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Category Archives: Antique rugs

Let’s look at some old rugs!

By | Antique rugs, Composition | 7 Comments

It’s been a while since we looked at antique rugs, so let’s jump in and see what can be found in the spring auctions. Above, you see Lot 22, HOOKED RUG WITH DOUBLE CORNUCOPIA & FLORAL DESIGN (33 1/2″ X 65 1/2″) from the Gallery at Knotty Pine, in West Swansey, NH. Price estimate is $200-$300. It will be coming up for sale June 10th, at 11 am. There was no detailed description, but I like the colors, the nice fine shading, and the symmetry of the design.

And now a little side trip relating to this design: I just learned the other day, that this is an example of Point Symmetry, meaning it looks the same upside down… or from any two opposite directions, ie, from the same center point. Here’s an illustration of point symmetry:

Point Symmetry is when every part has a matching part: the same distance from the central point but in the opposite direction. You learn something new every day! Thanks to Ania Knap for this one!

Now here is Lot 77, “Hand hooked vintage rug” which is coming up for sale on June 11th at 11 am, at Denise Ryan Auction House, in Manchester, NH, with a price estimate of $100-$500:

What a sweet scene! I especially like that the maker (unknown, of course) gave plenty of room to the lake itself, confining the near and far shores to (roughly) half of the entire rug – just the feeling you get sitting near a lake, with the vast water reaching into the distance.

This one is a little different, and is coming up for sale at Schwenke Auctioneers on June 14, 2017, at 10:00 am in Woodbury, CT. It is Lot 673:

The description reads “Depicting “White Horse Tavern”. Stains. 27 1/4″ long, 38″ wide. Provenance: Property of a Woodbury CT Estate.”

Well, it is a very nice signage rug, and while it’s not something I would make, I know sign designs have become quite popular. For the right person, it would be a great choice, and the estimated price on this one is $80-$100.

And finally, in the same June 14 sale at Schwenke Auctioneers, is this wonderful rug, Lot 614:

The colors on this lovely hit or miss are so bright, I wonder how old it is, but the only description is “Striped Rug with Floral Center. Use wear, center holes. 36″ high, 40″ wide. Provenance: Property of a Woodbury CT Estate.” And the estimated price on this one is $100-$200.

All photos are shown courtesy of the auction houses. The Gallery at Knnotty Pine is online at www.knottypineantiques.com, Denise Ryan Auctions is online at www.deniseryanauction.com, and Schwenke Auctioneers is at www.woodburyauction.com.

So. Which one would you pick? For me, it would be the little lake scene, reminiscent of many happy childhood days “up at the lake”.

An important antique rug, re-seen

By | Antique rugs | 5 Comments

My friend Austin just posted this historic antique rug for sale from his collection at Austin T. Miller American Antiques Inc., of Columbus Ohio.

Just looking at this lovely rug is a treat, and for a change, the maker, place and time of its making is known:
“For Sale: An Important Early American Flag Documented Hooked Rug, Executed by Laura Etta Clarke, New Hampshire in 1902. This 46 Star hooked rug was created in 1902 by Laura Etta Clarke of Barrington, New Hampshire, 37 x 29 inches.”

But there is more to the story. This rug was illustrated and discussed in the well-regarded book on American hooked rugs by Joel and Kate Kopp, “American Hooked and Sewn Rugs, Folk Art Underfoot”, first published in 1975 and still available and widely consulted:

But take a look at the photo of this same rug as it appears in the Kopp book (Plate 153):

The caption about the rug in the Kopp book reports that the 46-star rug was hooked in reverse from the way it is normally portrayed, “perhaps as a result of the way she traced it.” But further evidence indicates it was just photographed incorrectly, as it was meant to be viewed vertically. And really, looking at it vertically is the only way the angled blocks with the maker’s initials and date make much sense.

And, re-photographed in its vertical orientation, the mystery is gone, and we can now see the rug in full red, white and blue color: “Old Glory” itself, in bright colors, with stars just imperfect enough to twinkle, the side borders of more muted colors, quilt-block style, and simple red, white and blue lines at the top and bottom.

