What is Hooking With Yarn?

Birds of a Feather, wool yarn on linen, designed and hooked by Judy Taylor

Birds of a Feather, wool yarn on linen, designed and hooked by Judy Taylor

What is Hooking With Yarn?

Rug hooking with yarn is an easy and fun craft that anyone can learn.  Using good wool yarn and a linen backing, these rugs can last over one hundred years and be enjoyed by many generations to come.  They are relatively easy to clean and repair.  But best of all, they provide an unlimited creative outlet for people who like to work with yarn!

This blog is dedicated to that craft.  We will feature articles on the how-to’s, as well as share information on upcoming shows and classes on the craft.  Every month we will feature a rug, and provide ideas and tips to stimulate your creativity.

29. cu of hook for biz card

You are encouraged to comment and ask questions on subjects that are of interest to you.  If you are curious about something, you can bet there are a lot of folks out there with the same question.  As a subscriber to this blog, you will receive exclusive discounts on products from our website, http://www.littlehouserugs.com.  New subscribers can request a free rug hooking yarn sample card from Little House Rugs, so what are you waiting for?

Let’s get started!

Basic rug hooking instructions:109. 2 tbear hooking Step 1

Wrap the backing around your legs, design side up.  Push in your hook from above and pull up the end of the ball of yarn that you hold underneath with your other hand.  Then skip a thread and push in your hook again to make your first loop.  (Leave the tail sticking up for now, you will be getting rid of it later)

111. 4 tbear hooking Step 2

It is important to keep the yarn under control, especially since you cannot see what is happening underneath the backing.  Step two shows how you can hold the yarn without it flopping around or getting tangled.  When you push in your hook, slide down the yarn with your hand underneath, and lift that up onto the hook. (In the picture, I am lifting the part of yarn that I want to connect to the hook, held between my fingers)

112. 5 tbear hooking Step 3

As soon as I have gotten the yarn on my hook, I fold it over the hook and keep pulling down on it, to keep the yarn on the hook and avoid splitting the yarn.  Step three shows what my hand is doing underneath as I pull the hook up through the backing.

113. 6 tbear hooking Step 4

As soon as I have gotten my hook past the backing, I can stop pulling down on the yarn underneath, and just feel the slack pull tight across the back.  The loop you see in Step four is being pulled up from above, and will pull tight across the back.  I feel for that with my hand underneath, so I know when to stop pulling up.   (It is important to feel when the yarn has pulled tight when you are hooking, because if you keep pulling after it has pulled tight, you will pull out the previous loop.)

114. 7 tbear hooking  Step 5

Step five shows what it looks like when you have pulled up all the slack and the yarn has pulled tight across the back, and  your hand is ready to pull down on the yarn to create the loop on top.

116. 9 tbear hooking Step 6

After you have pulled the yarn tight across the back (Step 5) you can pull your yarn down from underneath, so the loop is the desired height.  Short, densely packed loops wear the best, so aim to make your loops approximately 1/8 inch high.  When you have made the loop, you can skip a thread and push in your hook to make the next loop. (Steps one through 6).

118. 11 tbear hooking view of backside Step 7

This is what it looks like underneath when I have hooked a section.  Keep in mind that yarn spreads out above in those loops, so they need room to spread out.  Step seven shows that there is space between the rows, but those gaps don’t show on top (Step 8 below) because the yarn has filled in the space.  Basically, you want your loops close enough together that you can’t see the backing from the top, but not so close together that the rug won’t lay flat.  If you are overpacking the loops, when you look at the underside, you may not see any gaps between the rows.  Just remember that the yarn needs room to spread out, that’s what keeps the loops in place.

117. 10 tbear hookingStep 8

When you have finished a section, bring up a loop just as you did before, but cut the loop on the top and pull the remaining yarn out to the back.  This will leave a tail on top, just like when you began.  As soon as the tails are surrounded by loops, (as they are in Step eight above) you can cut them even with the loops around them.  Those tails will be held in place by the pressure of the loops all around them, and they pretty much disappear.

