Monday, February 23, 2009

Using Antique Black

I've been using the antique black wool that I dyed a few weeks ago. It's not very exciting antique black, just sort of common black that has a little bit of depth to it. I actually prefer the antique black that can be made using red and green and blue wool - if it is barely overdyed with black, a little of the red and green and blue peeks through. Then it looks like old wool, wool that has been used and worn and rubbed so much that some of the black has worn off. Sometimes a regular piece of black wool straight off the bolt has some or all of those colors hiding under the black. That happens when something was wrong with the original dye process, so the wool was overdyed. I love finding that kind of black. All you have to do is bleed off some of the black dye, and there you have wonderful worn looking antique black.

I used the antique black for this horse in my Yahooker swap mat. It's not easy to get something more than a flat silhouette when you want to hook a black horse - and I've loved black horses ever since early childhood - so I let the variation in color in the antique black delineate some of the muscles and contours of the horse.

However, my main use of the antique black has been in my Gene Shepherd blog hook-in rug ( . Over the last weekend, I played around with various colors for the scallops and for the background beyond the scallops. I hooked one corner all in blue, with red scallops - ugh! Then I hooked black scallops and red background - ugh! again.
One problem is that I've hooked the basket and flowers in brighter colors than I ever use. I wanted to bring those colors out into the background, but they are just too bright for me. I picked the darkest strips of the basket color and hooked them around the medallion, and then hoooked a pair of beauty lines - one red, and one of the blue plaid I used in the wing of the bluebird. After the ugh! attempts, I decided to fill everything between all of the lines with antique black. In a few places, I'm going to hook in short bits of very light black, just to keep the black alive. Today, I'm going to hook outside the red line to make a black frame all the way around. I'm going to kind of jump around with the rest of my hooking, in case I run out of antique black and have to cook up some more - I'm leaving just-in-case spaces for the new wool to fit in.

I'm so pleased to be doing this rug as part of Gene Shepherd's hook-in. He gives the greatest hints on his blog while he's hooking the same pattern - I think I've heard more suggestions and good ideas than in a regular class - the great thing about a blog class is you don't get too tired to listen and learn, which is always what happens to me in a day-long class (one of my post-polio symptoms.) With a blog, you can stop and start whenever you want and you can go back and re-read, re-look, anytime, day or night. So, here's a "shout-out" to Gene - THANKYOU GENE!!!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Rughookers Anniversary

I had an absolutely wonderful surprise today when I read Gene Shepherd's blog ( ). I had forgotten that Rughookers has been around for a whole decade now and what a nice way to be reminded. I thought I would take this opportunity to tell the story of Rughookers ( )

More than a dozen years ago, I bought that funny long frame building in this old aerial photo. The building is the largest one in downtown Hamburg, Michigan (which you can see is not a very large town). I loved the old building, bought it without a real plan, but I had a sporadic antique business at my farm and I was in love with some antique replica crafts, so I decided to turn the main floor of the building into an antique shop and then have craft classes held in other parts of the building.

I was teaching school in another small town fifty miles away and running a boarding stable and riding school at my farm, so I could only give Saturday and Sunday afternoons and Thursday and Friday evenings to the store. On Saturdays, I gave riding lessons in the morning and then raced off to the store, made a big pot of soup or stew on the old ten burner stove in the upstairs back hall, and fed the riding students and other teachers because making lunch was the only way I could get everyone to leave the farm in time for me to open the antique shop at noon.

I called the building The Hamburg Store because it had alway before been called The Hamburg Hardware. It was situated on a corner, with a refurbished general store next door and an old gas station converted into a fire hall next to that. Around the corner and behind The Store was an old church that had become the town hall, with the police station in the basement. After the township moved out, the old church became a library. That building is now a museum, started and run by the people who now own the old general store and the old fire hall. I started doing some of my school work at the store when the customers and hangers-on were gone, correcting papers and recording grades and doing research on the internet. The internet was quite different then, not nearly so many choices available, and somehow I found the rug hooking group called Padula. I learned that there were other rug hookers and started learning from them about schools and suppliers and Rug Hooking Magazine. We chatted a lot about rugs, but we couldn't see them, there was no photo hosting on the server. While surfing the internet, I eventually found the Yahoo group service. I set up a group, thinking Padulans would like to see photos of their rugs, and I called the group Rughookers. The people running Padula weren't excited about having photos, so I was suddenly the proud owner of a completely independent group. I can remember saying back then that if we could get three hundred members, we would probably have all of the internet savvy rughookers in the whole country.

I used to think about Rughookers as a home, a home where visitors should be welcomed and treated as honored guests. Netiquet really hadn't been established well yet and there were often unpleasant outbursts in the early years - sometimes it felt like we were the Hatfields and the McCoys with our foolish disagreements. That's when I hooked this little house, which would have been big enough to entertain the whole group.

It only took a few years for the group to grow so large we needed a new home. I thought this house would be the one I would build on my farm if I ever won the lottery, but instead, The Lottery House turned into The Rughookers Home, and the Rughookers Home is a place where all rughookers are welcome.

