Care, Cleaning and Basic Repair of Hooked Rugs

lenore on rug for web

Many of my customers and students balk at the idea of putting a hooked rug on the floor.  I reassure them that a well-made hooked rug will last 100 years or more, on the floor, and will in fact be fought over by future generations.

Stuff will happen to the rug, to be sure, but anything that happens to a hooked rug can be repaired (which is why they last so long).  These rugs can be washed and vacuumed, and if they get stained, worn or moth-eaten, no worries, all these things can be fixed.

vacuuming old rug for web_edited-1

Vacuuming is great for hooked rugs, because you want to remove the grit that wears away at the fibers.  Before I vacuum a hooked rug, I always check for snagged yarn to be re-hooked (more about this later).  Don’t ‘beat’ a hooked rug though, that’s not good for the fibers.

Hooked rugs can also be washed, but hand-washing is preferred.  Just have on hand two pans containing about two cups of water each.  In the first, add one tablespoon of laundry detergent.  (You want laundry detergent as opposed to dishwashing liquid or other soap, because you don’t want too many suds.)

muted old rug washing for web

Put a rag in the pan and squeeze it almost all the way out.  You don’t need to get the rug soaking wet, you just want enough moisture to pick up the dirt that has been deposited on the rug.  Scrub the rug in a circular motion.  Don’t forget to wash the back as well.

In the second pan of water, add a splash of vinegar (this is good for the yarn).  Then using a clean rag, go over the washed rug one more time, to remove some of the soap.  Then lay the rug where it can get plenty of air to dry.

I read once that in days of yore, they would wait for a good powdery snow, take the rugs outside, put snow on top, sweep it off, and bring the rugs inside to dry.  So you don’t need a lot of moisture, just enough to lift the dirt off the surface.

Before washing and binding the edges

Two old rugs, in need of a pick-me-up

These two old rugs (above) were probably forty or fifty years old.  They were quite dirty, but other than that, they were in really good shape.  I washed them, and since the edges were in good shape, I decided to bind them before I use these rugs on the floor.

muted old rug unhemmed for web

Here you can see one of the rugs, with the hem taken out.

To bind the edge, I removed the hem, then I wrapped the backing around a cotton cord, extending out from the hooked edge.  I tacked the cording in place using regular sewing thread.

muted old rug sewing in cord for web_edited-1

Wrapping the backing around a cord

The cotton cord protects the backing, because the fabric is not going to fold down flat anymore.

Whip stitching with a matching yarn and tapestry needle

Whip stitching with a matching yarn and tapestry needle

I whip stitch over the cording, using a matching yarn and a tapestry needle.  I sew over the ends of the yarn, so they don’t show (I don’t tie knots in the back).  The whip stitching adds yet another protective layer to the backing fabric, shielding it from wear and tear.

Finished rug with bound edges

Finished rug with bound edges

pinwheel rug before rehooking for web

Hooked rug with a bit of yarn snagged

This is the most common thing that happens to a hooked rug.  Occasionally, a bit of yarn may get snagged on something.  Kitties are often the culprits, but don’t throw out the rug (or the cat!).  Just remember, your rug will survive not only this cat, but many generations of family pets to come.

Snagged yarn pulled through to the back so it can be rehooked

Snagged yarn pulled through to the back so it can be rehooked

Just pull the unhooked yarn through to the back, and re-hook it.  If you have just a little bit of experience with rug hooking, it is a five-minute repair.  What could be easier?

Pinwheel rug rehooked

Pinwheel rug rehooked

What if Fido took a liking to your hooked rug and decided to make it a chew toy, like the rug shown below?

Rug chewed by a dog

Rug chewed by a dog

Don’t panic, even this can be repaired!  Unhook the rug until you come to healthy backing.  Then sew in a patch on the back.  Tack the two layers of backing together, trimming away any loose threads, but keep the ones that run all the way through the damage.  Then re-hook the rug, hooking through both layers.

Same rug, patched and re-hooked

Same rug, patched and re-hooked

This rug was fairly new at the time, so it was easy to match the yarn to re-hook the design.  When you lay the rug on the floor, you cannot see the repair.  If you examine it on the back, you can see the patch.

1930's rug with damage on the edge

1930’s rug with damage on the edge

With normal wear and tear, the first place to wear out on a hooked rug is the edge.  When I hook a rug, I always bind the edge to prevent such damage, but I have found that old rugs rarely have bound edges.  In this instance, I unhooked the border and sewed in a patch to strengthen and protect the hooked edge of the rug.  Then I re-hooked the border, bound the edge with a matching yarn, and completed the hem.

