Friday, June 23, 2006

I haven't been doing much hooking, so I haven't been doing any blogging. I am stuck in a bad place with my hooking - I have a pile of unfinished rugs and no desire to finish any of them. There are some that I would like to have when they are done, but some of them don't even appeal to me at all. It's a funny thing I do with rugs - I usually start a new rug with great passion and lots of forward thinking - while I am hooking, I am picturing the finished rug and thinking about how much I am going to like it, and then suddenly, I lose interest. I usually get the part finished that I really like, then I have a hard time making myself get the rest done. I have one, no two or three rugs, that mostly need background hooking to be finished but I have sold the background wool! One of them is a adaptation of a great old Christmas rug - with Santa and a reindeer standing in the center. I loved hooking the old St. Nick and the reindeer is a hoot - long bodied and drawn like a six-year-old's drawing - and that's the end of it. The background is partially hooked with some sort of creamy wool that I dyed with either onion skins or tea - or maybe both. At any rate, I am sure I will never match the background wool, so I should just take it out and start over, but I hate to do that. Not that I never reverse hook, I have one rug with the linen wearing out because I have taken the wool strips out so many times. On this rug, I foolishly drew a picture that required the sky to meet the ocean, and I have been fooling around with ocean and sky colored wool for a year now. At first, I thought I would have a colorful sunset and that would solve the colors problem, but the sinking sun I hooked multiple times always looked awful, so I pulled it out and decided that trying to hook a night scene was better, but that didn't work, so I decided to hook a daytime picture, and that's what I am carrying around untouched in my hooking bag now. In the back of my mind, I think I would like to cut the rug in half and keep the dogs that are looking over the ocean to the sky - but, of course, that would remove the whole reason for the picture. The dogs are supposed to be looking at their old pals who have already crossed over the bar - they are in the cloud shapes in the unhooked sky.

I have another unfinished rug - I started it when the fourth Harry Potter book came out, so you know how long I've been "working" on it. It's a horse that has a little unusual look to it - so it could be one of the pseudohorses that pulled the carriage to Hogwarts - right in the center of a red background, with a border of squares hooked in overdyed tweeds. The tweeds were all overdyed for other projects. Half of the squares are hooked and I have lost, misplaced, or sold all the rest of the overdyed tweeds! Also, the red for the half-hooked background is gone, sold I think. It was a very mottled overdye, using a Vermont Folk Rugs dye recipe, which I didn't record and I probably did some substituting for dyes I didn't have. I loved hooking the Harry Potter horse - I really love the pattern a lot, I even sold quite a few of them on eBay with a variety of different borders, but somehow I lost the steam to hook the rest of the background and the rest of the border.

Maybe I should get tough with myself, make some kind of rule that I can't start a new rug until I finish the old ones - or, maybe better yet, I should not allow myself to eat a meal until I get at least a hand size patch hooked.... hmmm, that could target more than one of my goals...

Thursday, April 27, 2006

I have finally whipped the finish on a rug. I wanted to have it done for the annual southeastern Michigan hook-in and it's finished. I found I don't like whipping. It took as long to finish the rug as it took to hook it and I don't think the whipping added anything...

I have not had much time to hook, although I have been gathering a lot of recyclable wool. Getting the wool washed and taken apart has used up all of my meager spare time. Early this week, I bled some blues and aquas for sky and water. I had a lot of fun making blue and aqua primitive swatches. This is the season of rummage sales, so my truck is squashed full of wool and books - I almost didn't have room to squeeze in the great blue blanket I found on Tuesday - it's almost exactly the same blue as my hard-earned primitive blue swatch! I've been so involved with getting my mother settled into an assisted living situation that I haven't had time to unload my truck and gloat over all my findings.

Today, I went on a field trip with four classes of Third Graders to the same place where the big hook-in will be held on Saturday. The trip is annual and is called RED Day - Rural Education Day. We went to the county farm fairgrounds where we walked from station to station to see and hear about Michigan farm products. We met rabbits, turkeys, steers, goats, chickens, one very small horse, and even some wee little newborn quail. We observed an arena size model of the state of Michigan with the hundreds of products created by Michigan agriculture. We learned that Michigan is second only to California in farm produce. The really wonderful part of the trip was that one of the farm producer/demonstrators was my first rug hooking teacher! She was spinning llama wool, but I recognized her anyway - her name is Marge and she used to have the rug hooking shop called Ewe and Me. After concentrating for months and months on how to teach hooking and how to teach teachers to teach hooking, it was refreshing to remember that my first hooking lesson lasted all of about two minutes. I bought a kit from Marge and she told me to pull up a loop and then skip a space or so and pull up another one. That was it, the whole lesson - and it was certainly good enough to hook me permanently. Maybe the whole thing about teaching such a simple skill is overdone...

