Hooked Leather Shag Rug Pillow




Introduction: Hooked Leather Shag Rug Pillow

I have been making books and journals using recycled leather garments for many years and have tons of scraps accumulated. In thinking of ways to use up some of it, "rug hooking" came to mind.

I did some rug hooking many years ago using yarn, still had the hook and thought this would be a quick, easy project. It did pose some challenges and I'll explain them in this instructable. If I had known then what I know now, I would have:

1. Colored the canvas to match the leather before starting the project or at least colored it black.
2. If making a pillow, which is what I intended, I think the way to do it is to sew the canvas and leather together to make the pillow first and then hook it. The pillow cover would need to be made with a zipper, velcro or overlapped opening and it would be a good idea to cut a piece of cardboard to fit inside it to protect the leather back. I probably will finish this into a pillow but the bulk and weight of the hooked piece will make that a bit complicated and require hand sewing instead of machine sewing. I thought that I needed to have access to the back of the canvas so I hooked it first but while working on it, I came up with a method that would allow hooking without access to the back and thus the pillow cover could be sewn before hooking.
3. The canvas does sort of "shrink" up as you work and pull the leather tight so you will need a larger piece than the finished item if you start with just canvas as I did. If you finish the edges to provide more structure such as sewing a pillow cover or sewing bands around the edges if making a rug, I believe you could avoid the shrinking issue.
4. Note if making a pillow, the pillow front should have a strip of leather across the bottom just a little shorter than your leather "tassels" are so that the last rows of leather don't hang past the bottom of the pillow.
5. Another thought about making a pillow - this project makes something that has a lot of heft to it without stuffing. You could make a rectangular piece and instead of finishing the edges as I did in this instructable, you could fold the rectangle over and use loops to attach down the 3 unhooked sides. You could put something in it but probably not a full pillow form, probably a folded towel or something would work just fine. If you did this, I think you would want to do a horizontal piece (the top being where you start hooking) and fold it across so that the "tassels" are going the same way on the front and the back of the pillow.


To do this project, you need the following materials:

Leather Scraps
Rug Hooking Canvas (mine had 4 square to the inch)

The amounts needed will, of course, depend on the size of your project. I made a 14" x 14" square. I bought a 36" x 60" piece of canvas from Michaels for under $8. Here is a link to the product I used: https://www.michaels.com/rug-canvas-by-loops-and-...

Tools needed are:
Cutting mat
Rotary Cutter
Quilting ruler (I used a 6"x6")
Latch Hook Tool (https://www.michaels.com/caron-wooden-latch-hook-t...)
A crochet hook or similar small rounded tool
Measuring tape or ruler
Small bungee cords or elastics
Yarn, string, ribbon or other bit to use as a marker
A cutting board or other board to clamp the project to

The last photo shows the latch hook tool in detail. As you push it through, the "latch" piece of the hook points back to you so that the hook slides through smoothly. As you pull back on the tool, the "gate" closes so that the hook is unbroken and holds the material securely while being pulled through.

Step 1: Cutting the Leather

The first thing you will need to do is to cut the leather into strips. I cut mine about 1/4" wide and anywhere between 5 and 6" long. I also had some pieces with straight ends and some with angled ends. I did not try to be exact in measurements as I wanted the textured looked of unequal pieces.

If you are using scraps as I did, you may think that some pieces are too small to use but if you cut on the diagonal, you may find you can use them after all.

Cutting will take a lot longer if you are using irregular small scraps like I did. If you have larger pieces, the cutting will go much faster.

Step 2: How NOT to Hook

The first photo shows the steps I used to hook when I started.

1. Hold a folded thong behind the canvas, push the hook through from the front to hook it and pull the loop to the front of the canvas.
2. Push the hook through again in the adjacent square of the canvas to hook the 2 ends of the thong and pull them to the front of the canvas.
3. Push the hook through the loop and hook the ends, then pull them back through the loop to secure the thong.
4. Tighten the hooked thong.

When rug hooking with yarn, I could do this in one step because the yarn was thin and, compared to leather, slick. The leather is much more difficult to manipulate with the canvas so I wound up doing it like this for a while. I also tried several clamping possibilities as I went along to keep the already hooked thongs out of my way.