Rug with hem removed, red border unhooked and patch sewn in place

Rug with hem removed, red border unhooked and patch sewn in place

Close up of repair

Close up of the border re-hooked through the patch, and bound edge 

Markusrug300before for web

This Cocker Spaniel rug is another family treasure that had been used and loved for many decades.  I unhooked the edge, but in this case, the owner decided to have me make the rug a little smaller, rather than patching the old edge.

markusrugdamageclose72 for web

Close up showing some of the damage

This shows the rug unhooked to the healthy backing.

This shows the rug unhooked to the healthy backing.

To give added support to the old backing, I sewed in some ribbon, and wrapped that around the cording for the bound edge.  Then I sewed the hem with regular sewing thread.

To give added support to the old backing, I sewed in some ribbon, and wrapped that around the cording for the bound edge. Then I sewed the hem with regular sewing thread.

I bound the edge, then added fringe so it would resemble the original

I bound the edge with matching pink yarn, then added fringe so it would resemble the original

This charming leaf rug (below) had sustained major damage all around the edge, as well as in spots inside the design.

Charming old rug with extensive damage and wear

Charming old rug with extensive damage and wear

I made a large patch, to restore and support the entire edge.  Then I re-hooked all of the patched areas and bound the edge, so the rug will continue to be used and enjoyed for a long time.

Cutting away the excess backing for the patch

Cutting away the excess backing for the patch.  I removed the red basting thread and zig-zagged the cut edge on my sewing machine.  Then I tacked the patch in place and re-hooked through both layers

This shows the patch sewn in place, front view, before re-hooking

This shows the patch sewn in place, front view, before re-hooking

Repaired rug, viewed from the back.  Notice the patches and new hooking.

Repaired rug, viewed from the back. Notice the patches and new hooking.

Repaired rug, front view

Repaired rug, front view

Why bother to repair an old rug?  Because hooked rugs are extremely valuable.  Restored, this rug has a retail value of at least $1400.00, not to mention the sentimental value to the family.

Don’t despair—REPAIR!!!

This month, subscribers to this blog can get my books for 20% off retail prices, and if you combine both Joy of Hooking (With Yarn!) and Rug Hooker’s Guide to the YARNIVERSE! you will save 35% off regular prices.  This blog special will expire on July 31, 2015.  http://hstrial-jtaylor9.homestead.com/blog-special-july-2015.html

Hand-hooked Victorian Santa, with mohair beard.  34"x20", designed and hooked by Judy Taylor

Hand-hooked Victorian Santa, with mohair beard. 34″x20″, designed and hooked by Judy Taylor

And don’t forget that for every $50.00 you spend with Little House Rugs between now and November 25, 2015, you will be entered to win the Victorian Santa (valued at $165.00).  (In other words, if you spend $200.00 you will be entered four times.)

Happy Hooking!

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12 thoughts on “Care, Cleaning and Basic Repair of Hooked Rugs

  1. threads says:

    Val, I really enjoyed your cleaning and repair of hooked rugs information. The pictures of old rugs were great to see as well. Thank you for posting this!

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  2. Judith Kirk says:

    Is there a person who will repair some damage to my mother’s hooked rugs? I don’t have the time to do it myself, but I would love to get the two of them repairs.

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  3. gina says:

    Judy, thank you so much. I picked up a small hooked rug at the thrift store that needs the edges done and I am going to give it a try based on your great instructions. Where do you typically purchase materials for the repair.

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    • It depends on what is needed. If the backing is in good condition and you just want to bind the edges, I buy the cotton cording from the fabric store (3/16″ in the upholstery section). If the backing needs repair, you can get cotton monks cloth at most fabric stores, or you can order cotton rug warp or linen from rug hooking companies (I usually try to use the same type of backing material as the original rug). Then the yarn comes from lots of places. If you are having trouble matching a color or texture, send me a sample of the color, I might be able to match it for you. Take pictures and consider sharing your repair story on my website Featured Rug of the Month at http://www.littlehouserugs.com.

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  4. Oh my goodness, your site is just what I needed to repair a rug that I made for my brother when I was in High school, That rug is now just about 50 years old. I was actually shocked that he even still had the thing when he asked me to fix it for him. The edge was damaged, backing torn and loops pull out.
    I kind of made up my process as I am going along, but my plan exactly matches what you describe here.
    One question. I was planning on applying a skid proof rubberized backing paint on the back of the rug. What do you think of doing such a thing?

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    • I am so glad you’re able to fix the rug, but I don’t recommend putting the latex on the back. In the first place, it doesn’t keep the loops from pulling out, it just makes them impossible to fix when it does happen. Also, the backing is more likely to rot because of poor air circulation. If you want to prevent the rug from slipping on the floor, I would get one of those rubberized mats that you can cut to the size of the rug and lay it on that. If you go to my website, http://www.littlehouserugs.com, you can send me pictures of the repair job you’re doing, and I’ll share it on the site. Thanks!

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