Nature’s Elements

The one day workshop given by Linda Wilson had been requested by the hooking group in a town just 20 miles north of where I live.( I’m lucky to live in a hooking mecca, with four groups within a 25 mile radius plus one in our city.) Everyone did the same pattern…Nature’s Elements, from Heartland Creations. That was fine by me. I love the pattern, but what I was really after was knowledge and experience hooking a landscape, so I could eventually do some personal ones.

Most people worked on scottish burlap (the backing of choice here.)..and it has a lovely even weave, but Sheila Klugescheid did one for me on monk’s cloth, and my wrist is really thankful! (I get enough injuries from occasional encounters with my gripper strips)

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The main geographic feature in the pattern is the large evergreen in the foreground, and most of the morning was spent dealing with it. I had taken along my tub of greens, as did everyone else. We divided our wool into values of dark, medium and light. I ended up with a  yellow green, and decided on 8 different wools to use for the tree…mostly from my own stash, but supplimented by recycled wool from Linda. She wouldn’t let us use what she called ‘really good wool’. This was the place to use recycled, loose weave, or frayed pieces, since it made the tree more effective.

It’s done in what  Linda called ‘messy sculpting’ , pulling long loops and cutting them higgeldy-piggeldy, while at the same time shading them from light to dark values for each bough. My first attempt at the trunk was completely lost against the branches, so I pulled it out later, and redid it in much lighter more vibrant camel and red brown check, so it would stand out. The rest of the piece is done in flat hooking, giving the tree a bit of three dimensional form.

My tree has ended up quite dark, and that presents the problem of having it stand out against the dark background. I was originally going to use a black background, but decided on a dark black and green plaid which has some tiny gold threads in it. I thought it would give the background more life. I edged the top of the tree in a lighter green #4 cut, and that helps it stand out some, but I’m still not satisfied with it. It stands out clearly in good light, but as the light fades, so does the distinction . ….maybe it’s just my eyes??

A background scare and casserole dyeing

A couple of weeks ago, I realized I was getting short of the antique black I’m using for the background of my hall rugs. When I went to get a another yard of the claret coloured cashmere I’m over  dyeing to create the antique black, I was shocked to discover that I had very little left….only about a yard….certainly not enough to finish the rug. I started out with 7 yards, about 2 yards more than  the estimated amount needed. I knew the claret was no longer available, but I had a couple of yards of the same wool in a burgundy colour.

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With my fingers crossed, I dyed up two batches, using half claret and half burgundy in each batch, hoping I could mix them together without it being too noticeable.

Thankfully I think it will be fine.

In fact , although I just prepared more background wool, I’m taking a break from working on the hall rugs.

I have never done a landscape, and that is a style I would really like to try. I want to do a picture of our house ( a 125 year old ‘work in progress’) and I want to do Mount Kilimonjaro (my grandson went to Kenya last April….don’t forget to send me the picture Graham).

Last week Linda Wilson held a workshop entitled Nature’s Elements. Yea!!! a chance to try a landscape and gain some knowledge (not to mention having a great day with hooking friends). I’ll talk about the workshop, and how I’m faring with the pattern next time, but I’ll talk about my dyeing wool for the sky and water this time.

Since I had my dye pans out, after I finished dyeing the antique black, I decided to have a stab at dyeing wool for the sky and the water. I debated about whether to do a dip dye (dyeing the piece vertically) or a casserole dye (dyeing it horizontally). I decided I wanted lots of colour, so I settled on the horizontal version. Linda had given us instructions, but I called her for some extra clarification and advice, which she was only too happy to give.

I settled on a purple, red, orange, and yellow sunset sky. I made up trial dye baths in jars, and tested it in a white paper towel. The first I did with Majic Carpet dyes, but the colours didn’t have the depth I wanted, and were too bright. I tried again with cushing dyes, and used purple, cardinal red, orange, and buttercup yellow. YES!!

