Many of us think of rug hooking as something from another time. But it lives on today. Nova Scotia author and rug hooker Meryl Cook discovered that the craft carried her on a healing journey, as she recovered from breast cancer. She found herself designing a series of mats to document her healing and uses a unique process of writing on the linen around her design to add to the inspirational quality of each mat. Her rug hooking and healing experience took on so much meaning to her that she decided to begin organizing rug-hooking healing workshops, to spread the joy and creativity. And she has written a book about it, too, called, “One Loop At A  Time.” (See more about that book at the end of this piece.)

Why is this important to you? Cook is hosting a two-day workshop on April 29 and 30 in Vankleek Hill during which participants will create a 16-inch by 16-inch mat, along with their own journals and each participant will embark on a personal journey of discovery. Cook, joining those who believe in the therapeutic value of working with and creating with one’s hands, adds more components to the mix: colour and texture. Immersing oneself in the colours and textures is also restorative, according to Cook. At her workshop, participants can bring their own materials or they will be able to purchase bundles of fabric and textured wool (all-natural) to take their design in a  direction that speaks to them.
Cook’s signature design, in the shape of a heart, will be printed on linen and provided to participants. The workshop will take place in the group work area at the recently-opened QuiltBees and Heartworks Quilt Shop at 22 Main Street East in Vankleek Hill.
The cost of the workshop includes a journal, the printed pattern on linen and Cook will have enough tools on hand for participants to borrow or purchase.
Materials for the workshop are not included, but Cook will have bundles of fabric, cut and ready to hook, available for purchase. If you have your own fabric that you would like to prepare and bring to the workshop, you are invited to contact Cook ahead of time to ensure that your materials will work for the healing mat project.  Cook says that specialty yarns, especially loopy yarns, or old cashmere sweaters (the ones you have stopped wearing because they have holes in the elbows) can be made into mats, as well as wool fabric. You can bring wool fabrics in colours you love to work with and textured yarns in wool, Cook says.

Cook describes the healing mat as a “love letter to yourself.” Through rug hooking and writing, you will discover how to set positive healing goals and reconnect with your creativity and joy.
“Create a reminder to take it one step at a time, put your feet down, feel the fibres and take a breath before you start each day,” Cook says.

An extra event has been added to the weekend in the form of an artist reading and book-signing on Friday evening, April 28 at Arbor Gallery Cultural Centre in Vankleek Hill. That event begins at 7 p.m.

Rug hooking is known from early times for its efficient use of fabrics from clothes and blankets which were no longer of use to a family. Clothing or fabric would be cut into strips, which were then looped through burlap using a special hook to create a rug with a thick, cozy pile.
Cook says that the workshop seems to have special appeal for those who have never hooked a rug before but the two-day class is open to everyone.
The course costs $225 per student (plus HST) and includes the journal ($50 value). The materials to hook the mat cost extra and will be available at the workshop. You can register on Cook’s website at: or email her to get more information.