Image use must be for education or personal purposes only.
The contributing institution must be credited.
Charles Macdonald Concrete House

Rug


Accession number: 1997-L-018
Category: Floor covering
Date: 1898 – 1981
Materials: fibre
Measurements: 19 cm L x 65 cm W
Narrative: Mabel Macdonald (nee Meisner) was born in Chipman Brook, Nova Scotia, in 1898. She was the last child to be born into a family of twelve children. Her father, James Albert Meisner, was a fisherman and her mother was named Lila James. Mabel is a descendent of the Meisners who immigrated to Nova Scotia in 1751 who came aboard the Murdock, one of many ships that came across with ‘foreign Protestants’ who were promised land in exchange for their loyalty to Britain.

Mabel was known to enjoy cooking, hunting, camping, skating, and traveling to Prince Edward Island and to the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton. She was also known to create intricate hooked rugs such as this artifact.

The imagery in this artifact looks like it originated from one of Charles Macdonald's paintings. There has been some speculation that Charles, her husband, would draw the pattern or image for Mabel to then hook. In this particular case, it was most likely a collaboration between the two. As a rug hooker Mabel practiced the Waldoboro style which emerged in 1838.
Description: The object is a rectangular shaped hooked rug. The central focus of the image is a house with smoke coming out the chimney. A large pine tree, driveway, and small building are to the right of the house. There is a tree to the left and right of the house. A double solid line borders the image.
History of Use: Hooked rugs emerged in the nineteenth century in New England, Quebec, and the Maritimes by the innovative and resourceful virtues of women who developed the method in order to cover cold floors. During the nineteenth century it was only the wealthy that could import an oriental rug or pay for a commercially woven rug. Those who did not have the income started to use clothing, yarn, and left-over scraps of material in order to make homemade rugs. The fabrics were cut into strips, and then pulled through a loosely woven material such as linen or burlap. A crochet hook was often used as the primary tool to pull the fabrics through the material. The colour and texture of the materials helped to create designs, pictorial images, and geometric images. Although hooked rugs were used primarily as floor coverings they also served as memorials, wedding gifts, and housewarming presents.

One of the most popular methods of rug hooking was the Waldoboro method that began circa 1838 in Waldoboro, Maine. The most prominent technique in Waldoboro hooked rugs is called ‘raised work’ where the material is pulled up though the backing so that it is raised. There are specific motifs that are common in this method including central ovals, boarders, lush floral imagery, wreaths, fruit, animals, scrolls, and geometric shapes. These motifs were made in raised designs that were either clipped or unclipped. By 1860, the Waldoboro style was commercially produced where stencils would be patterned onto the rug backing and later stitched on.

Another technique that hooked rugs are known for is known as shading. Shading occurs when the bulky or thicker strips of fabric are used as background or for the areas that do not need detail while yarn or finer fibres are used to provide the intricate details of the piece. The colours that most often made up the backgrounds of these early rugs were black, cream, sage, and gray.