Thanks, Austin, for giving us another look at this beautiful, historic rug.

Maybe this is a good time to celebrate what we love most about our country by making our own patriotic rugs. Looking at Laura Etta Clarke’s work, made 115 years ago right here in New Hampshire, has just made me decide to do just that.

Photo of the Clarke rug is copyrighted and used here with the kind permission of Austin T. Miller American Antiques, Inc., online at www.usfolkart.com. And the Kopp book (well worth your time to read, both for insight into antique rugs and to ponder their wonderful designs) is still readily available online, here and elsewhere.

“their history was often lost…”

By | Antique rugs, Design, Museums | 6 Comments

A while back, I browsed through the online collection of hooked rugs at the Textile Museum of Canada, and of course found some beauties. Above, you see a rug dated 1925-1935. The maker is unknown, but it was made of synthetic material on burlap, on Prince Edward Island.

The Textile Museum of Canada is in downtown Toronto, and happily, the searchable collection is online, too. My simple “hooked rug” search brought up over 250 rugs (with photos) for me. And I thought their brief description of hooked rugs was interesting:

Rug hooking is a unique North American tradition that arose in response to the need to cover the cold bare floors of pioneer homes. Weaving cloth required long hours at the spinning wheel and loom, but rugs could be made from scraps of fabrics and fibres that were pulled through a burlap base to produce warm floor-coverings to brighten the home. It is rare to find a hooked rug whose maker is known; unlike quilts, which were treasured family possessions, hooked rugs wore out and their history was often lost.

Here is another rug, made in Ontario, dated 1900-1930:

The museum presents rotating exhibitions, changed throughout the year, drawn from their collection of over 13,000 objects, and the work of local, national and international contemporary artists are featured, both at the museum and in touring exhibits. “This diverse collection includes fabrics, ceremonial cloths, garments, carpets, quilts and related artifacts which reflect the cultural and aesthetic significance that cloth has held over the centuries.”

Here is a sweet rug, dated 1900-1930, from the Niagara Peninsula of Ontario:

You can search the museum’s collection by technique (as I did) or by type (clothing, headwear, etc.), materials, region or time period. Here is a hooked rug from 1940-1960 (maker unknown, region unknown) that I admired – quite an intricate floral design:

And here is another floral, also intricately designed, from much earlier, in the 19th century (dated 1875-1900):

I would say “Road Trip!”, but Toronto is almost 8 hours drive east from Burlington, VT, or just north of Buffalo, NY, and that slows me right down. But when you have a minute, go to the website of the Textile Museum of Canada, and take an “armchair road trip” through the collection. Here is the link:

Oh, and once you get there, look around at other things in the collection beyond hooked rugs. The museum celebrates textiles from around the world, like this intriguing apron from Papua, New Guinea:

All photos courtesy of the Textile Museum of Canada.
Oh, okay, here is one more – you know how I love hit or miss rugs. This beauty was made in 1940, (yes, maker unknown) in Waterloo County, Ontario:


By | Antique rugs, Design, Making rugs | 6 Comments

I’ve just sketched out a primitive cat design for my next project, so was pleased to find two nice antique cat rugs for sale at recent auctions. Above, you can see Lot 1724 from the Jeffrey S. Evans Auctioneers sale on February 18, in Mt. Crawford, VA. Here is the description:
AMERICAN FOLK ART PICTORIAL HOOKED RUG, design featuring a reclining cat on a checkered floor. Professionally mounted for hanging. Dimensions: 22 1/2″ x 33″.
Date: Second quarter 20th century. The sale estimate was $100-$150, but I could not find what the final price was.

And here is another great antique cat rug that was sold at Thomaston Place Auction Gallery, Thomaston, Maine, on Feb. 12th. It was Lot 501:

The description for this sweet “Spooky” rug was:
Description: HOOKED RUG OF BLACK CAT Stretched and Mounted Hooked Rug with portrait of black cat named “Spooky”, initialed “ATS” and dated ’81, unframed, 17″ x 22″ overall, very good condition. Estimate:$400-$600.

