Rug hooking is a traditional textile craft practice in Newfoundland, primarily practiced by women. Hooked rugs or mats are made by using a hook to pull loops of fabric through a burlap base, held tightly in a frame. The patterns are created by drawing or tracing an image onto the burlap with pencil, and then filling it in with loops of color. Early mats were made from retired clothing as essential coverings for the floor. The designs once used by rug hookers ranged from simple geometric patterns to more ornate works that would only be displayed in the home's parlour, or brought out from storage when important guests arrived. The designs may have also differed depending on which region of the Island the mat was made in. On the Great Northern Peninsula, for instance, most mats designs would have reflected the Grenfell Tradition. This mat type tends to depict scenes of the North, featuring interactions between humans, animals, and the natural landscape. These kinds of patterns were encouraged and proliferated by Dr. Grenfell as he saw their economic potential. While many rug hookers continue in the Grenfell tradition, there is a contemporary rug hooking movement in Newfoundland that stays true to original techniques while altering materials, designs, and styles. Hooked mats have evolved over time, taking on a new role as decorative wall-hangings, that are frequently made from yarn instead of recycled fabrics. Where once the hooked loop was tiny and low against the burlap, it is now often large, giving the mat a softer appearance. Like for many other textile traditions in Newfoundland, today's mat-makers tend to blend tradition, innovation, convention, and experimentation, in their individual craft pieces.
To learn more about this tradition from the persepctive of a rug hooker, listen to Alice Moores as she discusses her rug hooking skills, and describes the tools, materials and designs that she employs in her practice.
Mrs. Belbin: Newfoundland Mat Maker
Browse/Search Entire DAI Rug Hooking Collection
Back to ICH Topic Collections