Rug Hooking/Rug Punching -Q&A

Rug Hooking / Rug Punching - Questions and Answers and Supply Resource website links.

Objective: This Rug Hooking / Rug Punch Needle Q&A was designed to offer distinctions between these two similar but different types of Fiber Art. I hope to help clarify some of the confusion between them and provide helpful information on the tools, equipment, and materials needed, along with a great list of supply resources. Perfect for the beginner rug hooker and the rug hooker looking for additional resources for their favorite Fiber Art, whether rug hooking or punching. 

The Art of Textile Rug Hooking and where it all began.

Textile or Fiber Art, known as Rug Hooking, derives its name from the tool used to create these functional and decorative art pieces called a “Rug Hook.” Many items can be made using a Rug Hook, including floor rugs, pillows, wall art, table runners, and coverlets.

This ancient Textile Art dates back to the Egyptians when textile rug-hooked items were discovered in Egyptian tombs. The Rug Hooking we know today became popular in England around 400 years ago, then traveled to Canada and New England around the mid-1800. Rug Hooking began out of necessity because colonial women could not afford to purchase rugs for their homes from England. So using what they had, like old worn-out, or outgrown wool clothing and fabric torn or cut into pieces, and burlap bags for the backing material created the foundation for the Rug Hooking art form that we know today.

Q&A- Rug Hooking & Rug Punching

  1. What is a Rug Hooking? 

       A.  Rug Hooking Technique

       B.  How to Work a Rug Hooking Pattern

       C.  Where to Start Hooking the Pattern

       D.  Different Styles & Types of Rug Hooks

       E.  Guide to Rug Hook Sizes & Wool Strips

       F.   Wool Cutters & Gripper Frames & Hoops

       G.  Rug Hooking Foundation Fabrics, Hooking Materials


     2.  What is Rug Punching?

      A.  What is a Rug Punch/Punch Needle Tool?    

      B.  Fabrics and Materials used with a Rug Punch Needle?             

      C.  Foundation Fabric for Rug Punching

      D.  Frames used for Rug Punch Needle.

      E.  What to know about a Rug Punch Pattern.

      3. Supply Resources- Frames, Wool Fabric, Hooks, Rug Punch, and Backing Material.


  1. What is Rug Hooking?

The Rug Hooking Tool:  This type of Fiber Art tool has a “hook” similar to a crochet hook, with a metal shank with the hook on end; the attached handle is usually made of wood but can be made from different materials.

A. The Hooking Technique

The “rug hook” was designed to pull or “hook” strips of wool, yarn, or other fibers up, through a loose weave foundation fabric, like linen, making a series of loops. With this Rug Hooking technique, one can create many decorative and functional items such as floor rugs, pillows, table runners, wall hangings, and even 3-dimensional designs.

The rug hooking technique begins by pushing the rug hook down from the top side of the pattern through the weave of the foundation fabric. Then “hooking” a fabric strip or a piece of yarn from beneath the design, pulling it up to the front side of the pattern creating a loop. This continuous motion creates a series of small loops, which essentially colors in the design. The closely hooked loops are held in place by the linen. 

B. How to Work a Rug Hooking Patterns 

Rug Hooking patterns are worked from the front side of the pattern, with the loops being pulled up to create a “pile of loops” that will become the finished side of the pattern. The pattern design will be facing you because you are working on the front side of the way.

C. Where to Start Hooking the Pattern?

It is best to start from the pattern's center and work your way out. When you add loops into the pattern foundation, the pattern size will grow and expand because you add density to the pattern with the wool strips.

D. Different Styles & Types of Rug Hooks

There are many different styles and types of rug hooks available, from a pencil-shaped hook, a bent hook where the neck of the hook is bent, and a ball hook where the handle is shaped to fit into the palm of your hand. They can be long or short, thin and thick, and made for right or left-handed artists. There are a vast number of different styles and types of rug hooks available in the marketplace. Some of the most well-known rug hooks are the Hartman Hook- hand-crafted in Ireland with a solid brass hook and wooden handles. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Some other rug hook companies are Miller Hooks, Fraser Hooks, and many others, so do a little research to find the type of hook you might like.  Many rug hooking and wool fabric stores sell different types and styles of rug hooks online.