The final sale price for this rug was $500. And beyond the charm of the rug itself, I was interested in these two other photos of the rug:

It really looks like the rug had no binding, or even hemmed edges at all – the backing was just stretched onto a frame and stapled.

I really loved both of these! Now I will show you the design I (quickly) drew onto linen for myself. I wanted a “Ruby In The Garden” design, something to just play with. I drew it out freehand onto the linen, so you can see a few “mistake” lines that I will correct as I hook:

Why did I do this design? 1. I just am finishing the border of my big hit or miss, and wanted to do something that I can just play with. I suspect I will change the flowers and other details as I go, and maybe add a few more. 2. I got three pieces of different neutral-color wool that I know will make a good swirly background for a primitive style rug, and want to use them! 3. You can never have enough kitty rugs. 4. As I finish one rug, I start getting nervous about what my next project will be, and the need to know what will be “next” starts pressing on me. Now that I have this to go onto, I can finish the border of my hit or miss in peace!

Hook on, whatever you are working on!

Antique rug photos are courtesy of the auction houses, both of which can be found online. Jeffrey S. Evans Auctioneer is online at www.jeffreysevans.com, and Thomaston Place Auction Gallery is at www.thomastonauction.com.

One beautiful rug

By | Antique rugs, Making rugs | 10 Comments

Yesterday, at an auction of fine art and Americana (held by William Jenack Auctioneers of Chester, NY) this lovely hooked rug was sold. And I thought it was so beautiful, it was worth our looking at.

To me, it looks like an impressionist painting. A log cabin, woman in its doorway, man behind an ox (maybe a cow?), small dog in the foreground, with trees sheltering the cabin and a distant vista. Doesn’t this look like a painting?

Here is the description from the auction catalog:
Estimated price: $80-$120.

It sold for $40. So little, it makes tears come to my eyes.

But there is more. Here is the label that was on the back of the rug:

This needed some investigating. I know Murray Bay is on the northern side of the St. Lawrence Seaway, in Quebec, Canada, and is known for highly collectible homespun wool blankets. And from what I know about rugs of the eastern provinces, my guess is that this rug was hooked with fine yarn. That would explain the “homespun” on the label, and the tiny loops of yarn creating that painterly look.

After searching around a bit I came across this book that was published in 1999:

In Good Hands: The Women of the Canadian Handicrafts Guild, By Ellen Easton McLeod. Published by McGill-Queen’s Press – 1999

The book gives a history of the Canadian Handicrafts Guild, which was started in 1905 by two wealthy Montreal women who appreciated and wanted to promote the rural handcrafts of the Quebec region. Here is one paragraph I found, that may explain the label on this rug:

In Sept. 1929, Quebec’s Dept. of Agriculture and the Canadian Steamship Lines together organized a large handcrafts festival, at the Manoir Richelieu Hotel, which was “expected to become an annual late-season feature” of the Murray Bay season.”

I did find out that the Steamship line built and owned this big hotel, and it was after their publicity for the “Murray Bay Festival” of handcrafts, that the area’s reputation for fine homegoods became widely known, as tourism in the area prospered.

The story of the Handicrafts Guild as told in this book is an interesting one. Here is part of the publisher’s description:
It deals with noblesse oblige and the era’s patronizing attitude to cultural difference, but shows how the Guild consciously fostered an inclusive national feeling by exhibiting and selling crafts of all Canadians on an equal footing. It also draws a much broader perspective of women’s roles in shaping our culture than has been the norm in Canadian art history.

McLeod’s book covers the role of the Guild and the promotion of handcrafts in Canada from about 1880-1940.

Alice Peck and May Phillips… founded the Canadian Handicrafts Guild in 1905, and collaborated closely for 30 years. The artistic rugs, spinning, weaving and dyeing they admired in rural Quebec became the inspiration for the two women in Montreal to found the guild. By providing sales opportunities at small outlets, they hoped to revive rural homecrafts, and provide an income for needy farm women. They valued the decorative arts, particularly of French-Canadian rural home arts. The good design, natural colors, fine workmanship and originality were too significant to ignore.