Well, the trillium are bursting out all over the hillside behind my family home and I'm sure the trout lillies are making a beautiful spotted carpet in my back woods. Blue Cohosh, from a few roots I ordered from Vermont forty years ago are beautiful behind the barn at the lake and next to my house at the farm. My mother is happy in her new apartment and I'm ready to enjoy the springtime!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

I don't have a photo with me for this blog, but I did want to share my pleasure with Gene Shepherd's DVDs - they're both great! I am currently trying to make myself go slowly through the second DVD - trying to watch it a little at a time so it will last longer. The second DVD is about hooking the same pattern four different ways. I have only watched the "outline and fill" parts so far. I really enjoy seeing Gene's hook pulling up loops, his hook just slides through the backing and comes up with a perfect loop that sits in exactly the right direction. He talks about filling the spaces that are too narrow with loops that are turned sideways, then shows exactly how to do that - and that's how I will be filling narrow spaces from now on!
If you are interested in these DVD's I'm pretty sure you can find a link to his website by going to Yahoo Rughookers Links file (assuming you are a member of Rughookers - if you aren't, you are cordially invited to join)
We watched the first DVD at a meeting of Thrums and Chums, Kris Miller's group that meets in Howell, MI, and we are scheduled to watch the second one at our next meeting, but I am really glad to have my own copies so I can go back and back again over Gene's teaching.

I hope you're all looking forward to the Michigan Hook-in in April, the McGown National in the fall, and the ATHA Biennial in New Orleans next year - I'm planning to be at all three. I will be selling McGown National T-shirts at the Michigan Hook-in - they're not only neat t-shirts, they also provide the funds to finance the national and they're only $20. If you want one ahead of time, contact me at

Also, I am working on a teacher training program and I am looking for guinea pigs - if you are interested in being a teacher and you have a friend who is already teaching, I would love to help you work with each other so you can become a trained teacher. You can reach me at the above email address.


Friday, March 10, 2006

I haven't been free to write here for a month or so - my mother fell and has been hospitalized and then in a nursing home. At 94, I knew she would be slow to heal, and I knew the system would not question where she was until her medicare time limit ran out, but I did not expect her to get worse in the nursing home. She has gone from an active, alert nonagenarian who was on her way to get into her car to drive to a bingo game, to a barely awake bedridden nursing home inmate. I have been visiting for hours every day, bringing her laundry home, taking candy favorites to her, and playing cribbage with her every evening until now she doesn't even want to sit up to play cards and has phantom pains all over her body, legs, arms, etc. I discovered last night that she was put on a narcotic pain killer around the clock - and it's destroying her. I am hoping my insistence that she not be given any more pain killers will make a change.

I started a rug the first few days when she was in the hospital and have been trying to bind it for the last week. I was hooking in very little light in the hospital and my loops are pretty ragged. I can't decide whether to leave the bad loops in or rehook them. I wanted the rug to look primitive - not just like pioneer primitive, more like caveman primitive. The photo was taken before I finished hooking the ragged black border and the horse isn't really pink, its hooked with wool that was tan overdyed with red and then bled so there was only a little red left on each strip.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

How to Hook Rugs by Mrs. Harry King

I added a new book to my collection today, that is, a new old book. How to Hook Rugs by Mrs. Harry King was written in 1952. The combination of Helen King publishing herself as a no-name belonging to her husband and the color-by-number technique espoused in the book place it firmly in a bygone era. Just glancing through the book, I almost felt I should be wearing my white gloves and pillbox hat - but, I took myself firmly in hand and decided to look for the remarkable parts of the book - and I didn't have far to look.

The photo shows the kind of hook Mrs. King recommends and shows the way to hold it. The hook is not described as far as size goes, it looks like any old crochet hook that might be laying around in your grandmother's sewing box.

The other surprise is Mrs. King's attitude about frames - she disapproves of them. It's not that she prefers hoops over frames, she prefers using nothing. She describes hooking with only your fingers to hold the rug.

