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Rug Hooking

Tapestry (Rug Hooking)

We call “hooking” the making of wool or rag rugs on burlap. The burlap is stretched tightly on a wooden frame, and the hook is a simple nail with a curved tip attached to a wooden handle. With a hook held in the right hand, the wool or rag (held underneath the burlap with the left hand) is pulled to the surface of the burlap. Although rag rugs are still being produced, our attention here will focus on our wool rugs.

Originally, these hooked rugs served as throw rugs to cover the cold floors in winter or to exchange with traveling salesmen for mechandise not available locally. The turning point of the rug industry came when in 1927, Lillian Burke, an artist from New York as well as a friend of the Bell family of Baddeck, visited this area. She became interested in these works of art which she introduced on the U.S. market. Profit was still minimal for the rug “hookers” and because of that, a few women began operating their own boutiques. Today you will find many of these boutiques, where friendly staff await to serve you.

The name “Élizabeth LeFort” immediately comes to mind when one speaks about rug hooking. Like most others, Mrs. LeFort started her career by hooking sceneries, but the turning point came when her talent for hooking portraits was discovered. Referred to as “Canada’s artist in Wool”, Mrs. LeFort was awarded an Honorary Doctorate Degree from the Université de Moncton, as well as the Order of Canada. Her works may be admired at various places throughout the world, i.e. at the Vatican, Buckingham Palace, the White House and at the Museum of Civilization in Ottawa. You can feast your eyes on many of her tapestries while visiting the gallery which bears her name, at the Trois Pignons, in Chéticamp.

In January 1998, a group of rug hookers from Chéticamp, under the skilled direction of Marie-Claire Doucet, undertook the task of hooking a large rug (15ft x10ft) destined for the Canadian Room at Rideau Hall, residence of the Governor General of Canada in Ottawa. The finished product of this venture is, like many before, a real masterpiece.