Which is the Best Frame for Rug Hooking?
In 2020, I wrote an article for ATHA Magazine . Below is a follow-up to that article. To view the original article on the ATHA website, click here (or view our PDF copy).
As a relatively new rug hooker, I was a bit overwhelmed by the options in rug hooking frames.
I was a member of the Loopy Ladies Guild, Libertyville, IL, and our members used a wide variety of frames. Most members extolled the benefits of the frame they were using. Yet the accolades seemed to lack specific measurements, functions, or benefits that I could use to compare frames.
Additionally, I found that many, if not most, of the members were using the same frame that they had been taught to rug hook on probably about 30 years ago. There is nothing wrong with loyalty to a frame. Yet, it seemed to me that a piece of equipment that you are going to spend hundreds of hours working on, could be more carefully chosen than the one your first teacher happened to loan you.
There are a couple of reasons people do not research a rug hooking frame:
- There is little information available objectively comparing frames.
- Frames are expensive and if you have one that is adequate, often that’s what you stick with, rather than investing in a new frame.
This article will help you evaluate if you need an additional rug hooking frame for traveling, or perhaps a frame that is smaller which will work with your punch needle projects too. Or perhaps a frame that can easily handle very large pieces, such as a Cheticamp frame.
Additionally, sometimes newly acquired physical limitations mean that you now want a frame with a stand so you don’t have to hunch over your work, or you don’t have to use one arm to balance your frame on your lap while you hook.
Although it wasn’t included in the ATHA Magazine article due to limitations on space, I realized in my research and testing out frames, that frames fit various body types differently.
For example, I am short (I must admit it; I realize that I will not be growing any taller…) and I am busty. I realize now that the Puritan frame, which is my “go to” frame, is structured for a taller and less busty person. When I was talking with the manufacturer of the Snap Dragon frame, he said he intentionally designed his frame to fit shorter figures, since his mother was of a shorter stature.
So your body type may be something to consider as you look at the height of the base of the frame. The height of the base of the frame is what you need to fit your body around if you are using a lap frame. The depth and width of the surface area are important too. But for physical back and neck comfort, it is the height that you curve around that appears to be a measurement many of us never consider.
Additionally, he said as a child he was constantly tripping over his mother’s Puritan frame and was irritated when he was scraped by the gripper strips. So, he created an innovative system that folds-in the gripper strips. This avoids being scraped by the teeth. With the Puritan, or others that have the gripper strips sitting on top of the bars all the time, we all know how irritating that is.
Anyone who has carried a frame with gripper strips understands this prickly problem.
Since writing the article, I realize that there are many additional combinations of stands, multi-sided frames, tilt frames, folding frames, and those with or without gripper strips, than I could summarize.
Also, many small manufacturers are producing frames and frequently they are the popular ones in a specific region of the country, or in an individual province in Canada.
Popularity of frames seems to clump regionally. I presume it is because, as I mentioned above, many hookers stay with the frame they first learned on. As you visit other guilds or as you attend hook-ins or camps in other areas, I suggest you look at other frames and ask if you could do a bit of hooking on the frame to see if you like it. Take a picture of the frame you like and note the name of the manufacturer.
Frames are available from many of the larger online retailers of wool, linen, hooks, and other supplies, or in Etsy shops, or from vendors at hook-ins.
In addition, frames may be available through contacts in your local guild. Rug Hook Magazine and the ATHA magazine are good sources of ads for rug hooking supplies, including frames. There are not too many things that can go wrong with frames, so used frames are fine to purchase in my opinion. Often you may need to replace the gripper strip. That material is widely available.
My article discusses some of the idiosyncrasies of various frames that may drive you crazy, or worse. For example, frames with magnets may interfere with pacemakers. So, read the article, and if possible, I recommend testing a frame before you buy it.
I have included some prices for frames in my article. The ones I included cover hoops—which is the least expensive option—to the expensive frames, ranged in price from $40 to $1,600. These prices may be out of date now. They probably have the same relative cost. So, you will want to consider your budget as you check current prices of frames.
There is a robust market for used frames and used hooking equipment. Frames tend to hold a reasonable amount of their original value. For example, a new Puritan frame (although I couldn't find one in anyone’s inventory at this point) might be $300-$400. Used Puritan frames are available from about $160 - $300 depending on age and condition.
In my current review of frames for this update to my article, I saw a Searsport “Cradle Frame.” It has a base that can handle a variety of sizes of frame-heads with grippers. This seems like a good option if you do a variety of needlework on your frame. Additionally, it comes apart and condenses to a small 3” high stack. That would suit the need for a travel frame. I don’t own it, but it is appealing!
There are probably many other innovations in frames on the market that I didn’t discover.
Many variables may or may not be important to you. The considerations I think are the most important to me are:
- Gripper strips. I want a taut surface to work on. You can add gripper strips if you find a frame that doesn’t have them, and you can replace worn-out gripper strips. But one way or the other, I want gripper strips on my frame.
- Ability to fold up or to adjust the angle. I hook in many different places and I like a frame that I can adapt to where I am sitting. Frames that have hardware to adjust the angle are easier for me to be comfortable with. Additionally, I want to be able to fold up my frame for travel.
Hope this helps with your frame search. Let me know if I’ve left anything out or if you’ve discovered a new frame that you love!
(1) The original article is from ATHA Art of Rug Hooking, 'How to Select a Rug Hooking Frame', Issue 241 (February-March 2020), pages 38-42.
ATHA (Association of Traditional Hooking Artists) is one of the national associations for rug hookers. If you are a rug hooker, I encourage you to join ATHA and the national guild, the National Guild of Pearl K McGown Hookrafters.
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