I know what you’re thinking:  What keeps the yarn in place?  We don’t glue or latex the back, and we don’t tie any knots in the yarn, what the heck is keeping those loops from pulling out?  Magic.  (Just kidding)  Actually, it is a combination of factors that keep the loops in place.  First, we are pulling thick yarn through a tiny hole, so it naturally wants to spread out on top.  Second, we are using yarn that is not slippery, it has some texture to it, and the backing is also rough-spun burlap or linen, which helps the yarn to stay where you leave it.  And finally, with practice, you will create loops that are the same height, which makes a dense mat that is difficult to pull on.

Difficult, but not impossible, but that is precisely why these rugs are so durable and long lasting:  they can always be rehooked.  So in the event a loop gets snagged (kitties are often the culprits), they can easily be rehooked.  So really anything that may happen to the rug, whether it gets stained, moth-eaten or just worn, it can always be repaired, good as new!

As you follow this blog, you will learn everything you need to know to hook your very own masterpiece.  Topics include what types of yarn work best for rug hooking, what type of backing to choose, how to get your design on the backing, whether or not to use a frame, how to create special effects like shading or primitive rug hooking, and even how to clean and repair hooked rugs.

You can now watch our whole award-winning DVD on youtube at http://youtu.be/1WAqNkrDM5E

Thank you for visiting, and see you next time!

Judy Taylor



10 thoughts on “What is Hooking With Yarn?

  1. Bonnie Toth says:

    Hi,I am new to your site. But I read about you in the recent issue of rug hooking magazine. Two years ago I saw for the first time rug hooking in Chetticamp Nova Scotia. I bought a kit but had am difficult time using their small hook. I do a lot of spinning and weaving and have lots of yarn. I have done some riug hooking with strips of wool. I am interested in learning to do more hooking with yarn. Bonnie


  2. Jackie Inman says:

    Hi, I’m Jackie Inman in Billings Montana. My husband is a fine artist.He’s very busy with his oil painting. I’ve always been drawn to the fiber arts,but have not had the time to get involved until recently. I am now retired from teaching and my family is grown up. I would like do develop an art form of my own to do while my husband is painting. I am really interested in hooking rugs and wall hangings. I want to try hooking with yarn. My question is — Should I first do some pieces with woolen strips before I try yarn?. I’d appreciate any advice you can give me.


    • Jackie:

      I think you will find it is much easier to start with yarn. Yarn is very forgiving, and there are fewer things to worry about (such as twisting the fabric strip across the back, fraying the strip, etc.) The two are interchangeable, but I start my students with yarn, then once you get the hang of that, it is easy to understand how they are different. I actually have a kit that I use for teaching that has both. You can view that at http://www.littlehouserugs.com/crown-page.html. Scroll down and you’ll find the pillow kit for the Crown of Thorns design. Let me know if you have any questions. Thanks!


  3. Pingback: Why Hook With Yarn? Hooking with yarn vs. fabric strips | Hooking With Yarn

  4. Helena says:

    I started using yarn several years ago to hook with and have created my own patterns. Employing yarns is such a treat since I love working with it though yours is the only instructional seen on the subject. Love doing things differently and getting great results. Thanks for bringing hooking with yarn into the forefront and finding a place for it in the world of hooking!


    • I would love to see your rugs. You can contact me through my website if you are interested in doing the Featured Rug of the Month. People love to see what other people are working on. Thanks!


  5. Thank you for posting this! I’m just starting, and it drives me nuts when all I can find are books and opinions saying that wool strips are the only/traditional way to hook. My great grandmother always used yarn, and she was born in the 1880s.


    • I use a coarse hook, but I use it primarily because it goes easily through linen or burlap. I would only use a smaller hook if I was hooking through a tighter weave fabric, like counted cross stitch. I actually think the way to prevent your yarn from splitting comes from controlling the yarn underneath. When I push in my hook, I slide down the yarn a little bit underneath (I am right-handed, so I hold my hook in my right hand) with my left hand. I lift that yarn up and fold it over the hook (left hand). I pull down on the yarn (left hand) while I am pulling the hook through to the top. This keeps the yarn from splitting on the hook.
      Think about putting a scarf over a hook on the wall, You fold the scarf over the hook, then pull down on both ends of the scarf. If you keep that downward pressure on the yarn until your hook is pulled through, it will prevent the yarn from splitting.


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