I thought it would be easier if the canvas was mounted to a frame but I couldn't think of a way to rig a frame for a while and then inspiration struck!

Step 3: The Right Tools...

I had a large wooden cutting board that I had never used in the kitchen and it turned out to be a perfect size for this project. By clamping the canvas to the board and using small bungee cords to keep the hooked thongs out of the way, I was able to change the hooking method to a much faster process. While it is not exactly a single step, it is much closer to one with a smooth forward-back-forward-back motion:

Hold the folded thong at the front of the canvas.
Push the hook from the front through one square to an adjacent square so that you are hooking over canvas and grab the loop of the leather with the hook.
Pull the loop through to the front.
Push the hook forward through the loop and hook the ends of the thong, then pull the ends through the loop to secure the thong.

When you hook the loop, do not have the hook closed. Hook it and rotate the hook away from you and then pull it through and closing the hook will not be necessary, allowing you to go faster. If you are having difficulty pulling it through, you have probably gotten a single strand of the canvas caught in the hook and will need to start over with this thong. If you are careful, that will not happen often but it is surprising easy to get a bit of the canvas caught in the hook.

Once you have pulled the loop through with the hook already in it, you push the hook forward to grab the ends. This time you do need to close the hook and you also need to make sure that both ends are caught in the upper part of the hook. You have a double layer of leather that is being folded in half as it is pulled through so there will be significantly more resistance than when hooking the loop. If you don't have the ends firmly hooked, you won't get both of them through in one motion.

Step 4: Spacing the Thongs

I started out hooking a thong in every square but found that it was too much, making the leather extremely dense and difficult to work with. In the end, I spaced mine as follows:

1 row hooking through every other square
1 row hooking through every other square but shifted one square off from the previous row
1 row hooking through every other square but shifted one square off from the previous row
1 row skipped

The grid shows this pattern with the colors showing

black = canvas, no leather
red = hooked across the horizontal canvas lines
blue = hooked across the vertical canvas lines at the sides to finish the piece (more on this later)

Step 5: Progress and Details

The first photo shows the project early on in the process.

If you want to mark rows to get an idea of how much progress you are making, you can tie string or ribbon onto the side of the canvas or mark the canvas with a marker.

At times, a pair of sharp tweezers will come in handy. When doing the hooking, you have to find a balance because if you bring the loop through pretty far, it makes it easy to get the ends through but then makes tightening more difficult. If you don't bring the loop through far enough, it will be very difficult to get the ends through but you won't have to do much work on tightening.

If you have to remove a thong, a small crochet hook, bodkin or even a long nail will make it easier.

To tighten, pull on the ends of the thong while pushing down at the loop end. Then give each end a tug on it's own.

Step 6: More Progress

These photos show the project further along with the cutting board working well. I found putting some leather thongs at the bottom as shown in the pic allowed me to work faster than reaching all the way to the container for the thongs.

The second photo shows what the back of the canvas looks like.

Step 7: Adjusting When the Cutting Board Is Maxed Out.

Eventually I maxed out the cutting board and had to have some of the worked piece hanging off of the top of the cutting board. This was fine at first but eventually the weight of the leather hanging down started pulling on the canvas. I realized at that point that simply folding the piece over the cutting board so that the leather was between the board and my legs worked extremely well. It kept the weight from pulling and tilted the board at a bit of an angle that made working easier.

The first photo shows how much of the piece goes beyond the top of the cutting board with the arrow pointing to the upper edge of the board. The second photo shows the piece from the back. You can see in the third photo that there is very little of the worked piece on the board and there is plenty of room to work.

Step 8: Finishing the Edges

On the sides of the piece, I hooked thongs on the vertical, folding the canvas back so that I went through 2 squares at once which held the excess canvas to the back of the piece and gave a nice finished edge to the piece. I also did the same fold-over technique for the top row and bottom row of the piece.

My finished piece is approximately 14 x 14". Each row is made up of 30 thongs on the horizontal with 3 rows to the inch, not counting "shrinking". Once I got my method down, it took me about an hour to hook 3 rows. If you want to try this sort of project, this will give you some idea of the time investment you will need to make.

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    Penolopy Bulnick
    Penolopy Bulnick

    2 years ago

    I really love how all the different shades of leather look together :)


    Reply 2 years ago

    Thank you!!!