One thing to understand about Rug Hooks is they are a very personal choice, and not one size or style is used for all rug hookers. The different sizes and variety of hooks available are vast.  Rug hooks also correlate with the wool width being used, which is also related to the type of rug hooking you want to create.

E. Guide to Rug Hook Sizes & Width of the Wool Strips

  • This is just a rug hook guide, not a set of rules, so please understand that the sizes can vary up or down a size. The goal is to provide a better understanding of rug hook sizes for a beginner artist to understand more easily.

Width of Wool  (Strip Cut Size Range #3- #10)             Size of Hook

Size- #3 =3/32 or  2.4mm                                                 Fine

         #4 = 1/8  or  3.2mm                                                 Fine

         #5 = 5/32 or 4.0mm                                                 Medium

         #6 = 3/16 or 4.8mm                                                 Extra Medium

         #7 = 7/32 or 5.6mm                                                 Medium to Primitive

         #8 = 1/4   or 6.4mm                                                 Primitive to Coarse

         #9 = 9/32 or 7.2mm                                                 Coarse

         #10= 10/32 or 8.0mm                                              Extra Coarse

The Shank size or “thickness” makes a difference in each size rug hook. The wider the wool, the thicker the shank. The reason is that the thicker shank creates a larger opening in the weave of the foundation material, allowing you to pull the wider wool strips through the weave more efficiently, creating less strain on your wrist or hand.

Also, having a bent hook shank can help reduce the strain on your wrist or hand. I use a ball-bent rug hook, size medium for a left-hander. This ball hook sits comfortably in the palm of my hand, and with the bent shank, there is less of a pulling motion, more like a tilting of your wrist movement. Now you can understand how these hooks become so personalized. I work in a range of wool cuts, mainly #4-#6 size, sometimes a #3, which is when I will change my hook size to a fine pencil hook.

F. Wool Cutters & Gripper Frames & Hoops

About-Wool Cutters

As with rug hooks, purchasing a Wool Cutter is a personal decision and can be one of the most significant investments you make for rug hooking. There is a wide range in prices, so you will need to research the best type of cutter for your personal use. There are several different types of wool cutters available that range in price. They can be purchased new and used, and some are electric, but most are manual machines.

The Bliss Cutter, Fraser 500 Cutter, The Fraser Rag Cutter, Townsend Cutter, Bee-Line Cutter, and Bolivar Cutter. The Old Tattered Flag -has a Big Shot Cutter system that cuts a lot of wool strips quickly; it is a different type of cutter system than most.

I started with a used Fraser 500 cutter and then sold that and invested in a Bee-Line cutter. These rug cutters tend to hold their values exceptionally well, so if you choose to upgrade or sell in the future, you should do well in the resale market.

About- Gripper Frames & Hoops

Gripper Frames are the most commonly used type of frames for most rug hookers. Gripper frames come in different shapes and sizes, can be made from other materials, and can be used differently. Some frames rotate, tilt, and collapsible models. They come in various sizes and shapes, some can sit on your lap (lap frame), and others are (floor-model) frames. Most are made of some wood, and some are available in different stain finishes along with different types of wood. Once again, this is another personal choice, how you like to hook and the investment you want to make into purchasing your Gripper Frame. Frames are also a significant investment; like the cutter, they tend to hold their value quite well. Rug Hooking frames are one of the essential tools in rug hooking; you will spend a great deal of time working on your frame, so definitely do your research and, if possible, try to locate a local rug hooking guild and see if you can try some different types of frames or get some feedback from other hookers on why the like or dislike a frame: Snap Dragon Frame, Puritan Frame, Needleworks Octagonal Rotating Frame, Bee-Line Frame, Talon Rug Hooking Frames, and many more. Some of these frames are hand-made by small companies are can be specially ordered.

