Handmade: These rug makers are hooked on craft

Jocelynn Brown
The Detroit News

Once a month, a group of “hookers” meet at the historical McFadden-Ross House (915 Brady in Dearborn), and they don’t mind the name – in fact, some have the word emblazoned on their license plate, in one form or another, because they’re proud of the work they do – conventional rug hooking.

The group, better known as the Michigan Rugg Artistes Guild, chapter 121 of the National Guild of Pearl K. McGown Rug Hookrafters, was formed in 2003. Member and Grosse Pointe Farms resident Paula Ladadie says, “A bunch of women had always hooked in the Dearborn area, and every year there’s a national rug hooking association convention held in different cities all over the country, and it’s usually hosted by a guild or two, so the girls said, ‘Let’s do the show in 2004, but we need to be a guild.’ And, that’s how the Michigan Rugg Artistes Guild got started.”

Membership has nearly doubled during the years, increasing from 20 to 38, with the median age somewhere around 65. Officers include Pamela Landon (West Bloomfield) president, Karen Krepps, vice president, and Cheryl Singley, treasurer (both of Dearborn). Singley is credited as the one who “got the chapter going and being behind the whole development of the guild.”

Members hook their rugs the “traditional” way, using 100 percent wool fabric that’s been cut into strips measuring anywhere from 1/8-inch to about 1 1/2 inch wide. “Our message is that we have a diverse group of people who do a wide range of hooking styles, and we have different expectations to comply with the national guild,” explains Ladadie. “We concentrate on wool fabric and dying that (fabric). We all have different types of dyeing techniques. We can over-dye plaid and herring bone. How it shows through the dye depends on how you cut it and what the plaid is like.”

The women go on fabric buying sprees together, sometimes out of state. They purchase fabric either new, or from resale shops, often as men’s trousers and Pendleton shirts. Yarn and cording are used to bind the edges of their rugs, and though they’re dedicated to rug hooking, they don’t limit themselves to rug projects. Some hook purses, foot stools, piano benches, Christmas stockings and even three-dimensional Noah’s Arks. “If they can think it, they can hook it,” says Ladadie.

Also, Ladadie notes, “We want to learn something all the time, and we do that in two ways – one is we invite teachers for a weekend or three-day class. These are nationally known teachers. The other way is, within our guild, we’ll do a challenge for a small piece that’s either 8 by 8 or 12 by 12 inches. We come up with a challenge theme. It’s a way to share creativity, push yourself and think differently.”

Members have a display of their work at Padzieski Gallery inside the Dearborn Performing Arts Center (15801 Michigan in Dearborn). The show, called “Early American Rug Hooking, Interpreted by Michigan Rugg Artistes,” runs through June 17. Members will be on hand during all hours of the show demonstrating hooking, and visitors can try their hand at pulling loops. Gallery hours are noon-6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.

Anyone interested in fully learning the ins and outs of traditional rug hooking is welcome to join the group. “We have a number of teachers who would be willing to teach,” says Ladadie. Dues are $44 a year, with a portion going to the national guild. Members receive a quarterly publication from the national with color photos and instructional articles.

Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, jbrown@detroitnews.com or facebook.com/DetroitNewsHandmade.

Contact the Michigan Rugg Artistes Guild at pjal1050@gmail.com or on Facebook.