Celebrating Canada’s sesquicentennial
Rug hookers create special rug for Canada’s 150th anniversary
Mary Munson still remembers Canada’s centennial celebration in 1967.
“I remember it very well,” said Munson. “It was a thrill to be part of it.”
Munson is the president of the Down East Rug Hookers, a group of 40 people who create rugs by pulling loops of yarn or fabric through a stiff woven base such as burlap, linen, or rug wrap.
As part of Canada’s 150 anniversary in 2017, the group has created a special rug to commemorate the anniversary. The group will be donating the rug to the Old Sydney Society for its new museum on Charlotte Street in Sydney, where the rug is expected to hang in the lobby.
The group made a commitment to the project last fall. The design work began in November while work on the rug started in January.
The rug features 14 cascading red maple leafs as well as the sesquicentennial logo, better known as the Canada 150 logo, at the bottom, and the word Canada, copied from an old $1 bill. “I thought it would be good for us
to really celebrate the 150 anniversary,” said Munson. “We also thought it would be good to help the Old Sydney Society as they move to a new building, so that’s why they were chosen — it’s part of their historical society, so this makes perfect sense to celebrate Canada this way.”
Munson has encouraged all members to help with the rug in some way. As of now, 25 members have worked on the project.
“I think it’s important to everyone
in the group,” said Munson. “It’s amazing that our country is 150 years old. We want to celebrate our nation and this is our way of doing that.”
It’s unknown for sure when rug hooking was invented, but many believe the art was developed in North America, specifically along the eastern seaboard in New England, the Maritimes, and Newfoundland and Labrador.
In early years, rug hooking was a craft of poverty. The vogue for floor coverings in the United States began after 1830 when factories produced machine-made carpets for the rich. Meanwhile, poor women started looking through scrap bags for materials to create their own homemade floor coverings.
Rita Wojtyniak, who created the design for the rug with Betty Paruch, said it only made sense to make a rug for the special celebration.
“Mary and I went to a show that was travelling across Canada and it was of all different rugs — there were some interesting rugs, some 200 years old,” she said. “We were thinking of our future, 200 years from now our rug will still be hanging in the museum, so it’s kind of giving us recognition, but also it’s such an old and established tradition and it’s great to contribute.”
The donation to the Old Sydney Society isn’t the first time the Down East Rug Hookers have made a special rug. In 2013, the group made a rug with 19 shoes and boots and presented it to the Red Shoe Pub in Mabou.
The group has developed a reputation over the years for contributing to the Cape Breton community at large.
Aside from financial donations to the Every Woman’s Centre, victims of the Thanksgiving Day flood, and the Red Cross for those affected by the Fort McMurrary fire, the group has also helped children at the Whitney Pier Youth Club learn rug hooking.
“I think making donations of any kind to the community is fantastic, it builds connections, it builds communities and it shows people are caring and thinking about where we live and what we are celebrating here in Canada.” said Munson.
The group is still working on the project. Right now, they are working on the background of the rug and are hoping to be able to represent it to the Old
Sydney Society at the end of June, prior to Canada Day on July 1.
The Down East Rug Hookers are at the Centre for Craft and Design in Sydney each Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Anyone wanting to join the group is asked to stop by each Wednesday or phone Munson at 902-567-5122 or email email@example.com.
Members of the Down East Rug Hookers are pictured holding a rug they created for Canada’s 150th anniversary. The rug will be donated to the Old Sydney Society for its new museum on Charlotte Street in Sydney. From left, Mary Munson, Rita Wojtyniak, Betty Paruch and Diane Harris.