Portrait Necklace and Cottage Windows

I just had to show you a gift I gave my sister for Christmas. I didn’t make it… it was made by Cheri Hempseed, a very talented hooker in our group. She usually makes them with three people, but since I only have 1 sister…she made this especially for me, with details such as hair colour and eye colour carefully correct. Isn’t it precious!

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I”m working away on the tea cozy, and  love the leaded glass windows in the cottage, but I was frustrated by the fact that the thread would not stay taut and sometimes separated. It is sewn through loops on the backside, and when I tried to pull it tighter, I only made it worse.

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I’m rather pleased with myself that I thought up a solution which seems to be working nicely. I took my bottle of ‘Tackie Glue’ , put a dab on my finger, and gently patted the strands of thread to glue them together and make them stiff. I like the windows much better now…..tackie glue is rather like the rug hooker’s duct tape!

Hooking a thatched roof

I think indecision must be my middle name. I had chosen wool for the thatched roof, but as I got ready to begin hooking it and took the wool out, I realized that having changed the body of the cottage to a pale yellow, the thatch is now too close in colour to the walls. I wanted more contrast.  I looked at a variety of options in my wool supply, and (at least now as I prepare to start) I’ve decided on a sort of peach to rust swatch , with small amounts of yellow and brown, and little touches of a spot dye.

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Well that was the colour palette I started with….now at the end of the evening, one side of the roof is finished, and I made several adjustments as I went along.The darker colours in the ‘peach/rust swatch were too powerful, and made it look more like tiles than thatch, so I took them out and used small amounts of dark brown for accent instead.

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I used the 2  paler peach colours, and the darker yellow golds, plus the multi coloured spot dye, and added a gold/brown spot dye from my hall rug as well. I was very unsure of the whole thing while I was actually hooking it, but now that it’s finished, and I’ve had a chance to stand back and look at it from a distance for awhile, I think I’m pleased with it (at least for now).

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It bares little resemblance to actual thatch, but provides the notion and is pleasing to my eye.

Since I’m just using wool from my stash for this project, I have to be careful not to run out of any colour that I need. There are 8 or 9 different shades in the roof, so to make sure I had enough for the other side, I used no more than half of each piece. I’m learning to plan ahead!!

Hooking a Chain Stitch Vine

I hooked the front steps of the cottage, again from the back side, using a hook-1 skip-3 pattern, but adjusting the repeats in each row to create a brick pattern. I used a brown plaid for this and quite like the cobbled effect.

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The flowers over the doorway were hooked in clusters of three, and the leaves left with long loops. I studied the pictures in the magazine carefully, because the instructions said simply …use a chain, or daisy stitch for the vines. They were obviously on top of the hooked wall, so I used a 3 cut, and got out my fine bent hook. I hooked into the spaces between the rows, pulled up a long loop, then pulled up the next loop up a few rows of hooking and looped it through the previous loop creating the chain. I had to leave it all quite loose, so that it didn’t pull down into the hooked wall, but sat nicely on top. The flowers on the vine are simply 1 loop of a 6 cut which I twisted by hand to go in the direction I wanted. The foliage is long loops of a 3 cut which I then snipped at an angle.

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Well I’ve satisfied my curiosity about some of the decorative flowers, so I’ll get back to hooking the stucco and beams for awhile.

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday. We really enjoyed having family here for the celebration, and of course I ate far too much…..but it was sooo yummy! The  house is quiet again today and we are enjoying the calm after all the activity. Time to put up my feet and hook!

Country Cottage Tea Cozy – started

As we all know, wool in the piece can look much different when it’s hooked. I’d already discarded one set of colours for the cottage, but when I started hooking with the light beige for the body of the cottage, it took on quite a pinkish cast, and I didn’t like it. Then I tried an off white, which was too stark, and finally settled on a pale yellow which I finally like. I’m sure someone with more colour expertise could have avoided these stumbles, but for me it’s trial and error until I like the result.

