I interviewed artist Jo Wick about rug hooking. Jo is both extremely talented and very prolific in her field. I think that if you love doing something you will choose do it all the time and in return reach new heights. It’s all about jumping in that rabbit hole and having a good adventure.

Jo, tell us a little more about you? 

Hello Tracy, I am a wife, mother and NaNa who has always had a creative streak running though her hands! There is always something productive coming from my hands, they are not idle for long. In 1994, after a quilting phase in the 70’s & 80’s, another friend & I purchased a couple craft books & a rug hook & began teaching ourselves the creative art of rug hooking.  I was “hooked” and have since attended several workshops, retreats and classes.  I am now retired and able to spend even more time with my favorite hobby.

















What is rug hooking? Are there different categories and styles?

Rug Hooking is a traditional craft of making rugs with strips of wool that you pull up thru a backing such as linen to make small loops that form a design.  It is different than latch hooking, which a lot of people did in their high school days. Present types of hooking include : Primitive (simple design, no shading), Realistic (usually flowers, fine shading), Pictorial, Geometrics, Oriental, Waldoboro (high pile that is cut) and Grenfell (nylons and silk hooked in straight lines).

We see a lot of symmetry in your art. Is this 1800s folk, Amish or just yours?

I am drawn to the Primitive Style of rug hooking which is a more simple, less detailed design. This style blends in with the antiques and primitives in my home. I tend to hook designs from the 1800’s. Back then women would utilize burlap from empty food and grain bags for their backing.  On several of my rugs you will see a date, such as 1837, 1842, etc. There really is no significance to the date, it just goes along with the primitive style.












How long does the typical piece take?

It depends on the size of the project and also the width of the wool strips.  A large piece for me is a 3 Ft x 5 Ft Rug which would take me approximately 2-4 months to hook.  A small piece, say 15”x 24”, I would be able to hook in 1-2 weeks.  Keep in mind that I hook more in the winter time & mostly in the evenings.  On a rare, cold snowy day I love to sit in front of the fireplace & spend my whole day hooking!

What kinds of tools and supplies do you need and do you use patterns?

Basic tools to begin Rug Hooking consists of a rug hook, which is similar to a crochet hook with a larger handle, and a frame.  A few people begin on a large quilting hoop, but it is much easier to hook on a frame.  My preference is a floor stand which holds my frame that I can pull up to my chair & have both hands free.  A lot of hookers use lap frames. I also have a wool stripper (cutter) which cuts the wool into uniform widths.  However, a basic pair of scissors or rotary cutter can be used or wool tears easily and you can just hand tear the strips. Then there is the wool, which is now available in a multitude of wonderful colors.  I purchase most of my wool by the yard from shops that specialize in having wool made for rug hookers. I do use patterns which are hand drawn on linen that I have purchased from designers.  I also have drawn a few of my own patterns or adapted patterns from antique rugs.  You can also purchase paper patterns and trace them onto your linen.

We have seen enough art from you to fill a solo gallery exhibit, can you explain your drive to make more pieces?

Yes my home is filled with rugs, both on the floor and walls. I use them in my decorating and have a lot of seasonal rugs that I switch to go with the season. There is always another great wool to try for the perfect color and a new pattern I want to hook!  When I sit down to my rug hooking frame, the repetition of pulling loops is a form of relaxation and therapeutic time for me.  We have a saying in our rug hooking groups, “Rug Hooking is cheaper than therapy”!  I’m not sure about that as rug hooking can become an expensive hobby, but I do know it is my relaxing and calm time.















What do you do with Carillon Historical Park?

I belong to the Miami Valley Rug Hooking Guild; a group of Hookers in the Dayton area that is a non-profit educational organization formed to promote and encourage interest in the creative art of Rug Hooking. A few of us demonstrate rug hooking at Carillon Park during special events & school field trip days.  We wear period clothing and welcome participation from the guests at Carillon who would like to experience the feel of pulling a few loops. Our goal is to promote interest in the art of traditional rug hooking and to provide educational activities to improve the quality of rug hooking.

You were published in a national magazine. Can you tell us what you featured for?

There is a National magazine published by ATHA, “Association of Traditional Hooking Artists”. As a member of my local guild, I can submit stories & pictures for articles.  The theme of their June/July 2017issue was Children’s Art.  The four rugs I designed & hooked for my grandchildren were featured in the magazine.


















What is your favorite piece and why?

That is very difficult to select a favorite piece.  Usually it is my latest project that I have just finished! However, one of my top 5 is The Lion and The Lamb.  I hooked this at a workshop in Kansas City with the Queen of Hooking, Emma Lou Lais.  It was a special treat to have her as my teacher (the one and only time) and since Emma Lou is no longer with us it is even more special.  This large rug (32” x 65”) hangs in our living room.














Any tips for someone that wants to get into the craft?

Locally, in the Dayton area Alice Strebel of Ali Strebel designs has a small shop that offers wool and supplies.  The Miami Valley Rug Hooking Guild also holds monthly meetings where anyone is welcome. There are lots of rug hooking vendors and information on line.  On Facebook there are also several groups devoted to rug hooking.  YouTube has a wide selection of videos available to learn the art of rug hooking.  In August every year there is a wonderful rug show and event held at Sauder Village in Archbold, Ohio (near Toledo).   Several nationally known teachers will attend and offer classes for the beginner as well as the experienced hooker. A wide variety of vendors will showcase their wares and it is a hooker’s delight!  For someone wanting to start hooking I would recommend a beginner’s kit and finding a class or others to get involved with.  My best motivation comes from my friends and other hookers sharing their projects!  One of the great rules of rug hooking is there are no rules!  Over time each hooker develops their own style that is based on their own likes and individuality.

www.alistrebeldesigns.com www.thewoolstudio.com   (Wool) www.heavens-to-betsy.com    (Wool) www.theoldtatteredflag.com www.searsportrughooking.com www.spruceridgestudios.com www.saudervillage.org Facebook:  Miami Valley Rug Hooking Guild ATHA: www.atha.com


Rug Hooking (Cindi Gay)

This is great for beginners. Cindi has several episodes & walks you through the how’s of getting started in rug hooking.


Do you have any big goals for your art in this new year?

In the past few months I have been experimenting with dyeing wool, both with natural dyes and chemical dyes.  I did a lot of walnut hull dyeing this fall and want to continue exploring new dyeing formulas and using that wool in my rugs.  There is also a couple retreats on my bucket list I would like to attend where I can take classes from experienced hooking teachers.

 Thank you so much, Jo! We appreciate you taking the time and letting us get to know more about you and this unique art.
Behind the scenes~
Last week I had the great opportunity of teaching the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild how to make the Liesl and Co, Art Gallery Tunic in one of the coolest spaces, a barn!



















My friend Lawanda of lstonerockDesigns and I hit the road and went to Sew to Speak in Columbus. I got a new serger and a cover stitch machine for active wear.













Thank you for reading,

Tracy McElfresh
Dream it, Sew it!






Tracy McElfresh
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