Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Neighborhood

The Neighborhood was the name I finally settled upon for this rug almost 15 years ago. Looking at it now, I think I could have named it Jack and the Beanstalk!. See how those rambling roses and plant stalks sprout out of the houses as if Jack himself planted the beans just moments ago!

Often with my designs, many seemingly random events or experiences align, and voila, a theme emerges! Here are the factors that came into play! One, I wanted to hook a large rug. This one, is 36" x 52". Two, I wanted to commemorate the houses I have lived in during my lifetime. Three, it was summer, and the deep red roses, the ones that have reverted back to their rootstock, were arching 15 feet or more towards the heavens, buds bursting in all their glory.

The absolutely best part about this rug, is that my daughter who was five at the time, wanted to help draw the houses! Frankly, in my mind, her little homes are the most endearing aspect of this rug. The couple of houses that I drew were good and adequate, however, hers were delightful!

She made darling little A-frames with too many windows and flowers as tall as the house! She was a natural, her renditions were a perfect way to represent a house in primitive/folk art.

One of my favorites of her houses is the one with many oddly matched windows. Yet, even sweeter, is the little mouse house next door. Notice in the following photo, the blue mouse house door drawn on the big house! Just what every adult wants, a door, so the mouse living next door can freely come and go!

The rectangular flowerbed shapes in front of a couple of the homes and the undulating flower bed were again part of my daughter's magic touch.

From a designer's viewpoint, I wanted the two main flower stalks that stretch on either side from top to bottom, to contain several varieties of flowers. Luckily, I'm not hemmed in by convention, so my imagination soared with creating many fanciful flowers. I especially love the open flower that has the shape of a five petal flower, yet the inside is hooked in the background color, making it light and airy!

Over the years, I must have had this rug in some doorway, where direct sunlight fell upon it and has faded some of the background strips or flower edges. That aging process adds to the quirky charm of this rug.

Having hooked rugs for several years, I do own many and have to have some of them put away. I trade them out as the season changes or as the spirit moves me. This week all my garden roses are in bloom, and so The Neighborhood is out in our living room once again.

The Neighborhood is a fun sweet rug, and the best collaboration I ever did!


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Valley

Ah, The Valley!

About ten years ago, I was intrigued by the idea of designing a rug with a pictorial scene, surrounded by a wide border. I was still in my "salmon phase" (for several years I designed many rugs with salmon as the focal point), so making the inner pictorial section with a spawning salmon was an easy choice.

The Valley, is inspired by my experience of living in rural settings. The earlier years of my life having grown up in Washington state's amazing agricultural Skagit Valley, and these last 30 years of living in Oregon's lush Willamette Valley. No matter where you live or have grown up, anyone who loves the outdoors and has a connection with hills and valleys, mountains and rivers, can have an affinity for this nature rug.

The wide border that surrounds the mountain, meadows and river scene, is filled with flowers and berries that the Skagit Valley is famous for growing. Before child labor laws, me, my siblings and friends all grew up working during the summer in the fields of berries, tulip bulbs and all sorts of agricultural type jobs as ways to earn money.

This past fall and winter I had the chance to hook this rug again, almost ten years after I hooked the original. I was commissioned by a wonderful woman who, like me, loves rivers, mountains, valleys and meadows. It was an honor to be asked to hook it for her, and it was a fun challenge to revisit this rug and to further explore my use of color, value, and technique.

I admit, there is a lot going on in this rug. That was the initial intent, a rug within a rug. However, that means extra thought must go into the color choices. My goal was to subtly create a connection between the pictorial section and border motifs by using wool within each that related in color, tone or value to the other. The inner colors, hint to the outer colors and vice versa. I do not mean that the river is the exact color as the border's broad tawny-toned strawberry leaves, or that the wide tulip leaves are the exact same tone as the sky color. If the colors in the border motifs were exactly the same as what was used in the pictorial section, your eyes would not know where to rest nor where to focus your attention. It is a fine balancing act, and a bit of reverse hooking was involved before the final touches were made to complete it.

