06 December 2010

Hooker's Block

Do you ever have one?

I seem to have a bit of a block going on with my hooking right now. Life has been terribly busy the past couple of months so I guess that's one excuse that I can use but, truthfully, I suspect it has more to do with the piece that I've been trying to hook recently.
Everyone else seems to like what's happening with this design but it just isn't speaking to me. Those of you who read my blog regularly know that I tend to gravitate to a rich but more subdued palette....I'm trying to push myself outside that comfort zone with the colors in this piece. (Obviously!)
Should I push on and just get it done or stuff it in the bottom of a closet & forget about it.....I need to just get over myself & make a decision!

24 November 2010

Townsend Fabric Cutters!

Well, I don't usually use my blog for blatent advertising of my website but this is one instance where I'm just going to do it!

The Merry Hooker Woolens is proud to begin offering the full line of Beeline Townsend Fabric Cutters for rug hookers! This essential piece of rug hooking equipment is so well-made that you will never need to upgrade to another cutter. It is, without a doubt,the finest precision wool cutter available for rug hooking.
I've wanted to add the Townsend line of products to my website for several years and, with the change in ownership of the company, the opportunity has finally presented itself. I've resisted adding other cutters to my website because I've always tried to offer the best quality rug hooking materials and supplies to my customers....now, I'm so glad I waited.
Precision engineered and manufactured using the original Townsend specifications, the attractive Bee Line-Townsend Fabric Cutter attaches easily to a variety of work surfaces or to the Beeline-Townsend tote table. The cutter cassette easily snaps into place and, within a few seconds, you are cutting (like buttah!) perfect fabric strips. I'm offering the cutter cartridges in all sizes ranging from a #3 cut up to a #10 cut in both the standard and kitmaker (long) sizes.
Go directly to my new Beeline Townsend Products page by clicking on this link:

Beeline Townsend Cutters and Cassettes

Preorder your cutter now for delivery in December!

The big bonus..... Free US Shipping on most Beeline-Townsend Cutter orders.*
Beeline-Townsend plans to begin manufacturing the tote table and orbiter frames for early 2011 delivery......and I'll add them to the website just as soon as they are available!

*Minimum orders apply. Please see the Townsend Cutters page for details.

14 October 2010

Still Here!

No, I haven't dropped off into the Pacific Ocean yet...life is just unbelievably busy right now. I've just put the finishing touches on my next article for Rug Hooking Magazine (watch for it in the March/April/May 2011 issue!!), coordinated a workshop with Dianne Stoffel for the ATHA guild I belong to (Wine Country Rug Hookers), as well as keeping up with bunches of orders from my website. Whew!
Now I'm dyeing as much wool as I can to get ahead and prepare for vending at the California's First ATHA Chapter hook-in in Southern California in mid-November. (I'm so looking forward to meeting my rug hooking neighbors to the South) and I'm getting ready for my little trip to Argentina the end of this month!
So...not much hooking happening around here right now (except in my head) but I thought I'd share this little piece I managed to finish recently. It's a fun and easy design from Martina Lesar.....if you want to hook one just like it you can find the pattern here: Aquatic.
I'll get back to regular blogging soon,, I promise!

12 September 2010

Pumpkin Season is Coming...

Time for a little change of pace....
Lately, I've been working on a new line of hand dyed woolens that have more vibrant and saturated colors. Instead of my usual bundles of textured wools, these are dyed using a mottling technique over a wonderfully soft natural wool. I think they are incredibly beautiful (but, I'm biased!)
You can see what I've added to my website, so far, here:
Island Brights
I'll have a lot more to add as soon as I can squeeze in some good photography time (sometimes I wish I could clone myself :-).
One of my friends suggested that these new woolens would be perfect for appliqued pieces so I've hunted up some great applique patterns to stock as well.

This little work-in-progress pumpkin piece is proving to be a perfect project to try out some of these wools. It's so easy to do & bunches of fun!
The background is Kona Coffee, the pumpkin is Orange Hibiscus and the leaves are Rain Forest and Palm Leaves. I don't remember what the three colors on the right side are at the moment....I just stuck them on the design board because I'm trying to decide on colors for the smaller details on the piece.

A purist would probably use a nice wool crewel thread for the blanket stitch but, I have a bunch of beautiful hand dyed variegated embroidery floss from Gentle Arts that's just been laying around doing nothing so I put some of it to work!

07 September 2010

Rug Hooking Diary...Wonderland

The hooking is finally completed on Wonderland. Many subtle changes have been made since I last blogged about it and I'm very happy with the result.
I have one major detail to finish but (tease, tease) you won't see that until next winter!

18 August 2010

Rug Hooking Diary...Wonderland is Close!

