TROY — Carolyn Buttolph likes to like to makes things people can use.
She hooks rugs, everything from pot holders to large rugs, and leads a class on rug hooking at the Vermont Quilters’ Schoolhouse in Troy.
When she’s hooking a rug, she’s not thinking necessarily that “I am making an heirloom that the kids will fight over.”
“When you get to the end you have made something. When you are finished it is no longer a pound of wool cut into strips.”
Buttolph of Morrisville braved Wednesday morning’s freezing fog to share her love of hooking rugs, the techniques and the tips, at the class, or rather what she calls a sewing circle, at the schoolhouse craft room and store owned by Tina de la Bruere.
Rug hooking is a traditional way that old-timers turned scraps of wool — often from discarded clothing made at the many small mills across New England and southeastern Canada — into something new and useful.
They cut wool into narrow strips, from one eighth of an inch to a quarter or more wide, and used hand hooks sized to match the wool to pull the strips through wide-weave linen bound to frames or hoops.
The linen type, from primitive to “monk,” varies in the weave opening, which determines the width of the strips of wool.
The art comes in the pattern and the color and nature of the wool.
Buttolph’s satisfaction with rug hooking comes from “the loose way I choose my colors.”
She enjoys an abstract style, where she has a “sort of love relationship with the colors” of the wool.
“Oo I like that,” she says, choosing how to blend colors for the design on the fly.
Robin Wright of Eden, a relative newcomer to rug hooking, brought in her first small hooked rug to show and a new rug to work on.
She bought a pattern featuring mountains and trees and sky, but had to choose her own colors, a challenge for a first-timer. Buttolph loved what Wright did with it and offered some history about hooking rugs in Newfoundland about Wright’s preferred method of hooking the wool loops on a horizontal line.
Today, rug hookers can buy wool and dye it to suit their patterns. Or they can go old-timey and collect wool scraps from old clothing and materials.
Wool must be cut carefully to avoid fraying and damaging the strips. The size of the piece determines whether a lap frame or a floor frame is needed.
Once the piece is finished, Buttolph showed the different ways that the linen is bound off and the piece completed with a border and then pressed.
Buttolph urges rug hookers to use 100 percent wool because it is very forgiving and does not stain if cleaned properly.
Cleaning a hooked rug can be easy if it’s all wool, Buttolph says. They were made to last.
Don’t put in washing machine. Do not dry clean.
“Do it the same way your great grandmother would have done it: Throw it out in the snow and cover it up.”
But don’t use wet snow, Buttolph said, it has too much water content.
And don’t throw out a rug from a warm room, because the snow will melt, she added.
The snow lifts the dirt and refreshes the wool, she says.
“People probably put their old suits out there,” she said.
Old hooked rugs were woven tight, so none of the linen showed on the back side, Buttolph said. The little gaps are called “vacations,” and are OK for most works but not for usable rugs because that’s where the rugs will show damage first.
Hooking rugs is one of many crafts that crafty people enjoy. Some do many different crafts, knitting for relaxing evenings, rug hooking on long afternoons.
Some rug hookers use multi-media to create three-dimensional art works to display. Buttolph urges anyone interested in the history of run hooking to check out American Hooked and Sewn Rugs: Folk Art Underfoot by Joel and Kate Kopp. It details the history and evolution of the craft and shows some of the famous pieces over the years.
She encourages people to try rug hooking or any other craft that they think they would like.
“It’s addictive, it’s fulfilling, it’s reinforcing.”