She didn't teach me how to do any of these crafts. Mostly she gave me a kit and left me to work it out for myself, which I would, eventually. One of these childhood crafting endeavours was latch hooking. Working from a boxed kit containing a canvas, packages of pre-cut yarn, and a chart for the pattern, I could keep busy and quiet for hours. Apparently there was also a specialty latch hook tool, which either I never had or couldn't figure out in the olden pre-Internet days of the nineteen hundred and eighties. So, by hand, I hooked the pre-cut yarn into loops around the notches in the canvas until the carpet scraps took the shape of pansies or Daffy Duck or a red rose resting across piano keys.
The wikipedia entry charmingly, and repeatedly, calls rug hooking a "craft of poverty," ostensibly because it relied on scraps that peasants would use to fashion useful and decorative rugs to make their barren hovels more cozy. By the time this craft reached my poverty-stricken family, it arrived with that new craft smell, fresh from the factory. However, in 1980s America, latch hooking was a decorative craft on the decline. These boxed kits were not rugs for floors and muddy feet and cat vomit. These rugs were for framing and displaying on the walls of a den or rumpus room or maybe even the guest bathroom. Whatever the origins of rug hooking, we were far from it. I was not so much making something useful for the home as I was working on a fuzzy puzzle while watching ALF.
Latch hooking gets a bit dull after a while and doesn't quite scratch the middle back of the creative itch. The lack of new kits that were relevant to my interests, and not yet possessing the vision to use the kit materials for a different design, I moved onto scribbling sketch comedy catchphrases on my hand-me-down denim jacket.
Jump ahead to 2006, when I had vision and a muse and access to a craft store with blank canvas and bulk pre-cut yarn. Inspired by my Robot of Leisure character, Boris, I decided to return to the forgotten craft of latch hook to create a rug of his head. To what purpose, you ask? I respond, dear reader, with an unsatisfying "I dunno." It seemed, like most ideas at their onset and in the heat of the moment, like a good one.
Ten years later, in my own version of Konmari, I'm tackling my large and diverse craft collection and asking "Does this craft spark joy?" But it's not enough to merely look at a flat lay of materials to judge the activity, one must engage with the materials. So, last month I sat down with my yarn scraps and blank canvas and created something new. With no kit and no instructions, I hooked two new 11" x 14" rugs. One was completely improvised, based mostly on which colours I had pulled out of the scrap box. For the second piece, I took time to consider layout and colour and drew a pattern onto the canvas.
If you're of the opinion that latch hooking is cheesy, dated, and tacky, you aren't far wrong. Picture rugs are never going to look elegant or seem practical. Maybe you can put up a fuzzy sailboat or impressionistic landscape in your powder room without much embarrassment. Latch hook rugs done in an abstract or geometric design have greater potential for being timeless dust catchers.
As wall decor, these rugs also shed fuzz from mere eye contact, latch hook rugs aren't great. As a practical thing for wiping your feet, these things are too delicate for the most petite tootsies. As a quiet craft project for movie watching night? Aces. If you've got leftover yarn from yarn wrapping or making pom-poms or knitting and need a way to clear out the scraps, latch hooking is a neat way to clear the stash. Get some canvas from your favourite online craft store and follow your muse.
And no, I still haven't figured out how to use the latching tool, despite having actually watched a YouTube tutorial. I have mastered the art of sitting quietly, though. Stay tuned for my Sitting Quietly YouTube instructional videos.