19 December 2009

A Woolly Winter Holiday to You...

Wishing you all a warm & safe holiday season to share with your loved ones. And remember those who are not as fortunate by giving a little back in some way.....even the small things help.
Thanks to my wonderful friend, Charly, every year I have the good fortune to be involved in adopting a needy family in our community who otherwise might not have much at Christmastime. Thank you Charly.
My decorating for the holidays consists of pulling out a few of my favorite things.... simple, not much fuss, and usually involving wool of course!
Do you remember this post....
A Blank Canvas
Well, he now graces my mantle along with a few beautiful pots and a lovely painting by my studio mate, Suzanne D'Arcy.

This girl is out for the first time....my first attempt at doll making. She's not perfect but she has a great personality.

05 December 2009

Getting in the Spirit.....

Just now home from a couple of weeks of non-stop family gatherings, Thanksgiving, traveling and the wonderful wedding of my niece, Michelle, at the Grand Hotel in Point Clear, Alabama.
I also got to pay a visit to one of my favorite hooked rugs....this little guy now resides with my brother and sister-in-law in Pascagoula, Mississippi.

I fell in love with many houses on Mobile Bay as I walked along the beach beyond the hotel....wouldn't you love to decorate this little beach shack for Christmas!
Of course, it doesn't hurt that this is the view from the front porch.
(Doesn't show up well, but the weather vane has a flying crane atop it...I love the little details.)

And I couldn't resist sharing this photo of Michelle and her father (my darling, smart & bratty little brother, Jack).

01 November 2009

Proddy Workshop with Gene Shepherd

I'm so fortunate to be a member of the Wine Country Rug Hookers, an ATHA guild based in the lovely region of California where I grew up. There are many reasons to appreciate this guild.....not the least of which is the varied and talented group of hookers I've come to know & love.

Another reason is that, at least twice a year, we host well-known teachers from around the country to come & share their expertise with our members. For some inexplicable reason, we don't have much difficulty getting teaching commitments from these great teachers. I wonder why???

Last weekend, we had a visitor from not-too-far-away, the inestimable Gene Shepherd from Anaheim, California (otherwise known as the home of Disneyland). Gene spent a very busy day and a half teaching us proddy techniques to enhance our hooking. It was great fun and Gene is a great teacher. He's thoroughly researched his subject and has worked hard to develop neat ways of prodding realistic-looking flowers. He's also quite personable, tells a good story and kept us laughing.

The hookers in our group have a broad range of styles and, as a result, there were a great many interpretations of Gene's proddy flower techniques. I took two pieces that I had put a lot of work in to before the workshop. The first is a Primitive Spirit design, Almond Blossoms, which I had completely hooked but left spaces to add the proddy blossoms. The top photo is how the piece looked after the workshop. I spent the whole first day cutting out the blossoms and adding them to the piece.
While I was very happy with all that I learned, I did find that I was not completely pleased with the colors of the blossoms.....somehow the brighter pink just didn't go with the overall muted colors of the mat. I have since made a few changes and additions and am much happier with the total effect.
I welcome your opinions on which you like best.....the first version with the brighter blossoms or the second version with the more subtle coloration in the blossoms?

This mat will be used as my demonstration piece for the Pillow Construction Workshop I'm teaching in my studio next month.....I rather like the idea that I'll be using a piece that Gene helped me to learn from to help others learn some of what I have to offer.

The second piece that I worked on is my own design.....you'll see the finished version & the pattern at a later time but, for now, I just wanted to share the flowers I added using Gene's techniques & guidance. This piece makes me very happy!

Notice the wonderful vintage Bakelite buttons I used as centers for two of the flowers? I have quite an extensive collection of vintage & antique buttons and it's fun to find such a great use for a few of them!

Keep Hooking.....

31 October 2009

Midnight in the Studio

Working very late in the studio one night this week, I just happened to snap this shot as I thought about photographing lots of new hand dyed woolens for my website. As I took a better look at the photo I realized that my studio mate, Suzanne, and I share our studio with some rather odd characters!

Happy Hallowe'en to all.......

16 October 2009

Spooky Time of Year

Seems like a good time to bring this old friend out for a visit....he's based upon a pattern available in Rug Hooking Magazine a few years ago.
He hangs out in my studio most of the time and scares off the goblins & ghosts!

