Women in Hats

The year 2008 wasn’t one I’d care to repeat. I had gone on medical leave from teaching at Christmas because of a back problem ( I officially retired in June that year), My friend June Baker passed away in the spring, and I ended up having a triple bypass in September. It was 2009 before I got back to hooking. ‘Women in Hats’ is done in a 6 cut and is 18″ x 36″

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The Sunshine Rughookers are a wonderful, caring, knowledgable, fun loving group of hookers. They have been my inspiration and support. There are close to 40 members and a wide variety of styles is always evident, from #3 beautifully shaded traditional work, breathtaking landscapes, to hand cut strips in freeform artistic expression, and everything in between. I love it all! Quite a number of the members have been to Nova Scotia to take workshops with Deanne Fitzpatrick, and her style and freedom of expression are highly regarded . I purchased this Deane Fitzpatrick pattern and worked on it during my recuperation….using just wool I had in my tiny stash. I’m not particularly pleased with the result, but it was the first time I successfully used anything other than wool strips. I inserted various specialty yarns for decorations on the hats and necklines, and the white hair is done with a hairy, glitzy white yarn. That’s my favourite part of this piece. I really will get to whipping the edges…..soon!

Washing on a Line

I picked up this pattern during a family vacation to Cape Breton in the late 90’s.

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I wanted to try hooking it in the Cheticamp style with yarn, but I didn’t like the effect at all. As a result it joined my many other unfinished projects…on the shelf. That cupboard was getting pretty full by this time! ( Of course I now realize I was using the wrong kind of yarn altogether.) After I started hooking again with June, I got it out, pulled out all the yarn, and started afresh with wool strips

It is 17″ x 34″ and hooked with #3 and #4. It is a Deanne Fitzpatrick design, although I didn’t know it at the time, and had never heard of her then. That was to change when I became a member of the Sunshine Rughookers.

Expanding My horizons

I decided I wanted to try a larger cut, and a different style of pattern. While not primitive exactly, it was quite a departure from my previous hooking.

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The pattern is called ‘Breakfast’ and it comes from Heartland Creations. I didn’t dye any of the wool for this rug myself, other than the taupe border, but for the first time I used quite a bit of recycled wool. It is done in a #5 cut. (I moved up gradually). I was working in a vacuum, not really knowing how to deal with the colours. I enjoyed the larger cut, and the freedom to create my own vision (even if it wasn’t completely successful). I love this rug in spite of its design and shading flaws. I gave it to my daughter-in-law for Christmas two years ago. (Thanks Scott for the picture…no toes visible here! lol)

I had joined the ‘yahookers’, a marvelous internet chat group, and there I met a great hooking community, and first heard the name Gene Shepherd. I began reading his daily blogs, and soon realized that his work embodied the style I was now striving for. His great teaching/writing style, tremendous organizational skills, and wonderful sense of humour are an added bonus.

I retired from teaching on  January 1 2008. I had been looking forward for years to being able to join the local rug hookers guild….finally! June Baker and I had often talked about when I could go with her, but by now June was having more difficulty getting around and hadn’t been able to get to a meeting for some time. However, true to her fighting spirit, she was determined !! We went late, as she couldn’t sit for long, I carefully drove around all the potholes,took a circuitous route to avoid extra stops and starts, and took her right to the door. She was given a rousing welcome back, and I was warmly brought into the local rughooking ‘fold’. She was able to go a few more times in January and February, but by March she was hospitalized. Cancer was eventually the victor, and she passed away in the early spring. I lost a special friend and mentor, but her family lost a devoted mother, wife, and daughter. She was a fine teacher, and active in her church, the rug hooking, and card making communities, The Sunshine Rughookers completed the last rug she was working on and gave it back to her husband. At their fall craft show the next fall, her church had a special room devoted to displaying her work. We  lost a very special lady.

Dale’s rug

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June Baker gave me this pattern, and it is the first rug that I didn’t go and buy wool for. By now I had accumulated a small stash, and was enjoying dyeing wool, so I bought some natural Dorr wool, and a few colours of Pro Chem dyes. The predyed wool I had always purchased had been evenly coloured, but my background came out quite mottled. Disappointed at first, I soon realized I liked the effect. My taste was expanding. This was the last rug I hooked with #3 and #4 cuts and fine shaded flowers.

June taught me another valuable tip while I was hooking this rug. The petals on the yellow flower didn’t stand out clearly from one another, and she had me use a fine strand of black around the edges to delineate them….a strategy I have used many times since then. 

I gave this rug to my niece and namesake (Dale Elizabeth) for Christmas two years ago, and she sent me the photo (along with her beautifully pedicured toes lol) Thanks Dale! (Notice I didn’t mention my very trendy socks and sandals in the previous post)

My First Efforts at Dyeing

Up until this point, I had purchased all my wool ready dyed. When June suggested that she would teach me how to dye wool, I was excited about the challenge. By this time, June’s nearly 5 year hiatus from cancer had ended, and the dreaded disease had returned in her spine. She had been forced to give up teaching, but was always cheerful and optimistic. Her deep faith was a great solace to her throughout her illness.

She sat in her kitchen giving directions, while I dug through the cupboards getting her equipment, and making tea for us to share during the process. During several session she taught me how to do 6 value swatches, dip dyeing, and dyeing a background. She had me set up a 3 ring binder for my methods and recipes and  glue little swatches by each one. She provided me with an old porcelan  refridgerator crisper, and 8 square sided glass jars and my introduction to the world of wool dyeing was on its way.

