– Wool Strip Widths

A quiet weekend here at the Blog . . . so I figured since some have asked for help with rug hooking, I will just post a few bits of info on some of the basics. For you experienced rug hookers reading this, post a comment or question that would be of more interest and we can get some chatter going for you, too.

One common question from beginning rug hookers is about strip widths. Traditional rug hooking uses strips of wool, not pieces of yarn – that’s latch hooking (totally different technique and tools.) The strips of wool are pulled through the rug backing to form loops which create the design of the rug. Strips of wool can be cut very fine or very wide, or anywhere in between. When a strip cutter such as a Rigby, Fraser, or Townsend cutter is used to cut the strips, you select the cutter size to use. Cutters cut the strips in widths measured in 32nds of an inch. So if you are using a #8 cutter size, you will get strips cut into 8/32 of an inch (or reduce the fraction to 1/4 inch.) If you are using a finely cut strip, which would be considered anything in a #5 or lower, you are working with quite a narrow strip of wool (5/32 down to 1/32), which is used to achieve finely shaded designs, such as florals and scrolls. Primitive rug hooking uses a wider strip (#6 and above) wherein the shading is achieved through the use of textured wools, such as herringbones, checks and plaids rather than the graduated colors in a finer cut rug.

So, depending upon the style of rug hooking you wish to do, you will cut your wool strips accordingly. My favorite strips width is 3/8 inch, or 12/32; however, depending on your cutter, this will┬ánot always be a #12 cutter head — now it can get a bit confusing due to inconsistencies in the cutter manufacturers use of the numbering system when you get above a #8 cut. My Rigby defines the 3/8-inch cutter head as a #9, which technically is not or it would be 9/32 rather than 12/32. So, check with the manufacturer if you want to use a specific strip width above #8 to see which of their particular cutter heads match what you need.

Depending on the strip width you choose, you should match your rug hook to that. If you are hooking with a wider strip, use a Primitive hook, or if you use a fine cut, use a hook that matches the strip width you are using. My favorite hook? A Hartman, by far!! Especially for primitive hooking with wider strips – Cindy Hartman’s hooks have a larger diameter shaft that opens the backing holes enough to easily allow the strip to be pulled through (no straining and tugging), which also helps those loops lie open and full. the handles are very comfortable in my hand as well. Be sure the hook you use is comfortable in your hand and does not make you tug and twist to get the loops pulled up. If not, get another hook!

Any questions?

57 responses to “– Wool Strip Widths

  1. Rebecca Maxwell

    I hope you will be able to help me. I have an old strip cutter I found in my husband’s Grandmothers things. It does not cut. I think it is either assembled incorrectly or perhaps has extra pieces that are taken off or put on to achieve different size strips. Where can I find a good picture or directions of a cutter assembly? The cutter clamps on a table and has a Ridgeway crafts sticker on the side. I would appreciate any help you can provide. Thank you.

    • Rebecca – I sent you an email with some photos and information. I hope it helps!


    • Sue Fellenzer

      Rebecca I had 2 Ridgeway cutters.. both now sold, but do have a copy of the care instructions.. and might be able to help you out with the assembly.. really isnt’ a lot to them… but they DO cut well, etc.

    • Lorrie

      I just found a cutter the other day with a sticker Ridgeway crafts, Union NH on it at a small shop . Do they come with different size heads or just the one size already on it?

      • Sorry for taking months to reply to your post! OMG! Missed it. Anyway, I don’t have a Ridgeway, but I am to understand that the blades are interchangeable, which you undoubtedly already know by now.

      • Were you able to find other blades for it?

      • Hi Doreen
        Thanks for visiting! I am unsure if you are asking about the Ridgeway or Rigby cutter blades. Ribgy blades are very scarce right now – it is my understanding that they are way behind in manufacturing. I was able to get an 8.5 blade recently, but I can’t find a cleaning finger to match. I don’t have a Ridgeway cutter myself, so I am not sure how easy or difficult those blades are to find.

  2. Chelaye Hines

    Hi Sally –

    I’m in the same boat. I bought a used Rigby cutter without instructions. I can’t get it to cut completely through all four strips of fabric and am not sure how much to tighten it for fear of dulling the blades. Is there supposed to be some kind of cushioning surface, or do the blades just run on the steel plate? Am I worrying too much? Any advice would be great.