Looks like the book is still available, here.

So while we will never know who exactly made this rug, we can begin to surmise. A rural woman, making this beautiful rug in her home, and with the help of the handicrafts guild, putting it up for sale in the big crafts show at the Hotel Richelieu, and fastening the special show label on her rug. What a pity that it sold yesterday for so little money. Maybe what I mean is it is a pity it was not me who bought it! It is a lovely work, and has a place in the history of rughooking. But we can hope whoever bought it did so because they appreciate it, and perhaps will look into it’s history.

And in the meantime – what a good reminder to label your own lovely rugs!

The photos are courtesy of The Jenack Auctioneers, online at www.jenack.com. You never know what you can find out there…

Let’s go see some fine antique rugs!

By | Antique rugs | 3 Comments


Sotheby’s is probably the premier New York City auction house, and they are having an Americana sale on January 21, at 3:00 PM. Let’s take a look at the hooked rugs that are in the sale.

Above is Lot #4374: AMERICAN PICTORIAL HOOKED RUG, PROBABLY EBENEZER ROSS & CO., OHIO, CIRCA 1900. Description: fabric on burlap; with one recumbent and one standing lion within striped border. Estimate: $3,000-$4,000.

I’ve seen antique rugs with this design before, so am pretty sure that it was indeed a pattern. In fact, I just searched around a bit and came across this antique rug in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago:

Style: "Textiles"

Style: “Textiles”

The Art Institute also credits this design to Ebenezer Ross.”Lion with Palms (Rug), 1890/1900, After a pattern designed by Ebenezer Ross (American, active c. 1890–1900), Toledo, Ohio.”

And while there is the difference of two lions instead of one, the central lion is pretty much identical, as is the foliage, and even the striped border. Nice to know that even early hookers personalized their patterns.



The auction description reads: “Description: fabric on burlap; recumbent spaniel on a harlequin-patterned rug. Estimate: $1,500-$2,000.

This is my favorite kind of antique rug. Someone’s beloved animal, resting on its own rug, with that nicely designed oval leafy/ropey inner border, but with the splotchiness that gives old rugs so much character! Somehow, I don’t think the word “splotchiness” is going to appear in a Sotheby’s sale description any time soon, but you and I know exactly what I’m getting at, right?

Now look at this next one, for a bit of antique drama. This is Lot 4372: “AMERICAN PICTORIAL HOOKED RUG, LATE 19TH OR EARLY 20TH CENTURY


This one is described as “Fabric on burlap; a pair of doves flanked by compotes of flowers. Estimate: $5,000-$7,000.

What a beautiful rug! I’ve never heard this use of the word “compote” before, but I think we will just take Sotheby’s word for that. Once I start looking at the design – all symmetrical, with just the two doves and that lovely background creating movement, I have decided it is the stark colors that add drama to this piece. I like it!

Now this next one (which I will not be buying) is already in my personal “antique rug hall of fame”. It is Lot 5011: FINE AMERICAN PICTORIAL HOOKED RUG, LATE 19TH OR EARLY 20TH CENTURY:

The description on this one is “Wool and cotton on burlap, depicting two cats and four kittens around a flowering tree and with a leaf border. Estimate: $8,000-$12,000.”

Wow! This is one of the highest rug estimates I have seen. It is almost too symmetrical for me, but there’s no doubt that it is beautiful and charming. And it would be a great model if you want to study and absorb the style of old time rug designs.

And here is one more, from the same Sotheby’s sale, Lot 4373: AMERICAN PICTORIAL HOOKED RUG, LATE 19TH OR EARLY 20TH CENTURY:


The description on this one is about as basic as it can be: “Fabric on burlap; two horses. Estimate: $4,000-$6,000. But it is another classic, well-designed old rug, with real charm, and no wonder that it is priced as it is.