`The first rug I made with wool I dyed myself, I gave to my niece for Christmas two years ago. I’ll talk about that rug next time.

My Third Beginning

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A group of teachers were sitting around the table in the staffroom one day, (I think it was the fall of 2004) when June Baker mentioned that she was a rug hooker. I quickly said that I hooked too, but hadn’t done any in years. She encouraged me to return to it and suggested we get together to hook.

June was one of that very special, rare breed of teacher…the professional supply teacher. (for me it would have been a fate worse than death, but she loved it)….and we loved her! You could always happily recover from illness at home knowing that your class was in marvelous hands when June took over. I had known her for years as a valued colleague, but now she became my hooking mentor and personal friend. We hooked together on weekends and holidays, and she dispensed countless tips and advice as we worked. I was interested in doing an oriental rug, so she took me to the home of a friend who had hooked many of them, to both see them and pick up tidbits of information.

That spring we went to Lindsey to the ‘Annual’, to view the rugs. I had decided to do another Rittermere pattern… Canadian Mosaic. Not a true oriental, but with many oriental influences. Ingrid Hieronimus of Ragg Tyme Studio was a vendor, and spent ages with me helping to choose the colour palette. The rug contains the flowers of each of the provinces and territories. It is 25″ x 46″,  and done in #3 and #4 cuts. I had always admired the beautiful even hooking of other hookers, and I think that the quality of Ingrid’s wool, plus the straight line hooking of the oriental style, allowed me, for the first time, to produce that kind of hooking. Again, Rittermere’s provided shading charts for the flowers, so there is very little of my own creativity in this rug.  I was, however, developing a hooking technique I was pleased with.

With the Peony rug not a suitable pattern to hang, I thought this rug might fit the bill. Alas! It is too small, and totally lost on the 18′ height of the stairwell. The wall there remains bare and Canadian Mosiac, although finished, remains stored in a drawer awaiting that special place to hang it.

A Very Old Pattern

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They say ignorance is bliss….and I’ve experienced lots of it while hooking. Particularly with the third rug I started to hook. While I had no hooking friends at this time, I happily shared my efforts with many I knew. My good friend Kerry Koenig was one of these, and she found packed away, a pattern on old burlap. She thought it must have belonged to her mother, although her mother hadn’t been a ‘crafty’ person. It’s true origin remains a mystery. Perhaps someone reading this will recognize the design and shed some light on where it came from, its name or age. The pattern was coloured (painted?) on the burlap.  In any case, she showed it to me and asked if I would like it. Of course I would!

I knew nothing about colour values at that time, and blithely chose medium tones of green, blue, and a medium grey background. Of course the blue and green don’t show up well against the gray. Another lesson learned. Most people would never hook a rug on very old burlap, but in this case my ignorance didn’t bite me (at least not yet). The rug has been on the floor for a number of years and appears hale and healthy.

It too however, had a long shelf life! I ran out of the red for the border, so it was relegated to the closet for about 10 years. When I finally started hooking for ‘real’, about 2005, Sheilagh Klugescheid matched the red for me, and it ended up being one of the first rugs I finished completely.

I’ll tell how I finally became a committed, dedicated rug hooker next post.

ps Kerry passed away of breast cancer several years ago, and I miss her still.

My Second Rug

 I think my timeline was a little garbled in the last post ( I’m not good with remembering dates), so I’ll start by trying to clarify that. I actually took up rug hooking three times. The first time was in the late 1970’s….inspired by my father’s gift. The second time was about 13 years later, inspired by Jeanne Field and the rugs on display at Creative Stitchery. None of the rugs began at those times were completed until my third incarnation as a hooker, about 5 years ago.  

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This post is about my second rug…that is… the one I started second. (edges are still not whipped).

I returned from Creative Stitchery all excited about rug hooking, and anxious to get started. I took several lessons from Helen Wells, a teacher in town, and heard about an active rug hooking group here…but unfortunately they met during the day. I was a school teacher by then, and couldn’t attend the meetings, so I was on my own. Never one to do things on a small scale, I chose this pattern from the Rittermere catalogue. It is called Peony and is 40″ x 60″ . With lots of advice on the phone from Jeanne Field, I ordered the pattern, the wool and a bliss cutter with #3 and #4 cutter heads and got to work. I had intended to use this as a wall hanging in my stairwell, so was disappointed to discover when the pattern arrived, that the flowers didn’t cover the entire rug, and it wasn’t particularly suitable to hang.

The rug came with details for the fine shading, and I loved doing the flowers and stems. I now know not to leave the entire background until the end, and that is my excuse for the sad fate that befell it. That large background is a #4 cut, and a large, boring job. I took it camping in the summer, and never bothered to take it out of the trailer when we returned home. It spent the winter in the bathtub, under a skylight. Much later (during my third incarnation as a rug hooker) after finally finishing the background,  I discovered that the original pale blue was discoloured. I assume it was that winter under the skylight that did it. It is clearly visible in the picture. 

It’s been suggested to me to pull out several inches either side of the demarcation line, mix the wools and rehook it to blur the transition. If anyone else has a suggestion, I’d love to hear it.