History and origins of the punch needle
The punch needle was born in the 19th century in Great Britain.
According to author William Winthrop Kent, the history and origins of the punch needle can be traced back to the 19th century in Great Britain, at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. At this time it became fashionable, among the bourgeoisie, to cover floors with expensive machine-made rugs.
It all started in a rug factory in Yorkshire.
The workers in these expensive rug factories were allowed to collect the wool scraps that were useless for production and take them home. These wool scraps, called thrums, measured 9 inches (23 cm) and were used to make their own rugs. With a simple hook with a wooden handle, they passed these scraps through a mesh fabric, thus making rugs for their homes.
Subsequently, thanks to emigration to the East Coast of the United States and Canada, this craft technique was further developed.
It became a favourite way for poorer households in these regions to produce colourful cladding for their dwellings. Moreover, at a time when most 19th century houses had unsightly floors that builders hastily constructed from softwood planks of random sizes.
Since yarns were expensive and usually saved for clothing, women used any leftover fabric to make their rugs. Regardless of the weave used, hooked rugs were more attractive than the common alternative of the time: low-cost mats woven from coconut fibre, straw or corn husks.
Out of necessity, a hobby was born
From the 1830s onwards, rugs were already being manufactured industrially, and by 1870 the industry was able to produce rugs in large volumes for the lower classes who needed to solve their housing problems. However, against all odds, this domestic chore that women had, born out of necessity in their homes, became a hobby. Thanks to this, the practice of rug hooking has endured.
Artists were born, the Rug hookers
Over time, as living standards improved with the Industrial Revolution, the materials used in rugs also improved. Rug hookers artists were born and began to design and make rugs by hand to order, becoming a livelihood for these needlepunch artists. In 1930, these artists popularised the art by publishing their work . They drew up formal guidelines for rug hooking, thus dignifying the craft.
Nowadays, this embroidery technique called punch needle is booming.
At last, women’s ingenuity and artistry are recognised.
Are you ready to follow this tradition and make your own rug?
Order your punch needle kit with Oxford needle now
Thanks for the photographic and content contributions from Life Magazine, Tea and carpets and Messybeast. This has allowed us to illustrate the History and origins of the Punch needle.
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