Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Mystery

I stopped at my antique shop today. I was planning to serve onion soup for dinner and I wanted to get some soup bowls from the shop. I haven't been there for some time, usually now I only go if UPS has delivered a package there by mistake. I had the wrong key ring, so I didn't get the soup bowls, but I did find a big black plastic bag leaning against the front door. I glanced inside, saw that it was full of bags of wool, and put it in the car. I puzzled about the bag all the way home. I thought it had probably been left by a disenchanted or discouraged hooker, since bags of wool have appeared for those reasons in the past.
When I opened the bag at home, I found plastic bags full of wool, some cut, some not cut. There was a nice hoop, a pair of scissors, and a bag with a number of felted ball pin cushions.

There was no note, no explanation. There was an unfinished rooster rug, but that didn't offer any clues, other than it was hand-drawn and not a commercial pattern.
Then I found a real clue, that was even more confusing. If this bag belonged to Linda Smith, maybe it was just accidently left. Maybe it's a bag of ongoing projects, I can't imagine Linda Smith giving up hooking. It's not just a bag of leftover wool - there's some unused linen in the bag, too. It doesn't make any sense at all, I can't imagine Linda Smith giving up hooking - but it does make sense that this is her bag. The rooster would be one of hers, too - she gave me the chickens that started my revived interest in raising chickens. I think that was three or four years ago. I don't have her phone number and can't remember her husband's name, and Smith's are just too hard to find. I saw Linda last fall at the Webster Township Festival and haven't seen her since. I know where she lives, but don't know her teaching schedule this year - she teaches either morning or afternoon - I'll have to try and stop at her house sometime soon and find out what this bag means.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Making Antique Black

I drew a new pattern today - which I won't describe because I might use it for the Yahooker swap, instead of the one that required so many color adjustments. I needed antique black wool for the new pattern, but if I have any, it's out in the barn and I just didn't feel like walking out in the bitter cold to find it. I had some wool jackets and coats down in the basement, so I picked four of them, cut off a sleeve from each jack, and threw them into a dye pot. There was a dark green, a black and white herringbone, a brown and red tweed, and a black. The dyepot already had some leftover red dyewater and some dish soap in it. That one sleeve was probably black, but I'm working in such week light that I could be wrong, it could be navy blue. I was finally pretty sure it was black when the water in the dyepot started to change color.

I checked the color of the dye water by dipping a jar into the pot and holding it up to the light. After more than half an hour of simmering, the color was still very weak, so I figured I needed some more black, but I really didn't want to cut up any more of that black jacket. Then I remembered the sleeve linings - two of them were black and I had just thrown them away. I retrieved them from the waste basket and added them to the pot. About fifteen minutes later, I had a strong black in the dye water. I added a couple glugs of vinegar, and let the whole pot simmer for another half hour.

Patient dyers will remove a dyepot from the heat source and let it cool overnight - but not me. I singed my fingers by turning the faucet in the kitchen sink to as hot as I could get it, and then removing the wool from the pot to rinse it in the sink. The wool was really dyed black, only the two pieces of brown tweed showed any of the original color - at least while it was still very wet. I laughed to myself as I hung the pieces in the basement - I'll let them drip dry until morning, then I'll put them in the dryer. The laughing was because I was thinking about Gene Shepherd's blog and his beautiful yards and yards of wool hanging out to dry in his hot California sunshine - and here I was quite pleased with my colorless wool in a dark and creepy Michigan basement.
Sunday morning: Here is the finished antique black - the camera makes it look a lot lighter than it looks to my eye, maybe because it's sitting on a green jacket, but it isn't the dull sooty black that it looked like when it was wet. There is a nice variety of texture that I'm going to enjoy. Now I'm ready to strip it and start hooking!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I had the surprising good fortune to win two Ebay auctions for antique hooked rugs. The rugs aren't in perfect condition, but I like to look at the work of the old hookers - especially the hookers who made rugs intended to be used. The rug in the first three pictures is in good shape everywhere except down the center line. It doesn't show in the photo, but there are two rows right in the center where the burlap is worn out. The whipping was done with a very thin yarn, almost just a wool thread, and it completely covers the edge of the burlap - I'm only assuming the backing is burlap, I haven't really checked yet.

I took this photo to show the thin whipping thread, but now I'm intrigued with the way the black hooking made such a perfect corner. It almost looks like different people hooked different parts, since the pink is hooked so much tighter than the black, and then the gold looks like a different hooking style altogether.
If you draw an imaginary line between the rose buds, then find it's center and move about an inch to the right, you can see the strip where the hooking is gone and the burlap is worn out.

The pattern and the choice of colors looks like what I think of as a dimestore kit - I don't know why I call them that since I never saw a hooked rug kit in a dimestore, but that's where I think they would have been sold. I suppose I'm showing my age by even remembering dime stores.

The second rug is much larger than the first, it's as wide as the first one is long. It's also much more worn than the first one. It seems like a rug that was really cared about, it has already been mended in quite a few places. There is burlap added on the back and there are places where new hooking was added.

This is half of the rug, and it looks pretty good, although I suspect the burlap is having a hard time holding the weight of the rug when it isn't placed on the floor.