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Linda had given us the depth of fabric that was needed, and I hooked a straight line across the middle, pulled it out and measured it to get the required length. I predyed the water section in a light grey bath so the colours would be a bit duller than the sky. I lined a broiler sheet with foil and laid the first section of wool in the pan, spooned on the dyes, then folded the next section over the top and repeated until I had all of the water and sky sections done. I poured off the extra water wrapped the foil over the top, and put it in the oven at 300 degrees for an hour. That’s a long piece of garish wool!! (this is actually just the wool for the water and it isn’t quite as bright as it appears in the photo)

Now I’ll be interested to see what it looks like when it’s hooked ! Show you next time.

Pennsylvania Dutch Hex bag

I am a member of the Yahookers…a wonderful on line rug hooking group. They frequently have swaps organized, which are lots of fun . One that has just ended was called Dutch treat, and involved hooking a version of a Pennsylvania dutch Hex sign. I’d never heard of them, but was fascinated, so I googled them and found a wealth of information.

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“Like other immigrants, the (Pennsylvania Dutch) brought their old world language, dress, traditions and art to their new home. Mystical bird and floral designs graced their birth and marriage certificates, family Bibles, quilts, and some furniture. The “fancy” farmers also decorated their large German style bank barns with colorful geometric patterns. Six-pointed star designs were very popular. The German word for six, “sechs”, sounded like hex to their English-speaking neighbors. In time these “hex” patterns became commonly called hex signs. This custom persists today. 

These bright, colorful designs had meanings or legends. Families selected a hex sign based on color, design and its meaning. Some of the more popular symbols included: hearts for love, birds (called distelfinks) for luck and happiness, tulips for faith, and stars for good luck. The colors used for painting were also carefully chosen because of their added meaning. Blue conveyed protection, white purity, green abundance and red strong emotion. The hex symbols were individually hand painted for many years.”

I decided not to participate in the swap, but ended up hooking one anyway. I had picked up a couple of plain burlap bags at a little sale we had at Sunshine Rughookers. I thought a hex sign would be a great decoration for the bag….add handles, and it would be a great tote.

In this pattern, the twelve petals are for good luck and happiness for the twelve months of the year. The hearts denote love, and the wavy border…smooth sailing throughout the year.

Again I called on Ray for help in drawing the pattern on the burlap. Actually I think he offered to help, because watching my “unmathematical attempts” drove him crazy! He produced his carpenter’s large size set of compasses, and before long I had an accurate circle, and 12 perfect, properly placed petals. The trickiest part then was finding two shades each of six different colours (I didn’t want to do any dyeing for this little project), then deciding on their placement around the circle. It is hooked in a #6, and this is the last time I will hook on burlap. (I keep saying that)..but primative linen or monk’s cloth is so much nicer to work with and easier on my wrists.

I haven’t yet added the handles, but since that involves sewing…I’m going to invite myself to my sister’s for coffee soon…she’s an expert with a sewing machine.

Panty hose Bird

While many of the free patterns in RHM don’t appeal to me, I liked  this particular one and had been thinking for some time that it would be fun to do. It was in that…gee I’d like to try that someday….category (along with countless others).

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By the spring of this year (2010) I was once more feeling well enough to travel, and planned a trip to see my family in Regina. I wanted to take some hooking with me, but I was working on my hall runner , and I certainly wasn’t about to lug that across the country. In fact I didn’t want to take my cutter at all…the last time I flew , my leather suitcase had been destroyed, and I wasn’t about to risk damage to my dear little Bliss.

While I was pondering this, one of the women arrived at a Sunshine Rughookers meeting one morning with several pillowcases full of dyed nylons. A hooker who had worked exclusively with them had decided for some reason to give up hooking, and had donated her stash to the group. I was merely an interested onlooker for quite some time while others claimed treasures from the colourful pile. Then it came to me, that trying a piece hooked with nylons wouldn’t require a cutter, and this would be a great ‘travelling’ project. I remembered the little bird, and trying to recall the details of the pattern, I came up with this colour palette..(dictated entirely by what was left in the pile that might work). Fortunately I remembered the essential details, but forgot entirely about the need for a background. Ah well I’d worry about that later.

After a few quick tips from experienced “nylon hookers”, I flew off to Regina with my little project. My granddaughter helped cut the strips while I was there, and I always think of this as Livy’s mat.