I just returned from the Wine Country Rug Hooker’s annual retreat at Irish Beach….what fun we had. I wish you all could have been there. We took walks to the beach, did a lot of hooking, ate too much good food, laughed a bunch and had some tasty Margaritas!
I managed to get quite a bit of work done on Wonderland and it feels like it's getting close to completion.
I've decided to make one small change to the pattern as drawn. It has little crosses drawn in for the stars and, after hooking a couple of them, it's just not working for me. They look wonderful in Martina's original piece but I've pulled them out and plan to hook in a few stars at the end.

The biggest challenge, so far, has been bringing the trees into the foreground. A little story about this..... I meet once a month with a group of textile friends at a little tea shop on the island of Alameda; we sit outside in the patio/garden and hook, knit, embroider, and have good talks. At the end of one of our recent meetings, I held this piece up and mentioned that I was finding the trees to be a challenge. My lovely friend, Andrine, spoke up and said, "What trees? I didn't realize there were any trees!" Humbled, I went back to the studio & spent two hours tweaking the trees and roof lines.....a little strip here and a little strip there.
It's good to have friends who are honest with you and let you know when you can't see the forest for the snow!

03 August 2010

Rug Hooking Diary... Value Study

I just wrote about this in response to a topic on Rug Hooking Daily & decided it was a good comment to add here.

Tools for evaluating light and color.....I keep a color wheel and a value finder with my rug hooking tools and find them to be invaluable. I have another color wheel that I keep tacked up next to my dye cabinet. It gets used constantly!

Sometimes I use the "squint" method for evaluating value but my favorite tool for evaluating values is my camera. I take a photograph of the area in question & convert it to black & white. It's easy to see at a glance when a value needs changing.

In this value study, I can see immediately in the B & W photo that I might want to change the value of the gold in the window pane of the blue door. The values of the gold & blue are almost the same & the pane disappears. In this particular case I probably won't change it because I like the overall quiet and cozy feel of the little cabin so far.
As you can see, it's a little slow-going on Wonderland right now.....I've worked very hard at getting the trees to stand out and I've mades several small changes to the rooflines to (hopefully!) give them some dimension.

23 July 2010

Rug Hooking Diary...Wonderland Begins to Take Form

I'm sure enjoying working on this little piece! It's stretching my abilities & I see many small changes I'll want to make before it's done but I love the design.
I'm using a #7 cut for most of the hooking, a #6 cut for some of the detail and have hand cut a few narrow strips.
Susan asked about my directional hooking of the snow....I'm trying to make it look as if there are large drifts of new snow on the roof and trees. We'll see how successful the attempt is as more hooking is done.
Sometimes I feel like I'm hanging my dirty laundry out here for you all to see......the more I look at this photo, the more wierd things I see that need changing!

17 July 2010

Rug Hooking Diary... Just a Beginning

Just a brief note today....I'm thinking that if I don't write so much maybe I'll add to this blog more often. We'll see!
I like the start I've made on Wonderland. I've marked up the pattern more than I usually do but, with the snow, it's really all about the values.
Doesn't it look nice & cool here? (As I sit sweating in the studio with the fan switched on high.)

11 July 2010

Rug Hooking Diary... Starting a New Rug

Starting a new rug hooking project is often an ambivalent time for me...isn't that odd? It's a time filled with the excitement of new possibilities and the insecurities of the outcome. I love working out a starting point for a piece, thinking about the colors, maybe dyeing up something new...and where I begin with color is often different from where I end (which is so much of the fun in rug hooking). But, I also have those moments of thinking, "Can I do this? Will it turn out well? Will I mess it up?"

My next project is Wonderland, designed by Canadian rug hooking artist, Martina Lesar. It's a magical piece that I'm anxious to start! The big challenge.....hooking all that snow while giving definition to the landscape.

I've admired Martina's designs for some time. She has a wonderful sense of color and a beautiful, broad selection of rug hooking designs. She hand draws her patterns, leaves a good amount of border beyond the designs and is very careful about starting her patterns on-grain. I like her designs enough that I'm importing them to carry on my website (you can find them here: Martina Lesar Designs) and have three or four on my list of rugs I want to hook.

Quick update on my new studio....I'm behind on my photography but here are a couple of recent shots.

One of the best changes I made with the move was to invest in some nice shelving for the mill dyed bolts of wool....no more bolts of wool sitting on the floor.

The rolling cubby shelving for the hand dyed wool is making my life much easier. Looks nice too!

04 July 2010

It's July Already!

Happy 4th of July!
What happened to June? I guess things have been hopping around here....I just realized that I didn't post anything at all last month.

