Wednesday 27 January 2010

Grenfell Silk Stocking Mats - How Exciting Is This!

I am very grateful to Patricia Richards for her research into the Grenfell Mission (see the Hiawatha cut-out doll see on Monday's post). She has discovered for us a whole fabulous world of hooked rugs. These rugs made from discarded silk stockings, dyed with soft hues, were made by Newfoundland and Labrador women during the 1930s to supplement fishing income for their families. What is so very special about these rugs is not only the beauty and technical skill that they display, but also the fact that they reflect life in Newfoundland. This first rug depicts local flora: plumboy; bakeapple; crackerberry; squashberry; twinflower and dandelion.
When Grenfell arrived in Newfoundland he met hardworking people who were fighting terrible odds against chronic disease, hunger, poverty and exploitation. From his determination to alleviate their distress, Grenfell's medical mission began. His conviction that outright gifts of money, food and clothing would offer no long term help led to the development of a cottage industry known as "the Industrial," which produced distinctive handicrafts including hooked mats. The mat industry rose to peak production in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Hooking was first introduced by the English and Scottish settlers and all girls learnt to hook. The quiet months of February and March were the "matting season".
This rug depicts the pelt of a ringed seal - these pelts curing on racks would have been a common sight since Mission people were very dependent on hunting seal to provide food and raw materials for a vast array of life's necessities.
There is a wonderful book: Silk Stocking Mats: Hooked Mats Of The Grenfell Mission by Paula Laverty documenting the history and designs of many of the mat designs. The cover shows detail from an anemone and starfish rug.


  1. It is amazing, the beautiful rugs they make out of stockings. I make them myself, but use wool.


  2. Wonderful post Mary...Newfoundland women were not only resoueceful, but talented as well. Some of the rugs are startlingly beautiful...