    • Chel
      There is no cushion – the blades running against the cutting wheel is what allows the wool to be cut. You will have to adjust the cutting tension depending on the weight of the wool – so don’t be afraid to crank it down a little if it’s not cutting all the way through. I would guess that if it is not cutting through on any of the strips, you probably need more tension. As long as the cutter is not making awful noises or is not difficult to crank, the tension is not too hard. My cutter is doing the same thing now after all these years of service, but just one of the three #8 strips doesn’t cut completely through. I think either that one blade edge is dull or burred, or there is a groove worked into the cutting wheel on that side. Some service is probably needed, but I love this cutter so it will be worth it. I am going to try a new cutter head first and if that doesn’t solve the problem, then will order the cutting wheel. Tips: keep the cutter mechanism free of wool dust, oil it with WD20 machine oil every once in a while, don’t cut too many synthetics with it. It is a pretty simple machine so not that much can really go wrong, other than parts wearing out and needing to be replaced.

  3. Michael Steele

    who knows what a Ridgeway Crafts union NH Fabric stripper

    • Michael – I am not sure I understand your question. I do know that Ridgeway made a cloth stripper to cut strips for rug hooking. Could you be a little more specific?


  4. Caroline Bradfprd

    I have an old ridgeway cutter with a M- medium 1/8 cutter. I am wondering if there is any way I can get more cutter blades. I have looked at townsend and aults they seem similar. If you have any information please send it to me.

    • Caroline – sorry to be so late in snwering you. As far as I know, Ridgeway has been out of business for some time. I am unaware of any place where you can get new blades. I would call Larry Ault and ask if his blades would work in your cutter, or if he could give you any more help with that. http://www.aults.com


  5. Sandra

    Someone gave me a Rigby cutter. I have a #8 blade to put into the machine, but i don’t know how to change it. i unscrewed all the screws but the blade that is in there will not come off. Rather than prying it off, I wondered if there is an easy way of doing it. Thanks.

    • Sandra
      See my answer to Georgia regarding disassembly of the Ribgy. If you need more help, send me an email or call me — I am terrible about getting to the blog! I will post the instructions in this section as well.


  6. Connie Phelps

    I have a used Rigby D cutter with #6 and #8I blades. I have only used the #8raspberries but purchased a kit and with #8 1/2 strips and LOVE working with them on linen backing. I would like to get at least one more cutting blade but wonder if I should get the binding 81/2 or 9. Where do you purchase these and the fingers? I also do not have the instruction book.

  7. Georgia Clark

    I, too bought a used wool cutter, and I think it is an old Rigby. Sadly, it didn’t come with instructions, and I would lilke to clean it up. It sounds like there is dust or sand in it when you turn the handle, so I am worried about using it without cleaning it.

    I can’t get the handle off so that I can remove the cutter blade and clean under it. There seems to be a set screw on the handle base; do I need to remove something there to take off the cutting wheel?

    I would love to have a copy of the instructions.

    • Georgia and Connie and Sandra
      this answer is regarding the Rigby disassembly. Sorry you waited so long — I hope I am not too late to help you all.

      1. Remove the Rigby from the table (if it is clamped down.)
      2. Turn it upside down and take off the thumbscrew that you see at the end of the cutter blade(s).
      3. Completely loosen the red T-knob at the top side which holds the cutting wheel down against the cutter blade(s) (don’t take it off though.) That will open hole so the cutter blade(s) have room to drop down and be removed.
      4. Now pull the handle out (the handle shaft runs through the holes in the cutting blades.) The blades should drop down and come out now.
      5. Replace the blade(s) in to the hole (note where the little notches are and line them up) then run the handle back through the center of the blade(s), aligning the notch on the shaft with the notch in the blade(s).
      6. Screw on the thumbscrew to hold the handle and blade(s) in place.
      7. Clamp the cutter to your table. Now you can crank the T-knob back down to adjust for your fabric thickness.
      Wish I had pictures to show you – it would make more sense. Just do one step at a time and you’ll get it.

      • Sandra

        Thanks, Sallly, for the info. When I got to #4 of your instructions and tried pulling the handle out, it wouldn’t budge. Could it have rusted in there, though I see no evidence of rust anywhere on the machine? Thanks!

