Growing Your Rug Hooking Skills

I get lots of feedback from internet friends about their rug hooking skills.  They wish they could hook better.  They look at other people's work in marvel and wish they could hook a face like that, a pictorial like that, have creativity like another, hook the details of a flower better.  I am here to tell you that rug hooking is not a destination, it is a journey.  If you talk to any of those you admire, they will tell you they started out with lesser quality work too.  They had struggles with their form, their color, their planning, their development.  Some may tell you they had a "break-through" moment.  For others, their advancement may be more subtle.  I write this post to encourage you all to keep striving for more.  Keep adding to your education by attending rug workshops and camps, reading books, reading information on the internet, talking to other hookers.  One day, you will reach your pinnacle too.

I have an example to illustrate this:

Queensland was my first rug.  I made all kinds of mistakes with this rug.

Queensland, Hooked by Susan Elcox

Queensland, Hooked by Susan Elcox, Heirloom pattern

  1. First, I didn't order the pattern on good quality backing and unknowingly ended up with very poor burlap.  This burlap was breaking before I had the rug on the floor.  So I learned to patch with this rug.
  2. I didn't know where to purchase wool swatches, so I learned to dye with the book "Shading Flowers" by Jeanne Field.  My dyeing was ok, but not superb.  I'm glad I did it though.  It stretched me and I was never afraid of dyeing after that.  I tried my hand at (6-value) swatches, dips and spot dyes.
  3. I started this rug at a rug camp in Rockaway Beach, OR.  My teacher there taught me how to mock shade with the bright pink rose in the middle.  While mock shading is an easier technique than finger shading for a beginner, it probably wasn't the most appropriate for this rose.  Plus I wasn't very good at it.  My second rose (the more mauve one) was completed under another teacher a year later and she really took me under her wing with finger shading.  Boy, did I need a lot of hand holding to understand that!  In the end I was really pleased with this rose.
  4. I was afraid of packing on this piece, so I purposefully hooked the background really loosely.  I didn't like the lack of density of the pile, so in future rugs, I worked on making my stitch density higher.

At this stage, you may be asking yourself, "Why is she telling us this?"  The reason is because I want you to persevere with your hooking techniques, yet accept the projects that turn out to be not your best work.  I didn't sweat over taking out and making this rug perfect.  I had to move on.  This first rug took me three years of evenings and weekends to complete.  Can you imagine how much longer I would have worked on that rug if I had taken out unacceptable areas?  What do you think it would have done to my confidence if I had continuously taken out?  I may not be a rug hooker amongst you today if I had done that.  I know that the mistakes I made in this first rug are there for me and other educated rug hookers to notice.  Other people don't.  They love this rug.  And so do I.

Share your experiences in the comments.  Are you struggling with your confidence?  Do you take out a lot?  Or do you go with the flow and crack it up to experience?  Maybe there is something else other than practice that you feel you need.  I and the other readers would love to hear your feedback.

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  1. Ok!

    Brian E

    • Thank you Susan for the encouraging words. My first rug was big, on painter’s canvas which gave me bad tendonitis. Years went by and then I joined a weekly rug group. I did a small Judy Wise rug for my bathroom, another original design Crows on Sunflowers , then gardening by?. By now I am hooking daily and my hooking has greatly improved. I did as little ripping out as I had to so as to encourage myself. I just completed a Joan Moshimer round rug, Blueberries with braided edges. I am learning to braid and the learning curve has been a challenge. I try to learn something new with each rug.

      • Ann, you are welcome. I’m glad you are trying new things and having success. Encouragement of oneself is exactly what I was talking about, and I’m so glad you have allowed that of yourself as you’ve gone along. Then the big steps get made on the next project when we have another clean slate to start from. Thanks so much for joining the conversation.

  2. Love this post, and am re-posting on the Bee Line Art Tools Facebook page if you don’t mind. It is all SO true. But I think your rug is beautiful.

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