Two important events occurred last month....I sent my son off to Argentina for five months for his study abroad program through the University of Oregon (the plan is for him to seriously improve his Spanish but I think the study of women & the tango are also on his list) and..... my article about my hooked carpetbags was published in Rug Hooking Magazine. It's so exciting to actually see it in print, especially in an issue that's full of other great articles and photographs. I feel honored to be in such good company. So, as you can see, June was a big month!

Preparing for & writing the article was a wonderful learning experience which has given me a new respect for professional writers. The time involved, even before sitting down to write the actual article, was substantial. Researching traditional carpetbags, making a number of test bags to come up with the best design, drafting the final flat pattern, to say nothing of hooking and constructing the three bags featured in the article, took about six months of off-and-on work. Thank goodness for those flat pattern drafting classes I took in college & the Japanese clothing designer I studied with when I lived in Japan. But, most especially, thank goodness for my friend, Denise, who hooked the Revolution Carpetbag when I was down to the wire with deadlines and having a panic attack!

It was a surprise to find that the most challenging aspect of writing the article was finding the right words to describe what my hands just "do". Having been a professional seamstress & soft-furnishings designer for many years, I generally spend time planning a project at the outset & then just work away, often listening to an audio book to keep my mind active while my hands work. Putting step-by-step, concise instructions down on paper (or laptop screen, actually) was a totally new experience.

But, it's nice to know that one can continue to develop new skills, even when you're on the down side of your fifties!

Hope you enjoy the article and yes, I miss my son, but I'm so proud of him for having an adventuresome spirit and a willingness to learn about other cultures.
May your 4th of July be filled with loved ones and appreciation for the fine country we are all a part of...

30 May 2010

Rug Hooking Diary... Simple Gifts is Complete

My version of Simple Gifts is done! (OK, I admit, I still have to whip the bound edge of the rug but the hooking is done & the cording is sewn in :-)
This design was a joy to hook.... I had been in need of a relaxing project after my huge effort during the Fall and Winter designing & constucting my new carpetbags and writing an article about the bags for Rug Hooking Magazine. This rug certainly filled the bill with its spunky & whimsical primitive animals. I'm very pleased with the way it turned out and plan to put it on the floor in front of a colorfully painted armoire in my living room.

A big thank you to Karen Kahle of Primitive Spirit for designing such a fun rug!

Coming next.... planning a new project using a wonderful snowy landscape scene, Wonderland, from Martina Lesar.

27 May 2010

The New Studio (Before the Move!)

Isn't it something how a completely (almost) empty space can look so vast? You just can't believe you can fill it up with your stuff....Ha!
The new studio is on the Southwest side of the building so I'll be getting morning sun instead of the afternoon sun that we got in the old studio. Notice that I still have those nice, big windows? Makes me very happy. These windows have clear glass which means that I can see the sky (and even some hills on the other side of the bay). The windows in the old studio gave wonderful light but the glass was frosted & you couldn't see outside.

I've been very busy painting....one wall was a deep red (13' high X 17' wide - that was a lot of red!) and another was a dark, dark, dark navy blue. While both colors were nice, they were just too much competition. I felt like they would suck the life out of my own work! It took two coats of primer & two coats of paint to cover all that deep red & blue.

The ceiling is very high....over 13', giving an airy feel to the space. One of my wonderful old Italian landlords, Joe, is in the picture to the left & he's well over 6' tall.
Lights & the iron track had to come down from the old space & get reinstalled in the new space.....thanks to Joe & Eric, it all happened without a hitch! (Which is a really good thing because I couldn't have done it by myself.....not on that huge ladder.....no way!).

Getting everything ready in the old studio is bittersweet....I've had a lot of happy time here.

Taking apart my 6' X 10' padded work table is a little scary....I've done it before but I'm always afraid it won't go back together again & I'd be lost without it.
Next, got to find some strong college kids to help with the heavy stuff on moving day...

12 May 2010

Big News (& Changes) Around My Studio...

Change is good; kind'a gets us out of a rut & makes us think about things differently. So here's my big change....

My wonderful studio mate of 11 years has decided to move out of our space and set up her art studio much closer to her home. Besides being a fine artist, she has been the best studio mate a girl could ask for & I will miss seeing her almost every day. But friendship remains!

After thinking about my various options, rather than look for new people to share the space I'm in, I have decided to move my studio too! Not too far; just to a smaller space upstairs in the same building.

I must admit to a feeling of loss at leaving this space. It has been a place I've been happy to come to almost every day for the past 11 years....& how many people can say that about the place where they work?

While the focus of my work has changed & I'm no longer sewing custom curtains, pillows & bedding, I have continued to develop & create in this space.

No, my office rarely looks this neat....I must have cleaned up (a bunch) to take this photo!

