Finishing Techniques

Now this is a weird topic for me…as I have numerous unfinished rugs sitting in a drawer! But it is a topic which interests me, because I love a well finished rug, but don’t like the process of achieving it.

My first mentor June Baker taught me to finish a rug with cord, whipping with a single strand of wool, then twice sewing down the binding tape. It makes a beautiful binding, and no other way I’ve seen looks as good. However, it is VERY time consuming, and BORING for someone who doesn’t enjoy sewing. My Canadian Mosiac is finished this way. I’m very pleased with it, but it took me more than a year to do. (I always had to force myself to work on it)


As I became involved in the wider rug hooking community, I saw quite a variety of finishes, with and without whipping. Of course the eventual destination for the rug must have a large part in the decision making for the finishing. A rug to be hung doesn’t need the stability of one destined for the floor.

My Cornucopia (no-penny penny rug) is just such an example. This finish was taught to our group by Bea Grant who called it a ‘show binding’. It requires strips of the binding material about 2.5″ wide…  total length must be long enough to go around the rug (with a bit extra). These strips are sewn together endwise, seams pressed open, then with the side edge folded under, one side is sewn right next to the last row of hooking. The rug is then flipped, and the other side folded in and stitched to the back, making sure to mitre the corners. Back and front look essentially the same, but it wouldn’t stand up to a lot of floor use, and still requires a lot of sewing.


For small items, like ornaments, or rug mugs, I’ve struggled to find a finish I could live with. Some I have whipped, but found it took far longer to do the whipping than the hooking. I looked or advice from the Sunshine hookers. This is what I tried for a set of rug mugs I completed recently. I  secure the edges with a fabric glue, and cross my fingers! On a previous set of coasters my sister suggested using a rotary cutter to get a straight edge close to the hooking, and she can make it look wonderful….mine were a disaster! I bought a new pair of fabric shears, and that made all the difference on the second set. I cut them in close to the hooking, then glued felt on the back., then cut again. I finished mine off by going around the cut edge with a fabric marker the same colour as the felt (black) and was satisfied with the result. Next time I want to try glueing a strip of black wool around the edge…Luise Bishop does that and hers are wonderful (mind you everything that Luise does is wonderful!)

The very simplest way to finish is just roll the backing under and sew it down. I did this for my Santa. Not pretty…but serves the purpose in that case for weight and stability, and it will never be seen.


I feel the need here to explain my “quest” for a good finish. My primary craft prior to finally settling on rug hooking, was machine knitting. My sister, was the multi -province dealer for Brother knitting machines, and was a wonderful, and exacting teacher. Her philosophy (which I readily adopted) was that the machine did perfect knitting, so the finishing should be no less than perfect. I learned to do invisible seams, and perfect cast-ons and cast-offs. Everything was wired and steamed to the exact perfect size prior to assembly. I was proud of the finish on my garments. I think I’ve carried that concept over into my rughooking….I want to be happy with my finish. One that looks good, but doesn’t have SO much sewing, that I simply never get around to doing it. (my sister’s patience and perseverance is unfortunately not a trait I inherited).

Is it any surprise that the solution to my dilemma came from Gene Shepherd?? Fortunately, (for me at least) he also doesn’t enjoy the sewing either. I’m not sure if he devised this method, or someone taught it to him, but it is a happy compromise for me.


He has done a video on this method on his Internet Rug Camp, but the essence of it is this: The usual zigzag stitch is done around the rug about .5″  from the hooking. The excess backing is cut away, and the margin is pinned to the back. (This is the rug I’m finishing at the moment)


The binding tape is pinned on top, right up to the edge, then both are whipped through with a double strand of wool. This just leaves one round of sewing to tack the binding down on the far side, and mitre the corners. I can finish a rug with this method in just a few days and I’m getting better at keeping the back line of whipping even. The bent bodkin needle also really he
lps. Now I have no excuses….just need to purchase about 2 miles of binding tape!

4 thoughts on “Finishing Techniques

  1. Could you do a little instruction on signing your rugs or mats. I have a beginner piece and was told to just put some sort of label on the back??? Not too sure how to do that.

    • Arlene, I’m not the one to ask about this. I’m really bad at putting information on my rugs. There is a lady in Barrie Ontario that makes up lovely squares on cotton to order. These can just be sewn on the back. Some clever people make their own on the computer, but I have no idea how. I usually just write with a sharpie on the binding if I’ve used white. Sorry I can’t be of help .

  2. I am looking for a pattern to purchase ,in fact two of them. It was shown on Pinterest with the numbers 36-07 in the corner. The site said visit sunshine rug hookers. Do you know where I can purchase this pattern. I love it! Thank you for helping out.

    • Nancy, I don’t go to Pinterest often, and when I checked I couldn’t find any with the numbers you mentioned. If you would describe the rug to me , hopefully I can be of help.

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