Hooked rugs

Cheticamp is well known for its hooked rugs and tapestries. (CBC)

While many have gone to Cape Breton and purchased Cheticamp’s world famous hooked rugs, few know how the humble craft was brought to the attention of the world.

The story of the woman who brought those rugs to New York City will be told at the Alexander Graham Bell Museum in Baddeck this week.
Lillian Burke was from Washington D.C. but she helped establish a cottage craft industry in Cheticamp by creating a market for the  rugs in New York City. 

Burke was a friend of Alexander Graham Bell's family and first came to Cape Breton to teach Bell's children. 

Edward Langille, a professor at St. Francis Xavier University, studied Burke and her work. He's giving a presentation on her life and work at the museum on Friday at 2 p.m.

Langille says Burke first visited Cheticamp in the 1920s.

“She felt that the quality of their work was better than she was finding in and around Baddeck and also that the women were very eager to learn, and so therefore she placed orders in Cheticamp and some of the creations were actually monumental,” he said.

Langille says interior designers became fascinated with hooked rugs.

He said Burke moved from Washington to New York City to tap into the industry there.

“New York city was the centre, believe it or not, of the rug hooking industry in America,” said Langille.

“She sold many many hundreds of Cheticamp hooked rugs in New York City to leading interior decorators and designers."

Egyptian influences

Martin Myers is a descendent of Alexander Graham Bell. He put together an accompanying exhibit of her original rug designs.

Myers said many of Burke's original designs will be displayed. Her designs include birds and animals, and a variety of floral patterns. 

He said her rug-hooking work is known to often contain an Egyptian influence.