It was a gathering of hookers in Parksville this past weekend — rug hookers, that is.
Rug hookers, or just hookers as the women refer to themselves, use hooks to pull different materials through a backing to create rugs, some with very intricate designs.
The “hook-in,” an annual event which was held in Parksville for the first time, has been going on for 14 years, according to founder Lynne Smith.
“It was originally started to gather people together for rug hooking because there’s many groups in different areas, but we didn’t know each other,” Smith said. She said that over the course of the 14 years, the event has brought together rug hookers from all over the Island, parts of the Lower Mainland and even people from the United States.
“It’s nice if we move around the Island a little bit. It brings in an opportunity for people to explore other areas,” Smith said.
However, Smith said a few years ago she handed over the reins to the Dogwood Traditional Rug Hookers, a group that meets every Wednesday from September to June in Nanoose Bay. Smith said the group created a committee for the event.
This year, the committee came up with the idea for a gumboot gala with a fashion show on Saturday evening. Rug hookers attending the event made small mats, with gumboots as a common theme, and exchanged them with each other.
Pat Kilner, who’s in charge of the committee, said it’s a supportive group of women.
“It’s a sharing of ideas and we talk about what our grandmothers did when they hooked,” Kilner said.
According to Smith, rug hooking started back east.
“People were looking, in those days, to have something on the floor that was warming to step on when they got out of bed,” Smith said. “People would take the burlaps sacks that their potatoes or carrots came in and they would take them apart and turn them into the backing.”
Smith said they would use charcoal to draw a pattern on the backing. Smith also said they would fashion a nail, or some other device, to make a hook.
“In the past, people had what was a rag bag. As your clothing wore out, you put it in the rag bag for another use. They would go to their rag bag and they would cut with scissors strips and then they would pull the strips through (the backing),” Smith said.
Smith also said that people use lots of different materials.
“You can mix things. You can mix yarn in with the wool material or sari silks. Some people use old t-shirt material, you can cut up an old t-shirt,” Smith said.
Jenny Horton, one of the vendors who sells patterns and pre-dyed wool, said she started rug hooking in September 1978.
“I’ve been at it for a while,” Horton said with a laugh, adding that at the time she was living in Kitchener Waterloo. “The locals ladies got together for coffee on Thursday mornings, and one of the speakers that came, taught (rug hooking). I took one look at it and thought, yes, that’s for me.”