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I’ll just back up for a moment…to a prehooking incident, which was a learning experience for me.  Normally when transferring a pattern, I would start with the edges, and outline in the ditches to make sure it’s straight. Then I pin the fabric to the straight lines on my ‘tintest’ backing board, and carry on. This time I didn’t want to bother with hauling out the big board for such a tiny piece (besides the living/dining room is decorated for Christmas), so I tried to do it just on the kitchen table. I never realized before just how much stretch there is in the linen, and was perplexed when the lines of the pattern were way off kilter with the base lines on the linen. I solved the problem by drawing the outside vertical and horizontal lines of the cottage directly on the linen using the ditches, then pinning the pattern to these lines. I think I have a straight pattern now.

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The close up picture shows two ‘special effects’. Both are hooked from the back.I’ve seen this done before, but it’s the first time I’ve tried it. The window panes are just hooked normally, except from the wrong side (gives depth), then I did the ‘lead glass effect” using a double strand of heavy black thread. The door is done in “barn board stitch” again hooked on the wrong side…the pattern being…hook 1 skip 3 (sounds like a knitting instruction!)

One of the reasons I so enjoy hooking, is that it satisfies my lack of patience…I can jump around, trying the special effects doing bits of this and that…unlike knitting…where if I must knit 5,000 rows of stocking stitch before the fun stuff, I’m stuck with it! I can’t wait to try some of the flowers and vines….they are hooked on top of the existing hooking…I’ve been studying the pictures in the magazine, plus the instructions…this will be totally new for me. I think I may have to go down to a 3 or 4 cut for them.

Preparing to Hook a Country Cottage Tea Cozy

While at my hooking meeting last Tuesday, I was given a copy of a craft magazine I’d never seen before. It’s a Canadian publication called ‘A Needle Pulling Thread’.  It features a wide variety of fabric arts, but had one article on rug hooking with a delightful tea cozy pattern. It immediately took my fancy…and I decided it would be my next project. (thanks Jean)

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The first chore was to enlarge the pattern. Instructions say ‘enlarge to 160%’ . My printer has a photocopy aspect…but it has no enlargement feature, so I took it to Staples to blow it up. I like this pattern for a number of reasons, but one is because the cozy is drawn end to end The roof of the front runs into the roof of the back, so there are only side seams to sew together. It also suggests a number of speciality stitches which I have never tried…so I’m looking forward to that as well.

I’m thinking about the wool I’ll use. It won’t require large amounts of anything, so hopefully I can find what I need in my stash. Although I’ve read the instructions several times, nowhere do I see a cut size mentioned. It looks quite small to me, But I think I’ll try it with a #6, at least to start, and see how it looks.

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My initial idea for a colour palette, was based on a light beige/grey for the body of the cottage, and a dark brown (which had purple in it), which was a dye error, for the frame. I had picked up an array of muted grey pinks and mauves, which I thought would work well for the flowers. However, when I assembled the wool together, it was totally ‘dead’, so I started again.

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This time I chose a light yellow/tan for the walls, and a red/brown tweed for the frame. I felt it had life and vitality. I added a swatch of yellow to browns, plus some rust and a spot dye to use for the thatch, and a variety of spot dye’s and  worms from a part of the Severn Sunset for the flowers. I’m happy with these colours at this point.

The tree is up, Christmas shopping is done…but the house is full of workmen installing a new furnace, so I’m going to stay out of the way, and spend the afternoon hooking.

My Frame History

When my father gave me my first hooking pattern and wool, (in the 70’s) I was heavily involved in crewel work. As a result, my initial hooking was done on an embroidery floor frame.  The stand for this lovely little frame came to a sad end, and all that remains is the hoop part. It opens with a small brass screw, and would never accommodate hooking in the hoop itself.

