Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Farm & Sugarloaf Mtn

Farm & Sugarloaf Mtn 43x 43

The Farm: My parents bought it before I was born. I'm the sixth child, two more siblings born after me. I hold the title for being the first farm baby. So, creatively speaking, it's no surprise that I would eventually design a rug to celebrate the memories of growing up on 20 acres.

Farm & Sugarloaf Mtn is the rug I designed and hooked that embodies my early farm-life memories. It's a big rug, 43" x 43". The background was hooked with recycled thrifted wool and hand-dyed wool in an 8 1/2 cut. The motifs were hooked in an 8 cut with marbleized, hand-dyed and recycled wool. The way the big bold flower motifs flow on this design, remind me of a quilt pattern with one oversized flower in the center that spreads out to the four corners with the long stems dividing the rug into equal quadrants.

I couldn't put all of our animals on the rug, so I chose the ones that had significance for me. The cat because we had a few favorite adult cats, Smokey, Siam, Calico, and many litters of kittens. The cow because I can remember being in the barn with my dad while he was milking, and hearing the sharp pinging sound of the milk when it is first filling the empty metal milking bucket. I loved to hunt for snakes under the pieces of corrugated metal roofing material from the barn that had blown off long ago and were left laying in the field.
cat close-up
me age 4, unknown kitten
sister jan dad and me

The little haystack-like motifs represent the small mountain named Sugarloaf, that we would often hike to on our many adventures. I repeated that motif, because I liked the way it added unity to the design, but also because the mountain represents many good memories. For instance, trying to hike to the top and look out at the distant bay before the noon whistle blew at the refinery on the point. Hiking along the trail to the mountain, where the sun was shinning, that was the "fairy trail" the more wooded, shaded part of the trail was the "witch's cave". We ran through that part! There was the time my older sister fell off part of the steep backside and I had to lay across the rock outcrop and reach my hand down for her to grab.

sugarloaf mtn w hit and miss border close-up

The border with its hit-and-miss pattern helps create movement for your eye. I wanted to add interest to the border without it becoming overpowering, so I changed the direction of the hit-and-miss hooking in a few places. The heart motif (I do love hearts) and the barn are placed within the margins of the border to keep the border from seeming too predictable.

barn & bird close-up

If I were to hook this rug again I would love to try to hook it in more neutral tones with a light background. Hmmm, the flowers, maybe in reds. I could see this being an amazing wool appliqué quilt pattern, or sewn with really bright and willd cotton batiks.

goats grazing in moonlight present day

My second to youngest brother and his dear wife now own the family farm. She took this photo earlier this spring of their goats grazing in the moonlight. Hmmmm, this could be an inspiration for another rug!


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

How to Finish?

Bud Vase Treasure Keeper

So many steps go into making a rug.

First, there's that dreamy beginning, when ideas swirl around in your head of what to design or what pattern to buy. Then there is the color planning and wool choices. What wool will you use... as-is, over-dyed, textures or marbleized etc. As you hook, your motifs and background come to life. You make changes and adjustments along the way. Finally you are finished with the hooking and have a beautiful rug, almost....

The hooking is complete, however the rug isn't finished....yet!

Now you get to choose how to bind the edges. There are so many choices! How you use the piece may narrow your choices. Will it be used on the floor, the wall, a table top or chair. As an ornament, purse, tea cozy or pillow.

Crocheted Edges

Will you use cording to wrap your selvage over, or will the selvage be rolled and take the place of cording. Do you like to wrap the edge with wool strips or yarn. Will you use wool strips or yarn to crochet the edge (my personal favorite)? There's always the method of sewing on rug binding tape or using wool fabric as your binding material. Maybe you want to use wood frames to mount your piece like a picture? There are many other creative ways to bind your rug, maybe you will want to experiment with any one of these on your next piece.

Heart-Felt Mouse Framed


Wrapping with Yarn


Garden Hideaway, crocheted with yarn


Wool strip and yarn whipstitch finish

Over the years, I have found it really is worth the effort and time to be a perfectionist on this one subject, and to make the edge be a quality finish that reflects the beauty of your overall piece!

So, how will you choose to finish your next hooked rug?


Wednesday, April 15, 2015


Garden Gate making changes

Creating is a journey. Rug hooking is a process. The goal is to eventually have a finished piece, but it's not always a straight shot from point A to point B. When I design a rug, I have an idea for my color plan. I make changes along the way, modifying my colors or motifs as I go, and in the end I am pleased with what I have created. Now, on occasion, I have finished a piece, stepped back, looked at it, and been surprised that somehow the piece isn't flowing like I had planned. My eye is getting stuck on one or two spots. Maybe the center isn't connecting with the border or edges. Somehow the motifs are not unified. This is exactly what happened with my current "in process" rug Garden Gate. When I designed this rug, I knew I wanted an amazing gray background, which I love. The structure of the design was good. It was everything in between that wasn't right. I was STUCK IN REVERSE.

