Nfld. & Labrador

Brin, yarn and a comfy chair: Let's hook some rugs!

There's a good reason why rug hooking has been enjoying a renaissance in the Newfoundland and Labrador craft community.

Weekend AM listeners were invited to join host Heather Barrett and guests for a live 'hook in' on May 2

That is one vibrant display of hooked mats! Renee Ryan calls it Pandemic Time. (Renee Ryan/Twitter)

Rug hooking is a traditional textile practice, and of late — thanks in part to many people being home because of the COVID-19 pandemic — it's been enjoying a renaissance in the Newfoundland and Labrador craft community.

On last weekend's edition of CBC Radio's Weekend AM, host Heather Barrett invited Kelley Fewer, president of the Rug Hooking Guild of Newfoundland and Labrador, and Winnie Glavine, the guild's social media director, to be part of the live broadcast "hook-in."

Listeners called in from a number of towns and communities, from Paradise to Harbour Grace, from Gander to Springdale to Tilting on Fogo Island.

Betty Heath of Lake Elmo, Minn., who first visited the province during the Cabot 500 celebrations in 1997, also dialled in to share her stories.

Beauty born of necessity

Kelly Fewer explained the "hit and miss" mat as being one of the oldest traditional mat styles, and also one of the easiest. "A set of squares on a mat, hook the strips in any order … vertical, horizontal," she said. 

According to the Intangible Cultural Heritage section of the Memorial University website, "Early mats were made from retired clothing as essential coverings for the floor. The designs once used by rug hookers ranged from simple geometric patterns to more ornate works that would only be displayed in the home's parlour, or brought out from storage when important guests arrived."

Today's rug hookers are creating all sorts of contemporary patterns and designs, while staying true to original patterns of days gone by.

Over the course of the show's broadcast, listeners were invited to submit photos of their rug hooking talents. They tweeted and sent photos via email, which you can view below. Don't forget to listen to the audio, also below, for the wonderful stories and memories shared by listeners.

This is one of 100-plus beautiful rugs Diane Burton has made. Some of her work has also been featured at The Beaches Arts and Heritage Centre in Eastport. (Submitted by Diane Burton)
Kelley Fewer, seen here at home in Summerford, is the president of the Rug Hooking Guild of Newfoundland and Labrador. (Submitted by Kelley Fewer)
This is a hooked rug portrait of Judy Fudge's dog, Pippi. Sweet! (Submitted by Judy Fudge)
Winnie Glavine, social media director of the Rug Hooking Guild of Newfoundland and Labrador, works on a whale scene. (Submitted)
An artistic use of hooked mats to liven up a set of steps! (Submitted by Susan Locke)
Patricia Parsons has just finished this hooked rug, based on a piece of art by Nova Scotia folk artist Maud Lewis. (Submitted by Patricia Parsons)

Listen in! Tune into the Weekend AM podcast, featuring the live "hook-in"

Sybil Dornan sent along this beautiful 4'x3' rug that her dad hooked for her husband years ago. 'He drew the RCMP crest freehand,' writes Dornan. (Submitted by Sybil Dornan)
This is titled The Battery, circa 1960, by Ruth Noseworthy. (Submitted by Ruth Noseworthy)
This is Fort Amherst, a hooked rug of the iconic landmark in St. John's. (Submitted by Susan Morris)

Already hooked

These images — while not shared from last weekend's radio broadcast — have been featured in various CBC Newfoundland and Labrador features in the past. Enjoy.

This hooked rug, The Eight Sisters, is one of Jackie Alcock's rugs displayed at the Hooked Rug Museum of North America, in Queensland, N.S. (Submitted by Jackie Alcock)
Retired surgeon Allan Kwan took up rug hooking as a retirement project in 2010. (Submitted by Alan Kwan)
These are some of Jason Ross Sellars's hooked rugs that were on display at the Craft Council Gallery in St. John's in 2019. (Submitted)
In his book, Son of a Critch, comedian Mark Critch described a day in May when he stood on a snow bank and a Camaro blasting Great Big Sea raced past him, tossing a Tim Hortons cup out the window and flipping him off. 'But they don't make hooked mats out of that!' he wrote. Maureen Ashfield turned that scene into a reality! (Submitted by Maureen Ashfield)

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Lisa Gushue

CBC News

Lisa Gushue is a newsreader and digital editor with CBC News in St. John's.