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When I took up hooking a second time, I had some lessons with Helen Wells, and she provided me with this box. I think her husband made them. The rug is secured with the clamps (I always used 12 to keep it taut). It served me well until a couple of years ago, when It finally gave up the ghost. ( the nails in the posts would no longer stay secure, and the plywood edges were regularly giving me slivers)

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Most people here use hoops (at least at the meetings) but I always found  it was difficult to manage a hoop. I was accustomed to having my hands free with the box, and couldn’t comfortably …hold the hoop, …hold a strip underneath,… and the hook on top…three actions…two hands….didn’t work for me.

Some people at Sunshine rughookers, use ‘sit-on’ hoops, which I have always admired ( the hoop has a small extension and then a board section to slip under your hip….sorry no picture). But I hook at home while sitting in a tub chair, which supports my back, and the arms of the chair extend too far out for this style of hoop.

At the time I was trying to decide about my next frame, I visited a wonderful little shop in Coldwater, called “The Purple Sock”. If you’re ever in the area, it’s definitely worth stopping by. The owner is primarily a knitter and spinner, and loves tea. She has a get together each week for people to drop by, do their craft, have tea and chat. A number of hookers attend this event, and as a result, she now carries hooking supplies in addition to all her fabulous wools etc. It was there that I purchased a viable replacement for my box. I’m sure there is a proper name for this, but I have no idea what it is. There is a large, and a small hoop, and extensions so that it will stand. These can easily be removed, leaving just the hoops. The very best part of this device is that there is a ridge and slot in each hoop, which locks the backing in place, keeping it from slipping. The plastic hoops spread quite well to accommodate hooking when that is necessary, and I purchased a long bolt, which you can see on the larger hoop, which allows the hoop to spread even wider. The annoying part for me, is that, not having a solid base, it is always slipping over my knees. I partially solved that problem, by putting a towel in the hoop  which I’m not using, so there is a solid ‘bottom’. A bit of a nuisance, but it works not too badly.

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I feel as if I ‘truly’ became a hooker last spring, when I purchased my K Creations floor and lap frame duo. I love, love, love it! I purchased it on EBay (the only time I have bid on an item there) and felt I got it for a good price….although the shipping to Canada was quite expensive. I thought I would get a lot of use out of the lap section, but in fact I’ve only used it a few times. (My lap has shrunk with age!)  The floor frame however is a dream. The gripper strips hold securely, it tilts and tips and turns every which way. and slips up close to me when I’m working.

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It did however extract its pound of flesh initially…or more accurately…its pint of blood. Those gripper strips were out to get me. When a problem arises….run to your big sister for help!!  (at least that’s what I always seem to do).

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I bought some fleese at the fabric shop, and my sister helped me (actually she did most of it) make a cover for the gripper strips. I seldom use the  cover when I’m actually hooking, but I hook in our bedroom, and when I stumble into it in the dark, I no longer come away scraped and bleeding!  (also makes for painless transportation too!) My floor frame is one of my most prized hooking possessions.

Finishing Techniques

Now this is a weird topic for me…as I have numerous unfinished rugs sitting in a drawer! But it is a topic which interests me, because I love a well finished rug, but don’t like the process of achieving it.

My first mentor June Baker taught me to finish a rug with cord, whipping with a single strand of wool, then twice sewing down the binding tape. It makes a beautiful binding, and no other way I’ve seen looks as good. However, it is VERY time consuming, and BORING for someone who doesn’t enjoy sewing. My Canadian Mosiac is finished this way. I’m very pleased with it, but it took me more than a year to do. (I always had to force myself to work on it)

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As I became involved in the wider rug hooking community, I saw quite a variety of finishes, with and without whipping. Of course the eventual destination for the rug must have a large part in the decision making for the finishing. A rug to be hung doesn’t need the stability of one destined for the floor.

