Wednesday, March 30, 2016

New Lease on Life

I am a consummate thrifter! I come from a long line of folks who value the idea of the reuse, recycle mentality. That can be anything from simply reusing your plastic lunch bags, to the finer art of veering off the beaten path to stop at garage sales and thrift shops to find and appreciate items from days gone by.

So, it should be of no surprise that when I saw this DiFranza Rug Hooking Kit at one of my local antique and collectible shops, I could not pass it by. It did not matter, that it had wool strips that were probably a very narrow cut (3) which I had no intention of using, though the wool was in excellent condition! It did not matter that the pattern was printed on burlap, which I personally would never hook on, due to longevity issues. It did not matter that the little hooks were so small, probably a "fine", that I could barely see the bend on the ends. What did matter, was that "someone" had bought this kit, with the full intention and dream of hooking it into a lovely mat, and that intention needed to be honored!

Within a month's time of purchasing the kit, I had a Hook-In, where I would attend as a vendor. Nobody there seemed interested in the kit, however, the Region 11 president of ATHA (Association of Traditional Rug Hooking Artists) was there, and suggested I might donate the kit to their scholarship program. That was an excellent suggestion! Everyone wins!

The kit would go to someone who wants to hook it and would value the whole kit and caboodle! The ATHA organization would benefit, and as I understand it, their scholarship for this particular camp was not on a need basis, but on a basis of someone applying because they want to further their rug hooking education and ability. Finally, I won because this kit assembled long ago and purchase by a hooker with a dream would finally be going to a good home!

I sure hope I get a chance to see this kit completed at some future Hook-In. Now that would be a dream come true!


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Spring Renewal

It is officially spring!

The days are getting longer, the wet spring days do give way to sunny ones. The beautiful flowering trees have chirping birds flying from branch to branch. The first wave of early spring bulbs like daffodils and crocus are giving way to tulips, hyacinths, muscari and iris.

I find myself wondering about all the new babies born or hatched in this season like, kittens, lambs, bunnies, and birds. Yay for Nature!

I hope you are feeling renewed, inspired and creative in this season of rebirth!

Happy Spring!


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Oval Squirrel

Maybe I AM still feeling a bit squirrelly! But I am in good company! (To follow, is a showcase of Oval Squirrel, hooked by three talented rug hookers.)

I hooked my Oval Squirrel mat two years ago. I had designed All Seasons Squirrel, the larger rug, but had not hooked it yet. I needed a small gift, so I used some of the elements from the larger design to make this one.

Oval Squirrel is approx 9" x 11" and now available as an instant download PDF pattern in my ETSY shop. I also provide a 6" version of this pattern for punch needle work. When you use a paper pattern, you get to be the co-designer, and choose to use elements as originally designed, or change elements to fit your needs.

This photo shows Oval Squirrel hooked by Patty Rogers.

Patty hooked this mat for her sweet niece, whose nickname is Squirrel. The muted gray, green, and soft blues in the main background work well as compliment colors, to make those orangey-red flowers pop! All the elements in the motif shapes show up nice and crisp because she has used the lighter value background within those shapes, rather than the medium value like I did. Binding with red wool strips completes the magic!

Marie Beers, had a clever idea to make the pattern into a circular chair pad.

When Marie traced the design elements onto linen, she made the oval, a circle, and spread the little mosaic shapes out so that they worked well within that round format. Using textured wool for a background is a great way to make all the elements of the design pull together, and here is why. The textured background that she used, when the light hits it, looks green with lighter flecks of blues or gold which helps pull all the other colors together. Those other colors that she used to outline the mosaics, the hooked line that encircles the mat, or the lighter values of the mosaic shape background all make a unified statement with the help of that textured background. Notice the crocheted edging also picks up the green and light blue colors used throughout the rug. By crocheting a border, she is a girl after my own heart! It looks great and will be very durable as a chair seat edge. A funny aside, her husband does NOT like squirrels, they cause havoc in his yard, so it will be his chair pad!

Maureen Lowrey hooked her Oval Squirrel mat in 8, 7, and 6 cut strips with her beautiful trademark primitive colors!

Maureen had recently moved from the country to the city, and wanted to celebrate the red squirrels that were busy in her yard. (Her squirrels are so bold that they even climbed up onto her front door to help themselves to the fake berries on a seasonal wreath.) Her use of twine and acorn that hang on the mat complete the primitive ambience emulating from this happy squirrel!

Thank you ladies for sharing your beautiful, unique and fun mats! As you can see, squirrels are not just for fall! Please consider joining us in the movement to have squirrels as part of your year round decor. This little mat hooked with other shades of squirrel colors such as, white, gray, or black would be cute. There are over 200 species of squirrels, so you have lots of color choices!

