Saturday, July 18, 2009

Some "New" Books

For quite some time now, I have been enjoying the very old books about rughooking: the books that precede rughooking becoming an art, the books that were written for the hobbyist or the homemaker - back in the 1930s and 1940s - before Pearl McGown had become a known doyenne of hooking. This past week, I have enjoyed two such books. One of them, by Stella Hay Rex, Practical Hooked Rugs, was written in 1949 - I've kept my eye open for a copy of that book for about ten years and finally found one on the internet. The other one is a book I had never heard about, it's titled How to Hook Rugs by Mary Perkins Taylor and published in 1930. The Perkins book has one color picture and the rest are black and white, the Rex book is all black and white. The lack of color might seem like a handicap in this day and age, but somehow, it's like back when we watched black and white television, we get to create the colors in our imagination and the black and white illustrations then become very colorful.

Perkins teaches about using wide strips - the kind we would call nines or tens today, and shows mostly how to use them in geometric designs. The discussions about creating designs are just marvelously down to earth and homey - use a plate and saucer for one design, geometric lines and drawings for others. Perkins says, "Hooking is the simplest sort of manual work. There is nothing difficult or complicated in the use of the hook."

In her preface, Rex says, "...I have tried to give the individual hooker, whether beginner or advanced, some standard of instruction to follow to produce an inexpensive, substantial, and artistic floor covering. inspire the hooking craftsman to achieve originality and individuality of expression.".

There is something gentle and relaxed about both of these books, about the attitude of both authors toward hooking - there is no instructional intensity like we find in more modern books.
There is mention in the earlier book that well-made rugs will be part of a heritage, but the more modern attitude that we are making something for future generations to venerate is pleasantly lacking - I enjoyed spending some time with the old-fashioned idea of making rugs for the sake of having rugs.

Both of these books are well worth reading, but definitely not easy to find. If anyone reading this blog has a source for any other old hooking books, please let me know at

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