Finishing a hooked rug: Step 1 Steaming

October 21, 2010 15 comments | Updated February 7, 2021

Written by Cindi Gay

Have you admired the smooth even work in completed hooked rugs at the rug hooking shows? Steaming is not an optional step. It makes a huge difference in the finished product. Try steaming yours and it will look as smooth and professional as the rugs on display.

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I usually steam twice. Once when the hooking is complete and before the whipping is started and again when the whipping is complete. At an absolute minimum you will need to steam at least once.

An ironing board works for most rugs but the pressing table sold at fabric stores is ideal. It’s large surface will allow you to press the rug without moving it and is a perfect place for it to rest overnight. It folds down and is small enough to be stored out of the way until you need it again. I know rug hookers who keep a piece of plywood around just for steaming rugs. Cover the surface with a blanket or towels and begin steaming. What do I use? Just an ironing board. I don’t have the storage space for anything else.

Place your rug face down on the ironing surface and lay a wet pressing cloth, a white towel or piece of natural colored wool, over the surface. I know some people who are adamant about using wool, but for me it is a bit like the emperor’s clothes. I don’t see a difference while “they” claim the difference is remarkable.

With the iron set on wool, lay the iron on the rug and let it sit for 5 to 10 seconds. Don’t apply pressure, let the iron do the work. Lift the iron and move it over so that it slightly overlaps the previously pressed area. Continue in this manner until the rug is complete. Never slide the iron across the surface, always lift to move it.  If you are steaming a large rug or a particularly lumpy one, spritz the rug with a spray bottle filled with water.  It speeds up the steaming process.

If the pressing cloth becomes dry, rewet it as needed. I find it useful to keep two pressing cloths handy so that a wet one is always nearby. Below I used a washcloth because I was steaming a small piece but I usually use the white bar towels that I use in the kitchen.

Steaming a hooked rug

If needed (and it always is needed for me), turn the rug over and repeat the process. When you stop seeing improvement, you know you are done pressing. Your rug should be smooth and flat with no ripples.

When the steaming is complete, move the rug to a surface where it can sit for 24 hours or at least overnight.

IMPORTANT: Check for square by measuring on the diagonals. The measurements should match. If not, tug gently in the direction of the shortest measurement and remeasure. Repeat until the measurements match.

Let the rug dry undisturbed in this position for 24 hours or at least overnight.  Ideally you would let it set undisturbed for several days until it is completely dry.

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