10/5/2023 | Arrow Rock State Historic Site | Arrow Rock, MO
Hooked rugs are a true folk art. They began as utilitarian items adapted to the needs of each rug maker, and reflected the styles and interests of a community. The designs were rambunctious, soothing, lively, subdued and colorful. Unlike fine art, there were no rules other than those imposed by the rug maker's spirit. Whichever style was used, all rugs displayed much affection for their subjects.
There are generally two different styles of rug hooking: fine hooking – which uses thin strips of dyed wool and much shading – and primitive hooking – which uses wider cuts and is not as bound by rules such as proportion, color or perspective.
Missourians were hooking rugs as early as the 1850s, when mention of the craft appears in newspaper articles about agricultural fairs. Rug hooking – and a related technique, rug punching – was promoted throughout the state during the 1930s by the federal government, offering women a way to earn extra money by creating and selling rugs. In the mid-20th century, rug hooking demonstrations were held at women's clubs, state fairs and schools, while private rug hooking studios offered classes. "Hook-ins," events where hundreds of rug hookers gather to share their craft and friendship, continue to be held throughout the state.
From August through mid-October, the Arrow Rock State Historic Site visitor center will host an exhibit featuring rugs made or designed by former members of the Big Muddy Rug Hooking Guild. This local organization actively promotes rug hooking throughout the mid-Missouri region, offering classes, meetings and workshops for all ages and skill levels. The guild has been featured on the PBS show "Making It" and has exhibited its works at Watkins Woolen Mill State Historic Site, the Ashby-Hodge Gallery, the 2022 ATHA Biennial, and the Missouri Capitol, among other venues.