  8. Pat B

    Sally, you seem to such a wealth of information I’m hoping you can help with my cutter question as well. : ) I had been using an old Rigby cutter and it worked wonderfully. I later bought a Fraser thinking it would be better, but my strips wind around the lower cutting wheel. Are there supposed to be cutter “fingers” on the Fraser like the old Rigby had? Or is there some way of preventing them from wrapping around. I am anxious to get hooking, if only I can figure this Fraser out. Thanks for your help! Happy New Year.
    Pat in Wisconsin

  9. Sue Fellenzer

    Hi again… let me check my awful computer filing system and see if I can find it … otherwise I can scan it and email it to you… sue

  10. Sue Fellenzer

    My hubby had a copy… will be glad to email it to you. Where should I email it to… Sincerely, Sue

  11. Thank you for such a good explanation on cutter sizes and strips. I am a beginner at rug hooking and did not know how the size strips translated to the cutters, but now I do!

    I also learned that the cutter my mother gave to me is a Rigby, so I’m very grateful for the comments here, too. After reading, I found a website where I can order additional cutter heads for the Rigby. The #3 head is my only one and whew is that a tiny strip!

    Thanks so much!

    • Lynn–
      I am so happy that we were all able to help you find the answers to your cutter questions. You can get extra heads (and don’t forget to buy the cleaning finger that coprresponds to each head size you use!) at http://www.halcyonyarn.com too. A #3 is waaayyyy smaller than I would ever hope to hook with – I am a wide-cut hooker for sure! Good luck and enjoy your hooking journey!


  12. Thanks Sally. I had found the Halcyon website and I’m glad that you mentioned it too. I’ll probably get the #5 and the finger as my first add-on to the cutter.

    It figures that I’d start out this way — I can’t ever seem to learn a new skill with a small beginner project. My first hooking project is a rug, 3′ X 4′, using a Hit And Miss pattern (at least the basic stripe is easy, eh?) following along the coloring found in Deanne Fitzpatrick’s beautiful rug seen here: http://blog.hookingrugs.com/2011/08/hit-and-miss/ . Her rug is soooo long (I want that rug!) and where her blocks contain 14-15 strips within the black borders, mine have 19. Not significant til you start adding all the extra strips up. But it’s enjoyable, so I continue on….

    Thanks again for this great post!

  13. lynn ann davis

    could you please send me a copy of the ridgeway crafts cutter instructions ? my email is lynnannd@sbcglobal.net.
    thanks so much!!! I was given one many years ago and just now want to start rug hooking.

    lynn ann

  14. I am going to upload the copy of the instructions for the Ridgeway Cutter. Thanks to Sue Fellenzer and her hubby for sending them to me.

  15. Barbara

    New to rug hooking and don’t want to invest in a wool cutter before I’ve tried it and know that I’ll keep it up. Any guidance as to best way to cut wool strips without a cutter? Also, the project I bought doesn’t include guidance as to strip size. How would I determine what width of strips is needed?

    • Barbara
      You can use a rotary cutter and mat to cut your wool strips . . . or good old fashioned scissors, but that will take a while and they won’t be as even. You might be able to find a used cutter on ebay . . . just be sure the person you buy it from knows what it is and that is is working properly and all the pieces are there. If you find one to bid on or buy on ebay, have someone who knows about the cutter to look at the pics and maybe ask the seller some questions for you. You can find decent cutters from time to time on ebay though. As far as the strip widths for hooking a pattern, it doesn’t matter a whole lot, unless your pattern is fairly small and you want to use exceptionally wide strips. Most patterns can be hooked in #8 (1/4-inch wide) strips . . . you can always hook smaller design elements with a narrower strip if you need to. I sometimes cut my #8 strips in half to hook more narrow areas or smaller design elements. Then I will use a #9 or #10 to hook more wide open background areas. There is no hard set rule about using a specific strip width — use what you enjoy the most, and wing the rest depending on the area needing to be hooked. Let us know how the hunt for a cutter goes — maybe someone here has a used one they want to sell. Also, post a “wanted” comment on my Facebook page – there are a lot of hookers over there that might be able to help with a used cutter.


