The worn chair cover of one of our dining chairs needed mending. This gave me the prompt I needed to try my hand at an old upcycling craft – hooky matting, as we call it here in North East England. Upcycled textiles are cut into strips and hooked into a strong base material to make rugs or other textile items. I thought this technique would work well for a hard wearing chair cover.
After some practise with the handmade wooden hooky mat tool, I’ve now begun hooking the textile strips into my chair cover design. To gain further practice with the hook tool, I decided to work the flower stems first. The green t-shirt material I’ve used for the stems provided two different greens, depending on which way up I used it. I largely chose to use the darker green side, but I also made use of the more faded green on some edges and on one of the lower stems.
The next part of the design I have begun hooking is the outline of the largest flower, using some thin black strips of textile. This is one aspect of my hooky mat chair cover project that I have been trying out before I made a start on the actual thing. I don’t want the black outlines to be too heavy within the design so I experimented with different widths of textile strip. The close-woven nature of the linen base material is helpful in that it will readily hold the narrower textile strips in place.
I’m quite pleased with how this first stage of the chair cover has gone. Having the linen stretched on the frame certainly helped with keeping the design in place while I worked.
The hook tool has worked out well for me too. I’d made a few minor amendments to it using a file and I’ve noticed the hook end has already worked very smooth from pushing it through the rough linen. The smoother the hook the easier it is to work through the linen. I can imagine it is faster to hook textile strips into a more loosely-woven base fabric, but I have developed a reasonable rate of working … so it’s so far, so good.
I’ll post another update when I’ve made some more progress on my hooky mat chair cover project.
My hooky mat chair cover project has made some progress over the past two weeks, though not quite as much as I’d hoped. I found there were some aspects of the project that needed a bit more pondering to determine the best approach and I decided to make a temporary crochet chair cover to disguise our raggy old chair until I complete the new hooky mat chair cover. We have also enjoyed some sunny days just lately which tempted me to get on with a gardening project outdoors, so that was another diversion. But let me tell you about the progress have I made with my chair cover project.
I introduced you to my new craft project in my earlier post and you may recall I had decided that the chair cover would have a Rennie Mackintosh/early 20th century theme but I was still working on the design. I continued making a number of sketches until I was happy with my sketch version of the design. Next, I squared up some recycled brown wrapping paper and drew up a full size version.
At this point I began to consider how best to transfer the design to my stretched linen. I had spent some time tinkering with the balance of the design so, to make sure I retained the placing of the flower elements, I decided to make a charcoal transfer rather than draw it freehand.
To use the hooky mat technique to create the design on the linen, I wanted to keep the design fairly simple as this is my first hooky mat project. I have seen some marvelous examples of rugs and soft furnishings made using the hooky mat technique on Pinterest, but I didn’t want to be too ambitious just yet.
Using a soft 4B pencil I made sure my design was clearly defined on the ‘shiny’ side of the brown wrapping paper. I used a dark charcoal pencil to trace over the lines on the reverse of the wrapping paper. When I was happy that I’d put enough charcoal on the back of the design to make the transfer work effectively, I carefully pinned the design – right side up – onto the stretched linen. Then using the 4B pencil again, I re-drew over the design. I put a block of wood underneath the linen to make this part of the transfer process easier.
The transfer worked very well – all of the design could be clearly seen on the linen. My next step was to draw up the outer shape of the chair seat and to check there was enough material left to tack the chair cover to the seat base. Although I had measured the linen piece beforehand, at this stage I felt it would be better with another inch of tacking space on two of the sides. I decided to tack another slightly larger piece of linen onto the stretcher frame and re-do the design transfer process. This time I was happy with the design on the linen and with the spacing for fixing the new cover to the seat base.
Now that I had the design on my base material it was time to think about the process of hooking the upcycled textile strips into it. I felt I needed to try out the hooking technique and my handmade hook tool itself. A test square seemed a good plan.
