Rugmaker's Homestead

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Rag Rugs Tour
1. Tambour
2. Shirred 
3. Standing wool

4. Knitted
5. Flat Wrap
6. Amish Knot

7. Chain Braids
8. Broomstick & String Crochet
9. Crocheted

10. Fabric Tapestry
11. Anchored Loop
12. Hooked, Poked, Prodded, Bodkin

13. Needleworked
14. Toothbrush rugs
15. Braided rugs

16. Knotted & strung shags
17. Loom woven
18. Patched (penny rugs) & sewn shags
19. Frame made rugs
20. Wagon wheel & frame braids 
21. Odds 'n ends



Rag Rugs Tour
#12 Hooked, Punched, Poked, Prodded, Bodkin 
& Shuttle Rag Rugs

All six of these rug types are fairly closely related. They are all traditionally made with narrow strips of wool worked through a burlap, monkscloth or linen base, or rug canvas. All of the rugs work on the same principle. When wool strips are put through a loosely woven fabric, the strands in the weave tighten to hold the wool in place. The exception is the bodkin rug which is additionally secured by the way the strips are cut. 
Hooked rugs were often combined with unrelated techniques to achieve particular effects or as a border for the hooking. Some of these methods included braided borders, tambour and the anchored loop. 



Traditional hooked rugs are made with a rug hook which looks like a small crochet hook attached to a wooden handle. They are worked on the front side of the rug and made by pulling up loops of wool through the burlap or fabric base. Hooked rugs were often made following patterns printed on old burlap feed sacks, like the piggy, here. The older style of hooked rugs is called "primitive" hooking and is done with wider strips of wool (3/16" to 1/4" or larger). "Fine" hooking is done with very narrow strips of wool, and the designs include elaborate shadings to represent details of flowers or scenery. 

POKED RUGS. Poked rugs are made with a small pointed (but not sharp) tool sometimes having a wooden handle. (A vintage poking tool is a 16d finish nail driven into the end of a dowel which acts as the handle.) Strips of wool are cut about 1 inch long and usually 1/4 to 1/2 inch wide. The 'poker' is used to push the center of the strip down into the burlap, just far enough that the fold is beyond the burlap surface. 


PUNCHED RUGS. Punched rugs are made with a large 'needle'. Wool or cotton strip is threaded through the eye of the needle, which is inserted into the back of the rug. As the needle is withdrawn, a loop of strip remains on the 'front' of the rug. There have been lots of gadgets invented over the years to make punched rugs. Some of the tools were called 'speed hooks' and 'shuttle hooks', even though the tip of the tool is a needle, not a hook. Because of these tools, there is often confusion between these rugs and 'hooked' rugs.

PRODDED RUGS. The "proddies" are most common in the United Kingdom. They are made by taking short sections of wool strip and prodding each end through separate openings in the burlap. The prod can take many forms, is usually pointed but not sharp. The ends of the strip stick up on the front side of the rug giving it a shaggy texture. (See our Articles for directions for making your own prodding tool and a prodded rug.)

"BODKIN" OR "TWEEZER" RUGS As the name implies, these rugs are most often made with tweeezers or a bodkin with points at the tip. Narrow pieces of wool strip are used (usually 3/4 inch or less) The strips are pulled up through the burlap or rug canvas with the tweezers or bodkin so that half of the strip is on each side of the rug . The result is a very thick rug with a shaggy texture on both sides. 

SHUTTLE RUGS These rugs are made with a tool very similar to poked rugs though sometimes a U-shaped notch was cut in the end. Long strips of wool were used and a loop of strip is held on the near side of the rug while the poker pushes through a loop to the far side. The result is a rug with loops of wool on both sides of the rug. Also a very thick rug.

Show me:
Books & Supplies for
Hooked Rugs (etc.) 


I have a set of three hooked rugs (looped, the pile is not cut, on a burlap type backing) that my grandmother had made during the 1970's. I would like to use these and have two questions. Although the background is a very neutral beige the flowers are a bit bright for my taste. Is it reasonable to think that someone could replace just the flowers with different colors? And as far as cleaning goes, is it best to go with a professional rug cleaners? Thanks for any information you can give. Sandy

Hi Sandy, Yes, if they are traditional hooked rugs, the wool strips in the flowers can be pulled out and the area re-hooked with a different color. You'll want to make sure though that the same weight of wool and width of strip are used. 

Hooked rugs have to be handled very carefully in cleaning or the loops will pull out. If you use a professional rug cleaner, make sure that they are experienced with traditional hooked rugs. You can clean it yourself in a large basin or the tub. Cool wash with woolite, squeezing the water through, and rinse thoroughly in cool water. Never wring the rug, or agitate it. Dry the rug between two thick bath towels to remove as much water as possible, then dry on a sweater dryer after reshaping if necessary. 

Hope that helps, Diana 

I have been making various types of free standing rugs for some time and have recently tried making punched rugs. I am having a problem with how to finish off the backs, so that the stitches will hold during washing. I have been using a good quality burlap as my base. I have tried the acrylic non-skid paste, but it does not look very neat. I have also tried fusible interfacing, and iron on rug binding. These tend to fall apart when washed. I am looking forward to trying traditional rug hooking, but would like to get some advice on how best to finish off these rugs. Thank you for any help you can give me. Sincerely, Sandra

Dear Sandra, Old fashioned hooked and punched rugs weren't finished on the back, but they were also never machine washed--only hand washed. (The problem with the loops pulling out was why they developed the "Anchored Loop" method where a top thread goes through the loops to secure them.) I *never* recommend the paint-on backings. With punched rugs, one of the strategies that was used was to have a 100% cotton base fabric. Then when the rug was finished, it was put in hot water to shrink the cotton which in most cases will hold the stitches, but it still isn't perfect.