The technique of directional hooking also helps to establish a difference between the inner and outer section of the rug. In the pictorial section, directional lines move with the river, fish, mountain, sky and hills to unify them and to help them stand out from the border. In the border, the background is hooked in a technique that uses blotches of related background colors that blend and make mats of color (rather than lines) and act as a backdrop so the motifs can "pop" and be the focal point.

All in all, I will admit that this design was at times, challenging to hook, however, the final result was well worth the effort. Whenever, I look at it, I feel content, as if I have my own personal, "call of the wild" to keep me connected to nature.

Below is a photo of Mt Baker and the Cascades in Washington state taken by a professional photographer. You can find more of his beautiful images at



Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Sweet Pea the Peacock

Inspiration can come from the most unexpected places!

Often, when I'm designing new patterns to hook, I'm operating from an area of familiarity. My childhood memories of traipsing outdoors, my family history of coming from a long line of commercial fishermen, hence many salmon rug designs. It is second nature for me to be inspired by my garden and the wildlife that comes and goes. How I interpret different life events, as they unfold, can become a story and a new design.

So, prior to last year, I knew nothing about peacocks! That was, until my sister adopted a young male peacock through a peacock rescue organization. Wow, they are interesting feathered, dinosaur-like creatures! This fellow has a lot of personality, and with a name like Sweet Pea, well, that just begs for a story to be told.

I had a workshop to attend in early summer, and since it was an "open" class, (meaning I could hook my own design, use a commercial design, or one of the instructor's design) I was able to let my imagination go! The instructor hooks in more saturated colors than I usually use, so I felt the peacock would be the perfect motif to use for her workshop. Having just met my sister's peacock, it seemed as if designing a peacock rug was meant to be.

I wanted the design to be "all about the tail"! I didn't intend to make the "eyes" of the peacock tail in the traditional way. I managed to sneak flowers into yet another rug! I used complimentary colors in the tail with a range of vivid bright greens and vibrant reds to make it sing! The little off-shoot of smaller flowers and green lines with leaf shapes that spill into the background, suggest the flowing movement of a peacock when it displays.

The head and neck of the peacock with the teal blues lean toward the green family. The little dots of green in the tail and along the edge of the tail in the background, are a green blue that draws your eyes throughout the piece.

I tried about three different colors for the body, the transition area between the neck and tail, but wools all drew too much attention away from the tail. What I finally settled upon was a beautiful marbleized wool that was a subtle teal blue and purple, along with some as-is textured wool.

The background is an antique black that has many shades of green, (view in previous photos) again to complement the reds and pinks in the rug. The little green circle/dots are similar in value to the background, because I wanted them to fade and blend into the background. Note in the black and white photo how there are different values move throughout the piece.

This year my sister adopted a mate for Sweet Pea. Now, I am wondering if Sassy Pea, the peahen, will need a rug designed in her honor?


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Paisley Primitive

Paisley Primitive

I am rather certain that I am not the only person that LOVES paisley. I'm talking about the old wool paisley shawls, and in general, the paisley motif. If you have been lucky enough to hook with paisley wool, you know it adds an interesting dimension to your rug that is hard to get using other textures. If you want to know more about the origin of the paisley the internet is full of information about the topic!

I designed my rug, Paisley Primitive, to celebrate my passion for paisley. It was an interesting exercise, to create a single stemmed "plant" that had to fit within the confines of the paisley shape. You will notice in the close-up photos that I did not concern myself with realism or botanical correctness.

Recently, I was gifted some vintage paisley wool. I feel as if I won the lottery! I have already used a few strips of this paisley in a couple of my rugs to add a touch of magic. Isn't it inspiring to gaze upon? Notice how it has two different sides to it. How would you use a paisley wool in your work? In a bird motif, a vase, a flower? Hmmm, I may have to design a rug that features this amazingly beautiful paisley wool! I hope you have a chance to someday add some paisley wool to your stash. It is well worth having!