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Hookers honored in South Dakota Senate commemoration

Published: Feb. 4, 2022 at 10:16 AM MST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - Some people pick up handicrafts as a creative outlet, or as a relaxing hobby.

For Valerie Begeman, vice president of the Mt. Rushmore Rug Hookers’ Social Club and accomplished fiber artist, it’s all about keeping your hands busy.

“This is - I feel is - painting with wool,” Begeman says. “It’s therapeutic.”

The social club is just that: a tight-knit group of friends who practice the art of “rug hooking.”

Maryann Riker, treasurer for the Association of Tradition Hooking Artists and local rug hooker...
Mary Ann Riker, treasurer for the Association of Tradition Hooking Artists and local rug hooker (right), uses her rug hook to pull strands of fabric through a linen canvas alongside her friends from the Mt. Rushmore Rug Hookers' Social Club on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022. Riker and nine other rug hookers collaborated to create a tapestry titled "South Dakota: Land of Infinite Variety." It is a rug emblazoned with the words "South Dakota" and features Mt. Rushmore, rolling cropland and American Indian symbols in the form of a tepee and a buffalo.(Dominik Dausch)

Using a small hook, rug hookers pull strips of fabric through a woven material, like linen, to create decorative tapestries.

Rug hooking is a craft similar to knitting that’s easy to learn, but takes years to master.

“I’ve practiced probably ... I don’t even know, probably 20 years,” says Mary Ann Riker, treasurer for the local Association of Tradition Hooking Artists chapter and rug hooker herself.

A rug hooker holds up "South Dakota: Land of Infinite Variety," a collaborative rug art piece...
A rug hooker holds up "South Dakota: Land of Infinite Variety," a collaborative rug art piece that earned the Mt. Rushmore Rug Hookers' Social Club a Senate commemoration.(Dominik Dausch)

Sen. Helene Duhamel, R-Rapid City, is one of the prime sponsors of a Senate commemoration working its way through this year’s legislative session in Pierre. It will honor the social club for collaborating on a tapestry titled after the state motto, “South Dakota: Land of Infinite Variety.”

“It is very exciting. This kind of puts us on the map a little bit as rug hookers,” Begeman says.

10 club members rug hooked a specific region of the piece, like the rolling plains or the buffalo - which was made using real fur.

Begeman says Gov. Kristi Noem has already expressed interest in hanging the rug art at the capitol, and the group plans to present their work to her by the end of the month.

It’s their hope this recognition can go a long way in getting more people interested in this old-fashioned hobby.

“It’s growing, but it takes time. We’d rather take it slow instead of boom, but, you know, the more the merrier, too,” Begeman says.

If you’re interested in becoming a rug hooker yourself, you’re encouraged to take part in one of their sessions at the Canyon Lake Activity Center, which are held every Tuesday morning at 9 a.m.

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