I've tried using just a backing fabric for these rugs, secured with the rug binding, and while it helps, it still isn't good enough for machine agitation. One thing you can try also is to make sure your loops are packed *really* tight, since with burlap, if they aren't, they will pull out with the least provocation. Hope that helps, Diana 


I have been hooking rugs using burlap and monkscloth. I would like to know the best way to attach the braid to a hooked centre. I can muddle through but if there is a tried and true way I would appreciate knowing Many thanks for your help. Joan

Dear Joan, The most reliable way to attach a border of braiding is a combination of 'braid-lacing' and sewing, using linen thread. Pass the needle and thread under the braid-loop at the edge, then the stitching goes along the edge of the hooked piece, working back toward where the thread started, then pass the needle and thread under the *same* braid loop again. It makes sort of a largish back stitch. At the corners, work two or three braid loops to get a good sharp bend. Hope that helps... Diana


I am originally from the mountains of North Carolina. And my mother and her sisters used to hook rugs when they were young to make extra money for the family. I am interested in learning to hook from them but I know I will need supplies. I Am not sure what is name of the type of rug they made. I know it was done on Burlap stretched over a standing wooden frame. The pattern was traced on the burlap( back then traced with coal) Then using hand dyed wool thread was threaded onto the burlap using what they called a shuttle that was held in both hands and clicked back and forth causing a needle to go up and down. This is the method I wish to learn. What is it called and do you sell supplies for this method? 

Dear Lora, 
The rugs that your mother used to make are "punched" rugs or "punch needle" rugs. Because hooked rugs were much better known, and because the front side of the punched rugs looked just like a regular hooked rug, the terminology got a little confused. The tools to make punched rugs varied from a simple punch needle (wood handle with a steel needle in the end) to several types where cranks were turned or wood handles were moved back and forth to make the needle go in and out of the fabric. This latter style of needle was often sold under the name of the "Shuttle hook", which is the type you asked about. (See our Links for suppliers of Shuttle Hooks. )Hope this helps. DBG---------- 


I have just been smitten by this craft. Actually, I haven't done a stitch. I saw some beautiful rag rugs in the August edition of Victorian Homes and decided right then and there that I have to do this. What is the quickest way to get started?. There doesn't seem to be any place in my area that can give me info, as far as I know. I've been to the library and taken out some books, but I have no supply place. I live in the Chicago area and believe it or not, I can't locate a rug place. Please help soon!!!! Thanks, 

Hi there! Delighted to hear that you have been smitten by the rug making bug! As you are finding out it isn't easy to find rug making supplies, but there is quite a community of traditional rug makers, and some suppliers. The internet has been wonderful in having so many of us being able to keep in contact. There is lots of help and advice available. I haven't seen the issue of Victorian Homes, so I don't know for sure which type of rug they had pictures of, but I'd guess that they were probably hooked rugs.

Anyway, to link up with the hooked rug suppliers and sources on line go to (Links) http://www.rughookingonline.com/links.html I especially recommend Deborah Merriam's HOOKED site accessible from the above addresss. Happy Rugmaking!

I'm from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Just recently, I have become interested in making hooked rugs (I found a speed needle at an antique market). I started on my first rug with a piece of burlap, my own design and cut strips (1/8" long) by hand. Cutting the strips by hand seems like too much work. Do you sell patterns already on burlap and strips of wool? Thank you. 

Dear Nancy, We don't sell the wool or burlap, but there are folks who do. The best sources I can steer you to is the Harry M Fraser Company, and Cushing & Co. (See Links)They have printed burlap, wool strips precut, etc. A link to their sites are on our "links" page (click on home or site map at the bottom of this page to get there).

The strip cutters for the narrow strips are great, *but* they are really expensive. The good ones are in excess of $100US, and I really don't recommend them unless you plan on doing a whole lot of rugs! The rotary cutters, with good cutting mats and guides work very nicely while you're getting started. Happy Rugmaking, DBG


I have read some things about handtufted rugs and can not find any information on this type of rug. I understand it is a traditional rug making method. Do you have any information on this type of rug or any books about it. Thank you 

Dear David, 
Hand tufted rugs are a variety of 'punched' rugs and were quite popular in the 20's and 30's, particularly for tufted cotton bathmats. Loops of cotton yarns were 'punched' through the base fabric with a needle from the back side. Usually there was some sort of a pattern (flowers, or a geometric design). When the design was completed, the loops were clipped off evenly on the front side. 

If you want to make your own tufted rug, make a frame a bit larger than the rug you want. Tack a fairly heavy (100% cotton) fabric to it, and sketch a design directly on the back of the rug. A tufting tool can be made by inserting the point of a largish tapestry needle into a cork for the handle. Thread cotton yarn into the eye of the needle and push it through the fabric. On the first insertion, pull the end of the yarn through the fabric. Then move the needle over a bit, push through and hold onto the loop on the bottom as you withdraw the needle. This will leave a loop. Just repeat the process, keeping the stitches close together. 

That's the basics of tufting. Usually, once the design was punched into the rug, the rug was subjected to a gentle, but very hot bath to shrink the cotton fabric and tighten it around the cotton yarn stitches. 

PS. Tufted bedspreads were made on the same general idea but using a needle to stitch each loop. This method does not work well for tufted rugs since a much heavier cotton fabric is used for the base material. ----------

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