Here's how: "In your left hand, hold your pattern, on the under side. With your thumb and first finger hold the pattern as if you were pinching it, near the flower or the leaf, letting the strip of wool come up through the next two fingers." I was thinking about the heavy weight of a partially hooked rug being carried by a couple of fingers, but she solves that worry by suggesting that you might want to spread your rug out on a card table for convenience and comfort.

I'm glad to have this book in my library, but as a piece of history, not as a reference. There are many pencil drawings of flowers with a number system telling you exactly how to hook each petal or leaf, and there is an index telling which pattern each flower came from, but there are no pictures of the full pattern and no reference telling anything more than a pattern name.

A Rug Within a Rug

I tried to post this photo on Yahoo Rughookers and for some reason couldn't get it to post, so I've put it here. This photo is of a wedding rug that didn't work. The story about it was published in the ATHA Newsletter a year or so ago so I won't repeat it here. I have posted it here because someone on Rughookers asked about making "rugs within rugs" and that's what this rug has to offer. Barenaked Ed is resting on a rug - and that rug is intended to be a replica of the handwoven rug I had made for my nephew long before this wedding.

I was extremely lucky one day on a trip to the Salvation Army. I found a couple of wool blankets and quickly took them up to the counter. The very helpful worker there chatted with me and learned that I was interested in any wool blankets they might have - and it turned out they had a couple of big boxes of them in the back room. I walked away with 30 wool blankets. Most of them were the color green that you see in the border of this rug, but some of them were the dark red you see under Barenaked Ed. Some of those wool blankets became hooking fabric, but a number of them also became weaving material. I made a loom woven green and red runner for Sean and then, when I planned his wedding rug, I drew his dog resting on it.

Maybe I should add here, I have this rug because it was returned to me for framing. I dragged my heels a little about getting it done, and suddenly the marriage was over. So, what do you do with an unsuccessful wedding rug?

Sean was married again last October - to a wonderful young woman who knew him way back when he was a college student. They had drifted apart and travelled different roads, until somehow, when Sean was readjusting to single life, Kim knew she should get in contact with him. Kim stood beside Sean all through the difficult year when his mother fought a losing battle with cancer - she was a perfect supportive loving wife to Sean long before they were married - and I am very happy to have her in our family. However, just in case the wedding rug caused some kind of jinx on that first marriage, I did not make a rug for Sean and Kim. Maybe someday - maybe a family rug instead of a wedding rug.

Monday, January 16, 2006

I just added a new book to my library, by Barbara Carroll titled American Folk Art Rug Hooking, 18 folk art projects with Rug-Hooking Basics, Tips & Techniques. It's another book in the same vein as Pat Cross' Purely Primitive, Hooked Rugs from Wool, Yarn, and Homespun Scraps and Tara Darr's Wool Rug Hooking, Pillows, Footstools, Rugs. All three of these books would make wonderful gifts for the person who is just beginning their rug hooking adventure. They all offer great color pictures of primtive hooking, interesting information about the history of hooking,and patterns with instructions for hooking. Each of these books works like a visit with an interesting teacher.

Add Deanne Fitzpatrick's book to the pile and maybe these books represent a new trend in the hooking community - a trend away from pre-printed patterns and toward hookers doing more independent work. I would still like to have someone else draw the pattern on the backing for me if I was planning to work on a very complicated pattern - Cumberland Crewel comes to mind - but I'm not likely to ever want to hook that style. I like the idea of beginners starting out right away with drawing their pattern on backing - even if it is a pattern designed by someone else - there is an aspect of owning their own work that is enhanced by doing it all from scratch.

Well, come to think of it, it's really not a new trend at all. There are a lot of the old books that have patterns and instructions for hooking them, too - maybe the new trend is just the really flashy colored pictures - the pictures that cause me to pick up each of those books over and over again, even though I'm not planning to hook any of their patterns.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

I am so frustrated! I have been trying al l afternoon to post some photos. The only one that finally posted was not supposed to be here in the blog but next door with my profile. Grrrrrrrrr. The book photos that were supposed to be here have disappeared into cyberspace - maybe they will return tomorrow like yesterday's photos that showed up today.

