Australian Locker Hooking: A Down Home Craft From Down Under

The original version of locker hooking invented in the UK required an expensive type of wool. The Australians found a more affordable way.

| November/December 1984

australian locker hooking - fig 3, fig 4

(Fig. 3) For rugs or wall hangings that require finished borders, fold back two or three rows on the edge to make a selvage. You can clip out the corners with scissors rather than try to hook through four thicknesses of canvas. (Fig. 4) It's easiest to begin hooking in the third row from the edge.


Australia, home of so many curious and unusual creatures, is also the home of an interesting variation on the craft of locker hooking. Similar in some respects to rug hooking, locker hooking involves pulling yarn through a rug canvas in loops that are then "locked" into place with a hidden strand of wool. Although it's hardly a byword in most craft circles, locker hooking has been with us for quite some time. In the 1920's, British craftswomen commonly employed the art to make rugs, using heavy, six-ply wool yarn. Americans followed suit in the 1940's, but perhaps because of the high cost of such yarn, the craft never achieved great popularity here. Now, however, thanks to the artistic sensibility and ingenuity of a craftswoman Down Under, we may see a renewal of interest.

A Bit of History

The Aussie variation consists of a small, but very significant, change in the type of wool used, rather than any alteration of the basic procedure. This change came about when Australian Brian Benson, on tour in Ireland in 1972, saw demonstrations of locker hooking, became fascinated by the craft, and took several hooks home to his mother. A well-known fiber artist, Patricia Benson quickly mastered the craft and completed a handsome rug of heavy, handspun yarn. The piece commanded a great deal of attention when displayed, but Patricia quickly realized that if locker hooking was to become popular, something would have to be found that could be substituted for the heavy yarn required. Commercially prepared six-ply wool twist was expensive, and few people had the time or inclination to spin their own. So Pat began using unspun, freshly sheared wool, and Australian locker hooking was born.

Patricia Benson discovered that lengths of combed wool, forger-thick but unspun, could be hooked through the holes of canvas and held in place with a strand of spun yarn. The resulting rugs were beautifully soft and springy underfoot, and they wore well, too. The craft was enthusiastically received in Australia, where sheep breeding and the production of wool are major industries.

In 1980, Marj Boyes—teacher of, and crusader for, locker hooking—came to the United States and introduced Benson's technique. Here was a chance for American crafts people to work with unprocessed wool without having to invest in the lengthy training and expensive equipment required to master spinning and weaving. In fact, wool in any of a number of stages of finishing can be used, starting with the freshly sheared material right on through spun yarn twist ... for while Australian locker hooking introduced the idea of using unspun wool, the original European craft employed finished fibers.

What's Needed? 

To try your hand at locker hooking, you'll need a locker hook, locker cord or yarn, rug canvas, a yarn needle, wool, and if raw wool is to be used, a metal comb or wire-bristled cards

The locker hook resembles a rug hook or heavy crochet hook with a large eye opposite the hook end. Like a traditional rug hook, it has to be fairly deep to accommodate the thick fibers used. If locker hooks aren't available at your local craft shop, they can be mail-ordered.

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