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Hooked on rugs
Group’s work will show at Brannon-Heard
Rug Hookers 7 es
Elizabeth Rowe works on her rug during a Rug Hookers meeting at Sharon Forks Branch Library. - photo by Emily Saunders

For more information about the Cumming-Forsyth Rug Hookers or its show May 8, 9 and 10, contact Elaine Zimney at (770) 781-5255 or Carolyn Folsom at (770) 889-1019.
A group of area women is helping keep a classic art form alive.

The Cumming-Forsyth Rug Hookers has been meeting twice a month for a little more than 2 years to enjoy each other’s company while practicing the art of rug hooking.

The practice begin in the mid-1800s, explained Elaine Zimney, one of the founders of the local group. She said early rug hookers would draw original designs on the back of burlap grain sacks and cut worn-out wool clothing into narrow strips.

By using a nail driven into a small piece of wood that could fit into the palms of their hands, the women would shape the nail into a hook and use it to pull the assorted pieces of wool clothing through the burlap backing. Thus, creating patterned rugs.

While the tools of the craft may be somewhat more modern, the practice remains basically unchanged today.

“The main difference is women buy their hooks and don’t usually use old clothes,” she said.

Also today, she said, most people start off by purchasing rug hooking kits with patterns drawn on the backing and color codings similar to paint-by-numbers kits. But once they get the hang of it, most practitioners will create their own original designs.

Unlike some artistic practices, Zimney said rug hooking lends itself to a more social setting.

“Something like painting or knitting requires more concentration, so it’s hard to talk in a group of people while you’re doing those things,” she said.

“But [rug] hooking doesn’t require that much thought. And if you make a mistake, it’s easily fixed, so it’s easy to work in a group with other people.”

Apparently, members of the group have fun. Zimney said numbers have grown from about six two years ago to more than 25 today. On meeting days, they spend six or more hours together.

“We all look so forward to it,” Zimney said. “It’s a great way to celebrate what you have in common from an interest standpoint.”

The public will get a chance to view the work of group members 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 8 and 9 and 1 to 5 p.m. May 10 during their first ever rug show at the Brannon-Heard House.

Zimney said 22 members will present more than 180 rugs during the show. Admission is $5 for adults, free for children under 12.

Due to the time and costs — like sometimes pricey hand-dyed wools — related to the craft, Zimney said not many pieces will be for sale at the show. But she thinks just viewing the pieces will be worth it.

Zimney, who has been rug hooking for four years, said one 3-foot-by-3-foot piece she crafted took two months “with a pretty dedicated effort.”

Some larger rugs can take a year or more to complete.

“Some of these women have been [rug] hooking for more than 25 years,” she said. “They had so many rugs just rolled up in the backs of their closets, this is going to be a get chance to show those works off.”

The show will also feature live music from bluegrass and gospel groups the Saw Mill Band and Spontaneous Cracker Eruption, as well as a raffle for a rug the group created together.

E-mail Crystal Ledford at