Locker Hooking with Vintage Rya Yarn

June 20, 2012

So, I’m not up for much.  But early this spring I bought some real locker-hook canvas–as opposed to my allergenic home-made version–because I had some large projects in mind. It is a stiff 50% cotton, 50% polyester blend leno, heavily starched to keep the mesh from shifting.

I chose the 5 mesh version (five holes to the inch) because it was the smallest I could find.  I have no interest in working with rags, and I can’t imagine using anything but wide rags with the more common 3.75 mesh canvas.  Even then the work would come out sparse and coarse.

My first project was a sample trivet.  I have two hulking rolls of late 1960’s / early 1970’s “Sellgren Ryer” yarn that came to me with my loom: beautifully spun Norwegian wool from same town as my favorite cathedral.  My sample was to tell me a) if I liked the two colorways together b) if the yarn made a goodly-packed pile when worked through the 5 mesh canvas, and c) how quickly does locker-hooking use it up.  Do I actually have enough of this stuff for a rug?

All this I learned and more beside.  The rya yarn actually is a bundle of different grists and coordinating colors of yarns wound side-by-side.  When you’re fishing to hook a loop by feel on the underside of the canvas, it’s really hard to grab all the yarns at once.  Individual strands keep slipping free from the bundle, especially the the lace-weight ones.  I often had to undo my work to retreive them.

The other problem was one I didn’t expect.  As far as I know there is only one U.S. maker of locker hooks (crochet hook with a needle eye at the end of the handle) and they only come in one size.  Mine is aluminum, and what do you know?  It is TOO BIG to pull smoothly through the unforgivingly starch-stabilized 5 mesh canvas, especially when pulling a fat load of yarn.  Struggle, struggle, struggle all the way!  Maybe the steel locker hooks from England are a little skinnier?  I hope so.

All in all it was a most uncooperative trivet.  I chastised it sternly and swore never to touch locker hook to rya yarn again.

Though it did turn out wonderfully dense and spongy:

And no, I do not like the color combination.  It’s not horrible, but after a while I realized that putting these two yarns together manages to make the least of each colorway.  The subtle loden looks drab and the blue looks harsh.  Separately they are lovely.  If I use them (and it won’t be for anything locker hooked!), I’ll pair them with solids to play them up.  Those old large, multi-stranded, un-cut skeins of Paternayan would be about the best match for texture.  At the moment however I have no immediate rugmaking plans and refuse to trawl eBay or Etsy for antique yarn.  That way madness lies.

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5 Responses to “Locker Hooking with Vintage Rya Yarn”


  1. I believe that the end of cooking is directly implicated in the decline of fiber arts, along with the rise of cheap furniture – most people don’t use coasters anymore, and most people don’t even know what a trivet is now. WHAT is the young fiber artist supposed to make when learning a new skill? Maybe the next generation will start wearing, say, decorative elbow pads…

  2. trapunto Says:

    Nobody told me about the end of cooking!

    Decorative elbow pads could work, though. Or gambesons. For the new age of armed hand-to-hand combat. Pop-tart cozies?

    The decline of coaster use, I had noticed. (I use them because I don’t like the scratchy-slidey feeling of setting a cup down on wood, less than because I have wood worth protecting.) Also the increasingly rare appearances of aprons and and table linens, which used to be every-day display venues for fine handwork.

  3. joanne Says:

    rya yar is made especially for long shag carpet. its slippery.thats why it was so hard to do this type of hooking. i would love to get alot of this rya. looks great!

  4. Laura Says:

    I have just started to learn to make rya rugs, knotted with a tapestry needle. If you still have this Sellgren yarn, and would like to sell it, I would be very interested. It is my new passion, but finding the rya yarn, patterns and backing is a challenge!


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