Editor’s note : 20-Oct-2016 – This delightful family history of rugmaking was emailed to me by Judy who is now living in Queensland and runs a rug hooking group in the town of Kingaroy.
“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 clipping 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. and 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.
Nanas 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 Nanas 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. But I have the sun room set up now as my rug room, as its light and airy. I have just wound up my rug group for the summer, will probably resume in Feb or so.”