Wooden Hoop-

As I have discussed, gripper frames are the most popular for rug hooking, but for beginner student learning, a quality wooden hoop is an excellent place to start. This will not be the investment of a gripper frame but will provide you with a way to hold the backing fabric and learn the rug hooking technique. If you have or can purchase a hoop with a foundation, so you don't need to hold the hoop, that would be incredibly helpful because rug hooking is a two-handed technique. One hand under the pattern holds the fiber to be pulled up, and the other hand to work the rug hook.

G. Rug Hooking Foundation Fabrics, Hooking Materials

Several fabrics are used as the foundation or backing material for rug hooking. This is the fabric that the pattern is drawn onto.

Linen- There are different types of Linen used for Rug Hooking, Traditional or Primitive, Fine, Natural, or Bleached. Linen is the most expensive backing material used and ranges in price depending on what kind you select. This is an excellent foundation material commonly used among rug hookers.

Rug Warp- This fabric is 100% Cotton and is heavy cotton that holds its shape and will lay nicely on the floor because of its weight. This is an excellent foundation material and less expensive than Linen. It will also last like a quality linen. Thus, it is a popular material for rug hooking.

Monks Cloth- This is used for Rug Hooking and Rug Punching. It is 100% Cotton, a soft, lightweight material that can be used with many size cuts. Monks cloth can stretch and doesn't hold the shape as well as Linen or Rug Warp. It is less expensive than Rug Warp but not the same quality as Rug Warp.

Burlap- This material was originally used in Rug Hooking, using old burlap bags as the foundation for a rug hooking pattern. This is the least expensive backing material and is not recommended any more due to the life expectancy of the fabric, which is about 20 years or so. You can find old rug hooking patterns drawn on burlap still today, but they are usually in rough shape and starting to decay.

Materials/Fabric Used in Rug Hooking

The most common Fiber used in Rug Hooking in Wool; whether it is a strip of fabric or a piece of yarn, it is one of the most durable fibers to use in rug hooking. Many other materials can be used, from cotton T-shirts and sari fabric to nylons. Yes, I am referring to pantyhose. If you can pull it through the weave of the backing material, you can hook it. That being said, wool is the best bet for a design intended to be used as a floor rug. So use your imagination, try different fibers and materials, and see what you can create in your world of rug hooking.


2. What is Rug Punching?

So, What is Rug Punching? Rug punching works by pushing a fiber (typically yarn) down into a foundation fabric and creating a loop, then pulling the punch out slightly to move forward and continue that same process. So essentially, a push, pull, move, push motion creates a series of loops that will become the finished side of your pattern.  You are working the Rug Punch pattern from the backside and creating the loops on the front side of your design. Many beautiful things can be created using a rug punch; you can make pillows, wall art, floor rugs, basically many of the same items that can be created with Rug Hooking; that is why this is very popular with the rug hooking community.

A. What is a Rug Punch/ Punch Needle Tool?

Rug Punch also referred to as a Punch Needle, can create confusion in the Fiber Arts community. I will refer to the Rug Punch or Punch Needle I am discussing by the name Oxford or -Rug Punch Needle to help limit confusion between a (Thread or Miniature Punch Needle) and this Rug Punch /Punch Needle type of tool.

This Oxford Rug Punch tool enables you to thread different weights and varieties of yarn easily. Use this tool to create a continuous loops stitch every time you push down and move forward. The tightness created by packing the loops together keeps them from unraveling.

How to Punch

To punch correctly, make sure you punch down as far as the punch will allow you to go, and then pull up carefully; you don’t want to go too high to pull your loop out of the foundation fabric. The Oxford Rug Punch comes with a wonderful informational guide, and the website has a great deal of helpful information to get you started and explain all about the Oxford Rug Punch Needle.

