Wool’s Happenin’

Caring for Cats, Rug Hooking, Cooking, & Updating Our Home

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The Rug Hooking Article That Never Was

January 21st, 2010 · 12 Comments · rug hooking, tutorial

Back in December 2007, I wrote an article for an online publication that is now defunct.   I worked really hard on it and had a great deal of help from fellow rug hookers and the Big Boo.  We were SO excited at the prospect of bringing this article to an audience that might enjoy learning to hook rugs, and although the Wool’s Happenin’ readership is currently fairly small, every crafter enjoys a good tutorial, right?  If you’re not currently a rug hooker, I hope maybe this will inspire you to pick up the hook.


In August 2001, about two weeks before I started my first semester of law school in the evening division at Indiana University School of Law at Indianapolis, I met a woman who was demonstrating what I later learned was rug hooking at Pioneer Village at the Indiana State Fair.  Little did I know that I was about to embark on a great adventure that has enriched my life in ways I could never have imagined.  This article is only a smidgen of what I could share with you about one of my favorite topics–primitive rug hooking.  Its purpose is to get you started with the basics and to assure you that ANYBODY can hook a rug.  As I tell anybody who will listen, it is truly easier than falling off a log.  So, find a comfortable chair, good light, your favorite beverage, and adjust your glasses.  Some wonderful friends of mine have graciously shared their beautiful rugs, and my husband has taken lots of great photos for us.  Let’s get you started hooking rugs!

As with a lot of crafts, there are about as many ways to hook a rug as there are rug hookers (or “hookers” as we’re often called).  And as you’ll quickly find, there are some hookers who enjoy hooking with a wider strip of wool, often referred to as primitive rug hookers.  These hookers work with wider strips of wool, usually at least 3/16″ wide (known as a #6 cut) to about 5/16″ wide (known as a #10 cut).  Some hookers really enjoy working with strips of wool that are more narrow, usually ranging in width from 3/32″ wide (known as a #3 cut) to about 5/32″ wide (known as a #5 cut).  These hookers employ lots of shading, and when you see their rugs, they look like paintings with wool.  These rugs are breathtakingly gorgeous, and hookers who make these rugs often refer to themselves as traditional rug hookers.  Most hookers I know prefer either primitive or traditional, but I’m certain there are hookers out there who like to do both! I just haven’t met them yet!  Whichever width you may decide you enjoy better later (fettuccine or spaghetti) the fundamental technique of pulling loops of wool through backing is the same.  It’s just the width of the wool that is different.  Once you get the basics down, you can decide what you like best.  Because I like the wider cut best, the examples given in this article will use the wider cut.

Materials to get started:

  • A hook
  • Strips of wool
  • A frame or quilting hoop
  • A pair of scissors


In this photo, I have a very simple little snowman called Happy Snowman designed by Bev Stewart (Clayton, Indiana).  The wool strips on the left are my snowman wool, and the other ones are his buttons, eyes, mouth, and the strip of orange is his nose.  The pattern is drawn on linen with a Sharpie marker.  And you see my hook and a pair of scissors.


This is an example of a small lap frame.  It rotates and tilts, and I’ve used it since the first time I picked up a hook.  Another option is a quilting frame, but you want to be certain that you get the kind that has the locking lip in order to pull your foundation tight across the hoop.  I use both hands when I hook, and I’m not very coordinated so I’m not sure how I’d do with a hoop.  However, it is an option.


It’s important to get your pattern pulled taut on your frame before you start hooking in order to make it easier to pull loops through your foundation. Now I’m going to show you how to make some loops.  Since I’m right handed, I’m going to take my strip of wool in my left hand and put it under my frame.  I’m then going to take my hook in my right hand and poke down through the pattern to get the tail of the strip so I can pull it through the foundation.

Pulling 1st Tail(Small).JPG

This left what we call a tail.  Now I’m going to skip a hole and poke down through the next hole and pull up a loop.

1st Loop (Small).JPG

Notice that I’m staying inside the line.  When it’s an outside line like the outside line of our snowman, we stay on the inside of the line so that our motif doesn’t expand.

Hook Inside Line (Small).JPG

So I’ll keep going along skipping another hole, poking down, grabbing my strip of wool and pulling up and through the hole.  The key to even loops is to rock back on the loop you just made and to pull down with the hand that is under your frame.  Also, if you are having problems pulling your loop up through the hole, pull your hook more sideways through the hole rather than straight up.