Here is the quick link to my ETSY shop.

Happy Hooking!


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

All Seasons Squirrel

I designed All Seasons Squirrel a couple of years ago, and finally started hooking on it this past summer. I didn't realize it would take me almost ALL of the Seasons to finish, once I started hooking!

The inspiration for the design came about as I was wondering why folks seem to decorate all sorts of squirrel related decor in the autumn, but not other times of the year. I can tell you one thing for sure, I have squirrels busy in my yard all seasons, not just one.

Yes, yes, in the fall they are especially busy hiding acorns. But they are also visiting my garden daily throughout the year. During winter, they seem even more adept at finding ways to raid the bird feeders. I have watched them straddle rose bushes to pick rose hips to nibble on. I gotta admit they look cute when they do that. In the spring, I have caught them picking the buds on my beloved magnolia tree and taking bites out of them. In the summer months, they are busy eating fruit or helping themselves to yet unripe filberts.

Color planning for this rug was easy, or so I thought!

I knew I wanted the squirrels to be a gray tone. I had just figured out a dye formula that had a gray-green cast to it. I liked how soft the color was, and what a chameleon it could be. If placed with taupe or light brown it looked gray, if used next to greens it looked greenish.

I wanted the background light in value, with different directional hooking techniques, and just a hint of medium value strips here and there to suggest movement, but not to overtake the background.

The mosaic pathway that flows across the rug represents all of the squirrel's different food choices in my garden and the many colors of the seasons. I knew that the background inside the little mosaic-like shapes that run across the pattern, would need to be a medium value. (It was important to make the background within the mosaics a different value, than the main background, because otherwise, your eyes could get confused about where to focus.) I know medium backgrounds can make it more challenging to figure out how to make the motifs show up. I was fine with the idea of using a pop-out line, around those motifs to make them stand out.

I am so pleased to finally have this finished mat on my dining room table rather than on my hooking frame. Real life squirrels are such characters, and this rug catches their fun-loving spirit perfectly! I smile every time I look at it.

All Seasons Squirrel and other hooking related items can be found on my ETSY.

Happy Hooking!


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

My First Hooked Rugs

My first hooked rug was this fine-cut pansy chair seat/table mat.

I got the kit, hook, a frame and Rigby double-bladed cutter all for under $25. My brain cannot be remembering that correctly! Maybe I got the used cutter later. It WAS over thirty-five years ago!

All of us have a history, a creative journey, of how we got from point A to point B within our craft. I believe our journey is always evolving. What we choose to hook is shaped by so many varying aspects in our life. There are ever-changing color plans we want to explore or are drawn to use. The circumstances in our lives that we are experiencing influence our work. We may want to commemorate a joyous time, such as an arrival of a new baby or wedding. Perhaps it's a time of struggle when we need our craft to ground us, as we create a piece that reminds us of beauty and hope. There may be a long list of rugs on our hooking "bucket list", or workshops that we want to attend with rugs patterns that are the instructor's specialty.

Those many years ago when I first began my journey, I adored the pansy motifs in the kit, but learned early on that I am NOT a fine-cut rug hooker. I appreciate the look of these rugs and the skill it takes to make them, but creating them did not play to my strengths. However, working with colorful wool and the "simple" act of pulling loops through a backing to create a useful, lovely rug was something that I wanted to continue to explore.

Almost all the rug hookers that I knew at that time were doing fine-cut rugs. I had worked in an antique store and admired the antique wide-cut rugs that were for sale there. My next rug that I hooked was a primitive-style rug called Cape May Primitive by Joan Moshimer. At the time, a five-cut was considered wide (the size 8, 1/4" cutter blade would come shortly thereafter)!

I was hooked! Somehow the relationship between the design elements and making color choices that had nothing to do with realism to create a charming rug, spoke to me.

It is fascinating to look back on our creative journey. To wonder about how we got from there to now. I was lucky enough to hook with some talented rug hookers, designers and color artist's that influenced my work.

As artists, we must pay close attention to what we LOVE to do. That is how we stay true to ourselves and create our best work. Is it a fine-cut or wide-cut rug that makes us happy? Do we prefer working with muted, soft-colors or vivid, saturated colors. Do we like to design our own rugs, use commercial patterns, or reproduce antique designs? So many more questions you can ask yourself, because, you are the only one with the answers.

Whatever, and where ever you are in your creative journey is perfect for you! Listen to that inner voice that drives you to create. Listen to what YOU want to do. Try not to compare yourself with others, they have their own path and you have yours.

Keep exploring and experimenting with what makes your heart sing!