I finished the foreground during a camping trip in the summer, then turned my attention to the background. I wanted a pale mottled blue, and thought it would be a simple thing to pick up cheap white nylons at the dollar store, and dye them. No such luck!! Apparently if you want white panty hose these days, you have to pay a premium price for them. The closest I could get were white knee highs that were heavier than nylons. Not to be out done…I bought 5 pairs of them and came home to my dye pot.

After the longest dye session in history…I finally got the water to clear somewhat, and was pleased with the result…only to find when I rinsed them under the tap, that the dye washed right out. I pondered my options, and finally decided that a slightly off-white background would be fine…and if anyone asks…that’s what I’d intended all along!!

Emma Sue

sonoitI attended another Sunshine Rug Hookers workshop in March 2010. (I love going to workshops!) The teacher this time was Anne Boissonoit, and it was on creative abstract faces. When gathering up wool to use, I threw in all the  pieces of transitional wool left over from doing my double cross rug.

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The end result was Emma Sue. The face is done in the transitional wool. The hair is a wonderful lumpy, curly wool yarn provided by Linda Wilson, (our hostess for the workshop), with some added bits of unspun fleece, and some sparkly hairy turquoise yarn I found at the dollar store. The second day of the workshop I was struggling with how I wanted to do the hair. I had some whites and grays, but they did nothing for the face. Linda walked over with a hank of the turquoise yarn, and suggested,..what about this? It was like a ‘eureka’ moment. I loved it, and it set the tone for the rest of the piece.

I didn’t have a lot of trouble deciding on the purple background, that is I knew what I wanted, but I had some difficulty getting it dyed so I was pleased with it. I think I ended up dyeing 3 different batches of wool, until I was satisfied with the result. Then I felt the background was too much the same tone as the flesh, so the edges of the face didn’t stand out sharply. By adding the paler purple I solved that problem, and I think it gives her a bit of an aura.

Anne said we must give our creations a name. I have no idea where the name Emma Sue came from, but it simply would not leave my mind…so Emma Sue she is. I like to think that she told me what to call her.

Double Cross

One of the perks of being a member of Gene Shepherd’s Internet Rug Camp, is the access to free patterns. The first one he posted was “double cross”. It is a very old pattern which has been interpreted in countless versions throughout the years. It was fun seeing the many ways it was hooked by members of the IRG. There were pillows , table runners, and mats,in a wide variety of sizes, cuts and use of the geometric pattern. If they were shown together, it would be difficult to recognize that they all originated from the same pattern. The original is simply a series if interlocking steps arranged to form crosses. By adding some diagonal lines, and colour blocking, this is the version I came up with.

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When I first saw the pattern, I must admit it didn’t particularly interest me. However, when I saw Gene using transitional dyed wool to outline with, I thought it was beautiful, and decided to give it a try. Doing transitional dyeing creates wonderful blended colour variations, and is so easy to do….no dye required! As a result, I was able to have the outline move smoothly from colour to colour. I decided that since I loved that aspect of it, I wanted it to be highlighted, so I chose to outline the outline (does that make sense??) with an oatmeal colour so it would stand out against the rest of the rug.

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I used monk’s cloth which had pre-marked squares, as a backing. That made drawing the pattern much easier. It is hooked with a #6 cut. I marbelized most of the other wool to marry the colours. It is all straight line hooking, so I had plenty of opportunity to work on my basic hooking technique. I whipped the edges this time without using a binding cord, and whipped right into the binding tape. (another method learned from a Gene Shepherd video) What a lot faster!! Now I might even get all those unfinished rugs bound!

My No-Penny Penny Rug

Last fall the Sunshine Rug Hookers had a workshop with Bea Grant, It was on combining a penny rug with hooking.

” In the 1800s, women would use scraps of wool or wool felt from old clothing and hats to create designs for mats or rugs. They would make circles using coins as a template. Each piece was then stitched in blanket stitch fashion. Sometimes, the mats or rugs were backed with old burlap bags or feed sacks. And to make the piece lie flat, a penny was stitched under one of the circles to weigh it down. Coins were so valuable then, that in today’s world, if you are fortunate to find an antique piece containing one, you would have a very rare piece. Nineteenth century women were very creative and not wasteful.”

