Australian Rugmaking History

ISSN 2207-001X

Judith Brook in Kingaroy, Queensland has just wound up her rug group for the Summer – she said she’ll probably open up the bright and airy sun room she uses as a Rug Room next February.  


Below are images Judy sent of rugs she and her group have been working on –

Judy’s piece was inspired by a painting on the cover of a Thea Astley poetry book, she used the idea, but created her own version of the scene beyond the window from her memory of a place in New Zealand on the Otago Peninsula.


Lynn English is working on an old punch needle rug lynne_english_hooking_50yr_old_semco_rugher sister started about 50 years ago, and Lynn is determined to finish. It’s a Semco rug pattern Number 269.   Judy says she has Number 268 in her collection of old Semco rug patterns  which includes  240, 285, 286, and 310. (Judith Stephens, Guild President is also collecting old Semco patterns.)  lynne_english_50yr_old_semco_rug



1st_proggy_rug_by_glady_hood_kingaroy_qld_australiaThis proggy rug is the first rug made by Glady Hood who just turned 80. Not bad taking up rug making at 80!

And this little hooky piece is Glady’s first try at hooking. She made it hard for herself by insisting on using an old potatoe sack which she had to double over as it was so gappy.


and the last is a Commercial rug pattern Judy is working on. It’s not a Semco, the name on it is  British Hessian Canvas – Oriental Hooked Rug. Design Number 21.  Judy said she felt bad hooking into such an old piece of Hessian, but was nice not to have to worry about drawing out a design.   british_hessian_canvas_oriental_rug_pattern

Judy is originally from New Zealand and because I’m establishing a History Section on the Guild website (more about that below) I’d asked her to let me know how/when/where/from whom, she learned to rug hook –  here is her response, which has already gone up in the History section:

Judy :

“I have been involved in rug making all my life, as my mother was a rug maker and her mother before her and her mother before her etc.

When I was quite young, we would sit by the fire on winter nights and Mum would unpick old clothing we no longer fitted into or that was past the use by date, and I cut the pieces into clippings for her. Luckily I didn’t mind the cutting, and they were the big old farm scissors too.

The rugs we had on the floor, when we were kids were originally Nanas.  She had started making rugs in New Zealand after having many children and finally having enough to help with the farm work, she got granddad to make her a big wooden frame, (based on the one she’d used in England, which they also used for quilting and lace making and filed down an old Victorian house key to use as a hook.  Which he wrapped some rubber around the top to make it more comfortable.

I remember borrowing it from Mum when I was in the last month of pregnancy with my first child, to do some rugmaking while I was waiting, and the black from the rubber used to come off on my hands.  Instead of wooden pegs on the stretcher frame, (which is pretty big, and still in the possession of my sister in NZ) she used 4 inch nails, which I have along with a hook she must have bought when she went back to England to see her family when her youngest child was a year old.  Nana had templates for the designs she hooked, which were made out of brown paper, she also used kitchen plates etc.  The templates were around when I was a kid but have since disappeared, Unfortunately.

Nana made rugs for other people and sold them to help pay the mortgage and to save up for her trip back to England.

Mum set up the frame, (which she must have gotten from Nana when Nana could no longer hook) in a cleaned out shed at the farm and proceeded to make rugs for various rooms in the house. When they sold the farm and we moved to Dunedin, she set up the rug frame in the garage and proceeded to make new rugs for all the rooms in the house that needed new ones. She used the old sugar sacks as the rug backing and so the rugs are all the full size of the sack opened out or cut in half.

Nana’s old rugs were relegated to the “Crib” (holiday cottage) I did preserve 3 of them, but they are stashed in NZ at the moment.

I don’t think any of my early rugs still survive. Some have been through fire, flood, left out in the weather. etc.

But the ones I’ve made over here generally have had a better existence.  I started out on a big old frame I got my partner to make, based on Nana’s and a hook that was a filed down latch hook, until I met Miriam and she gave me one of Neville’s hooks.

In my returns to NZ I have made many rugs and sold them at markets and through shops and given them to family.  Also taught both my nieces to Hook and Prog, though they prefer hooking as both are very artistic.  I also ran rug classes in Dunedin, Omakau and Cromwell at various times.

I used to teach around here quite a bit, when the kids were small, and the Quilters always asked me to their shows.  Now most people see what I do and go and look it up online.”

These are images taken from articles Mum sent to me long ago –

This picture came from an article on lace making called -  Living Antiques in an old craft magazine, not sure which one
This picture came from an article in an old craft magazine on lace making called –  Living Antiques.
From National Geographic, the rugs are like grandma used to make.
This picture came from National Geographic, the rugs are like grandma used to make.


From the Editor:  Jo Franco

If you’d like to see information about others who were creating rugs in Australia before this Guild was established in 2008 –  click on this  Heading .  To find the History Section without the link, go to the Guild website – if you’re using a laptop/computer  “History of Australian Rughooking” can be found at the bottom of the Menu listed on the left-hand side of each Australian Rugmakers Guild website page.

If you’re viewing a digital device (phone or iPad) you’ll see “Menu” or the 3- dash/lines after “Rughooking Australia”, go there to see the Menu.

The “Header page” explains the project, which will be ongoing. There is a “down arrow” (v) alongside this heading that will bring up the following sub-headings:-

  • Magazine articles about Australian Rugmakers
  • Where to View Australian Rugs
  • Australian Rugmakers – again, the down arrow (v) will take you to a list, alphabetical by last name. Some of these Rugmakers have supplied the information shown. Other entries are from research by me, Jo Franco, from contacts I have made in person and online.

Every effort has been made to contact those listed and obtain permission to show their name.  Where magazine articles are linked, the publishers have been contacted and permission granted.  Anything taken from the internet has been noted and it is assumed if articles are posted online, sharing is implied, with the appropriate acknowledgements of course.

It is hoped that any Australian rugmakers or people who know of Australian rugmakers  will add to this project by sending information or, corrections to entries, to Jo at

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