Almost two years ago, I moved from my farm to my mother's home, a couple miles from the store. I now sit inside this house when I surf the net and have the great good fortune to have a large group of friends on Rughookers.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Cat Has Been Chased Away by a Dog

I removed the cat and replaced her with a dog. Now there's no connection between the dog and the bird, but I like the dog. Maybe I can go back to putting a cat sneaking into the picture from the side - might give the pattern some better balance. I think I'll start on the black on the right side and leave the possible cat side alone for now.

Gene Shepherd's Blog Hook-In

I'm having a lot of fun working on the December 2008 Rug Hooking Magazine free pattern with Gene Shepherd's Blog Hook-In ( ). The original pattern is a basket full of Christmas greens and a Noel ribbon, which is not really my kind of pattern, so I started out by following Gene's alternative tweaked pattern. I hooked a bluebird, and then thought that a basket of flowers, even with a bluebird was not really my kind of pattern, so I added a cat slinking in from the opposite side. The cat really didn't look like a cat, so I asked Vicki of fanXstitch if she would draw a sort of evil cat for me.
She drew a wonderful sly looking cat, but when I copied the drawing and translated it into hooking with size 8 strips, it didn't look evil and really didn't look much like a cat. Also, although it doesn't show much in the picture, the greenish/yellow tweed wool was definitely the wrong color. I shaped the cat face a little to give it some dimension and added some whiskers that were cut from a plastic bag I was saving for onion dyeing.

Then I added some flowers, doing sort of freestyle mini-prodding, mostly with size 8 strips, although I tore wider strips for the bigger yellow padulas.

I changed the cat to brown, kind of lost the face that I liked even though it was not sly, and kind of lost the whole point of having the cat. Today, I am either going to redraw the cat so he is facing in the opposite direction or eliminate him all together. I like the basket, the handle, and the flowers, but the bird seems pretty dull and kind of extraneous - and will be especially if I delete the cat. Plus, if I delete the cat, I'll have to hook in the left side of the basket and I really like it exactly like it is.
Well, I'll see. I think I have to go out to the barn and find some plain gray wool for the new cat. No more tweeds.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Mystery Solved!

The mystery of the black bag left at the antique shop is solved! It was indeed Linda Smiths, and, unhappily, she and her husband are victims of the Michigan disaster - her husband was layed off from three different jobs, all auto business related. They finally had to make the tough decision to leave their home. Her husband found a good job down south, Linda is going to have to give up her teaching job and her rural life style and move into an apartment.

UGH! I gave up teaching when I retired and I still miss it. I'm uncomfortable every September when school starts, like an old workhorse put out to pasture, and I often see or do things that I'd like to share with students. Maybe Linda is young enough she won't feel that way - she'll find some kind of teaching to do down there. But - giving up rural living?? Not me, not ever, No Way!

I grew up with neighbors right next door - so right next door that I could stay awake at night and hear them carrying on their lives, just like listening to a soap opera on the radio. Now, my nearest neighbors are not within shouting distance, and I like it that way. When I was driving the tractor on a hot summer day during haying season, I could whip off my T-shirt and only worry about being spotted by low-flying pilots. So, I doubt I could do what Linda is doing - moving far away, leaving her mother, sister, and son behind. I suppose it's a lot like what our ancestors did when they loaded up their wagons and looked for greener pastures.

Linda is going to leave her chickens behind. Two of them. A rooster and a hen, pets that she hatched from eggs ordered from Maine. Lucky for me, she's going to leave them with me. I'll try to take the best of care of them, in case she eventually becomes a rural person again.

Maybe I'll try to finish hooking her rooster mat so she can take it with her.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Good-bye Antique Shop

Well, the bad economy in Michigan is good luck for me. My neighbors at my store in the village of Hamburg have had an engineering/design business that was tied to the automotive companies. There just isn't enough business for them to survive, so Suzanne has decided she wants to open a shop - she used to have one quite a few years ago in the building that is now their home and his design business - so she wants to lease my building. I want to keep my studios upstairs (where on earth could I find a place to store twelve looms??) so she's going to lease the downstairs - which is still filled with my antique business. So she'll sell my antiques for me along with her hand-made items - and they'll clean-up and fix-up the building.

We walked through the building today and I realized there's still quite a bit of rug hooking inventory downstairs that I'll have to move upstairs, but only a few other things that I'd like to hang onto. What a huge relief! I have not liked leaving the building unprotected, and kids have broken in several times, but I just haven't allowed myself to worry about it. I had talked about selling the building, but this is no time to do that and I really didn't want to give it up, someday I won't be caring for my mother anymore and I'll want to have work to do - so, this way I can have my cake and eat it, too. I have a huge antique inventory, and I'll only get half of my list price for the items, but I wasn't even getting that half while everything was in there gathering dust - and this way, I won't have to pay for the utilities. This will be good for me and good for the whole village - and, anytime I can, I can reopen my rug hooking business.