      • Barbara

        Thanks. This is helpful. I’d like to complete at least the first small project before I think about a buying more equipment. Great to know that I can post on your facebook page.
        Thanks again!



    • You can cut in 32nd of an inch strips with any of the cutters. We refer to cut strips with numbers that represent the number of 32nds of an inch cut by the blade attached. The blades are interchangeable so you can change from one size to another. For example, if you want to cut several strips 4/32nd of an inch wide, you will use a #4 cutter blade. I suggest you go to http://www.halcyonyarn.com and look at the Rigby cutters sold there . . . you’ll see photos of the cutters and of the blades, too. There is a corresponding numbered “cleaning finger” that must be used with each blade size . . . it doesn’t really clean but it prevents your cut strip from rolling back over the cutting wheel as the cut strips get moved threough the cutter. I hope this is helpful.

  17. Hi, I hope you can help me. I thought that for 8/32 strips that you used a #8 hook. But on a selling site, they said that a #2 was for primitive rug hooking; the higher the #, the smaller the hook. I’m confused.

  18. Sorry for the confusion. A #8 is for primitive.

    • Susan
      The numbers you are referring to are for the wool strips, not for the rug hooks. Rug hooks will come fine, medium, coarse, primitive. You will use the size hook that works best for the width of the strip you want to hook with. so if you are hooking with #8 strips, which are 8/32nds of an inch wide, you will want to use a primitive hook. If you are hooking primitives, that would be between a #6 and #9 strip size and for those you will want to use a primitive hook. The hook on the end is large enough to catch a wider strip of wool and pull it through your backing material. The narrower the wool strip the finer a hook you’ll use. Make sense? But keep in mind thatr the numbers refer to the number of 32nds of an inch wide the wool strips are cut; hooks are not numbered that way to my knowledge (perhaps they are referring to crochet hooks?)

  19. Thank you so much for helping me. Happy Thanksgiving.

  20. Barbara

    I have a hooked rug that I got at a garage sale. It was on the floor frame and was being repaired in a place near edge. It has a patch of the canvas in back, but I do not know how that should be attached. Should the raw edges be attached by hand to rug canvas? Is there a book you can recommend for instructions for this? Thanks!

  21. Thank you so much for the updated post on strip widths.

  22. Tammy

    When cutting wool into strips do I have to be concerned about the grain.

    • The general rule of thumb is to cut with the selvedge edge (same direction, not across.) But I have always cut my wool in the way that would give me the most strips or to give me the texture I am looking for (like across a stripe instead of the length of it.) However, if your wool is a herringbone or has a looser weave, then always go with the selvedge rule so it won’t excessively fray or pull apart. Hope that helps! Happy Hooking and thanks for visiting my blog – pathetic as it is . . . I just don’t find the time (or take the time) to get it updated like I would hope. Always so busy with web sites, Etsy shops, and now I am working on found object art pieces, too. But I am happy that I am still getting good folks like you here!

  23. I agree with Sally. When using fine cuts however, it is important to stay on grain so the strips don’t shred when you hook them. In that case it is good to cut the same direction as the selvage and usually no more than 18″ long. When cutting with wide cuts I usually cut which ever direction will give me the look I want or the longest strip. I hate to start and stop often….and all of those tails! : )

    • Oh thanks Sheri! I never think about narrower cuts cuz I am all about the wider the better. But yes, narrow cuts definitely need to go with the selvedge. I tried hooking a #3 cut once to repair an old rug. NEVER again! I admire those who hook that small, but it was not enjoyable to me in the least. A 6-cut is about as narrow as I am going to use, and then it’s only going to be a small area of a larger design. Thanks again for chiming in Sheri – I appreciate it!


  24. Linda May

    Question: I am used to sewing and when cutting the wool strips does it matter if it is cut from salvage to salvage or on straight grain following salvage?

    • Hi Lina
      Thanks for visiting my blog. The jury is mixed on whether to cut rug hooking strips with the selvedge or not. Personally, I cut whichever way will give me the length of strips I want UNLESS the wool is a herringbone or looser weave or if the strip is to be a narrow cut, and then I cut parallel with the selvedge edge for strength of the strip. But most of the time, I don’t pay any attention to it. Some rug hookers will say to always cut parallel to it, but not me.

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