Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Butler Hooking Frame

Someone on Rughookers has been looking for Butler frames, so I thought I would share photos of mine. I have kept it out in my unfinished studio/barn all winter and have missed using it. It's really too big to leave it set up in my mother's dining room, so I've been using a Puritan on a floor stand - something that can be shoved off into a corner. The hooking space on this Butler frame is about twice as big as the Puritan.
The frame folds down,

and the floor supports fold up,

so the frame can be transported on it's wheels. There's a comfortable wooden handle for pulling. When I pull it in and out of hotels, I usually pile my hooking bags on top of the floor supports and use the whole thing like a cart. I really love this frame. The only faults I find with it are 1) the size for fitting into my mother's dining room - old houses tend to have smaller rooms, so it would also be too large for my own dining room, but it's just perfect in any of my studio spaces, and 2) I can't twist and turn it the way I can the Puritan when I want to hook in different directions - so, it makes me do what my old teacher always said I should do, learn to hook in all directions without moving my pattern - or, I can easily take the pattern off of the frame and turn it.
So, that's the Butler. The following photo is my sneaky Blue - loving to lay on the rug on the forbidden love seat while I'm so involved in hooking I don't notice.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

More on the Cottage Rug

I've made some progress on the cottage rug. I hooked the lawn, mostly with the strips that had already been cut - they dyed up nicely.
I did some more bleeding and marrying and came up with overly textured wools - I used some pendleton plaids and some dark gray tweeds - so, I decided, rather than get out the Cushing dyes, I'd just hook the water with the solid blue I already had. I also have a really nice blue and green check, so I used that for waves and decided that's my textured wool for the water.
I really started to have fun with this rug. I saw an old photo in an album I'm putting together for my mother, and my mother and grandmother were sitting in front of the cottage talking - so, I hooked my grandmother into the lawn. Then, I kept thinking about my brother going fishing - well, both of my grandfathers did a lot of fishing there, too, so I hooked in a boat and a fisherman. The boats at the lake were both painted white, but I decided to work with the wool that was already in a box at my feet and the lightest there was a gray. I finally had a good feeling about this rug, the same feeling I used to get as a kid when I had a piece of paper and a box of crayons, drawing without a plan, just adding parts as I thought of them. Hooking without a pattern is like that, and I think I'll do it more often.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Summer Cottage Rug

I've pulled out one of those put-aside rugs. It's a pictorial/memory rug, a picture of the old stone cottage on Big Lake, near Davisburg, Michigan. The cottage was hand-built in the early twentieth century by the Thielmans, the in-laws of my uncle's wife's sister. Back then, the city of Detroit was like a small town, everybody knew everybody or knew their relatives or neighbors and my mother had a friend who married one of the Thielmans, and that friend's sister married my uncle - anyway, that friendship must be how my family was able to have the cottage every summer during my childhood. We used to spend our summers there in the late 1940s and early 1950s - and even back then, it was full of antiques and was basically an antique itself. The kitchen was outfitted with running water through a hand pump next to the sink - it was necessary to keep a glass of water by the sink to prime the pump. There was also an ice box, an ice box that held big fifty pound blocks of ice that was delivered every so often. I remember an ice wagon pulled by horses, but that might just be my imagination, and I also remember a truck built like a milk delivery truck with cold ice water draining out of the back. The children slept in a large room upstairs that was fitted out with a collection of old brass beds. The living room had a pot bellied stove that we sat around on cold, rainy summer days. There was a day bed over in one corner, by the window I've put in the rug, and that's where my mother read to us every afternoon. My strongest memory is of learning to read by watching her read Black Beauty to us.

I've tried several wool colors for the lawn in front of the cottage and haven't been happy with any of them, so I decided to take all the colors I was using, add some more green wool, and marry the colors together. Also, just to experiment, I added some strips that had already been cut.

Once I simmered the wool in a pot of water and added vinegar to set the color, I pulled the wool out of the pot. Most of the real green had already been used up and the color that was left was a blue-green, with more blue than I wanted in my lawn. Experience has shown me that blue is one of the slower colors to be taken up by wool and I knew I didn't want much of that blue.

The photo above shows the wool after it was pulled out of the pot - the bright green at the top were my bleeders, the strips on the left started out as a very light yellow green (I call it puke green), and the wool on the right is from a recycled coat and that must be the wool that provided the blue-green.
I still have to rinse and dry the wool. After that and after hooking the lawn, I'll have to start on the water and sky colors. I decided I want all of the wool to be textured, so I may have to set up a pot of blues to bleed so I can marry some of the same textures together as blues. I hooked myself jumping from the rope swing before I decided on all textures, but I'm not going to rehook my pink arms and legs.
It is fun to hook a memory rug of this sort, I keep drifting off in old memories - like my brother and his friend chasing me and throwing fish eyeballs at me, or going out in the rowboat with lunches packed by my mother that included milk in pop bottles, and my dad coming home from the office and taking us swimming and throwing us off of his shoulders. I have one regret, we used to throw our garbage in the swamp next door, long before we thought there was anything wrong with doing that. I guess we didn't do any long-term damage, the swamp is all gone now anyway, buried under several houses.