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There were two patterns to choose from for the workshop, one with a rabbit (or was it a chicken?) and one was a  cornucopia. I can’t remember which animal, because people choosing that pattern altered it so eventually there were quite a few different animals in evidence. I chose the cornucopia. The idea was to applique the flowers, leaves, and cornucopia, do pennies around the border, and hook the rest. 

I started by cutting out the cornucopia and leaves. I watched while others were cutting out literally nearly 100 pennies which were to be blanket stitched and stacked around the border. They were beautiful, but I enjoy hooking much more than sewing, so I scrapped the idea of pennies altogether.  The cornucopia and leaves are applique, the rest is hooked in #7.

The top and bottom borders are done in ‘hit and miss’ using the scraps from the leaves and flowers. The side borders are done in recycled wool from a men’s Harris tweed jacket I picked up at ‘Good Will’.

The finishing is done in what Bea called a ‘show binding’.  It was new to me, and is meant for a rug which will not be on the floor. It is edged with strips of the background wool which have the raw edges folded under then it is sewn down front and back, with mitered corners.

Proddy Centre Piece

I first heard about Gene Shepherd on the Yahoo Rughookers Group, and soon began faithfully reading his daily blog. I became a member of his Internet Rug Camp when it began last January, and  in addition to the daily posts, I now have access to a growing number of videos on many aspects of rughooking. His work embodies the direction I am striving for in my hooking, and I have learned a great deal from him.

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For Christmas last year I asked for Gene’s newest book, which is on ‘proddy’. I had admired this 3 dimensional form, but had never ventured to try it. This fall centre piece is featured on the cover, and the pattern and directions for the various flowers are included in the book. It was an excellent introduction to creating a wide variety of proddy flowers…. a workshop in a book!  Creating the wool for the corn was an interesting experience, unlike anything I had tried before- (adding the dye to the wet wool while it was laying out on a table), as was hooking it with increasingly long loops in the centre to create the cob-shape.

It had a place of honour in the centre of my Thanksgiving table this year.

A Failed Attempt

A year ago last spring (spring 2009) I decided my next project would be to hook a rug to replace the rug at our front door. I finally came up with a design which was rather Greek inspired, and somewhat geometrical. I drew the various aspects of it on red dot, so it could be flipped as needed and made symmetrical. I transferred the design to a large piece of burlap, dyed my wool and began hooking.

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Fortunately, before I got too far, I realized that in fact the symmetry was way off in various places. I struggled for some time trying to determine what I had done wrong, and how to fix it. Then I called in my resident expert on all things plumb, square, and precise. After several times thinking he had found the problem, Ray would  discover that the correction merely created a new problem somewhere else, He finally realized that the burlap itself was warped. At that point I scrapped the whole project, and began again. I ordered primative linen for my backing, decided to do a hall runner as well, came up with an entirely new pattern, and began the project which I am still working on, and discussed in my first two blogs. I haven’t worked exclusively on these rugs for the last year and a half though, so next time I’ll show you my adventure into ‘proddy’.

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Girl on a Path

While the last two patterns, plus this one are all by Deanne Fitzpatrick, anyone who is familiar with her work, will realize that I have not emulated her style at all. At first, it was because I hadn’t seen her rugs, or her liberated way of hooking. Then after being exposed to her work, and reading about her artistic process, I found I was not successful when trying to adopt her style. Finally I came to realize, that her style was not my style, and at that point, I came to terms with what pleased me in my hooking, and could happily move in my own direction.

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I got back to dyeing my own wool for ‘Girl on a Path’. I used pro chem ‘papria’ for the girl’s dress, and it is one of my favourite colours. (this is the main red used in my hall rugs, dulled slightly with 1/128 tsp. of black).  I studied a lighthouse featured in a back copy of Rughooking magazine to help with the shading and direction of the round tower, and the building, and dip dyed the wool. I’m pleased with most of it except the vegetation and some of the clouds. This one too hasn’t been whipped around the edges….not hard to see that I enjoy the hooking better than the finishing. I think like most hookers, I’m always mentally planning a new project, long before I complete what I’m working on, and I can’t wait to start something new.