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The Thompson-Ames Historical Society
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2-20-06   Rug-Hooking Bee on March 4th

It’s time again for a Rug-Hooking Bee. Fiber artist Carol Dale will be on hand Saturday morning, March 4th in Gilford Village to lead the final bee in this winter’s rug-hooking series. Thompson-Ames Historical Society’s Grange Hall, at 8 Belknap Mountain Road, will be the site of the bee which will begin at 10:00 a.m. and run until noon.

Based on historic bees, each of these Saturday morning gatherings is an informal fun get-together where people can bring rugs to work on, solve problems, display vintage rugs, and enjoy the company of other like-minded folk. The bees, which are free and open to all, are looked forward to as being a time for a relaxing and interesting morning delving into the history of rug hooking and how to make a rug.

As in this winter’s two previous rug-hooking bees, Carol Dale will have on hand, wools, rug hooks, hoops, and other supplies as well as books and rug-hooking magazines to pore over. -- Carol Dale also teaches regular rug hooking classes every other Tuesday at the Grange.

The vintage art of rug hooking certainly is enjoying noteworthy popularity, therefore it seemed appropriate to ask rug-hooking teacher Carol Dale to share some words of insight with us. Her response is as follows:

“You are right on to recognize that rug hooking has made a tremendous resurgence in recent years! For those who love the fiber arts, rug hooking is a fascinating and rewarding way to express oneself. What better way to recycle those old Pendleton shirts, suits, and skirts that languish in closets! You can make something useful and beautiful by cutting the clothing into narrow strips and using a small crochet-type hook to pull the resulting loops through a cotton or linen backing.

“Rug hooking began in America around 1850, not in Colonial times as some suggest. The simple reason for that is that the Industrial Revolution didn’t arrive until mid century. Up `til then, fabric -- mostly cotton or linen -- had to be hand spun and hand woven of wool or flax and therefore was much too precious and time consuming to make to even think of putting it on the floors. To say the least, hooked rugs made prior to 1850 are extremely rare. -- The photos you might see in decorating magazines, depicting hooked rugs in Colonial décor, are historically inaccurate. They still look great, though, and add much warmth to the glossy magazine pictures!

“When feed sacks of burlap became commonplace, rug hooking became a popular and practical way to cover the drafty floors of one’s home. Factory woven fabrics also increased the likelihood of having spare rags and bits of clothing to hook into the feed sacks.

“The rugs made during the early years, before printed patterns were peddled and homogenized the designs, are highly sought after. They are examples of genuine American folk art and command very high prices. The most expensive one that I know of was auctioned in New Hampshire about three years ago. It sold for over $44,000 and was made of old, cut up American flags!

“The rug in this photo (See the photo accompanying this article.) is hooked in the primitive style. This means it was created using wide strips of wool, 1/8 of an inch wide or wider, using colors in a whimsical and personal way, and ‘outlining and filling’ of motifs, rather than using fine cut, realistic style of hooking called tapestry hooking. The colors used are rusts, soft violet, dull purple, dull gold, and soft aqua. -- This piece now hangs in my daughter’s home, as it was a wedding gift to her and her husband. In fact, my daughter became so enthralled by it that she, too, took up rug hooking to satisfy her creative spirit.

“There are now four generations of rug hookers in the family, including my maternal great-grandfather of Newfoundland, Canada. The family joke is that the apples didn’t fall far from the tree!

“During her first rug-hooking lesson, my daughter pulled up about 20 loops, set down her hook, looked fixedly at me and stated emphatically, ‘Mom, I’m hooked! Can we go to Dorr Woolen Store tomorrow to stock up on supplies?’ Needless to say, we went the next day, bought a frame, wool-cutting machine, dyes and a hundred pound bundle of recycled Pendleton wools! It was gratifying to see a wonderful heritage art being passed down to another generation.”

This is a natural progression for many people it seems. They are exposed to a rug-hooking project, try their hand at the process and become hooked into participating in the heritage art process in their natural drive to be creative.

That is the way Thompson-Ames Historical Society bees are set up. There are opportunities to observe, ask questions, try a hand at the process and have a first-hand heritage arts experience.

Such an opportunity awaits you on Saturday morning, March 4th at Gilford Village’s Grange Museum Building. Come have some hot cocoa, coffee, light snacks while learning about the rug-hooking world and how you can create your own special rug or wall hanging.

There are several other rug-hooking events to spot light this year. April 1 to 9, at the Shelburne Museum in Burlington, VT, there will be a hooked-rug show featuring approximately 600 rugs as well as workshops at the Round Barn. In late September and on into October, Laconia’s Belknap Mill will be the site of a hooked-rug exhibit. In October, the Geneva Pt. Conference Center in Moultonboro will offer a popular rug-hooking camp, enjoying its fifth year! In Hopkinton, NH, there’s a monthly New Hampshire rug-hooking chapter meeting at which the members bring projects to work on, enjoy educational programs, and share camaraderie. -- For information about these events and many others happening in New England, please call Carol Dale at 293-4113.

For information about Thompson-Ames Historical Society and its year-long offerings, do check out the Society’s website www.gilfordhistoricalsociety.org.