My Cornucopia (no-penny penny rug) is just such an example. This finish was taught to our group by Bea Grant who called it a ‘show binding’. It requires strips of the binding material about 2.5″ wide…  total length must be long enough to go around the rug (with a bit extra). These strips are sewn together endwise, seams pressed open, then with the side edge folded under, one side is sewn right next to the last row of hooking. The rug is then flipped, and the other side folded in and stitched to the back, making sure to mitre the corners. Back and front look essentially the same, but it wouldn’t stand up to a lot of floor use, and still requires a lot of sewing.

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For small items, like ornaments, or rug mugs, I’ve struggled to find a finish I could live with. Some I have whipped, but found it took far longer to do the whipping than the hooking. I looked or advice from the Sunshine hookers. This is what I tried for a set of rug mugs I completed recently. I  secure the edges with a fabric glue, and cross my fingers! On a previous set of coasters my sister suggested using a rotary cutter to get a straight edge close to the hooking, and she can make it look wonderful….mine were a disaster! I bought a new pair of fabric shears, and that made all the difference on the second set. I cut them in close to the hooking, then glued felt on the back., then cut again. I finished mine off by going around the cut edge with a fabric marker the same colour as the felt (black) and was satisfied with the result. Next time I want to try glueing a strip of black wool around the edge…Luise Bishop does that and hers are wonderful (mind you everything that Luise does is wonderful!)

The very simplest way to finish is just roll the backing under and sew it down. I did this for my Santa. Not pretty…but serves the purpose in that case for weight and stability, and it will never be seen.

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I feel the need here to explain my “quest” for a good finish. My primary craft prior to finally settling on rug hooking, was machine knitting. My sister, was the multi -province dealer for Brother knitting machines, and was a wonderful, and exacting teacher. Her philosophy (which I readily adopted) was that the machine did perfect knitting, so the finishing should be no less than perfect. I learned to do invisible seams, and perfect cast-ons and cast-offs. Everything was wired and steamed to the exact perfect size prior to assembly. I was proud of the finish on my garments. I think I’ve carried that concept over into my rughooking….I want to be happy with my finish. One that looks good, but doesn’t have SO much sewing, that I simply never get around to doing it. (my sister’s patience and perseverance is unfortunately not a trait I inherited).

Is it any surprise that the solution to my dilemma came from Gene Shepherd?? Fortunately, (for me at least) he also doesn’t enjoy the sewing either. I’m not sure if he devised this method, or someone taught it to him, but it is a happy compromise for me.

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He has done a video on this method on his Internet Rug Camp, but the essence of it is this: The usual zigzag stitch is done around the rug about .5″  from the hooking. The excess backing is cut away, and the margin is pinned to the back. (This is the rug I’m finishing at the moment)

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The binding tape is pinned on top, right up to the edge, then both are whipped through with a double strand of wool. This just leaves one round of sewing to tack the binding down on the far side, and mitre the corners. I can finish a rug with this method in just a few days and I’m getting better at keeping the back line of whipping even. The bent bodkin needle also really he
lps. Now I have no excuses….just need to purchase about 2 miles of binding tape!

My Little Santa

I have seen and admired the most wonderful 3D versions of Father Christmas/Kris Kringle/Santa. My only attempt at one I did last Christmas at a workshop with Linda Wilson (she’s obviously taught me a lot!) Mine is a little fellow about 10″ tall.

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The beard is done in a cotton. I think it was a 4 cut for the body. The edging on the coat and sleeves is a feathery ribbon. It’s done on burlap, and when sewn together, and the base sewn under and up, it stands nicely without needing any extra support.

He is sitting on the piano beside the Christmas tree to supervise all the carol playing in the next few weeks.

In the background you can see the  cute little blue Santa ornament I received in the gift exchange at the Sunshine rughookers Christmas potluck on Tuesday.

Severn Sunset

I’ve renamed the Nature’s Elements piece, and changed a few details to make it reminiscent of the Severn River which has many happy memories for me.