All elements too close in value

Really, it's no surprise if it think back. The workshop that I designed this rug for last fall got cancelled. I started hooking on another rug that I adore and it demanded more of my attention. I had two small pieces that I needed to design and hook to meet a deadline. I'm not trying to make excuses, rather I'm trying to understand that life happened. I was able to change a couple of things that did improve the feel. But still my heart and mind kept saying, "It's not quite right." Here I was, with a completed rug that seemed incomplete. I was STUCK IN REVERSE.

Motifs before the change
motifs after the change, the rug is coming alive!

In the past, when a rug wasn't right, I'd almost get anxiety about it. Now I have a different view and approach. I'll admit, it's not totally comfortable to not know just how to fix it, but I keep the faith that the "yes" moment will come. I step back for a few days and think about possible changes. I ask other rug hooking artists and friends what they think I could do to make it work. I like to hear everyone's viewpoints. Thank you friends for taking the time to give me good advice. It may not seem like I do as you suggest, but your ideas help push me into insights I would not have had on my own or they solidify the ideas that I thought might work also.

Changing value and intensity in some areas

There was a time when I equated seeking advice about my work to meaning I must not be very good at what I do. Now, I understand that when I have a rug that isn't flowing, when the color or design isn't quite right, that is when I learn the most as an artist. So as I type this, I'm excited to do some "reverse hooking" in order to move forward! Stay tuned! The Garden Gate rug will be truly completed, soon!

Ah, possibilities!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Old Garden Wall

Old Garden Wall
Here again was another chance to ""embrace the unlovable that I spoke of in my last post. This piece, Old Garden Wall, wrestles with the big idea of making peace with the elements in your garden that have fallen short of perfection, and was a metaphor for viewing life's challenging twists and turns with that same view of acceptance.
Old Garden Wall

This piece, "Old Garden Wall" was inspired by a once thoughtfully planted flower garden. The passage of time, nature with all it's seasons and elements and the call of the wild, have had their way with the orderliness of what was once a proper garden.

Plants grow up through the stone wall
Shifting rock wall
Old Garden Wall close-up

In this piece, the basalt stones were once laid atop one another neatly, but now the grass, tenacious flowers and twining weeds pull these rocks in different directions. The leaves blow this way and that with the passing of the seasons. Is the yellow sun-like shapes blooming sunflowers, or is it the sun caught in snapshots as it passes across the horizon and marks the passage of time? The background is hooked in soft, muted horizontal lines to suggest a calming and acquiescing backdrop, a foil to highlight the swaying, dancing motifs that have all gone in their own direction, yet all are part of a unified dance,...the garden of life.

Old Garden Wall, represents how in life we build, we plant, we sow. We expect certain outcomes, and yet, time, Nature, the elements shape us in certain heartfelt and unexpected ways that within each experience whether built and planted with expectation, or whether life befalls us with unexpected twists and turns, we still manage to find and search for a place of peace, balance and beauty.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Embrace the Unlovable!

Thy Friend, close-up

My garden, as you may have guessed, is a constant source of creative inspiration for me. However, it's time for a little honesty on my part. It is not all healthy beautiful flowers nor a limitless source of sweetness and light! There are weeds, many varieties, poor soil, a crumbling garden rock wall (a post for another time), a fence that needs repair, a crooked trellis, and aggressive perennials that I PLANTED, that have slowly taken over areas, squeezing out the more timid plants. Oh, and more weeds!

A few years back, feeling overwhelmed by this "garden gone wrong" I asked myself, "What if I embrace the things in the garden that make me unhappy. Surrender to the crazy. Embrace the negative, the unloveable, and make it positive instead?" So I pulled out my sketchbook, wandered the garden to make note of the miscreants, and to see if this experiment of viewing the things that were making me crazy, could truly be represented in a different light.

At that time, I was designing a rug to commemorate my youngest child graduating from high school. I wanted it to be used by the front door, and to say something about "coming and going". Bob Dylan lyrics were swimming in my head as well as a particular poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson. "Go often to the house of thy friend for weeds choke the unused path."

Thy Friend

There was that word again, "weeds"! Remembering my vow to make creative peace with the weeds, I thumbed through my sketch book and was inspired by the shape and tenacious nature of the bindweed that was threatening to take over my yard. It has beautiful heart-shaped leaves and cool scrolling, vining tendrils. This weed, became the inspiration for the leaf motifs in my rug, Thy Friend.

bindweed, morning glory
Thy Friend, close-up

I have a new respect and affection for this misguided morning glory type plant. Though I still wish it wasn't so determined to be in my garden.