A Survey of Rug-Making Techniques, from Locker Hooking to Punching

Locker hooking
An interesting method that was supposedly developed in Australia, locker hooking uses a special tool to make rugs that look like needlepoint but use a technique that combines rug hooking and crochet.

The key to the whole process is the locker hook, a six-inch-long metal rod that has a hook at one end and an eye at the other. It was originally designed to be used with unspun fiber, like wool or mohair fleece, and rug canvas.

The idea was to hold the strand of fleece under the canvas and use the hook end of the tool to pull the fleece through a hole in the canvas. After several loops had been pulled up and left on the tool, it would then be used like sewing needle and pulled through all the loops. A strand of yarn that had been threaded through the eye would then pass through all the loops of fleece, “locking” them in place (hence the name “locker hook”).

Locker hooking does not have to be done with fleece, though. It works just as well with fabric strips or even very thick yarn.

Most people probably wouldn’t think to use macrame for rug making. But some of the macrame knots can be adapted very easily for this purpose. For example, horizontal or vertical half hitches, if tied tightly using sturdy cord, would wear well on a floor, and would produce a fabric that looks almost woven.

The big issue with macrame is dealing with all the loose ends. Macrame does not use continuous strands. Instead, each cord must be cut at the beginning of the project, to a length that is six to ten times the length of the finished piece. All those loose ends could make for a terrible tangle if they’re not rolled up individually and handled carefully.

Needlepoint is normally done on small canvas with yarn, but there’s no reason why it couldn’t be “enlarged” using fabric strips and rug canvas. You’d need to use a needle with a very large eye, or you might be able to get away with not using a needle at all by just poking the fabric into the holes and then pulling it through with your other hand. This process might be time-consuming, but it has interesting possibilities.

This technique, which is called “prodding” in England, uses burlap, fabric strips, and a punch (or prodding tool) that has a dull point at one end. It can produce a fabric that’s similar to what’s made with regular hooking, but there is a major difference. In regular hooking, you work from the front of the rug and pull the fabric up from the back, while in punching you work from the back and push the fabric to the front.

Obviously you have to learn how to control the size of the loops; this comes with practice. There’s also a higher-end punch that automatically regulates the loop size. And there’s a very high-end tool with a handle that, as the handle’s turned, punches the fabric yarn through and moves to the next spot, speeding up the process quite a bit.

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