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I’ve really enjoyed hooking my first landscape. It’s fun to use small amounts of lots of various wools to create a suggestion of nature. Some turned out quite well, others not so well.  I like the sky, but I’m disappointed in the water, and although I made a conscious decision not to use any blue, I think I’m not yet skilled enough to successfully create my vision.

All the wool from the swap boxes and the stash I have acquired has really come in handy. I had lots of dark plaids, and I enjoyed the variety of effects they make when hooked.  I had thought I would never find a use for them, but the subtle changes they create are one of my favourite parts of the piece. By being selective about which portion of the plaid I hooked, I was able to get a variety  of aspects, particularly in the ground sections I rehooked the jutting rocks several times. I wanted the smaller rock to be behind the other, but couldn’t do that with any success, so finally I separated them with water.( In the original pattern that was a sandy beach with a campfire.)

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My ‘painting with wool’ still has a long way to go, but overall I’m satisfied with the result, and I certainly learned a lot during this process. I can’t wait to try another one, but for now it’s back to my hall runner.

My Hook History

Since I’ve been relating the chronology of my hooking, I thought I’d include the progression I’ve gone through in hooks. It reminds me very much of ‘scissors’. (This was one of my pet peeves as a grade one teacher…we give children blunt, dull scissors and try to teach them to cut well with a tool an adult wouldn’t think of using). We start cutting with these basic, non-sharp scissors, and move on as our skills develop to sharper and more accurate ones. Gradually demanding ones designing specifically for particular tasks. I have many pairs now, special ones for a variety of chores…ones for paper, embroidery, fabric, bent handled for hooking, kitchen scissors etc.

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The same thing has happened with my hooks. I started hooking with a general purpose Moshimer hook  ( hook number 1 in the picture) which  was included with my first pattern). The ‘scissors’ analogy breaks down here, because the Moshimer hook is an excellent tool unlike children’s scissors. I held it pencil fashion. (I was a teacher after all!) I used that for the first two phases of my hooking. Somehow I now have three Moshimer hooks, and I have no recollection of getting them….I think they must spontaniously reproduce!

After I started hooking with June Baker, I bought a pencil hook (which I have since given away…it was too thick for me and I never found it comfortable) , then got a finer one (hook number 2) which I really liked the feel of and used for quite some time.

As I started hooking more, I gradually began having difficulty with pain at the base of my thumb joint. I bought support gloves , but nothing really helped and I would have to stop hooking for days at a time to let the pain subside and the swelling go down. I mentioned this to a vendor at the ‘Annual’ in Midland a few years ago, and she sold me a hook designed to aid those with arthritis (hook number 3). It has a groove for the thumb to fit against, and she demonstrated it being palm held. It took me some time to convert myself to palming the hook…unless I concentrated, the hook would magically revert to a pencil hold. I found it less painful, but awkward with the shaft out straight, and I had to use a whole arm motion to hook. When I began reading Gene Shepherd’s blog each day, I quickly became aware of his dedication to the bent hook. I was moving to larger cuts, and needed a hook designed for them so I bought Gene’s 6mm bent hook. (number 4 in the picture) What a difference! I was converted. I no longer have pain, and the bent hook allows me to use a rolling motion to hook. The 6mm was a bit large for 5 and 6 cuts, so I purchased a lovely Irish bent hook from Rittermere’s, which I use for medium cuts. … hook number 5

Luise Bishop heard me talking one day about wishing I had a fine bent hook. She whipped out a little gadget (actually a small piece of wood with a hole drilled in it) inserted my fine Moshimer hook, and bent it backwards. … I had a  bent hook for fine cuts! (numbers 7 and 8) Hook number 6 had been in my tools box forever…no idea where it came from either. I had never used it because it was bent, and the handle isn’t particularly comfortable. I use it frequently now because the size fits between  the Irish and the Mosimers and it’s handy for adding a small piece for a special effect.

I now have this array of bent hooks which I use according to the cut and the backing. I’m a bent hook convert. (with a pain free wrist)