- Associated Press - Sunday, September 7, 2014

FRANKLIN, Mass. (AP) - In the 1800’s, New England wool “hook” rugs functioned as carpets during the summer and became blankets atop beds in the winter.

But today, Franklin’s Laura Salamy’s creates hook rugs that are pieces of art and displayed on walls, floors and tables.

Her colorful custom-made pieces range from bright floral designs that include sunflowers and poppies, a gecko, geometric designs, a multi-colored sun, birds and a fluffy white snowman.

Salamy started the craft nearly 10 years ago after taking a community education class at Franklin High School. And yes, Salamy said, artists who make hook rugs are called hookers.

“For some reason I took to it,” she said. “I really liked it. It was like I was coloring with wool.”

In traditional hook rugs, wool is used. But because of the expense and the lack of availability, Salamy said she started to experiment with other fabrics for her creations.

She has used everything from cotton T-shirts, jeans and novelty yarns.

“I used an old bathing suit in one of my rugs,” Salamy said.

Her inspiration comes from inside her head, drawings done by children or a client’s specific request. She has never used a pattern, but rather her own imagination and artistic talents, she said.

Once an idea is formulated, Salamy draws the design onto a piece of fabric backing.

“The rugs used to be done on burlap, but that breaks down with humidity,” she said.

After her design has been traced out, she gets her fabric strips ready and creates a kit specific for each piece of art.

Then it’s time to start hooking.

“I use a hook that looks like a crochet hook, push through the fabric backing and pull the loop of fabric up through the backing. The holes in the backing make it easy, you can do it straight, zig zag and create the different textures you want,” Salamy said.

The last part requires some sewing. A thin piece of tape is sewed onto the perimeter to ensure that the rug holds its form.

“A rectangle will stay a rectangle,” Salamy said.

It’s an art form, she said, that anyone from a child to senior can do.

“I met an 86-year-old woman at a show who was going blind but still was hooking,” she said. “I’ve also watched kids do it.”

For Salamy, when working on a project, she is in her Zen place. She works on her rugs at night after she’s been working all day as director at the Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry in Bellingham. Once day turns into night, she turns on her favorite television show and gets to work.

“I pretty much do it every day, unless my neck hurts,” she said.

It takes her approximately four weeks to complete a 20-inch by 30-inch piece.

She has also started her own business, “High on Hooking.” Salamy takes custom orders and is willing to take on any size project

After completing a project, she said it isn’t hard to part with the piece because she’s already thinking about what she’s going to make next.

“I can always remake one if I really like it,” she said.

Next year, after Salamy’s daughter Elisabeth graduates from high school, she and her husband Tom, and dog Tynan, will pack up and move to New Mexico.

There, Salamy said she hopes to carry on the New England tradition of hooking and teach classes to the locals.

For those in the area interested in learning the craft or checking out Salamy’s handiwork, they may contact Salamy through her Facebook page at, https://www.facebook.com/HighOnHooking or visit the Association of Hooking Artists (ATHA) at www.atharugs.com.

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