I can't think of a better New Year's resolution than to join the ranks of rugmakers whose numbers are increasing these days.

The most exciting thing about rugmaking is that, by combining latch hooking with needlepoint or working in different thicknesses, lengths and colors of wool, you can sculpt your rugs into the most fascinating designs with textured, three- dimensional effects.

You could work part of your design in the higher Rya pre-cut lengths, use the shorter pre-cut yarn for a thick close pile, or even trim different layers in between for molding shapes. This technique enables you to work scenes or faces that stand up in high relief and free all your artistic urges, using your latch hook and scissors as a sculptor uses a chisel.

I just finished a rug with a latch hook snowy owl sitting on a lonely pine branch. I made my favorite bird nice and speckly by mixing white and beige strands of wool and working them together in latch hook. I then used Rya lengths to show off his snowy white plumage and then hooked a grey-blue sky behind him in the flatter, shorter length, working related colors across each row for subtle shading. I must warn you, though, that if you decide to latch hook this feathered friend, he may end up as a wall hanging -- you'll be too fond of him to have him under foot.

Another inventive idea is to combine needlepoint and latch hook, as I did, by joining latch-hooked squares of umber and white with strips of needlepoint in a complimentary olive, umber and white floral design. You could give those wonderful old Victorian cabbage roses a new twist by combining needlepoint and latch hook, or do a marvelous abstract geometric pattern, although any design in latch hook should be ultra-simple and blocked out first on graph paper.

You could alternate rows of close herringbone or twist stitch, the stitch used by the Portuguese, with rows of latch hook, working all in one color or in rainbow stripes. When you're done, simply clip the latch hook into a rounded shape so that it doesn't obscure the low channels of needlepoint, and you'll have a nice clean furrowed effect.

You can work your rugs in pre-cut yarn of either acrylic or wool, although wool will give you more subtle shading than acrylic, which has a rather limited color selection. But since wool is far more expensive than the man-made yarns, you might want to hold off on it until you're ready to tackle an heirloom.

And when you're working large areas of latch hook, your work will go faster if you follow a clever time-saving tip. Rather than picking up each piece of pre-cut yarn individually, take three strands at a time and wrap them around the shaft of the latch hook. Then, one by one, move the pieces of yarn to the left over the latch and pull them into canvas. Once you've gotten the knack, and you've started on your first project, your only resolution will be forcing yourself to put it down.