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The Happy Hooker

April 21, 2011

My mother is a hooker. No, not that kind of hooker. Get your mind out of the gutter. She is a rug hooker. Okay, bad joke I know, and far from original but somehow I don’t think the sweet ol’ grannie hookers will ever grow tired of it. This one’s for you mom. Not that you’re an old granny, well you kind of are but…wow, it just keeps getting worse. I’m moving on to the next paragraph where hopefully I can extract the foot from my mouth.

Over the years Mom has tried her hand at a few different forms of fiber art before settling on hooking. She knew the minute she tried it that it was her expressive voice of choice. She loves it so much that she will do it for hours and hours on end without stopping to eat, stretch, get a drink of water, or even for a bathroom break. Try that when you’re in your seventies and your aching bones are nattering at you incessantly. She just gets that absorbed in the fleece and ‘happiness is’ when she is inside her fiber art dust cloud. Further testament to her obsession is the fact that she can ignore the dust created from her hooking storms. This woman is a self-confessed clean freak. She used to follow us around when we were kids and pick up linen or thread deposits left in our path as we walked about the house.

I tried rug hooking once, after being tugged along by moms lure. To her disappointment, I didn’t bite. Maybe later I told her, when I’m older and grayer and ready to volunteer myself for counting sheep. Her dreams of a mother-daughter hooker team have been dashed, but not deterred; she will keep on trying until at least one of her daughters takes to this craft. For now at least she has settled on me being her fiber supply shopping buddy. This part I love. Shopping around for used wool blankets and old tweed jackets for her to wash, dye, and cut into strips is fun. Selecting pre-dyed felt sheets is also fun. The assortment of rich, bright colors makes me salivate. Seeing all this recycled wool turned into trees, stormy skies, fluffy clouds, or rock fences on rugs, while simultaneously telling a folk tale is just pure magic.

Kudos to all the ingenious individuals in the world, especially those with limited means, who can take a utilitarian need and combine it with the power of art. To me, that’s what makes design, design. I’ve read that hooked rugs had their start on the northeast coast of North America. Buying rugs from Europe was too expensive and the floors were awfully cold on your tootsies ten out of the twelve months a year. In cases like these it’s only natural that human ingenuity took hold. Feet need to stay warm, floors need a rug, winter woolen coats wear out, stories need an alternative voice, money’s tight, heritage has to get passed on, and throwing away used burlap was considered a waste. Why not mix it up? And voila! – the native hooked rug is born. In the words of the fascinating Mr. Spock, “the needs of the many, are greater than the needs of the few.”

My mother made this rug for me. I don’t think I’m worthy of it but I promise, I will love and care for it for all my livelong days. Doing so, not only because I really do love it but also because I know the love and the care that was put into the making of it. The design is adapted from an oil painting by Canadian artist Rajka Kupesic. It appears in an award-winning book by Maxine Trottier called Claire’s Gift. The story is about, what else? Rug hooking! Of course.

I am so glad my mom channels her positive energy into pushing and pulling wool strips through burlap grids. I am happier still that she generously made one for every member of her family; her children and her grandchildren, just as Ma Tante did in Claire’s Gift. That’s love and dedication for you!

Photo of a hooked rug by Jan Hague

Claires Gift, adapted and hooked by Jan Hague

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