Beginning my Dahlov Ipcar Adventure

I found that winding up a series of rather large projects (my Klimt and hall pieces) left me without a major project to be enthused about doing…and that wasn’t a feeling I liked….so….I set about to find another source of inspiration that excited me. I found it in the works of the artist Dahlov Ipcar.

You may not be familiar with the name…but perhaps are with a rug she actually hooked…now known as “tumbling cats”.


I have seen several versions of this piece, loved it, and actually went so far as to enquire about purchasing the pattern. However at the time I was looking for something small as a relief from my hall rugs, and the pattern available was very large…so I passed on it, although I didn’t forget it.

Dahlov Ipcar is 93 years old, and lives and works in Georgetown Maine.


She has written and illustrated over 45 children’s books, as well as paintings, soft sculptures, and large scale murals.


“As a painter during the 1940’s and 50’s, her art was influenced by the prevailing style of Social Realism, but by the 70’s her love of nature, especially jungle animals, led her to..a more fanciful approach….


Intricate patterns and geometric designs gradually became her artistic signature.” (from the biography on her website).

I have never before been inspired to hook animals(Fat Cat excepted), although I’ve admired the work of Elizabeth Black, and more recently the work of Judith Carter (isn’t ‘Eye See You’ fabulous…she’s just finished it…and if you’re a member of ..”The Welcome Mat”…..I’m sure you’ve drooled as you watched it’s progression)….but I digress….

It wasn’t the animals that so caught my eye in Ipcar’s work…..but her fanciful backgrounds.


To me they were just begging to be hooked.

So….off I go on another hooking adventure. My first step was to email her son Bob Ipcar, and get permission to hook my piece. He gave that and suggested I get a copy of her children’s book Black and White. It is out of print, but I was able to secure it from a used book store.

These black and white animals are the source for my hooking, and I will add an Ipcar style background to achieve the colour and impact (at least that’s the plan).


These are the two primary pages I’m using.


I had hoped to use the balck panther, but the scale was larger than the other pages.


I had a multitude of birds to choose from, and made my decisions based on what would fit, and what would translate well with hooking.


I used the zebra from this page.

I made some adjustments, cut out the extra animals and birds I wanted and pasted them on the introductory page of the book, and then set to work.


I drew a grid on the pattern page that is 1″ x 1″ then numbered the horizontal squares, and lettered the vertical one (makes it much easier to locate the squares to draw).

Up from the basement came my marked drawing board  and the diningroom table has once again become my ‘drafting table’.

My assembled picture measured 10″ x 15″, so I took the easy way out, and dec
ided to make the hooking 30″ x 45″. Two major reasons for this….it meant that by drawing a 1″ grid on the picture…it easily translated to the 3″ grid on my drawing board….secondly…I didn’t want to end up with such small details that I would have to hook it in a 3 or 4 cut…I’ll use that for details as necessary, but I want at least a 6 cut to be the major cut of the piece.


I started with the tiger (cause he’s the cutest)…and promptly drew him in the wrong place!!! ARRRG…..he was one set of squares too low (helps if you refer to your own number/letter system before you begin)…but not to be daunted, I carefully cut it out…moved it up a square, and patched in another strip of red dot on the bottom.


I found some parts simple to draw (like the zebra) and some got quite messy before I was satisfied (like the ear of this antelope)


I haven’t figured out yet how I’ll hook the  crown on this chap!


I think these will be tricky.


I’m no artist, and even using the grid system…there are tons of black rub-outs on the red dot. But I’m finally satisfied with the birds and animals. In order to keep the various details straight…I’m going to draw the background lined sections with a coloured pencil, and I’ll use a different coloured marker for them when it comes to the actual transfer onto the linen.

I have no idea whether I can do this…but it is sure going to be fun to try.

12 thoughts on “Beginning my Dahlov Ipcar Adventure

  1. Of course you can do it! You have already conquered a lot of the hardest part! Great job so far! I love what you are creating with Dahlov’s art, and with your hooking expertise it will be wonderful! I will look forward to watching your progress.

  2. I’m excited to see how it all progresses, and look forward to following your journey on the blog. "Tumbling Cats" is about the only rug hooking pattern that I still really, really, really love, more than a decade after seeing it for the first time. For me it’s timeless — and I just hope that I have an opportunity to hook it one day.Good luck….and a very happy new year to you! 🙂

  3. Thanks for the confidence Miz T…I’m about to gain experience dying a variety of blacks and whites in any case!

  4. Tumbling cats had the same effect on me Jen (just not yet over 10 years)…surprisingly..according to Dahlov’s web site ….it is not in the public domain…and permission should be attained for each hooking.

  5. You are always so ambitious! I know it is going to be great! What a wonderful idea, and a really neat book! I am sure their family will be amazed at the final result!

  6. <HTML> <HEAD> <TITLE>Re: [rughooking] Comment on &quot;Beginning my Dahlov Ipcar Adventure&quot;</TITLE> </HEAD> <BODY> <FONT FACE="Calibri, Verdana, Helvetica, Arial"><SPAN STYLE=’font-size:11pt’>Yes – I had heard that sometime in the last year or so. &nbsp;I will definitely get permission prior to hooking! &nbsp;:-) <BR> <BR> <BR></SPAN></BODY></HTML>

  7. It was sure a surprise to me Jen…I just assumed that if a pattern was for sale…it was OK to buy it and hook it!…..guess not.

  8. I too have been impressed with your results…all of them! I like the way you have shown us how you’ve tackled this complicated design. I have written and got permission to copy the Leopard and Tiger painting but wasn’t sure how to go about recreating it. Thanks for your tutorial…I now think I can tackle this too!You are very inspirational!Sheri from St. Louis

  9. That’s great Sheri…I love that pattern…did you see the picture of the original above Dahlov’s bed on her website? Please let me know how you get on with it.

  10. I’m Bob Ipcar’s neighbor, and through him, I’ve met his mother, Dahlov Ipcar. With her appproval–and a licensing agreement–I’ve produced a collection of hand-sewn crewel pillows and rugs based on Mrs. Ipcar’s designs. The next collection, based on Calico Jungle, is in production and will be available in the spring. I’ve also done a line of hand-hooked rugs based on the designs of the Gee’s Bend Quilters. We’ve had a licensing agreement since their blockbuster show at the Whitney Museum. These collections can be seen at One last thing–Mrs. Ipcar recently sold a painting of her bedroom, where she has a rug that I did based on "Celeste," Mrs. Ipcar’s first Dalmatian. It was such a thrill to see my rug in a painting of her bedroom. Happy hooking, Elizabeth!

  11. Thanks for the link to Classic Rug…I really enjoyed seeing your interpretation of her work, especially the dogs from Black and White. Her influence is certainly widespread, and deservedly so.

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