Nice, Even Loops (Small).JPG

Mouth On the Line (Small).JPG

I will continue until I come to the end of my strip or the end of my motif. Then I’ll finish the end of my strip by putting two tails in the end of one hole and clip flush with my loops.  In hooking, everything is finished on top–no knots. Some tips:

  • You want to always hook the details first and then fill in.
  • Your loops should touch shoulders but not hug.
  • The direction of your loops can give your rug motion.  See some of my comments in the rugs below.
  • No wool is ugly! It all has potential.  You just have to find it.
  • ALWAYS HAVE FUN HOOKING!  Whatever you do that you later decide you don’t like can be undone.  There is no counting.  There aren’t really that many rules.  And please put them on the floor, walk on them, live with them, let your kids play on them.  Enjoy them!

    I promised you a collection of rugs, which some of my friends in the rug hooking group The Woolkeepers shared with me and Big Boo photographed.  I have included details about the rug’s designer, color planner(s), and hooker. I will also offer a few comments that might help you as you begin to hook.  As much as I love the internet, I do wish that we were sitting together eyeball to eyeball so that we could feel the texture of the wool, see the colors, and really study the rugs together.  I’d also love to meet you and for you to meet the talented people I get to spend time hooking with.  Since that’s not possible just now, let’s do the next best thing, shall we?  Let’s look at some rugs!

    Stars All Around (Small).jpg

    The first one is my very first rug, which is called Stars All Around.  It was designed and color planned by Bev Stewart (Clayton, Indiana).  It is a small rug, a mat really, 16″ wide x 12″ tall.  The wool is #8 cut (1/4″ wide strips) on burlap. There are a couple of things I want to point out.  The first is the order I hooked the elements of the rug.  I hooked the stars first, then the dividing lines, then the squares, and then the border.  Also, notice the direction of the squares, and the random colors of the strips used for the squares.  This is called “hit or miss.”  When Bev designed this, she drew arrows on the pattern indicating which way to hook, and that gave the piece motion.  Do you see what I mean?  If I had hooked all of them the same way, that would have been pretty boring, but because she designed them to go in opposite directions, it keeps your eyes moving.  The hit or miss is fun because it adds color AND it’s a great way to use up leftover strips.

    Starstruck Cat (Small).JPG

    The next rug was my third rug, and I was drawn to the pattern because it reminded me of my cat, Sophie.  At the time, she was my only cat, and we lived in a condo on a lake where she spent lots of her day watching birds.  I was charmed by the bird on the cat’s back, and I chose an “ugly” wool to use for the bird.  The pattern is called Starstruck Cat and was designed by Patsy Becker (Holmdel, New Jersey) and was color planned by Bev Stewart and me.  We had a great time playing with the color in this rug.  Notice how we used different purples in the sky and greens in the grass, which gives motion to the rug. The border is a modified hit or miss in that it uses the colors from the rug, which draws your eye to the edge, but the colors are not in any certain order.  Also, I decided not to hook the cat’s whiskers and instead used perle cotton.  Stars and cats are two of my favorite things, and this rug brought them together nicely.

    Wheres Jonah (Small).jpg

    Speaking of whimsy, Rita Ozment (Coatesville, Indiana) worked on Where’s Jonah? during her first workshop with Barbara Carroll (who designed and color planned the rug).  I love the red whale-both the unexpected color as well as the texture.  And the boat, paddle, and net are fun, too.  Notice that Rita added her initials and the year, which is an old rug hooking tradition.

    Stars & Fans(Small).JPG

    This rug, Stars and Fans, was designed by Sally Kallin (Pine Island, Minnesota), hooked by Bev Stewart, and color planned by Sally Kallin. If you are really interested in recreating primitive rugs, this is an excellent example to study.  The first thing you might notice is the “chunks” in the background behind the star.  When we’re lucky enough to see old rugs, they often look worn like that.  When rugs were made more for utilitarian purposes and less for decoration, the object was to fill in the space, and that also accounts for more of the “chunky” look, too.  Squint and see if you can find the vintage paisley.  The use of wool that’s been around for a while usually adds age to a rug, too.

    Primitive Horse (Small).jpg

    Primitive Horse was designed by Margo White (Zionsville, Indiana) and color planned and hooked by Denise Snavely (Zionsville, Indiana). This rug is another great example of a primitive rug and is hooked with mostly “as is” wool (wool that is directly off the bolt and not overdyed) and a few that were hand-dyed by Denise. The background of this rug is so cool and I really love how it’s incorporated into the horse, too

    Floral Rug (Small).jpg

    Floral Rug was designed by Lib Callaway and color planned and hooked by Mickie Peck (Greencastle, Indiana).  This is another terrific example of a really great old looking rug.  From the design of the flowers to the hooking background–did you notice the colors and the “chunks” of different shades?  The different shades give a really nice texture to the rug.


    Here’s another pattern designed by Lib Callaway.  This pattern is called Stars & Flowers and was color planned by Bev Stewart (Clayton, Indiana) and Marilyn Oehler (Terre Haute, Indiana) and was hooked by Bev Stewart.  There’s great texture in this rug, and again it’s old looking by virtue of the fact that Lib Callaway patterns are antique looking.  Notice the pink in the flowers-it draws the dyes out to the edge of the rug.