Which one would you pick? For me, it’d be a hard choice between the cats and the two horses. There is something about the horses and its background that I could look at over and over again for a very long time. Or maybe that dog on his rug. Or maybe…

Sotheby’s auction on Jan. 21 is a live auction, and all the photos of rugs from this sale are courtesy of the auction house, online at www.sothebys.com, and The Art Institute of Chicago is online at www.artic.edu.

Many old rugs from a collector’s estate

By | Antique rugs | 3 Comments


There is a big auction coming up on Dec. 5th (10 am) by Material Culture Auctions in Philadelphia. In it are many antique rugs – so many that each lot of them contains six or seven hooked rugs. Not a lot of descriptions, though they all clearly come from the estate of the same hooked rug collector. So we will just let the collections of rugs speak for themselves.

Above is Lot 616:
Description: 6 Antique & Vintage Hooked Rugs. Largest size: 2’9” x 4’6”, 84 x 137 cm. Estate of Edward Soleimani, Englewood, NJ. Estimate: $100 – $200.

As you look through these rugs, notice which ones grab your attention right away, which ones are your favorites, which, perhaps, you like best sheerly because of its design or color alone… and why do you suppose this rug collector choose each of these rugs?

This one is Lot 612:
Estimate: $100 – $200
Description: 6 Antique & Vintage Hooked Rugs. Largest size: 2’5” x 5′, 74 x 152 cm. Estate of Edward Soleimani, Englewood, NJ.

And here is a better look at that first rug, with clearly falling-apart edges, but a pretty interesting center pictorial. Hard to tell what the story of this rug was:


And here is Lot 609, with probably the widest variety of styles:

Description: 7 Antique & Vintage Hooked Rugs. Largest size: 2’10” x 4’5”, 87 x 136 cm. Estate of Edward Soleimani, Englewood, NJ.Estimate: $100-$200.

So which ones were the most memorable or appealing to you? For me, it was the eagle with the “Don’t Give Up The Ship” legend, and maybe that zigzag hit-or-miss in the last lot. Although the lion and cub rug is pretty terrific, too!

All photos and descriptions are courtesy of Material Culture Auctions, online at www.materialculture.com.

One nice old rug, and one good tip

By | Antique rugs, Making rugs | 5 Comments


This large and lovely antique rug was auctioned off this week at Freeman’s, in Philadelphia. I loved looking at it carefully – at how some of the designs are repeated in a nicely balanced way (like the block designs in the four corners, the two heart blocks) and other areas are unique, like the flag, rooster, butterfly and clamshell. Here is a close-up of the center portion:


Don’t forget, if you click on a photo in the blog, it will usually appear larger! I almost missed that “Welcome” banner…but when a rug is 8 and a half feet by 10 and a half feet, there is a lot of detail to notice!
It was Lot #220 and described like this:
Large hooked rug in the style of an album quilt. Late 19th/early 20th century
Various devices, flowers, eagles, birds, and “Welcome” worked with polychrome wool and cotton on a burlap ground. 104 in. x 126 1/2 in.
PROVENANCE: From a Pound Ridge, New York Estate.

The estimate for the rug was $2,000-$3,000. And the actual sale price was $2,340. Freeman’s is online at www.freemansauction.com. A nice place to browse around at interesting things!

And I visited the Seacoast Ruggers rug group yesterday in Kittery, Maine. A delightful, friendly group who meets monthly. It was a treat to see such a lively, friendly gathering of hookers! And since I was there to give my little slide show presentation about Canadian rughooker Elizabeth LeFort, they were very gracious about having to turn off all the lights (and stop hooking) to see the slides.

And here is the tip I picked up, from one of the group members, Grace Collette. She was working on a beautiful, intricate floral, and had used a kitchen product called Press ‘N Seal to cover up the areas she had finished, to keep them clean. Here is what she used:


And here is how Grace was using it to protect sections of her rug:

It has just enough tackiness to stick quite well to the hooked areas, and prevent wool bits, dust, cat hairs or what have you from the covered area. So if you want to be quite neat, or have finished hooking a white snowman and are starting to work on the dark background, this might be worth trying!

