Hooking rugs that look like dogs
How I Do It
What is rug hooking
Rugs are hooked by pulling loops of fabric strips or yarn through the holes of a base fabric with a coarse open weave, like burlap, or linen, or rug warp. The loops are pulled through the fabric with a squat-handled hook whose business end is shaped similarly to a crochet hook. There are no knots and the loops aren't sewed down in any way. The whole thing stays put just by the tension of all those loops packed together in the weave of the foundation fabric.
I hook with yarn, rather than with cut strips of wool fabric, which is what many rug hookers use. I can get a looser, more organic distribution of loops with yarn than I could with wool strips, which are hooked in neat lines.
Mostly I use wool yarn. In terms of yarn weight, I can use DK, worsted, or Aran. If I'm using thicker yarn, I leave more holes un-hooked; if I'm using finer yarn, I hook more densely or double up lengths of it. I particularly like using single ply yarns (like Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride or Malabrigo Worsted). I don't keep count, but I think I usually use around two dozen types and colors of yarn per dog.
This is my yarn wall in my apartment.
Mostly brown and gray yarn!
I start from a small drawing in my sketchbook, then I head to FedEx office to use a copy machine, blowing up the drawing repeatedly and experimenting with how big the dog rug should be.
I trace the enlargement onto parchment tracing paper. Lightweight tracing is easier to use with my transfer method than using the slightly heavier copy paper of my xeroxed enlargement.
To transfer the enlarged drawing onto my base fabric, I use Saral transfer paper. You can see the red transfer paper underneath my tracing. I'm using a red colored pencil to transfer so I can see what lines I've already done.
After transferring the image onto my linen, I immediately go over it with Sharpie, because the Saral is really difficult to see and really easy to rub off.
The piece is held taut by a PVC quilting frame that I set on my lap.
I jab my hook down through the fabric with my right hand and my left hand stays below the fabric and guides the yarn while I pull it up and through with the hook.
Not every hole in the fabric is hooked. Hooking every hole would make the rug too dense. I do hook pretty densely, though-- If you pick up one of my rugs you’ll see they have a slight curl to them, which is because they’re hooked pretty tight. I'm using all different weights and types of yarn, so it's a challenge to keep the overall tension even.
I look at a reference photo while I work. I pull out and redo sections a lot.
My q-snap frame can accommodate the growing dog rug. I have extenders to make it bigger and I can clamp around my hooking.
I hook my loops at varying heights to create a very low relief. Sometimes I trim the loops to make them fluffier or wispier or to shape a particular part.
Here's a photo of what the back of a rug looks like-- basically just like little stitches.
Lines of hooking are not supposed to cross over each other! You have to start a new length of yarn. I read this somewhere when I first started and took it to heart. It makes it easier to undo and redo hooking if you have to (and I redo sections A Lot). It also keeps the back from getting too bulky and resulting in uneven wear on the back of a functional rug that gets floor use.
When I’m done hooking everything I turn the rug over and brush watered-down Sobo glue on the edges of the dog, making sure to get one or two of the outermost lines of hooking. I do a couple coats of this thinned out glue. I'm careful not to use so much that it seeps to the front of the rug. When the glue is dry I cut the rug out, but I don't cut so close that the loops don't have any linen to keep them in.
It generally takes me at least several months to finish one dog rug. My hooking frame and yarn bag are very portable so I can hook out and about at coffee shops or the library or a brewery if there's enough light.
Hooking in the wild makes me an ambassador for making things in general and rug hooking in particular. I answer people's questions and always emphasize how relatively easy it is to get started hooking.
Two great resources for the basics of rug hooking if you've never done it before:
Judy Taylor's How To Hook With Yarn