We had a great time at the planning session for the Pillow Construction Workshop in my studio last weekend. I'm sure I talked way more than was necessary but my lovely class participants were very kind. I'm so encouraged by their enthusiasm and the projects they are planning! We'll have several beautiful new pillows to share the end of November.

If you'd like to join the class we still have a little room and I'm giving a make-up class on Sunday, October 25 in my studio. You can click HERE for more information.
All of you good witches and wizards stay out of trouble~~~~

09 October 2009

Pillow Construction for Rug Hookers

Well I sure didn't mean to be gone so long! Life just has a way of getting in the way of blogging.

I'm busily preparing for the pillow workshop I'm teaching in my studio this and next month.... I've spent years making beautiful custom pillows for the interior design trade and thought it would be fun to teach some of the professional tricks I've developed to my rug hooking friends. We're going to have great fun making lovely pillows.

I still have room in the class for a couple more people.... come and join us! Click here for more info:

I'll post pictures of the class and the pillows they make when we're done.

I made these great (big!) pillows for a favorite client in Silicone Valley a few years ago. Big fluffy pillow inserts and attention to all the details make them just perfect. It wasn't easy getting the Greek Key trim perfectly placed for the boxing strip of the two big boxed pillows but I was pleased with the way they turned out. And, more importantly, so was my client.
If you click on this picture you can get a better look at the trim details....the trim on the knife edge pillow has incredible red glass beads combined with the tassels and the textures of the fabrics are wonderful. I especially love the old green velvet in the center.

17 August 2009

Wonky Houses

Geez, it took me awhile to finish the sky on this rug! I'm still not entirely thrilled with it & will probably rip out a few things before I put it on stretcher bars.
I tried a few new (to me) materials.... hand dyed silk ribbon that I got up in Oregon the last time I visited my son at school, and some of my own hand dyed fleece, Starless Night. It was great fun trying out new materials......

02 August 2009

Oak Leaves Tote

Yippee! The hooking is done on my Oak Leaves tote. I confess that I agonized more than usual over the colors on this one and did quite a bit of reverse hooking. Sometimes a color that you think is going to be perfect ends up being just blah..... (A little 'thank you' to our Tuesday Night Hookers group ...they listened to a lot of whining.) But I think persistence paid off and I'm pleased with the results.

I will often hooked a variety of related colors and textures into my backgrounds. But, for this piece, I wanted to keep a strong focus on the leaves so I used just one color, Chocolate Truffle, in the background. Because it's dyed with some mottling over a great plaid, it has just enough variation to give it some movement without drawing your eye to the background. I especially love the deep rusty orange, Late Fall Maples, that outlines two of the leaves.

Now I'm patiently waiting (fingers tapping on the table) for the lovely pair of leather handles I've ordered to arrive ..... then I can construct a beautiful and useful bag to take to the Farmer's Market on Sundays!

31 July 2009

Finishing A UFO.... Oak Leaves Tote

Why did I put this beautiful piece away??? Literally, it was stuffed in a bag at the back of my closet for more than a year.

This great Bev Conway pattern was given to me as a prize a couple of years ago by Tammy, of Skip To My Ewe. It's a 2-sided tote (one side is shown) with a nice shape.

Michelle Micarelli did a wonderful job getting me started on it at a workshop hosted by our guild, Wine Country Rug Hookers. Michelle helped me step outside of my color "box" and combine my leafy greens in ways that I would not have on my own...... and, she convinced me to use a #6 cut. This was an important choice because the detail would have been lost with a wider cut.

(It did take a bit of convincing on her part since I'm rather wedded to wide cuts)

So why did I put it away? I've thought about this (since I can't really remember!) and I think that, first, I got distracted by another project and second, this pattern is on Monk's cloth and it was bothering my hand quite a bit to work on it. In retrospect, I should have redrawn it on to linen... live & learn!

Another lesson: When you put away a project, be sure to put all of your wool with it and don't raid that wool for another project. .....took me a week to find the wool! And, of course, I had to dye more of the color I stole for a green pumpkin....what formula did I use for that sparky green???

In a couple of days (once I take a few good photos) I'll post my recent progress on this. I'm very happy with the results and it's going to be great fun to turn it into a tote bag.

