Hooked, Prodded, Punched, Bodkin

by Diana Blake Gray

Master Rugmaker

Hooked, Punched, Poked, Prodded, Bodkin & Shuttle Rag Rugs

All six of these rug types are in the same structural family. Traditionally made with strips of wool worked through a burlap, monkscloth or linen base. all of the rugs work on the same principle. When fabric strips are put through a loosely woven fabric, the strands in the weave tighten to hold the wool in place. The exception is the bodkin rug which is additionally secured by the way the strips are cut.


Traditional hooked rugs are made with a rug hook, which looks like a small crochet hook attached to a wooden handle. They are worked on the front side of the rug and made by pulling up loops of wool through the burlap or fabric base.

Hooked Rugs were often made following patterns printed on old burlap feed sacks, like the piggy, shown in the photo. The older style of hooked rugs is called “primitive” hooking and is done with wider strips of wool (3/16-inch to ¼-inch or larger). “Fine” hooking is done with very narrow strips of wool, and the designs include elaborate shadings to represent details of flowers or scenery.

Hooked rugs from 1927, “Handmade Rugs” by Ella Bowles, including a rare silhouette style rug.

Poked rugs are made with a small pointed (but not sharp) tool sometimes having a wooden handle. (A vintage poking tool is a 16d finish nail driven into the end of a dowel which acts as the handle.) Strips of wool are cut about 1 inch long and usually 1/4 to 1/2 inch wide. The ‘poker’ is used to push the center of the strip down into the burlap, just far enough that the fold is beyond the burlap surface.




Antique rug hooks from my collection show the evolution of the tool. Lower three are 1700s, upper three are 1800s. Read the entire article.

A denim prodded rug, in progress.


Punched rugs are made with a large ‘needle’. Wool or cotton strip is threaded through the eye of the needle, which is inserted into the back of the rug. As the needle is withdrawn, a loop of strip remains on the ‘front’ of the rug. There have been lots of gadgets invented over the years to make punched rugs. Some of the tools were called ‘speed hooks’ and ‘shuttle hooks’, even though the tip of the tool is a needle, not a hook. Because of these tools, and the identical appearance, there is often confusion between these rugs and hooked rugs.

The “proddies” are most common in the United Kingdom. They are made by taking short sections of wool strip and pushing each end through separate openings in the burlap. The prod can take many forms, is usually pointed but not sharp. The ends of the strip stick up on the front side of the rug giving it a shaggy texture.

Pinch-type bodkins used to make bodkin rug above.

Prodded rug from the “working” side.

Same prodded rug on the underside.

Bodkin or tweezer rugs are most often made with tweezers or a pinch-type bodkin. Narrow pieces of wool strip are used (usually 3/4 inch) The strips are pulled up through the burlap or rug canvas with the tweezers or bodkin so that half of the strip is on each side of the rug . The result is a very thick rug with a shaggy texture on both sides. Special cutting prevents the strips from pulling back out once the rug is finished.

These rugs are made with a tool very similar to poked rugs though sometimes a U-shaped notch was cut in the end. Long strips of wool were used and a loop of strip is held on the near side of the rug while the poker pushes through a loop to the far side. The result is a rug with loops of wool on both sides of the rug. Also a very thick rug.

Hooked rugs were often combined with unrelated techniques to achieve particular effects or as a border for the hooking. Some of these methods included various braids, tambour and locker hooking or anchored loop.

Elsewhere on the Rugmakers Homestead
See the Rugmakers Exchange for photos of other old hooked rugs
Antique Rug Hooks

Publications in our catalog:
Bulletin #15: Primitive Rug Hooking, An Introduction
Bulletin #7: Bodkin Rugs

Recommended Publications:
There are innumerable books and magazines available dealing with both fine and primitive rug hooking. I personally like Emma Tennant’s Rag Rugs of England and America for the historical perspective of hooked and prodded rugs.


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