Anyway, this profile photo is really of me - I think I was the only person in China with white hair. People stopped dead-still in the streets and stared at me. I couldn't figure out if there were no people in China as old as I am or if Chinese hair just never turns white, or what - but I was able to climb briefly on the Great Wall of China and a kind person took my photo to prove I was really there. Going up (and down) those steps was a real challenge - every stone step is uniquely sized - there was no way I could walk without looking at my feet and pulling myself up with the handrail. I felt really old and out of shape until I turned around and saw (younger) people behind me literally laying down on the steps out of complete exhaustion. It was really hard to imagine the soldiers who used to guard the Great Wall running up and down, shooting arrows over the battlements, etc. and not falling down.

While I was in China, I wanted to see rugs being made, and I did - in a government store. The woman who was working on the rug worked at a stand-up frame that was more like a loom than not - it was warped with an uncountable number of threads - and she tied itty bitty knots that were invisible to the naked eye on each thread, in a row going across the rug. She said it might take some people a lifetime to make that kind of rug - and then I saw stacks of them for sale for bargain basement prices.

Photos of Rose Wilder Lane's book

I don't know what happened with these photos - I tried to upload them half a dozen times yesterday and several times today but they wouldn't post with yesterday's post. So, today, I wanted to write about another book and I started with some photos, thought I had them uploaded, and they turned out to be these photos - two copies of each! Who can tell!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

These books are not reviewed in any sensible order, just by which book seems to jump out at me when I go to the bookcase. Today's book is a book and a box - a book that is encyclopedic on all kinds of needlework and a box that is full of patterns for all of those kinds of needlework. Despite the inferior placement of the chapter on hooking (I, of course, think it should be listed first), I think the seventeen pages devoted to hooking are some of the best pages about hooking available anywhere.

The book is the Woman's Day Book of American Needlework by one of the foremost female authors throughout American history, Rose Wilder Lane. Rose was the only daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder, who authored the Little House series of books about her pioneer childhood (Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, etc.) Rose offers the most interesting history of rug hooking I have ever read, and it's flavor, wording, and information seem to show up over and over again in every newer history that has been published since 1963 when this book was published.

There are some wonderful pictures of antique rugs that don't seem to appear in too many other books (other than the Kopp book), but in addition to those pictures there are paper patterns of some wonderful rugs. There is one pattern right in the book with instructions for hooking it - its the marvelous old tiger that was once on the cover of Rug Hooking Magazine, hooked by Margo White (who is an outstanding hooker and designer and advocate of primitive rugs from Indiana).

The book is usually sold without the box of patterns, and vice versa, the patterns are usually found without the book. I was very fortunate some years ago when a very kind member of Yahoo Rughookers sent the hooking patterns to me. The book shows up on eBay every so often, but sells more reasonably when it is not identified with rug hooking - look for it and the patterns under needlework. If I was compiling a rug hooking library for my own enjoyment, not for instructing others, this would be the next book I would purchase - after the books I've already reviewed. If the Deanne Fitzpatrick book hasn't changed you into a designer-of-your-own-patterns, I would search for this book of patterns - hooking the rugs in the box could keep me busy for quite a while.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

There is a very new book that I think is wonderful, it's The Secrets of Planning and Designing Hand-Hooked Rugs, by Deanne Fitzpatrick with Susan Huxley, presented by Rug Hooking Magazine. This is one of those wonderful books that you can carry around with you and read a bit here and a bit there and have good things to think about all day. Deanne offers advice, suggestions, and exciting instructions in the same warm manner that she does in real life - I hear her voice all the way through the book.

I have been hooking a crow rug ever since my trip last summer to Nova Scotia where I took a class from Deanne at the ATHA Biennial - I saw crows on both sides of the highway all across Canada, from Windsor, Ontario to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Since I was driving alone, they became companions on my adventure. I mentioned the crows in Deanne's class and she quoted an old rhyme her father used to say when they'd go out for a drive when she was a child - I thought about that rhyme while I was drawing my rug, but I couldn't remember it, and now I have found it in Deanne's book!

If you have any thought about designing your own rugs, this is the book to get. It's quite new and readily available, so I don't want to ruin your pleasure by telling too much before you get your own copy, but I do want to say you will be charmed into drawing your own design(s) and loving yourself and your talent as you do it.

It's the kind of book you will want to keep with you for a long time - you can't just flip through it, or even read it from cover to cover, and then put it away.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

More favorite rughooking books

Two more of my favorite books are Hooked Rugs, An American Folk Art, with Ten Patterns for Rugs to Make by Leslie Linsley, published in 1991, and The Rug Hook Book, Techniques, Projects and Patterns for this easy, traditional craft edited by Thom Boswell and published in 1992.

