Old Hook Rugs
Old hook rugs are a time honored tradition in the United States and in other countries. Learn about how hook rugs are made, whether by hand or machine, and how collectible they are in today’s podcast with Sam Presnell, the owner of The Rug Gallery.
John Maher: Welcome to the Rug Gallery with Sam Presnell. The Rug Gallery is an Oriental rug company and carpet store in Cincinnati, Ohio. I’m John Maher and I’m here with the owner of The Rug Gallery, Sam Presnell. Hi, Sam.
Sam Presnell: Hi John.
Hook Rugs Defined
John: So, Sam today we’re talking about old hook rugs. What is a hook rug?
Sam: Yes, I think a lot of people have seen them and don’t realize what they are. When you look at the surface of them, they’re just a loop type of rug and basically, there is a tool that you use to inject the yarn. A braid rug would be made from cloth, [or] it could also be yarn, and they stick it through a canvas backing. A lot of times they’ll put the design on a piece of canvas and then inject into the design where they want to go.
Sometimes it’s free form, like a piece of art, [but] not always. I think the collectability lies in the ones made by hands, made by individuals, who don’t have a preconceived idea what they’re making, [and the rug] is not so, what I say commercial type looking.
How Hook Rugs Are Made
John: So do these tend to be craft people that are making these at home, or is it like oriental rugs, where somebody who is a professional, who does this all the time is making the rugs?
Sam: Well, we have both. It goes way, way back in our history, I would say it goes back at least a couple hundred years as far as making hook rugs. We see them probably even older than that in other parts of the world and in Europe as well. But it is more of Americana type of thing, especially ones done by hand. And then there is a total, we call a commercial grade, which we see a lot out of China, where they pretty much do it that way. And also out of India we see a lot of hooked rugs as well. So there are different grades of hook rugs out there. Most of them today are more commercial and pretty much repetitive, and then there is a total collector market of Americana that appreciates the hand-made hooked rugs made here in the U.S.
John: Right, so it’d be sort of
similar to quilting in that way, and you can go to the store and you can buy a machine-made quilt that’s manufactured, and then you can go and somebody can spend months or a year actually hand quilting a blanket. It will be sort of similar to that.
Sam: Yes, that’s a great comparison. A lot of these folks do it as groups and churches and things like that; they get together. And it’s a hobby or some craft that they enjoy and they all enjoy it and they share it to together, and it’s a way of bringing people together. It is a lot like quilting, in fact that’s what I love about quilting, it’s a communal thing of how it brings [people] together and allows them to share crafts and also talk.
Evaluating Hook Rugs
John: So are old hook rugs good or bad, do you think?
Sam: There’s commercial grades, you see so many of them that it really doesn’t matter to me. I’m not turned on by them. I don’t [think there’s a whole lot of] resellability to those but there is some. I think what I call the Americana, the hand-hooked rugs, there is a real market for collectors on that. And that is good. We’re seeing a revival of that in certain pockets in America especially, I would say, the Carolinas. In fact, in the Northeast and certain areas, in upstate New York, there is that certain look and style that fits in that cabin or farm house type of look.
Hook Rugs vs. Oriental Rugs
John: So how do hook rugs compare to what we would consider Oriental rugs?
Sam: Well, it’s totally different in the style sense. Yes, you do have flowers in both types of rugs, but you definitely have a bigger scale, not as complex, and I think more fun type of crudeness or whatever you want to call it, to a hooked rug that you’re not going to find in more of a tighter, finer, sophisticated, Persian or Middle Eastern type of Oriental rug. So it’s totally different look and style and [even] in colors usually. There is no knotting in a hooked rug, it’s a latch hooking, and [in] Oriental rugs, [there] is definitely a couple of knotting techniques. It involves a total different construction. There is really isn’t a whole lot things that look like hooked rugs and Oriental rugs, but there are some similarities, and maybe [the maker of an Oriental rug] stole that design for an old hook rug.
For more information about hooked rugs, see The Hooked Rug Museum of North America.