17 July 2009

You Must See This Rug Collection

Mary Shepard Burton is a noted rug hooking artist and author (A Passion for the Creative Life: Textiles to Lift the Spirit) who has donated a collection of her work to the American Folklife Center, a research center of the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.
The site has excellent pictures of the pieces that will surely be an inspiration to all rug hookers. There is a great zoom function that allows you to see the fine detail in the rugs and many have a link to commentary by the artist.
It's encouraging to see our art and craft form in a venue of artistic respectability.
Be sure to take a look:

The Mary Shepard Burton Collection

11 July 2009

Primitive Spirit Rug Hooking Patterns

I'm so pleased to be able to offer a variety of primitive and whimsical rug hooking patterns from Primitive Spirit by Karen Kahle. The designs are available on my website as patterns on quality linen and several are now available as kits with both the pattern and my premium quality hand dyed woolens included. If you're brand new to rug hooking and don't yet have your own cutter, you can even order the kit with the strips prewashed and cut.....get hooking right away.
My favorites for a beginner are Lavender Welcome, Bittersweet and Friendship (a great novice pattern!).

I have one or two projects to finish up and then I'm going to hook Almond Blossoms.....I have the wool all dyed and tossed on the floor of my studio so that I can pick and choose which colors are really working for me. I'm reshaping the outline of the rug slightly because the completed hooked piece will be used as a teaching tool in the pillow construction workshop that I'll be teaching in my studio in October.

I've never done any proddy but I think this will be a perfect piece to try out that technique for the almond blossoms. I'll post pictures when I get it started......but, no promises about when!

03 July 2009

Happy Birthday USA!

Wishing you all a memorable 4th of July....

29 June 2009

A Blank Canvas....

....metaphorically speaking.

This deceptively simple-looking form took quite a bit of time to make! Not hard, just needed attention to detail. So what do you think it's going to be when it's completed?????

19 June 2009

Home From College (Briefly!)

I woke up Wednesday AM to signs that my soon-to-be 21 year old son, Alex, was in the house.

Having just finished his second year at University of Oregon, he's off to backpack in Europe for three months.

This means we're cramming a summer's worth of visiting, home cooking, friends stopping by, Father's Day and hugs from Mom into 5 short days.

Ryan came by to say hi ....

I love having their energy in the house!

And what, you may ask, was the clue that tipped me off to Alex's middle-of-the-night arrival?

15 June 2009

Hooking Styles

After watching each of these well-produced videos, I am reminded of how inclusive our art from is. Perhaps, since I'm not much in to dogmatic thinking, that is part of the reason rug hooking is so appealing to me. Watch these & see what you think (be patient, they may take a moment to load):
From Deanne Fitzpatrick....

From Gene Shepherd....

Gene is precise in his technique…..each of his “linguine” strips is evenly cut and his movements to create his loops are so uniform; Deanne will quickly snip a strip off a width of fabric with her scissors and she allows her loops to wander over her foundation to give an impression of the form she wishes to depict.
My personal hooking is somewhere in between....where's yours?

There are so many 'right ways' to hook.....we can all find what works for us.

Maybe more world leaders and religious leaders should take up rug hooking. Oh dear, that doesn't solve the challenges with the bankers and corporate exec's though, does it? Sigh.....

05 June 2009

Moving Along with Wonky Houses

Now I'm starting to like it....the color choice for the third house was a challenge but the Majolica, a soft blue-green, seems to be the right balance of light to medium I was looking for.
Next....trying new materials for the night sky!

23 May 2009

A Few Good Greys

Playing around with Photoshop can be fun.....this gives just an impression of a few new colors I came up with recently.

I spent a little time reviewing the range of hand dyed wool colors that I offer on my website. Keeping up with a full rainbow in light, medium and dark shades is no easy task. And there are the dulls and brights too!
I knew there were gaps in my color spectrum but it dawned on me that I had a whole category missing..... we all need a grey now & then. So, I spent a dye day working up a few good grays (plus a few others for fun). Who knew that boring ole' grey could be so much fun & come in so many shades....and look so nice with the Dusty Plums and Canning Jar Blue I dyed on the same day. I think the Warm Grey is my favorite today.

Here's the original photo:

20 May 2009

Wonky Houses III

I really admire those hookers who can plan a rug from beginning to end before they ever pull a loop....but, alas, I'm not one of them. My preferred method is get stuck, throw it on the floor for a few days, toss stuff at it, agonize. Repeat as needed.

I do like the way the houses are coming together! I don't think I would normally use Ice House blue, Pepperberry and Pepperberry Plaids in the same rug but your neighbors don't necessarily coordinate their home's paint color to yours, do they?