Hope you are all doing well, hooking a lot, and looking forward to a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

Antique rugs on the block

By | Antique rugs, Composition | 2 Comments

image Garth's

A beautiful Sunday! Maybe you have time to read a blog entry, and maybe you are busy hooking or out enjoying the late September sunshine. But whenever you get to this, let’s look at a few antique rugs. All these rugs are coming up for sale (or just got sold) at auction. Above you can see Lot 1250A: TWO FOLKSY RUGS, from Garth’s Auctioneers, (Oct. 7, 1 pm) in Delaware, Ohio. Both have great colors. Here is the auctioneer’s description:
American, 1st quarter-20th century. Penny rug with pointed ends in red, gold, green, grey, etc., 33″ x 50″, and a hooked rug with flowers, 20″ x 50″. Estimate: $100 – $200.

Here is another great antique rug sold by Garth’s on Sept.10th:

image Garth's

Oh, boy… this is my favorite kind of antique rug. Clearly drawn in the most primitive style, capturing what seem to be beloved dogs, with that patchy look that signals (to me) that the hooker just used the materials she had on hand. And the hit-or-miss sections are great! This was described as: AMERICAN FOLKSY HOOKED RUG. Early 20th century. Rug has hearts, stars, horseshoe, and dogs, “Bob” and “Rose”. 27″h. 64″w. Sorry, it does not say what the sale price was.

Here is a hooked rug up for sale on Oct 2 (11 am) by Jenack Auctioneers, in Chester, NY. It is just described as: Lot 336, VINTAGE “PIG” HOOKED RUG. 23 X 34″. Estimate: $50-$100. Notice how the checkerboard red border color draws your eye to the pig’s red nose…

image Jennack Auctioneers

Here is another, well, let’s say “unique” rug, sold by Kaminski Auctions in Glocester, MA back on Sept. 17th. No info on it, but worth seeing – rughookers do have a sense of humor!

image Kaminski

Finally, I saw this painting in the Oct. 29 (1 pm) auction at Bakker Auctions, Provincetown, MA:

image Bakker auctions

Lot 18: NICOLETTA POLI (1958-2014), Hooked Rug, 1996, Oil on canvas. Estimate: $800-$1,200.

What first interested me about this painting was that it is so clearly a braided rug, not a “hooked” rug! But the more I looked at it, I was impressed by the perspective the artist used. I would tend (if planning out such a design) to do a straight-on sketch of the dog laying on the rug, but Poli used almost a bird’s eye view, and added to the composition by having the dog on the diagonal, encircled by the curves of the rug. A good example of creative composition, I think!

All photos above are used courtesy of the auction houses, and the photos gelong to them, not you or me! Garth’s is online at www.garths.com, Kaminski Auctions is online at www.kaminskiauctions.com, and Bakker Auctions is online at www.bakkerproject.com. Janack Auctions is online at www.jenack.com.

Hope you get to hook a little today!

In the summertime

By | Antique rugs | 2 Comments



Here are two nice old rugs that will be sold at the Aug. 5 auction (5pm) at Stair Gallery, in Hudson, NY. Not too much description, but they are both being sold together, as Lot #438.
Description: Two Hooked Rugs
Worked with two stags, and a black horse. Estimate: $150-$200

And the next lot, #439, will get the buyer three antique rugs:



Again, a minimal description, with no info on the maker or even a region listed:
Description: Three Hooked Rugs
Worked with two ducks, geese in flight and two cats. Estimate: $100-$150.

Of course, the rug with the cats is my favorite! But that horse rug up at the top is pretty fine, too.

And at least in this auction, the antique rugs just keep coming. Here are the three floral rugs in Lot # 440:



Estimate: $150 – $200
Description: Three Hooked Floral Rugs, Estimate: $150-$200.

And finally a wonderful floral/hit or miss rug, Lot #441:

Description: American Hooked Tile Rug, Estimate: $75-$125.

On a very hot morning, I will be as minimal as these descriptions, and hope you enjoy seeing these rugs, and deciding which ones you like the most, and why!

Photos courtesy of Stair Galleries, online at stairgalleries.com.