.
  2. After washing, remove seams, buttonholes and other stitching, and discard any parts (such as knees or elbows) that have worn thin.You can dye most recycled fabrics.
  3. Tweeds and checks can be lightly overdyed (tinted) with a single colour to impart a unifying cast. Bright colours can be toned down by dyeing with a complementary hue; red cloth dyed green becomes a mellow brown.
  4. After washing and dyeing, cut the fabric into strips parallel to the grain of the weave. To do this, tear the material into five centimetre (two inch) widths and cut into much narrower strips.
  5. You may like to buy a rotary cutter and cutting board to cut strips quickly and easily. For medium-weight flannels five millimetres (1/6 inch) is about the right width to cut.
  6. Light-weight fabrics should be cut wider to make a heavy pile that does not pull out of the backing. Heavy fabrics should be cut narrower or they will be difficult to pull through the hessian and may over-strain its threads.
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