    I never thought I would utter the words “awesome turkey!” but I certainly did when I first saw this rug.  It is called Primitive Gobbler and was designed by Anne Nichols.  It is from Need Love’s Falloween Threads.  This particular rug was color planned by Sally Kallin (Pine Island, Minnesota) and hooked by Denise Snavely (Zionsville, Indiana).  Denise used some vintage paisley here and there, some of her hand-dyed, as-is, and a few from Sally.  I love the blue feathers, which are very unexpected, as well as the flowers on either side of the turkey.  Also notice the colors of the turkey’s feathers are echoed in the flowers and in the border.


    This is Jumbo Star, and Lib Callaway designed it. Bev Stewart (Clayton, Indiana) hooked this one, and I noticed in my notes, she told me that it was the hardest rug she’s ever color planned.  There are several people in our group who have hooked this rug, and I have seen many of these done as I’ve visited rug shows.  It’s one that’s fun to see done because there is so much going on in it.


    Burning Hills was designed by Barbara Carroll (Ligonier, Pennsylvania) and is based on the artwork of Warren Kimble.  This rug was color planned and hooked by Mickie Peck (Greencastle, Indiana).  What do you think of the sky?  How about the trees? And that barn?


    Mr. Kringle, designed and color planned by Barbara Carroll (Ligonier, Pennsylvania) and hooked by Bev Stewart (Clayton, Indiana) is the rug that made me realize that I wanted to become a rug hooker.  On my first night of beginning rug class, Bev showed us this rug because she had just gotten back from Pennsylvania.  Isn’t the bird neat?


    This rug is called Blue Antique Basket and is designed by Edyth O’Neill.  It was color planned by Bev Stewart (Clayton, Indiana) and hooked by Mickie Peck (Greencastle, Indiana).  It was Mickie’s first real big rug, and it is neat.  This is a great example of what a dark background can do to really “pop” colors.  Look, for example, at the red and green against the brownish background of the middle of the rug.  You can see the contrast, but it’s not nearly as much of a difference as the outside border.


    Woolley Sheep is designed and color planned by Barbara Carroll (Ligonier, Pennsylvania) based on the artwork of Warren Kimble.  This guy is hooked by me, Jill Carnell (Indianapolis, Indiana).  He was my first “real” rug after my beginner piece.  He’s a great neutral piece and goes great with all the sheep decor in my home.  He lays on the floor in my family room as a constant reminder that folk art is all about folks making art.  The cats and myriad kids walk on him all the time.  Like I said–enjoy your rugs!


    Charles Gay designed Cabin on the Lake, color planned and hooked by Mickie Peck (Greencastle, Indiana). The tree is really terrific in this rug, and I especially like how it extends into the border.  Don’t you want to stay in that cabin and swim in that lake?


    Barbara Carroll (Ligonier, Pennsylvania) designed and color planned 1885 Horses, and Denise Snavely (Zionsville, Indiana) hooked it. This is a great example of another awesome primitive rug.  All the wools are as-is with a bit of vintage paisley in some of the flowers.


    Lori Cravens (Zionsville, Indiana) designed this sheep purse, and she and Mickie Peck (Greencastle, Indiana) color planned it.  Mickie hooked it.  I’m sure it will come as no surprise to my sisters and brothers in the fiber arts that hookers are also lovers of the sheepies.  I’m kind of hoping that Mickie forgets she brought it to my house for the photo shoot.  Don’t you love the sheep’s spots?


    Gently Down the Stream was designed by Sally Kallin (Pine Island, Minnesota) and was color planned by her and me. I was also assisted by Bev Stewart (Clayton, Indiana) as I hooked it.  This is my first pass at a pictorial rug, and I picked it because I was quite taken by the idea of a bunny rowing the chicken family down the stream.  Sally found a vintage postcard, a copy of which comes with the pattern, and designed it based on the postcard.  It was a #7 cut (7/32″), which isn’t teeny, but I am a wide-cut girl, and getting around all the flowers and the weeds seemed to take forever.  However, I am very pleased with the finished product, and I think Sally’s color plan turned out beautifully.  I am especially tickled with the bunny, which I changed to remind me of the many bunnies who hang out in our back yard.


    Finally, in order to prove that males also hook rugs, I have included a photo of my “little” brother, Dr. Kyle Ferrill (Indianapolis, Indiana).  He hooked Funky Chicken, designed by Pris Buttler for his first (and so far only, but I’m working on it) project, which was color planned by Bev Stewart (Clayton, Indiana).  I’ve also included this in case you’re wondering if anybody ever uses brighter colors or likes rugs that aren’t necessarily primitive.  Yes and yes.

