History of the Edmonton Rug Hooking Guild

Concern that traditional as well as native handicrafts might not survive the industrial age resulted in the formation of the Canadian Handicrafts Guild (CHG) in Montreal in 1902. Edmonton became a branch of the CHG in 1922. In 1968 the Alberta group become an independent organization called the Alberta Handicrafts Guild.  

On Thursday, October 31, 1985, at the Southwest Cultural Centre, with 14 members present the “Alberta Handicrafts Guild, Edmonton Branch Traditional Rug Hooking” was formed. The objective was the preservation and advancement of traditional rug hooking. In December 1986 the Guild moved to a larger space at the Pleasantview Hall at 10860 – 57 Avenue where they meet to this day.  

Charter Members of the Guild who formed the group include:

Shirley Caswell Sylvia Enfield Fran Fahlman Gwen Field
Ethel Kramer Ruth Kendal Aileen McHugh Imogene Monks
Jean Nemirsky Lucille Oddson Ruth Small Fran Stelck
Frances Sutherland Joan Williams  

Source: Forever Hooked: Traditional Rug Hooking, compiled by the Edmonton Rug Hooking Guild. Copies of the book are available at the guild store.

About Rug Hooking

Rug hooking is both an art and a craft where rugs are made by pulling loops of yarn or fabric through a stiff woven base such as burlap, linen, or rug warp. The loops are pulled through the backing material by using a crochet-type hook mounted in a handle (usually wood) for leverage.

Rug hooking as we know it today may have developed in North America, specifically along the Eastern Seaboard in New England in the United States, the Canadian Maritimes, and Newfoundland and Labrador. Grenfell Mission, a medical and religious mission founded by Sir Wilfred Grenfell in the late 19th century in Newfoundland and Labrador, was famous for its burlap rugs. Encouraged and promoted by Dr.Grenfell, the rugmakers of the mission used designs created by Mrs. Grenfell.

In its earliest years, rug hooking was a craft of poverty. The vogue for floor coverings in the United States came about after 1830 when factories produced machine-made carpets for the rich. Poor women began looking through their scrap bags for materials to employ in creating their own home-made floor coverings. Women employed whatever materials they had available. Girls from wealthy families were sent to school to learn embroidery and quilting; fashioning floor rugs and mats was never part of the curriculum. Another sign that hooking was the pastime of the poor is the fact that popular ladies magazines in the 19th century never wrote about rug hooking. It was considered a country craft in the days when the word country, used in this context, was derogatory. Today, rug hooking is now seen in Canada as a fine art.

The craft of rugmaking has included many different techniques over the centuries. This guild is mainly interested in the manipulation of fabric strips, in a variety of widths and yarns, by pulling or pushing them through an open weave backing. For this backing contemporary rug-making artists often use cotton monks cloth, rug warp, linen or burlap – natural fibres that will maintain a good foundation for years to come.  Fibres and materials are continuing to change and evolve as this medium grows and changes.