Rug Hooking Styles

Primitive, Geometric, and Pictorial sounds like a rating system for childhood drawings, but they highlight a variety of styles of rug hook designs.  With one basic technique to pull cloth through a netted sheet, you would be amazed at the variety of shapes and patterns that have emerged.  Let’s review a sampling of the styles that exist and consider which would be best for you as you sit down for a relaxing afternoon of hooking.


How To Latch HookCredit: WiseWellWoman, CC by 2.0, FlickrAs the name implies, these are basic designs, simple in nature, and sometimes can be as plain as changing tones of color as you migrate across the canvas.  A rainbow or wave of colors evolving as the scrap material finds its way through burlap might give the appearance of order, but not necessarily a pattern. A common design for a primitive hooked rug would be the outline of a plant or a rough depiction of a harvest scene. Another example you might find would be a silhouette of a cat, dog, or more likely a farm animal like a cow or chicken/egg attempt.


A common design you will find is a geometric display with a series of lines, squares, replicated shapes, or a pattern that illustrates orderliness.  A stoic farmer of the 1800’s is known for their tenacity and mundane daily effort, orderly through replication. A series of triangles, much like a patch work pillow or quilted bed sheet, would be a common pattern to consider for a rug hooking design.  Much of the layout would be dependent on what quantity of color the scraps are available.


Green Mountain Rug HookingCredit: On The White Line, CC by 2.0, FlickrA simple outline of an animal with shading to create depth to the image would be an example of a Pictorial design.  A rug hooked to show Elvis would be an example of a Pictorial design, though wouldn’t be typical of the period.  A farm scene with detail highlighting a harvest or a landscape scene would be more fitting. A rug of wool material would more likely be a primitive, whereas, colored cotton presents a more defined texture.  The level of detail distinguishes between the two styles.


Original drawings can be outlined on netting cloth, but unless you are a skilled artist, the images once completed don’t tend to be proportional to the original object or individual (if a portrait).  An additional issue can be creating depth to the image by not having an appreciation for color palettes and/or toning through shadowing techniques.  I also find that working from a printed image or pattern, rather than memory, helps to simplify the process and reduces frustration and image distortion.  Inspiration by observation seems to be a nice slogan to follow.


If you are new to rug hooking, I would suggest starting with a primitive design to become familiar with the tools and the process.  After some practice, I would suggest joining a social group that meets monthly and expand your skills by learning from others.  In a short period of time, you may find the process routine and will look to express yourself with pictorial and original works.  Each step creates new challenges and local events are a great way to socialize and relax.

Further Reading

Rug Hooking Patterns and Tools

Rug Hooking Frames