Using the charcoal transfer process again, I drew out a flower from my design onto a linen scrap. Then, taking my wooden hook tool, I began hooking in a textile strip. As I had anticipated, this was more difficult in the more closely woven linen than it would be in the open weave of jute hessian that is more frequently used as a base material for hooky and proggy mats. However, the hook tool proved robust enough for the task, though I did file the hook just a little extra to make it more effective.
As I hooked the first textile strip into the flower shape, I realised that this 1.5 cm wide textile strip was going to be too wide to describe the smaller detail in the centre of my flower design as well as being difficult to work into the closely woven linen. I also noted that organising the hooked loops on the right side of the workpiece so that they lie in a given direction was an important skill I must acquire if the design was to look good when it was completed. A little more practice was definitely in order.
It will take me a little while to become a natural with the hooky mat tool, so I decided in the short term our raggy old chair cover needed a rather more instant makeover. When I need to make something quickly I generally turn to my favourite hook tool, my crochet hooks. Some of my readers may remember last Spring that I made a crochet rug from supermarket carrier bags – I wrote about it here. I have used a similar process, upcycling some carrier bags to make the crochet chair cover. It is basically a crochet circle that I finished it off with some simple crochet chain ties to hold it in place. I think it certainly tidies up the chair while it is waiting for its new hooky mat chair seat cover.
As well as continuing my hooky mat practice, I am now also making a simple trestle from hazel rods to act as a support for my mat frame when I begin working on my chair cover properly. I’ll post again on my hooky mat chair cover craft project when I make some more progress.
We have a preference for pre-loved furniture in our house. For example, this means we have dining chairs that don’t match. The dining chairs themselves are all of the long-lasting wooden variety, probably dating from somewhere around the middle of last century.
Our dining chairs see very regular use, so you can imagine the seats of these chairs from time to time begin to show distinct signs of wear and need to be re-covered. One of the chairs is currently in this very worn condition and in dire need of repair.
Normally to mend our chair covers, I simply cut out a suitably sized piece of upholstery material and replace the old chair seat cover, restoring the seat padding at the same time if necessary. However, this time I decided to combine replacing the chair seat cover with practicing a new textile skill. When I say ‘new’ textile skill, I really mean ‘very old’ textile skill – it is only new to me, though I have been studying it for a while. Now I have the perfect opportunity to try my hand at a traditional rug-making method that could have quite possibly been practised in the homes where our old chairs started out more than half a century ago.
Will it work, using a rug-making method to create a chair seat cover? Well, I can only say I have seen it used this way in the hands of an expert, so I am hopeful 😉
The rug-making method I am planning to use was known locally in our area as “hooky mat-making” where strips of recycled textiles (usually old clothing and household textiles) were hooked onto a base of strong woven jute sacking that had been stretched taut onto a frame. In North East England the word ‘mat’ was used rather than ‘rug’. Hooky mats are one of the two main mat-making styles that were widely used right up to the middle of the twentieth century in North East working class households to create floor rugs, as bought carpets were unaffordable for many people. When completed, a hooky mat has quite a flat pile with short loops. The other style of mat-making was called a “proggy mat” and that results in a mat with a longer, softer pile finish.
For my hooky mat chair seat cover, I have chosen to use some heavy linen canvas as the base and I’ve stretched this onto a large heavy-duty painting frame that I had conveniently available.
The tool I will be using to craft my hooky mat design is this wooden hook that I asked my son (the woodworker) to make for me to a particular size and shape. He began by turning a short length of sycamore wood on the pole lathe and then between us we carved the hook end to the required shape. The hook may need some more refining yet – I shall have to see when I put it to use.
Currently in my new craft project I am preparing the design that I will be working onto the linen base. While I was browsing for potential design ideas I was inspired by some of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s flowers and Art Nouveau mosaics, so I decided to develop my design in this early 20th century style.
My colour scheme will be deliberately chosen from a limited palette of colours and I also want to keep the colours subtle rather than bright. Partly my range of colours will be dictated by the availability of suitably coloured textiles. I have begun preparing some textile strips in greys and purples so I will choose other colours to work with them.
Hopefully I will complete the design this week and perhaps manage to make a start on working the textile strips into the linen base. I’ll let you know how my latest upcycling craft project goes 🙂