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Hooked rugs were made by European immigrants to give comfort and warmth to their homes. Textiles that had worn out in their original uses were cut in strips and hooked into recycled burlap bags. Some of the finest of these were made by women through the support of the Grenfell Mission in Newfoundland and Labrador in the early 20th century. In an effort to help the inhabitants economically, Dr. Wilfred Grenfell (1865-1940) established a cottage industry in Newfoundland that came to be known as The Industrial. He sketched the designs for some of the rugs himself and fostered their production in homes along the rugged coasts of Labrador and northern Newfoundland.

Where was this textile created?

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The Hearth

Hooked rug, by Grenfell Mission
North America: Canada, Eastern Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador
1920 - 1940
Silk and rayon strips hooked on burlap cloth
81 cm x 48 cm
Gift of Ginny Sloan
T01.24.1 Textile Museum of Canada

Grenfell rugs (also known as mats) are distinctive in their use of every single hole in the burlap (brin) backing, resulting in a finely textured surface. This rug features two polar bears, facing each other as if they were animals on a coat of arms. Polar bears were favoured subjects on hooked rugs. Early requests for silk and rayon undergarments, which were donated to the Grenfell Medical Mission for use in the rugs, often included white for the snow and the northern animals.

Early Canadian floors were often bare and cold. The hooked rug solved this problem cheaply, as the last step in the recycling of clothing. Cloth was too precious to waste, and lots of it ended up either in quilts or on the floor. The hooked rug was its last stop.

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