To Hook or to Punch? Rugs, that is.

For me it has become a pretty simple question to answer.  While I like the look of traditional hooked rugs, I am smitten with the newer style of punch hooking. 

black hooked mat with coral flowers.

Rug hooking is a big part of East Coast Canadian Culture. I wrote a piece about it as a guest blogger for the Second Annual Digby Multicultural Festival. You can read the post here.

I had never made a hooked rug before moving to Nova Scotia. My only experience with rug making was the ‘shudder’ acrylic latch hooking kits of the 70’s ish era.  Couldn’t bring myself to make one of those even then. Yes, the yarn snobbery is strong with this one. 

When my sister-in-law heard I was taking up rug hooking to get to know the neighbours, she was apprehensive, possibly even worried about my state of mind as she knows well that I prefer elegant to ‘kitch’. She saw what I was working on when she came for a visit. It was not what she expected. She was relieved – and a little impressed! 

My Celtic Dog rug is still a work in progress. Making it up as I go along. It will be lovely when done. Adapted from an original drawing by R. Tulley.

Hit and Miss table mat with hook, in progress.
Traditional 'Hit and Miss' table mat.

The piece shown above, in progress, and then finished, was my first completed rug. It’s a traditional pattern called  ‘Hit & Miss’.  It was from a nice little kit that finished at  20cm (8”) square.  It was worked up with a hook and cut strips of wool (no.6 cut) on burlap.  Briggs and Little Heritage pure wool was used to  whip the edges.

Honestly, I would rather knit than rug hook rugs – but I may have found something that will make it so much better for me. And faster. Yes, I’m all about the speed. Enter the Oxford Punch Needle.

Floral mat in progress. Flowers hooked with wool strips.

I hooked the flowers of this traditional floral mat pattern with cut wool strips but filled in the black background using the punch needle and Briggs and Little wool yarn.  It was so quick! 

There are some key differences between the techniques, but the end result is the same.

In traditional rug hooking, you pull up the loops from the bottom, making sure that each loop is the same height. With the Oxford punch needle, you don’t need to control the height of each loop manually. You simply plunge the needle to its hilt so each loop is the same height.  The work is done on the reverse side, so any lettering or imagery has to be reversed for the right side to come out correctly. 

Yarn is the preferred medium to use with the punch needle, but you can use strips of wool providing they are cut to suit the size of punch needle you have.

I love using yarn because you don’t have to cut it carefully, or invest in a very expensive cutter.  As a seamstress, I want to cry every time I see beautiful wool fabric being cut up when good quality pure wool yarn is readily available.

My favourite Briggs & Little Heritage is superb yarn for punching rugs. It’s cheap, cheerful, and Canadian. It dyes like a dream and wears very well. Have I convinced you yet? Several of the Smiths Cove Rug Hookers have decided to make the switch, for some of their pieces anyways. 

The punch needle also makes the hooking  quick (and easier on the hands)!  I would still be working on the background of the little black chair mat if I had worked it the ‘traditional’ way.  

So which technique do you like better? Have you tried a punch needle?  

See you soon, 


p.s. I haven’t worked on any of my rugs for a few months now and you know, I kind of miss it.

One thought on “To Hook or to Punch? Rugs, that is.

  • Wendy Shrubsole

    Koryna, I’ve wanted to try rug hooking ever since I visited Newfoundland 8 years ago. Any chance you’ll be offering a class in the Oxford Punch Needle method?

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