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How to finish a hooked rug

How much yarn do I need to whip my hooked rug?

This entry is part 4 of 7 in the series Fold Forward Finish

March 2014 update: The calculator has been fixed. If it ever stops working again, please let me know. In case you are curious, here’s how to do the calculations yourself:

Width + Width + Length + Length = Perimeter inches

Perimeter inches divided by how many inches your whipping covers = number of pieces you need

Number of pieces you need * the length of strand you used = Number of inches of yarn needed

Number of inches of yarn needed divided by 36" = Number of yards you need.


Whipping a rug takes a long time. Ripping it out because you run out of yarn and have to start over with something else is a nightmare. Run the numbers before you begin.

Do a whipping test

Use a piece of scrap backing and prepare the edge so you can practice whipping. A section about 8″ long should be enough. Here are some posts to get you started:

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I typically use a 5′ or 60″ long piece of yarn to whip my rugs. Do not let the yarn shop wind the yarn into a ball for you. Instead, leave it in a skein and untwist it so it is a circle. Cut through one place on the circle through all the strands. That will quickly give you strands of yarn that are approximately the same length, about 5′ long.

Use one piece to whip your scrap sample. Now enter your numbers above and count out the number of strands you need. Do you have enough? You’ll know right away.

No time to do a test? Most rugs will only use a fraction of a skein. You can whip 594 inches or just under 50 feet using my example of 4.5″ of whipping from a 60″ strip using my favorite whipping yarn.

Finishing a hooked rug – zig zag or not?

This entry is part 1 of 7 in the series Fold Forward Finish

My rug hooking workshop schedule has been very full the last few years. I enjoy teaching so it was a joy, but it did not allow much time for musing. This summer I’ve had time to slow down and think. One topic that has been whirling around in my head has been rughooking finishing.

To zig zag or not to zig zag the edge of a hooked rug?

Finishing a hooked rug: zig zagging the edgeI learned my first finishing method from Rug Hooking Magazine. I was then exposed to the fold forward finish at Sauder Village by Evelyn Lawrence. Jule Marie Smith, my teacher that year, took the method a step further and eliminated the cording because of the thicker nature of rug warp. I’ve used that method ever since.

Using a sewing machine on a hooked rug

I remember a scheduled slide show with Jessie Turbayne that turned into a very small group discussion – just three of us. One thing Jessie said that has stuck with me is how the sewing machine is very destructive. It slams into the fibers and splits them to make the stitches. To reverse machine stitches is very difficult without damaging the backing even further. Hand sewing is much more forgiving.

Conclusion: Am I perforating the edge when I so carefully zig zag?

Am I doing more harm than good by zig zagging? I think so. Once the backing is folded up and whipped, it is not going to unravel any more. Not sure how the custom of the stitching started, but I’ve been carrying it forward.

No more. I hate the process of prepping the backing. I do need and benefit from zig zagging the outer edge after I cut off the excess. I can live with doing that much. I tried to finish one of my stair risers once without a sewing machine when I was out of town. I’ll never try that again. It unraveled so fast it was all I could do to get it stitched up quickly.

No sewing machine? Here are some solutions

  1. Have a friend do it. Just ask. Offer rughooking wool if needed.
  2. Use fray check. I’ve never tried this because the stuff is just too darned expensive but I’ve been told it works. If you do use it, be sure it says acid-free on the label. You don’t want your edge decaying from the inside out.
  3. Hand stitch over the edge enough to keep the fibers from unraveling as you work with it
  4. Work fast, only cutting as you need it. I tried this and it was a dismal failure for me.

To secure the edge as you are rug hooking:

  1. Duck tape. Lenny Freeman using this on the edge of his patterns. It comes in a really cool animal prints. It looks like duct tape, but is intended for fabric and is much softer. Doesn’t matter if it is acid free or not, you’ll be cutting that part off later anyways.
  2. Fold the edge twice and stitch.

Close up of Cindi GayCan you think of any other ways to finish the edge of your rughooking so that the backing does not unravel as you sew up the edge? Leave a comment and I will add it to this list.

A simple way to hang your rug hooking on the wall

I’m describing this method as a way to fix a mistake. signature

This method only works on small pieces such as the wrong sized stair riser I hooked recently. I whipped it with my usual finishing technique instead of folding the edges back and whipping.

Back of stair riser with 3m strips in place over sticky Velcro

3M strips stuck to back of sticky Velcro

Since I had already sewn on the Velcro strips (a difficult task that I was not going to undo) I added the hook side that has a sticky back. Normally this is the point where I would remove the protective backing and stick the stair riser to my stairs. But alas, this one is too large.

Years ago I found some 3M hooks on sale. I think they were for Christmas lights. The hooks were too small to do anything with, but the sticky parts have been priceless. I added a bunch of them all around the edge. Then I let it sit for a few minutes. The glue gets stronger with age. I think the packaging recommends 30 seconds or something like that.

Next I test fit the stair riser into place. I noted how much room there was on each side and how far below the mirror I wanted it to be. I removed the second side of protective paper from the 3M strips and gently stuck it to the wall. I then stepped back to be sure it still looked level, made a few adjustments, rechecked and then firmly pressed on the tape for several seconds in each place. My goal was thirty seconds, but geez that took too long. I probably got a good 10 seconds of pressure on each 3M piece.

I rechecked it in about an hour and since it was still up, so I hoped for the best. Twenty four hours later it is still up.

If you are thinking that this is a crazy way to get there, you are right. Remember that I started with a stair riser complete with the Velcro already sewn on but it did not fit on my stairs. With this method, I can change my mind without damage to the wall. I can always use the sticky Velcro later to attach it as a stair riser if I discover one of the stairs is taller than the others. I like options.

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