My new studio looks pretty funky right now.....lots of work to do to make it interesting. But, given a little time & a lot of elbow grease, I know it will be another place I will look forward to going to every day. Especially those days when we have the monthly hook-in and old & new friends come by to visit & hook rugs.

I'll try to be brave & post some before & after photos of the new studio as I go along.

(BTW, my Simple Gifts rug is done & I'm working on the binding! No time to take a good photo right now but I'll get one posted here soon.)
Back to packing.....

29 April 2010

Rug Hooking Diary Part IV.... Back to Hooking

Just a quick note today....
Simple Gifts is getting very close to being done!
The corners are giving me fits & I know I'll need to make some changes to the birds but I'm really liking the hit & miss border.
More soon.....

24 April 2010

Family Time

Not getting any hooking done this week.... but I have a really good reason! My sister, my brother & my stepmother are here for a visit and we've been traveling all over Northern California to see homes where we grew up, schools we went to, parks we used to play in....it's been fun & very interesting. The only scary thing is realizing how long ago we were children!

We spent time in Golden Gate Park at the Conservatory of Flowers (I can't believe I took these photos with my iPhone).....

And wandered around the old adobe buildings in Sonoma (wish you could smell the Wisteria)....

Back to hooking next week!

15 April 2010

Rug Hooking Diary...Part III Challenges with Values

Little Miss Pig has had me fretting a bit.... she's quite lively but seems to be fading into the background and no self-respecting pig wants to do that!
I'm sure most of you know all about this useful technique for taking a critical (& I mean that in the most positive way) look at the values in your work but here it is anyway....

When I question how the values are relating to each other, I like to photograph the section that I'm concerned about and transform it into a black & white image. (Aren't we fortunate to live in the digital age?). In the top photo we see the pig in color.......
And the lower image is the same image transformed into black & white. So where did that pig go??? Because the values of the pinks in the pig and the values of the neutrals in the background are so similar, she pretty much disappears.

So, I could pull out the pinks & rehook the pig in darker values, but I really like the current pinks. And, lucky for me, my friend Julie was working on a wonderful rug of farm animals for her new granddaughter's room at our last Wine Country Rug Hookers guild meeting.
She has a delightful pig in the rug, hooked in a #3 cut, that she had outlined in a darker rose.....thank you for the inspiration & a perfect solution Julie! (And congratulations on that lovely little addition to your family xoxo)

And the result.....no more disappearing pig!

08 April 2010

Rug Hooking Diary... Part II

I've been working away on the Simple Gifts pattern... what a primitive horse! He wouldn't win any prizes in a confirmation class but he has his own personality.
I made a bit of a change in the shape to give him a very primitive mane flying in the wind. Perhaps his eye needs to be a bit more bright but I'll wait until later to make any changes.

The horse is hooked with my Walnut Hollow plaid. After cutting the plaid into strips I've separated the colors into predominately brown & gray strips and used more of the gray in his belly area. Plaids are such useful and fun fabrics to use in our hooking.

I've also started playing with the border.....at first, I thought I'd use blocks of color but I kind of like this little test area of hit & miss.... we'll see!

04 April 2010

Rug Hooking Diary... Part I

Increasingly, my rug hooking customers are asking me to put together rug hooking kits for the patterns I offer on my website. I'm honored that they trust me with this task but, I confess, I also stress over the process....will they like the colors I'm sending, have I put in enough variety of wool, enough wool, is this color going to work? ....I could go on & on!
While it's impossible for me to hook a rug from every kit that I put together, I've decided to use my kits to hook a couple of patterns that have been on my to-do list for awhile just to see how they come together & I thought it would be fun to share the process with you.
So here's my start on the first project.... it's a delightful Primitive Spirit design, Simple Gifts. This is a fun and very primitive design inspired by antique Magdalena Briner designs. You can click on the picture if you want to see more detail.
One thing to notice about my progress so far...you may not be able to see it in the photo but the border edge of the pattern was a little wonky (read: not on the straight of grain). I'm a bit obsessive about having the outer border be on grain so the first thing I did was to hook a single line of loops, on-grain, at the outer border. I may change the color later but wanted to at least have the placement of the line established.

I'll do my best to keep you posted on my progress!

14 January 2010


Just a quick update to let you know that I haven't dropped of the face of any cliffs on the California coast...
I'm in the midst of getting my new line of Mary Poppins-style carpetbag patterns ready for my website.....they should be ready by the end of January.
The patterns will come with good directions for constructing your bag.....they are so much fun to make!
Just so you know....these are my own copywrited designs from start to finish, including the drafting of the bag pattern (I've already had one well-known rug hooking designer suggest that the the Revolution bag is her design) :-(

More soon!