You can see the patches in this photo. The patches are all around the edges, although the outer edge hasn't shredded the way many old rugs have.

Here are the two spots that are in the worst condition. I suppose they could be mended the same way the other places have been repaired. I might someday do the repair, but if I do, I will probably put some muslin or canvas all over the back to try to support the weight of the rug.
I probably won't put the rugs on the floor - when I did put them down to look at them, I had to fight off two dogs who were determined to claim the rugs as their own. I'm sure the burlap on the largest one is not going to survive the pressure of dogs rolling, or even walking on it.
I really enjoy looking at these rugs and wondering who hooked them and where they were placed for so many years. There are no hints like worn pathways or protected areas on either rug to indicate that they were placed in or out of a traffic pattern. They both look like they have been walked on a lot, especially the large one. The large one seems to have been made with a variety of fabrics, the smaller one looks like all wool strips, although at first I thought some of the colors might have been hooked with yarn.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Color change

Well, I decided I just couldn't stand the motif color on my swap mat, so I changed it. Reverse hooked and rehooked with a darker color. Looked at that for a while, and decided I just couldn't stand it - so, reverse hooked it again. Then I chose the shade of the same color that I had wanted to use in the first place, and now I like my little mat for the first time. I think I won't use it for the swap, though. I still want to come up with another design.

I recently acquired a metal sculpture and I think I want to use a drawing of it for my next design. It would be similar to the present mat, same basic motif, just a very different approach. The new one would be based on a sculpture from East India and the old one was based on a native American Indian talisman. The same subject has been important in two such diverse cultures, and in mine, too!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Swap Hooking

I hooked on my swap trivet until late last night. I had to quit when my wrists wouldn't stop hurting, even when I soaked them in hot water. I'm working on finding the kind of movements that will let me hook for long spells of time without using my wrists - so far, no luck. I have learned that using a longer strip on the bottom helps, that is, my fingers work further away from the backing so I don't have to bend my wrist when I pinch the loop onto the hook. I've never heard any other hookers complain about their lower hand or wrist hurting, but I bet I'm not the only one. Although, I suppose there aren't too many hookers who've had their wrists smashed by horses. I guess there are consequences for all the foolish things done when we were young and foolish.

Anyway, I was working on my trivet for the Yahookers swap. I had to work in almost darkness because my mother went to bed and I hook in the room next door. No matter which lights I turn off, she complains about the lights. I even tried hooking with my headlamp on, but it scared my mother because there was light moving around - so, anyway, I hook with one little light on, and I hook as close to it as I can get - and that proved to be a big mistake with this trivet. I'm hooking with some wool that I dyed with some bled color - I thought the original wool was not the right color, so I bled some of the color out - then I put some off-white wool into the dyepot and got a nice mottled piece of the color. It was a little brighter than I had planned, but I expected my dull background color would absorb some of the brightness. I used that mottled piece for my main motif, liked it in the dark, and I was really surprised how much I didn't like it the next morning in the sunlight. Yuk. The dull background didn't absorb the brightness, it caused a color shift - the color moved over a notch on the color wheel and stayed just as bright, or actually a little brighter. I'm thinking about pulling it all out and rehooking the main motif with a different color, but, while I'm thinking about it, I'm working on designing another pattern. I think now I'm not as fond of the first pattern as I was.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Great Hooking Afternoon

I'm sorry I haven't been very active on this blog, I've been spending my blogging time on the blog I set up when I acquired a great new farm dog - well, when I started the blog and got my new acquisition to the farm, I wasn't so sure he was a great dog. I thought writing about my experiences with him would help me make decisions about him. Come on over and see how I've been spending my time when you're through here, the dog blog is

Luckily, I had a little rug hooking afternoon today. My cousin came to visit for the afternoon. She has expressed interest in learning to hook several times, ever since I went with her sister-in-law to an Amy Oxford workshop in northern Michigan. She wants to set a time with her sister so they can both come to hook, but I decided to strike while the iron was hot even though she was here alone: I started by showing her some hooks, several different kinds, and some loops that were already pulled on a practice pattern. I wanted her to see the difference between traditional hooking and the punching from the Amy Oxford workshop. Then I pulled out a couple of books, one of them by Cynthia Norwood, and then on to the Youtube videos I discovered yesterday. I think my two favorites make a great combination, one by Deanne Fitzpatrick and the other by Gene Shepherd. I wanted Jane to know that decisions about how to hook would be up to her, after she learns the basics. Deanne hooks so amazingly fast that the backing threads sing and Gene hooks slowly, precisely, and very accurately. Deanne says it's okay to pull loops down a little when you pull on the next one, Gene says the opposite and shows how to avoid pulling down earlier loops.

I probably overwhelmed Jane with books - I pulled out Cynthia Norwood's book and the Leslie Linsley book, then one of Deanne's books, then a second one, and that led to talking about Deanne's background and her family from Newfoundland, and that, of course, led me to talking about the history of Newfoundland and Labrador and Dr. Grenfell - and I pulled out the Silk Stocking Mats book. Then I followed up with two books by Gene Shepherd and a couple chapters of Gene's proddy dvd.

I hope Jane still wants to hook! I had a wonderful time, and I didn't even pull a loop - I love hooking!