Both books would work as textbooks for an interesting class on rughooking - they are pretty complete as far as offering everything a beginning rug hooking would want to know. The history, pictures, and patterns are also very interesting to experienced hookers.

I once made a huge mistake with the Linsley book and I still kick myself about it. In a bookstore in Ann Arbor, where publishers overruns and discards are sold, I found a stack of the Linsley book. I loved it right away and thought I could probably sell a few of them in my shop, so I bought a few of them - at, if I remember correctly, nine dollars each. I priced them at $25 and sold all but the one I wanted to keep right away. I had a large group of hookers at the store for the weekend, and somehow, during the weekend, my copy of the book disappeared. I decided I had to have a copy of it, so I started searching on the internet and discovered that most copies of Hooked Rugs were selling for around $90. I have been searching for copies ever since. It's been about seven years, and I now have three copies of Hooked Rugs. I paid through the nose for the first copy and bought the second and third because the price had dropped a little. One copy was under $50, but I had to wait six weeks for it to come from Belgium. The heart and hand pattern pictured is one available in the book, and the bird pattern is another, derived from a 1920 painted pattern.

The Boswell book has more patterns and more detail and is a lot easier to find at a reasonable price, but somehow it doesn't appeal to me in the same way as the Linsley book. The Rug Hook Book has an offering not available in the Linsley book, it's a gallery of rug hooking artists - pages about some of the more well known rug hookers with photos of some of their rugs. The pages that are shown in the photo on this page are about Marion Ham who designs and hooks primitive rugs that look very much like the old antique rugs. Learning about some of the well known members of the rug hooking community offers an understanding of the variety and creativity available to rug hookers.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

After a discussion with a member of Rughookers, I thought it might be appropriate for me to share my opinion of some books about rughooking.

The book I recommend most to beginning hookers is Joel and Kate Kopp's American Hooked and Sewn Rugs, Folk Art Underfoot. First published in 1975, it has the best collection of pictures of antique rugs available. Many of the patterns sold as "antique" or "adapted from an antique" by professional designers are actually patterns made from the rugs in the Kopp book. It is the kind of book that can put a rughooker in a state of primitive rug euphoria. It is readily available in paperback in a 1995 reprint - which is larger and probably a little more attractive than the original edition.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

I attached lengths of rug tacking strips to the floor frame today to try to get a tighter surface for hooking. To protect my arms from the sharp tacks, I put pipe insulation, cut in half lengthwise, over the strips, after my rug was on the frame. I only had time to pull a few loops, but I really like the way the rug is held taut by the tack strips. I am used to hooking on my Puritan frames that are set on their stands so they can move in circles - hooking on this floor frame is going to be very different. I hope I will be able to make the adjustment - at the moment, it feels pretty funny to hook on something that is so sturdy. I may have to learn to do what my first teacher always said to do - hook in all directions without turning the frame.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

I have been working on one of my new frames. My nephews gave me two floor frames for Christmas. The pattern for the frames came from the book, Basic Rug Hooking by Beatty and Sargent. It's a very basic design, a wooden rectangle 40"x 20", on legs that are hinged and can be folded for storage. I had thought I could wrap the two long sides with wool that would help hold the pins that would hold the rug, but I tried that method yesterday and was very disappointed in how loose the burlap was - I'm used to very taut backing on my Puritans.

I decided I wanted a big frame like these when I saw one in Nova Scotia last summer. I stopped in the tourist welcome center on the highway just after entering Nova Scotia (on my way to the ATHA meeting in Halifax) and the first thing I saw was a wonderful big lighthouse hooked rug hanging over the fireplace (see photo) - I recognized it immediately as having been hooked by Deanne Fitzpatrick - whose studio I was hoping to visit. Off to the side in the same room, I found a hooking frame (rectangular wooden floor type in the photo) set up by Deanne Fitzpatrick so people could try hooking. I sat at that frame for a few minutes and pulled a row of loops and felt warmly welcomed to Nova Scotia.

I leaned later that those frames are made by Fraser and cost more than $300 - although I can't remember if that was Canadian or US dollars. I doubt that they are exactly the same as the Beatty /Sargent frame, but close enough.

Anyway, today I purchased some rug tack strips and I will see if those will do the job of holding my rug on the frame. I'm a little concerned about the tacks poking my arms, so I also purchased a thick tube of pipe insulation that I can put over the tacks once they are holding the backing.