About the Oxford Rug Punch/ Punch Needle- Amy Oxford is the owner and creator of the Oxford Punch Needle, a wonderful collection of different sizes of high-quality rug punch tools. This Rug Punching tool is currently very popular among rug hookers. One of the reasons for this is other than the difference in the tools, you can use much of the same equipment and some of the same materials. The Oxford tools are made in the USA, Ergonomically designed for comfort and speed, and have a lifetime money-back guarantee.

B. Fabric and Materials used with a Rug Punch Needle?

Different types and weights of Yarn seem to be the most popular fiber used in Rug punching. Wool strips used for rug hooking can also be used in the Oxford Rug Punch.

C. Foundation Fabrics for Rug Punching

Many of the same backing fabrics can also be used with the Oxford Rug Punch Needle; Monks Cloth, Linen, and Rug Warp are very popular; I would suggest checking out her website (See supply resources below) to understand the best material to use as the type of foundation can depend on the size Rug Punch Needle you plan on using.

D. Frames used for Rug Punch Needle.

Once again, we are at a personal choice area regarding the type of gripper frame or hoop you would like to work on. If you have a gripper frame, use that; if you are looking to purchase something, I would again suggest researching before you make a significant investment.

E. What to know about a Rug Punch Pattern.

The most important thing to watch for in purchasing or creating a Rug Punch Needle pattern is remembering that you are working from the backside of the design. So, if the design is directional or has lettering on the pattern, you need to make sure you reverse or flip the pattern. Otherwise, the finished design and or words will be written backward.

 3. Supply Resources-

Orphaned Wool - Rug Hooking enlargeable Paper Patterns, Linen drawn Patterns, PDF Downloadable Rug Hooking/ Rug Punch Patterns.

Dorr Mill Store - Wool Fabric, Backing Materials, Rug Hooks, Wool Cutters-Bee Line Cutter. 

Searsport Rug Hooking -Wool Fabric, Rebekah Smith (Lanacot Wool Collection), Backing Material, Frames.

The Woolery - Wool Fabric, Gripper Frames, Hoops, Backing Material, Rug Hooks, Frasier, Bliss, and Bee Line Cutters.

Amy Oxford - Oxford Rug Punch Needles, Rug Punch Instructions & Tips, and yarn, Rug Punch Gripper Frames.

Heavens to Betsy  - Wool Fabric

The Wool Studio - Wool Fabric

Snap Dragon Frames - Snap Dragon gripper frames.

The NeedleWorks Shop - Needleworks Octagonal Gripper Frame.

Gene Shepard  - Dyed Wool Fabric, Rug Hooks

Cindi Gay Rug Hooking - Wool, Rug Hooking Videos, Classes.

Old Tattered Flag - Wool fabric, Fabric Cutter,  Rug Hooks.

Bee Line Art Tools - Bee line Wool Cutter Body & Cutter Heads, Carrying Case, Stand, Bee Line Rug Hooking Gripper Frame.

ATHA- Association of Traditional Hooking Artists - - An excellent resource for any rug hooking artist. The monthly magazine gives you all the ATHA guilds and their location. Feel free to contact any guild in your area; they are always a very welcoming group that is more than willing to share their knowledge or rug hooking with anyone looking to learn this lovely art.

Rug Hooking Magazine - - This is an excellent magazine many rug hookers subscribe to.  This monthly magazine has tips, technique articles, and beautiful photographs of rug-hooked designs; also an excellent resource for rug hooking and rug punch supplies and shows.

 I hope that this Q&A has given you a better understanding of the art of Rug Hooking and Rug Punching, along with the differences between the two Fiber Arts. As for anyone looking to start either of these beautiful Fiber Arts, I hope this has helped answer some questions and provided some valuable information to help you begin your journey of creating with a Rug Hook or Rug Punch Needle.

By: Kelly Kanyok- Artist & Owner of Orphaned Wool

Specializing in Thread Punch Needle & Rug Hooking Patterns

Copyright © 2022 Kelly Kanyok / Orphaned Wool

All Rights Reserved/ Information may not be reproduced without prior permission from the copyright holder/author.