Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Some of the History of Rug Hooking in Australia and our next meeting details

The next meeting of the Yarra Valley Rugmakers will be held on Saturday 10th January at Anne's home in Warrandyte. Please contact for details. All welcome
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I promised that after I wrote the Blog article about the 2014 Strathalbyn Rug Expo, that I would write something of the history of rug making in Australia.

As I wrote here on this Blog- 24th Oct-
I purchased an old, but in perfectly excellent condition  5’x7’  floor rug pattern by Rittermere Designs in Canada, called 'Tehran', which is possibly 30 years old or more. Faye, who sold off all her rug hooking paraphernalia was a member of the Elizabeth Rug Hooking group in Sth Australia. This is her story.
“The Elizabeth Rug Hooking Group was active in Elizabeth South Australia, from 1973 to about 1993.  It was led by the late Pam Whitehead.  Pam spent some years in Canada and was an accredited  
The Rittermere rug, 'Tehran' hooked by a member of the Elizabeth Rug Hooking group
Pearl McGown rug teacher.  Pam was also a friend of Mr and Mrs Rowan who owned ‘Rittermere’ Designs in Toronto Canada. The Rowans sold their business some years ago.  Pam held rug hooking classes in the local TAFE adult education centre in Elizabeth for some years and then in her home.   Today, there are only about 3 of us still alive.  I was the youngest member.   We took part in many community events by mounting displays and giving rug hooking demonstrations.   Several of our
Local S.A news paper, 1986
exhibitions were featured in articles in Arts and Crafts magazines.   One of my pieces formed part of an art exchange with sister city Austin Texas.   Elizabeth Rug Hookers received a Council Grant to pay for exhibition frames to display our rugs and wall hangings.   I was the secretary of the Northern Adelaide Arts Guild for several years to help promote our craft over 3 council areas for Salisbury, Elizabeth and Gawler.   I left Elizabeth in 1988 to live in Victoria and moved back to SA in 1998 but have not hooked since I finished my Sheep rug in 1990 made from a kit purchased at Priscilla’s needlework shop in Prahran. 
The photographs sent to you were taken at one or more of our exhibitions and were in my photo
Clipping from The Age news paper, Melbourne, 1991
album.  We used to hire the Lyndoch Institute Hall every 2 years for the Barossa Vintage Festival week and hang our rugs and wall hangings and provide morning and afternoon tea for a small donation.  Our husbands were most important in putting up the display and taking it down for us.  We did this about 3 or 4 times but then age began to catch up with many of the rug hooking members and the output of rugs slowed.  We were an active group for many years and Joyce Emery and I did some rug hooking teaching in the area when Pam could not do it anymore.  Pam was the importer of the rug canvases and batches of cutting machines and hooks and reference books.  I imported some items to replace worn parts in cutting machines, books and hooks to keep my classes in supplies but both Pam and I found the import duty and some regulations made it all too hard.
All of this happened before websites were available and when computers were used for word processing and calculation and the words ‘social media’ had not been invented.”

Jacqui Thomson from  Narrawilly Proggy Rugs, in Milton, NSW continues the story.
“Australian rugs have their own individuality and from slow beginnings the enthusiasm for making rugs has spread to every State, and today we have healthy groups in Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, Queensland, ACT and New South Wales. We can now boast an Australian Rugmakers Guild formed on 11 October, 2008, with Board members from each State, and meetings held using Skype. We have welcomed rug makers from Israel, Japan, Canada, America and England over the years and our members have visited rug makers in Wales, Canada, England, Japan and the USA.
Miriam Miller from Milton in NSW, and instigator of the Narrawilly Proggy Ruggers, teacher, Emeritus of the ARG, and Past President of The International Guild of Handhooking Rugmakers is a driving force in the promotion of rug making in Australia; she is the author of Australia’s first rug book ‘Proggy and Hooky Rugs’, and has recently brought forward a revised edition. Her students have travelled from every corner of our country.”

More from Jo Franco in WA soon.

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