GANDER, N.L. – With her hand gripping the wooden handle of a tiny hook, Doris West pushes it through one of the thousands of tiny holes in the burlap backing to catch the wool underneath.
She pulls the hook back through the burlap, with the wool attached creating a small loop. The 90-year-old gives it a quick inspection, to make sure it lines up with the rest of her pattern and starts the process all over again.
It’s relatively similar to the rug hooking style her mother had taught her when she was just a girl in Laddle Cove.
“I used to stay up at night and help mom hook mats, but I believe she used to take it out again after I went to bed because I wasn’t very good,” West said laughing as she worked a snowman pattern.
After moving to Gander when she was 17 years old, the skill fell by the wayside.
“I had no interest in sitting at home hooking mats,” West said.
She would be into her 70s before she would ever work on another hooked rug, when she decided to join her daughters, who were involved with the Rug Hookers Guild of Newfoundland and Labrador – Gander Chapter.
Immediately she was hooked, and now, West can be found the first and last Sunday of the month – October to May – sitting down with the group, enjoying the conversation and a cup of tea, working on rugs together.
“I love it,” she said, about the bi-monthly get together.
Alice Kelly got involved shortly after the Rug Hookers Guild was formed on Change Islands in 1995, and for the past 15 years, the Gander chapter has been holding workshops.
Leading up to the chapter’s formation, Kelly said, Gander didn’t have a lot of traditional rug hookers, as the community’s postwar development came at a time of modernization in Newfoundland and Labrador.
“It was during a time when new floor coverings and home heating systems were coming into the home,” said Kelly. “If you had (hooked) mats, they were looked on as poverty.”
With the necessity no longer needed the practice began fading away, but the establishment of the guild brought about a means of reviving the traditional practice as an art form.
And it has rekindled interest in the craft, as Gander currently has 22 members.
The chapter will be taking its summer break at the end of May but will resume again in the fall.
To learn more about the Newfoundland and Labrador’s rug hooking history, visit the Rug Hookers Guild of Newfoundland and Labrador website at rhgnl.ca
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