It's surprising how much faster this project is coming along with the 8.5 cut. I was concerned, at first, that that I'd have a hard time getting enough definition in the shapes but it seems to be working just fine.

.......just playing around with the unspun fleece to see how it behaves!

09 May 2009

Wonky Houses II

I'm having such a good time with this! But, I'm also doing more reverse hooking* than usual. Since I'm hooking the houses, window frames and eaves all in medium values I'm having a bit of a time getting everything to show up the way I want....and what to do with the windowpanes???
Sometimes, when I'm having trouble with the values in a rug, I really like to get a good working photo and use the black & white effects in Photoshop....it helps me see what's working & what's not.

* A highly technical term for the time-honored practice of ripping out strips of wool from your foundation when you don't like what you've done.

02 May 2009

Planning Wonky Houses

Do you belong to a rug hooking group? I'd love to hear about yours!
A little over three years ago I had the good fortune to find a great group of women who meet weekly to visit and work on hooking projects together. Lately, some of us have been exploring Deanne Fitzpatrick's designs and influence on rug hooking. What glorious inspiration her work is.
I will try to get photos of a few of my friends' DF pieces to share with you but here's what I'm starting on:

Deanne's style is so distinctive and free....this design calls out to me. I'm thinking that I will try adding a greater variety of materials to the sky which I've redrawn to add a sliver of a moon. I think I'll hook the houses in my own style but using a #8.5 cut which I have not done before. What else can I try that I've never done before??
Thanks for putting up with my ramblings today..... perhaps you can see why a design with wonky houses appeals to my wonky mind.

25 April 2009

Sheep Rug Gets Published!

I've had the good fortune to have my custom sewing work published in shelter magazines but this is the first time I've had a hooked rug published. What fun!
This was an exceptionally satisfying project to hook and I was so honored that others enjoyed my interpretation of the design and use of the materials sent from other hookers around the country. This rug now occupies a prominent place on the floor of my studio right in front of the shelves stacked high with hand dyed wool……appropriate, don't you think?
The rug is my adaptation of Maria Barton's Star and Two Sheep design that I hooked as a participant in her ingenious online challenge. You can see the full article, challenge details & rugs from other participants in the March/April/May 2009 issue of Rug Hooking Magazine but I thought I'd share the text of the notes I wrote for Maria when she was writing the article:

"This challenge motivated me to try three "new-to-me" techniques which I'd been thinking about for some time. I'd had the idea of a sheep hooked from roving rolling around in my head & even had a bag full of several beautiful colors of natural roving sitting in the closet. I had been inspired by Karen Kahle's hit & miss technique at a workshop a few years ago and by Pris Butler's lettering techniques.

When Maria proposed the challenge and graciously allowed the participants to modify the designs to suit their own needs, I knew that this was my opportunity to try all of these techniques. And I adore Maria's Two Sheep and Star design…..perfect in its simplicity and whimsy. I was so excited to get started that I had the pattern all drawn up and on to my linen before Maria had the chance to send all the strips out to us.

Adding the block at the bottom was just one of those middle-of-the-night things…..easy to do once I had the idea (and thank goodness for modern computer technology, big sheets of paper and Scotch magic tape).

The hit & miss block was a lot more fun than I thought it would be….I used most of the 200 strips from my hooking friends in this area. I do confess that when the strips arrived I laid them out on the floor and thought "OMG….how am I going to make this work???" (It was a great education as to how others prepare their strips for hooking!) But, in my obsessive way, I began to group them into collections, first according to value and then, according to hue. Before long, I began to see how it could come together. The hooking had a bit of a Zen-like quality….mostly just hooked what felt right. One conscious hooking decision was to hook both the left & right sides of the block at the same time….I wanted the block to have fairly even tones across the width and felt I could best accomplish this by hooking the sides simultaneously.

As a professional dyer, I find joy and inspiration in knowing that my hand dyed woolens are hooked into beautiful rugs by hookers all over the country. I feel a special fondness for this rug….perhaps it's because participating in this challenge allowed me to feel the joy of adding the creativity and inspiration of others into my rug. "

If you have the opportunity to get involved in a rug hooking challenge I highly recommend you go for it..... It can be a great learning experience!

