GenWeb de la Basse Côte-Nord

Quebec Lower North Shore GenWeb


Le GenWeb de la Basse Côte-Nord est une composante du GenWeb du Québec et du Canada GenWeb.

The Lower North Shore GenWeb is part of the Quebec GenWeb and the Canada GenWeb Projects.


“Hooking Mats”

By Sharon Chubbs-Ransom

There are few kids born up to the 1950s on the Lower North Shore who cannot recall their mothers “hooking mats”. In the late fall and winter months out came the mat frame, which was set up across the backs of two chairs. The mat frame consisted of four pieces of wood that, when fit together, formed a rectangular frame. The two bigger pieces that lay parallel to each other had heavy canvas strips tacked along the length about 8” from either end. One side of a bren or burlap sack was used as the base for a mat. The burlap was sewn along the length of the canvas. Each of the two smaller pieces of wood was pushed through the ends of the two larger pieces to form a rectangular frame. The burlap was then pulled taunt and the four corners of the frame were pegged to hold it that way. Once this was done the free ends of the burlap was lashed or bound to the two small pieces of frame, again, to hold the burlap straight and taunt. The framed mat base was then ready for hooking.


For as long as most people can remember, this way of taking old clothing, that was no longer good to wear, and hooking it into bright coloured mats, for the cold dark wood floors of houses, was for many the only cheerful decoration. Long practice made these women very skilled at mat hooking. With the arrival of the Grenfell Mission, Dr. Grenfell set out to try and put more cash into the hands of the fishermen settler families; there was little cash, especially in a woman’s hands, in those days. Hooking mats was a means of women becoming more independent and contributing in a financial way to the household. Thus, the Grenfell Industrial was born. Dr. Grenfell brought such people as Jessie Luther and Kitty M. Keddie to work with the women and teach good hooking practices as well as dying. They made patterns more colourful and attractive and set out to bring the hooking to a salable level.  Many scenes depicted the way of life, flora and fauna of the Labrador coast.


The material used for hooking was nylon and rayon underwear and stockings. There was even a motto or slogan used “When your stockings run let them run to Labrador”. The nylon stockings and underwear material had a natural rolling characteristic that turned it into stringy lengths when cut and stretched out, making them easy to hook. Hooking for the Grenfell required perfection and not all work was accepted.  The hooking had to be so perfect that the back of a mat looked as good as the front.


There were many Industrial Women who worked at Harrington. Some well known Industrial ladies, referred to locally as “mat nurses”, were Henrietta Frantz wife of Dr. Josef Frantz, Anne Carney and Veronica Wood. Most of the designs were done by them and they taught the dying technique to the local women. Esther Cox was probably one of the best known dye women. Bessie Rowsell-Jones also played an important role in dying and other areas of the life of the Grenfell Industrial at Harrington. Other well known mat hookers were Gladys and Florence Jones, and Gladys and Maggie Mitchell.


One design by Henrietta Frantz or Anne Carney (both are said to have done it) was the “Husky Dog”. It was patterned off the lead dog of Elton Jones’ dog team (Sharon’s grandfather). The dog’s name was “Caribou”. He was a beautiful animal and the mat was a picture mat for the wall. Sharon has an example of this mat hooked by Rita Gallichon-Kippen originally of Harrington but now residing at Kegaska. It is a most prized possession. There is a great collection of pictures and of old mat frames of various sizes that go with it.

Date entered on the Web: 13 March 2005

Back to the Homepage / Retour à la page d'accueil


Thank you to the previous coordinators, Sharon Ransom and Marc-André Gosselin, for their excellent work !
We are looking forward to reading your suggestions and comments. / Il nous fera plaisir de lire vos suggestions et commentaires.

Dernière mise à jour: 13/10/2016

© Quebec GenWeb 1997-2016


Suzette Leclair, Provincial Coordinator, Quebec GenWeb Project