THE WOMEN AND THE HOME

Hooked Rugs and Homespun

Handmade rugs and homespun fabrics, once an economic necessity in rural Canada, are now highly prized by decorators

F. L. DEN. SCOTT August 15 1932
THE WOMEN AND THE HOME

Hooked Rugs and Homespun

Handmade rugs and homespun fabrics, once an economic necessity in rural Canada, are now highly prized by decorators

F. L. DEN. SCOTT August 15 1932

Hooked Rugs and Homespun

Handmade rugs and homespun fabrics, once an economic necessity in rural Canada, are now highly prized by decorators

THE WOMEN AND THE HOME

F. L. DEN. SCOTT

FOR hundreds of years a matter of bitter necessity, the production of homespun, of woven coverlets and rugs of various kinds is today a flourishing Canadian industry. These things were once made by agricultural people for their own use. Only recently have they been "discovered” and appreciated by interior decorators and art lovers.

Women from other countries brought to the forestcovered lands of their new home the knowledge of rug making. The French-Canadian housewife brought the craft of the lapis tirés au crochet with her from the provinces of France. The braided rug, the embroidered hearth rug and the hooked rug, as seen in the Maritimes, are undoubtedly of British origin. Nobody knows how old the craft of the handmade rug is; its origin is lost in the mists of antiquity.

The kitchen was the earliest workshop, and is still the favorite spot for weaving, dyeing, braiding and the other operations that go into the making of a rug. When snowstorms beat against the window panes of the farmhouse or blizzards shut out the rest of the world, there is no more fascinating occupation than planning designs and coloring strips of cloth with vegetable dyes made at home from bark and herb and flowers planted for just that purpose.

The whole household assists in the making of rugs, though it is primarily a feminine occupation and one which continues year in and year out. Not only the original, parental household, but the prospective homes of the children demand that suitable floor coverings be provided. Rugs of all kinds are made against the “setting out” of the daughters; some are “put by” for the sons.

Those who lament the machine age and the dearth of handmade products will be encouraged by these fine examples of craftsmanship at its best, with the harmonious combinations of colors, the sureness of execution and the artistic expression of people who love the soil. These ruge offer endless possibilities for effective use with widely differing types of domestic settings.

Color is the outstanding characteristic of the FrenchCanadian rug. Vivid and daring shades are combined with amazing effect, yet never is there a discord. Woven on handlooms in stripes and plaids in a large scale effect, close examination reveals that literally dozens of shades are used in the same stripe, clear and finely graded. The tones blend into one another harmoniously, resulting in a mellow but glowing effect.

These caquets are woven in long strips of varying widths and are made into rugs by sewing together as many as are desired. “Catalogne” rugs, as these are termed, may be used with modern furniture, for the clear colors and the geometric effect of stripes and plaids make a perfect background for the plain surfaces of contemporary furnishings. At the same time, they are in harmony with Colonial interiors and, of course, with the French Provincial. In the average summer house where casual furniture is used, these rugs make ideal floor coverings.

In many homes, the handmade rug, which is washable, has been found to be an excellent fkx)r covering for the nursery. The bright, gay colors appeal to children and create a cheerful room. For the same reason, the catalogne rug makes an excellent runner for an upstairs hall.

Similarity of Design

HPIIE hooked rug of the Maritimes and the hooked rug of Quebec are very much alike both in color and design. There may be a more ecclesiastical flavor to the habitant rug. for many of the popular patterns were inspired by architectural ornaments used in Catholic churches. Hooked rug designs fall into four general classes: Folk designs such as the diamond and the trefoil; Trade designs copied from commercial designs on merchandise imported in the early days of the Colony; Ecclesiastical designs; and designs from the Sch(X)l of Art founded in 1669 by De Laval at Tourmente in New France. Then there are scenes from Nature, landscapes, flower scenes, sea or maritime patterns, and pet animals.

The foundation of the hooked rug is usually a piece of homespun or burlap, or may be a substantial potato sack which has been saved for this purpose. The design is drawn out in crayons, or in thrifty homes a charred stick may be used. Sometimes a cardboard pattern is drawn, cut out with sharp scissors or knife, and the outline then traced on the burlap.

Dyes are all homemade. Green is made from spinach and willow stems, black oak bark, gold seal and indigo combined. Blue is from indigo, spiderwort flowers, larkspur and purslane. Red is from the pokeberry root, cranberries and cochineal, which with cream of tartar produces a bright red. Yellow is from hickory, walnut, Lombardy poplar bark, peach leaves, clematis and onion skins. Purple comes from iris or from combinations of blue and red dyes, or from the blueberry. Sumac is w'idely used for various dyes. Colors are set with acids or alum and are fast. Washing seems to make these handmade rugs more beautiful.

All the materials required for the rug can be assembled at home. Sheep are essential. In some places flax is still grown and tire failure of the flax crop in certain years is a serious matter. Materials from discarded garments or wornout tablecloths, curtains, bed linens, and odds and ends such as sugar sacks are gathered together and put in the dye pots. Incidentally, primrose yellow and deep rose pink are the favorite habitant colors

Homemade Material

HOOKED rugs are commonly rectangular or square, but the oval shape is becoming popular. Carpets are rare. There was one in a church in Nova Scotia some years ago, h(X)ked by the women of the parish.

In the Maritimes, where manufactured goods are used more than in the rug-making districts of Quebec, the braided rug made of strips of cretonne or chintz may be seen. This floral material gives a very pretty “Dresden” effect, and is particularly appropriate for feminine bedrooms or boudoirs.

The embroidered hearth rug is a revival of an eighteenth century art as practised in England. Those being made in Nova Scotia today are very much like the one preserved in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Such rugs are comparatively rare. They are. however, the best answer to the question of how to treat the fireplace in summer. They are just large enough to conceal the unused hearth and are detachable so that they can be removed at winter’s approach.

Companion to the handmade rug is the homespun drapery and furniture covering. This sturdy, colorful fabric gives excellent service and is highly decorative. Gaspé and Murray Bay have long been famous for homespun. The Murray Bay blanket is made in a lexise basket weave, in solid colors, checks and plaids and the popular stripe. The “tufted weave” is used for curtains and spreads and table covers. It is not easy to duplicate this tufted weave on power looms, so this type of fabric is almost sure to be handmade.

Homespun for upholstery is being widely used on modem furniture, on porch furniture of all kinds, on French Provincial pieces, and with various types of sturdy furniture which has no definite perkxl style.

For ornamental fabrics in the home the ceinture fléchée— the long sash of many colors that every voyageur bound about his waist, which was sometimes eight feet long—is being sought. This sash was made of braided lengths of bright-colored wool. It is peculiar to the French-Canadian settlements and is either of French or Indian design, or a combination of both.