Location: Millview

Passionate About Pastimes

Passionate About Pastimes

Home of Shirlee Hogan and Pastimes PEI Rug Hooking and Wool Shop

I had it in my mind that our trip across Canada would not be complete without interviewing a traditional Maritime crafter. Having never been to the east before, I wasn’t exactly sure what we were looking for in that regard but when we stopped in at the Nova Scotia Tourist Information building we found rug hooking. I didn’t know what was traditional about it at the time but I was looking forward to finding out.

This is a story about three sisters, Shirlee Hogan, Heather Tweedy and Bette Young of Pastimes PEI Rug Hooking and Wool Shop. The story starts off with Shirlee looking for a pastime to pass the time. She discovered rug hooking about 25 years ago and it seemed like a good fit. Soon after, her sisters Heather and Bette thought it would be fun to give it a try and so they joined in as well. As time went on a business emerged for the three sisters and they have been at it ever since.

Shirlee Hogan

Heather Tweedy

We met with Heather and Shirlee at Shirlee’s country home. She lives in an adorable house that looks like she bought it from Hansel and Gretel. This is also the home of the sisters’ rug hooking and wool shop business. Shirlee and Heather were awaiting our arrival at their shop and I was excited to see what we would learn that day. I had no idea what we were in for. We couldn’t have found two better ladies to interview. Not only were they a wealth of knowledge, they also shared wonderful stories about each rug they introduced us to. The better part of an hour was spent talking to us about how they got started, the history of rug hooking in PEI and to top it off they gave us the Coles Notes version of how to make a rug. We even got a hands on lesson!

When I first looked at traditional Maritime rug hooking my first thought was, “it looks kind of simple”. It didn’t look overly creative to me or what I perceived to be creative. I would come to find out later that this is part of the tradition; the rugs were born out of a need for functionality rather that a need for creativity. There are two styles, the Cavendish or geometric which made good use of small scraps of fabric that would otherwise be discarded, and the pictorial, which depicted images of people’s farms, their houses, nature and pretty much anything that was important in their lives. These weren’t just rugs that guests would wipe their feet on, there were stories captured in those rugs like photos in an album.

Click on the images in the gallery below to see a larger image.

Rugs were made by women who dauntingly cut each strip of fabric from old, worn out clothing. The colours were limited to what they had back in their day. They were primarily dark, representative of work clothing. The Pastime ladies have expanded on the colour palette a bit but they remain steadfast in the simplicity of the patterns which still represent the important things in people’s lives today. They do, however, have a great little machine that cuts the fabric strips for them; several at a time of course. And, if you aren’t into investing any time in preparation the ladies have assembled kits so you can get down to rug hooking business right a way. I was astounded to hear that Heather hand draws every single pattern, and not just the original to be mass printed on a machine; every single one! Whether you are a seasoned hooker or a first timer, they want everyone to have the best experience possible and so they pretest all their patterns. The sisters complete each pattern before it is packaged into a kit or sold on it’s own. Talk about a labour of love!

Gary and I had fun spending time with Shirlee and Heather and we left there feeling hopeful that some traditions of the past are alive and well. Of course the ‘simple’ theme emerged once again with the lives of those that came before us, teaching valuable lessons in friendship, recycling (although that wasn’t even a word back then) and cherishing the precious moments in our lives.

Join us with Shirlee Hogan and Heather Tweedy in their interview and watch as they share with us the story behind the Cavendish rug and a lesson on how to rug hook. Please feel free to leave your comments as well.