    I have listed the contact information for the designers and suppliers I mentioned in my article.  If you have questions about something that I mentioned that isn’t listed here, please contact me.

  • Barbara Carroll It’s obvious from the rugs pictured in the article that we’re big fans of Barb.  I highly recommend her books, especially The Secrets of Primitive Hooked Rugs, which is a great primer for the beginning rug hooker. Barbara Carroll also has Edyth O’Neill’s rug patterns. Visit her at www.woolleyfox.com
  • Sally Kallin-You’ll find lots of primitive patterns on Sally’s website. Visit her at www.pineislandprimitives.com.
  • Hook Nook-Supplier of Lib Callaway patterns at www.hook-nook.com
  • Whispering Pines Rug Designs, Bev Stewart-Bev taught me how to hook rugs.  If you’re in Central Indiana and want to learn to hook rugs, you might want to get to know her.  Her enthusiasm and love of this craft is contagious.  Stars All Around and Happy Snowman are her patterns and are available by contacting her at 317.839.3612.  She also has loads of wool, heaps of patterns, hooks, frames, scissors, and everything else you need for rug hooking.
  • Denise Snavely-Denise is one of the most talented ladies I know.  Her rugs are beautiful, and she’s a wonderful quilter, too.  And her wool applique is quite divine as well.  She has frames, gripper strips, and vintage paisley available on ebay.  Sometimes you might catch some hand-dyed wool, too.  Her ebay username is scoobydo595 or contact her via email at villagewool@sbcglobal.net.
  • Mickie Peck-When she’s not hooking rugs, you’re likely to find Mickie in the dye pots, which is where she’s been a lot lately.  Her ebay username is woolhappy or contact her via email at jmanpeck@gmail.com.
  • Lori Cravens-Lori designed the purse that Mickie made.  Contact her via email at frommetoewe@tds.net.
  • Woolkeeperswww.woolkeepers.com.
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    12 Comments so far ↓

    • Doris Rudd

      Jill, this is terrific! I’ll be sure to come back often.

    • Shannon Henry

      Wow, this was wonderfully in depth! I had no idea of the variety of rug hooking out there – I just might try some!

      Oh, and although I’m sure it wasn’t one of your intended results, this made me realize that I should really get something like that frame. It would make my sewn circuitry projects go so much faster and more smoothly. I had just never made the connection of “hey, since I’m basically embroidering the connections onto the fabric, a stable frame would really help just like in embroidery!” until I saw that frame picture and your mention of quilting frames and it all clicked together. So thank you!

    • Kay

      Jill, Thank you for sharing! I am a new rug hooker after several false starts, and I have to say the one thing that helped me get going was making sure I had a good hooking frame. Previously I had tried doing it with yarn on my lap as one person advocated, but that just made me more frustrated. Finally, I just took my work into the business of Rug Art Supply in Beaverton, OR, and those ladies really helped me overcome my difficulties. Since I didn’t initially have hooking frame, I did find that an embroidery frame was a good short term substitute – depending on the size of the work.

    • Anne Nichols

      Jill, thank you for your kind words about my turkey pattern. I am glad you enjoyed hooking Primitive Gobbler. You should send me a picture and I would love to share it on my website in my customer gallery. (www.picturetrail.com/annetiques) Your rugs are beautiful keep up the good work. Happy hooking, Anne Nichols

    • Brenda Clark

      Are you having a hook-in coming up with vendors. I spoke with Laurie from St. Louis and she mentioned it but I do not have the details.

    • Linda Dehner

      Beautiful rugs. I have hooked rugs for over 8 years. Made dozens of them. I love to design my own pattern but use ready made patterns I like. I would be interested in attending classes or get togethers on rug hooking, as I live on the far south side.

    • Jill Dian

      Love the way you explain rug hooking…I’ve been hooking small projects for just a few months and still need all the help I can get! Thanks from one Jill to another!

    • Julia Watt

      I have interest in the quilt frame. Can you give me a website as to where you got it?

    • Connie

      I am friends with Diane and Charles Gay. I learned to hook from them and own a rug or two that they created. I was thrilled to see Charles was shown here with one of his designs. Wonderful people and now I am addicted to hooking!

    • Cathy

      Am looking at the dates per these postings. . .and realize that all is the ‘now’ for sites such as this. Love the enthusiasm and love of rug hooking that brought your sharing to ‘light’. . .It is still shining; and so enjoyed the read and the rugs! Hope all here, sharing their story; are doing well.

      • admin

        Thank you for the kind words… We are working on updating the blog, and Jill is ready to get back into the blogosphere!

    • GoldLions

      To Barbara Carroll ,

      Would love to buy an exact copy of your Woolley Sheep rug. Colors and sheep are AWESOME. Please write if interested.

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