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.