Rose Pearlman is the godmother of modern rug hooking.
Rose is a Vermont native who lives in NYC, and with a background in painting, she creates work that is minimalistic, abstract, and entirely different from the traditional pastoral scenes typically associated with the craft.
And she’s now brought it to hundreds of people. Rose’s kits sell out in minutes, with folks across the globe setting their alarm clocks to the middle of the night so they can grab one before they’re gone.
Once you’ve got the right supplies, punch needle—which uses a different tool from rug hooking to create the same result—is quick to pick up. Unlike knitting or crochet, punch needle largely just uses one technique, so there are no tricky stitches to master.
“I think it’s really exciting for people to get their hands on something that can do so much with, that has so many open-ended possibilities,” says Rose. “And the kit that we’re putting together, it’s the best stuff.”
Rose began rug hooking after her son was born, finding the portability, easy clean-up, and freedom to stop-and-go fitting for a young mom with a small child. Rose’s own mother, an abstract painter, also did rug hooking—but was way ahead of her time.
“She would get credit for her paintings, but fiber art wasn’t taken seriously as fine art yet—it wasn’t seen as another form of artistic expression,” says Rose.
Rose makes functional pieces—bags, pillows, and obviously rugs—but also makes wall hangings. She lives in a space where fine art and crafting meet.
“I do call myself an artist, but I’m also deeply rooted in craft and I’m proud of that.”
When setting up one art show of mostly wall hangings, the gallery was hesitant to put one of her rugs on the floor and allow people to walk on it. Rose insisted it was OK—these rugs, when made with high-quality materials, can last generations.
Rug hooking is nothing new, but in recent years punch needle art has infiltrated social media and gained attention from younger crafters. With much detailed, incredible punch needle inspiration found on Instagram, Rose advises newcomers to not feel intimidated and do what is interesting and comfortable for them, whether it’s copying one of her patterns or filling in a hoop with just one color.
“You don’t have to think too hard.” Rose says she pulls out about half of what she makes—it doesn’t damage the cloth and can easily be reused. “It’s a really forgiving craft.”
Wherever you pull inspiration from, punch needle can be a meditative, freeing practice.
“When you have a lot going on in your life, where you just need some type of physical release, mental release, it just kind of does something,” says Rose. “And it’s the repetition—it just kind of slows you down and brings you home.”