Historical hooking: P.E.I. group expands registry of rugs

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Historical hooking: P.E.I. group expands registry of rugs

A P.E.I. group wants to get more Islanders hooked on rug hooking and, at the same time, they're hoping to capture the history of their craft through the years.

"Rug hooking has had a rejuvenation lately, it's becoming even more popular but it's been a really long standing craft here on the Island," explained Paula Kenny, who works at Eptek Centre for the Prince Edward Island Museum and Heritage Foundation.

"Originally, of course, people were making the mats to keep the floor warm and now a lot of the mats never see a floor, they mostly go on the wall," said Kenny. 

"It takes a lot of work to do a mat."

'Quite perishable'

Kenny is also heading up a project with the Island Matters Rug Hooking Group called the P.E.I. Rug Registry.

Since 2006, volunteers from Island Matters have gone across the Island to record old mats — those more than 25 years old.

They take photos of the mats plus information about the rug hookers, and have recorded 500 so far. The information is in a database held by the P.E.I. Museum and Heritage Foundation, with the goal of someday making it accessible online.

"We want to keep the pictures and patterns of these mats because some of the patterns are disappearing, they're no longer used," explained Kenny.

"The other thing that's important to capture the pictures now is that hooked matters are actually quite perishable especially if they're put on the floor."

Summerside's Joan MacGillivray has 25 rugs already in the Rug Registry. She's the last remaining member of the original Lady Slipper Rug Hookers, who first got together in 1980.

She's modest about being included in the registry.

"I guess because I was the oldest one in the group at that time and had been involved in rug hooking for so many years, they thought they would nab me," she said.

Get hooked on hooking

Paula Kenny and Island Matters are hoping to spread their love of rug hooking across P.E.I. 

They have received federal funding from New Horizons for Seniors to offer rug hooking lessons, up to 16 one-day classes across P.E.I. At each session, they'll provide a kit to make a "mug rug" that participants can keep.

Kenny hopes to use the rug hooking lessons to also hook more rugs for the registry.

"We're going to take the opportunity to invite people from those communities to come in with their mats and other volunteers will be recording the photos and the data," said Kenny.

For future generations

The photos also allow today's hookers to track changes in patterns over the years.

"The colour palette has changed a lot, the traditional patterns were often floral and there were a lot of geometric patterns," said Kenny.

"The primitive little kitties and doggies and teddy bears were popular for a while and don't seem to be as popular any more."

The 500 rugs collected so far are a good cross-section of what was done on P.E.I., said Kenny. They also allow current hookers the opportunity to bring some of the old patterns back.

Kenny's dream would be to add another 500 rugs to the registry over the spring and fall.

"I'd be thrilled," she said.

"We'll get as many as we possibly can and every one that we capture will be one that's saved for generations to come."

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