Spider & Hooking

Introducing the Spider

This tool is based on an old idea. The original was called a ”Catch it” tool to make a ”Catch it rug” – best be careful how you say it.

Rugs made using the spider are less thick than the shaggy ones, made using a rugger, and less detailed than hooked rugs. There are advantages with the spider, though it”s very quick to make a rug; the cloth is absolutely secure even if the backcloth isn”t filled but it”s also very easy to undo work if you”re not satisfied with it. Like most other rag rug making methods, the spider is usually used to work material into a hessian backcloth.

The spider is a bit fussier about material but, basically, it can work with anything that will slide through the holes and won”t fall apart when it”s cut into 12mm to 20mm strips, depending on it”s thickness. Cotton jersey, particularly old T shirts, suit it best but it can cope with quite a wide range of materials.

The basic technique

First thread a long strip of cloth into the spider; the strip should be 12mm to 20mm wide (narrow if it”s thick or wide if it”s thin) the length doesn”t matter but the longer it is the better.

Ready to go

Push one end of the cloth strip through the hole nearest the spider”s handle, working from the convex side to the concave side. Pull the strip along the groove, towards the tip, and push it through the hole working from the concave side to the convex side. Pull it through until the end reaches back to halfway along the wooden handle and it”s ready to go.

Wiggle the tip

Wiggle the tip of the threaded spider through the backcloth, working from the underneath towards the top, and push it right through. Tip: the spider”s quite wide, to push through hessian, so one or two strands might catch over the tip just sweep them off with your finger; the tip”s rounded so that your finger won”t come any harm. When the business end of the spider”s pushed all the way through it”ll take a loop, from the strip of cloth, with it hang on to this loop by pushing the index finger of your spare hand through it.

Pull the spider back

Pull the spider back, out of the hessian, and push it through again a few strands away; as the tip comes through the backcloth drop the loop, in your spare hand, over it. Push the spider right through again and you should have the first link of chain. Just keep going always pushing the new loop through the previous one. Tip: the secret of using the spider is to allow yourself a bit of slack, in the cloth strip, and always hang on to a generous loop otherwise the work tends to become very tight.

When you come to the end of the strip of cloth leave the end dangling free underneath the backcloth and thread the spider with a new strip. Carry on looping through where you left off and you”ll find you have two loose ends underneath, right next to each other tie these together with a reef knot and trim any excess from the ends.

All the links of the chain will be absolutely secure except the last one û therefore, when you finish, it”s vital to tie off the last end. If, on the other hand, you”re not satisfied with the work you”ve done, at any time, you can pull the end left from the last week you”ve made and the whole lot will pull out, one link at a time like unravelling knitting.

All that”s left to worry about is the hem of the backcloth; obviously something has to be done to stop it fraying. Folding the edge in and working through both layers, as with using the rugger, doesn”t work so well with the spider it”ll go, without too much difficulty, through two layers but where there”s four layers, on the corners, there”s no chance. The usual answer is to leave a hem, about 50mm wide and turn it underneath afterwards where it can be sewn, or glued, in place. An interesting alternative, though, is to finish the edge using a rugger. This, of course, takes up the hem as it goes the result is a rug which is mostly quite flat but has a shaggy border all around it; the effect is like having a rug in a frame.

Because it secures the cloth strip to the backcloth the spider can be used on any type of backcloth that takes your fancy, including loosely knitted material it”s one of those things that are worth experimenting with.


Rag rug hooking already has a number of books and websites devoted to it; so for more information take a look at Links.  This is just a brief outline to give you a rough idea of what it”s all about.

Making a rag rug using a hook is probably the best known method. The idea found it”s way to the USA where it”s become popular enough to attract commercial interest and it”s come back, to Europe, with the benefit of professional promotion. American rugs tend to be worked on a very fine scale (often working with strips of cloth 1.5mm wide) which can produce wonderfully detailed patterns but requires specialist equipment; mainly to cut up the cloth.
Most British rug makers prefer to use a wider strip (12mm to 20mm, depending on the thickness of the cloth) and make a less detailed pattern sometimes called “primitive” (cheek!). The basic techniques are the same but with wider strips it”s practical to get away without buying all the gear or having to be fussy about what sort of cloth to use.

The technique involves holding a long strip of cloth underneath a hessian backcloth; poking a small hook through the backcloth, working from top to bottom, and pulling a loop of the strip back up through. Then another loop is pulled up – a couple of strands, in the backcloth, away and so on until the backcloth is full. The very detailed rugs have a loop pulled into every hole and the backcloth is a fine evenweave hessian. The hem of the backcloth has to be sewn up, underneath, afterwards and a backing sewn on to cover the ends of the strips.

Hooked rugs are often made with the backcloth stretched tightly on a frame, which many people find easier as both hands are occupied, but it”s not essential. The same result can be achieved by pushing loops, from a long strip of cloth, through (from bottom to top) with a point; sharpened dolly pegs used to be the favourite in the crafts heyday. Hooking is easier, though, especially as working on top lets you see the pattern better. It”s not unknown for people to pull quite long loops through and then cut them, with scissors, to achieve the same appearance as the shaggy rugs made with the rugger this doesn”t work so well, though, as it leaves two short strips of cloth in the same hole; unless it”s the right texture the bits will be liable to slide against each other and come out.

Finally, it might interest you to know that people who make rag rugs using a hook usually refer to themselves as “hookers”. You can probably think of a whole selection of jokes based on this one fact but, rest assured, it’s extremely unlikely that you”ll come up with a new one!