12 February 2009

Winter on the Faultline

Just a brief note today....
California has been so beautiful this winter. Sunny skies, weeks of 65 degree days, very little rain.
But, as with many things, we'll pay a price...... it's much too early for the trees to be blooming and we'll be rationing water by spring.

01 February 2009

January Hook-In

Yesterday we had the second monthly hook-in in my studio. What a fun & busy day with lots of hooking and visiting!
Carol looked for wool for her next project.....

My studio is rather large and spacious but we managed to fill it up with lots of hookers and beautiful rugs in progress. Nada brought her friend, Diane, who's visiting all the way from Minnesota (they've been friends for almost 40 years!).

Jane is the most prolific hooker that I know.... she has a wonderful willingness to learn, try new techniques & use new materials. Her enthusiasm is contagious.

Here's a close-up of the Deanne Fitzpatrick design she's almost completed.....

My friend, Denise, designs all of her own rugs. And they are all BIG rugs! This one, depicting a tree and sky in winter, is the last in her series of four seasonal rugs, all about 5' by 6'. I will beg her to let me post a photo of this rug when she's done. Denise is also a talented quilter with a finely developed eye for the use of color and value. I learn a lot just by watching her plan and execute her rug designs.

I had a great time welcoming everyone to my studio....if the interest continues we will have many more of these monthly hook-ins. My hope is that we will be able to increase awareness of and interest in rug hooking out here on the Left Coast.

28 January 2009

O Christmas Tree Rug Completed!

It didn't get done by December 31st as I'd hoped, but the hooking is done!

I found a nice brown plaid for the shoes..... I was surprised at the trouble I had deciding what to use for those darn little things. I really liked the black textured wool I had originally used and then had trouble coming up with a different idea when I realized it would certainly not work with my background.
The snowflakes were inspired by a Deanne Fitzpatrick rug, Standing Before the Monument.
I'm finishing this rug in a traditional manner by adding a corded edge whipped with black wool yarn. I'll then hand stitch an antique gold twill rug binding tape over the serged linen on the back. This finish takes a bit of time but I love the feeling of knowing that I've made a piece that will withstand the ravages of time.
Merry Hooking.......

18 January 2009

Beautiful Wool by Laurice Heath

Beautiful Wool... A Hand-Dyer's Guide by Laurice Heath of Fredericksburg Rugs is one of the best dye books ever published and is now out of print. It's full of dye formulas (over 150) using both Cushing's Acid Dyes and ProChem Acid Dyes and page after page of wool and dyeing wisdom. This is one of my two favorite dye books and I would be lost without my well-worn, dye-stained copy.

It's a little short of a miracle, but I managed to get a hold of several brand new copies! I had to pay full price for the books and an arm & a leg for shipping, but I think this book is worth every penny. I can't tell you how many times I've had a customer ask me for a custom color that I don't have listed on my website and I've gone straight to this book.......to say nothing of the times I've used these formulas for my own projects!
Here's where you can buy a copy for yourself:

Have fun playing in the dyepots!

First Day of Rug Hooking Class

My first three rug hooking students! They were good natured and very patient with me. We had a good time learning to cut beautiful wool into little strips and practicing lifting loops. Everyone went home with a small project planned and enough wool cut to get a good start on their first hooked mats.
Lisa and Leslie chose the same little heart pattern but they are using completely different colorways. It will be so much fun to see how they turn out. Penny chose a great geometric pattern that she'll hook with reds, golds and muted browns with a dash of brilliant blue-green to give it life. She'll get good practice hooking sharp corners and big circles.
They were a great group .....they listened, watched and weren't timid about asking good questions. And they jumped right in when I told them it was time to start practicing making those loops!
I'm really looking forward to seeing their progress next week when we'll also explore the world of good wool and where to get it, cutters, frames, Internet resources and .....
I think we may need more than three weeks of class.

15 January 2009

Happy New Year....Time to Learn to Hook!

Wishing all of you a peaceful and prosperous New Year!

Well, I just didn't know that keeping up with a blog would be such a challenge but I'm really not a wordy person (although some members of my family might disagree) & I keep forgetting to take photographs when I'm out and about.

This week's big news is that we're starting off the year with a beginning rug hooking class in the studio. I'm looking forward to sharing my love of this art & craft with others. We'll start with simple, but interesting, patterns hand drawn on good linen and add beautiful wool, a little bit of lecturing and a lot of hands-on time and, hopefully, my students will be hooked!

I will try to get a couple of photos to share.

Stay Warm.....