Lessons Learned

A couple of posts ago I opened with this statement…..”I love this part of the rug hooking process…the getting it all ready part. The pattern is decided upon and now the fun begins.”  WHAT WAS I THINKING!

Oh the unsuspected trials and tribulations ahead of me at that time…..but “Oil on Water” is now finally underway, and I can laugh about its rocky start.   For sure I have learned lots along the way. DSCN0399

It finally makes me happy.

So here’s my list of lessons learned (or maybe…mistakes made).

The first thing I learned is that when joining two pieces of backing with the cut edges on the sides, there is only one way to be sure that you have the exactly the same width (i.e. number of ditches) for both top and bottom……you have to count them.DSCN0362I marked them at every 10th ditch. (and had to take a break several times so I didn’t go blind) ….there were nearly 800 ditches across each side. …but it allowed me to continue the side edge lines knowing that they were even.No big deal for a small piece, but when your rug is five feet across….that’s a lot of ditches to count.  DSCN0366

Then I basted the two pieces together very carefully matching all my 10 ditch markers (I’ll eventually cut off the edges sticking up), set up the pattern and backing on the light table, turned on the lights….and discovered to my horror…….you can’t use a light table when the pattern is too dark or when it is blown up so large that the edges become blurry. It simply didn’t show through clearly enough to draw. At that point I walked away for a day or two (that was lesson two).

Back to the drawing board (literally). When I was ready to tackle it again, I drew a grid on one of my photocopies of the pattern…DSCN0369

…..dividing it in eighths up and down, and quarters side to side, then drew the same grid ratio on my backing.DSCN0370I made no attempt to draw the details of the whole pattern, but drew freehand the major points of the circles and ‘flames’, using the grid as a positional reference point.  ( and my friend Jean belatedly said….”I wondered why you didn’t do that in the first place”…I’m a slow learner Jean). That was lesson number three……ask your friend Jean ahead of time.

I thought I would use the photo as a guide, and simply fill in the details free form as I went. There are lots of hookers who do this so successfully, often not using a pattern  at all.

But guess what?  Not me. (lesson number four) I tried it (I didn’t take a photo since I hated it immediately), and I thought it was ugly. I didn’t like the colours, and I didn’t like the form, I had no idea where to go next….. Again I walked away for a couple of days and even entertained the thought that perhaps I couldn’t do this rug. I’m just not a ‘free form hooker’ but I guess I’m a stubborn hooker. I’ve known the joy of looking at something I’ve hooked and had my heart swell with pleasure, and I was determined to figure it out.

The first positive step was solved with the  dyeing (which was the subject of the last post). I would use 3 or 4 even shades of each colour. I could use the small dip dyes by cutting them in thirds, and further dyeing I would do with the lazy swatch method. DSCN0397

(I kept the dip dye pieces in order to make a smooth transition  using double sided tape on the ruler).

Now how was I going to hook it so that I was happy with the result. I felt it needed mostly directional hooking to achieve the movement of the oil and water, with smooth sweeping curves. I’m just not artistic enough to do that without a guide. Yesterday I came up with a solution that I think will work for me. Using a black coloured pencil, I sketched the outlines of just the grid square I was working on, making and drawing adjustments as necessary, and not making a heavy line until I was satisfied that it would work.

So here it is once again (I’m using an 8 cut)…..what I’ve done to date, and I’m finally happy with the result.

DSCN0399Just to put the size in perspective…..(and you’ll notice the shape  is representational not exact)DSCN0310….I have hooked the medium sized circle highest up on the left and there will be considerable background beyond this photo….

Now for a day of hooking and watching the finals of the “Scotties”. I hope for great curling and happy hooking.

Thanks for stopping by.


Redistributing Dye

“Redistributing dye” is just a fancy way of saying “fixing” a dyeing mistake, and that’s what I’ve been doing today. The mistake part is not the fact that it turned out wrong, but rather that I dyed my wool the wrong way, and now I’m hoping to fix it.

I often dye my wool to be intentionally ‘blotchy’ which gives me movement, and highlights in my hooking. I do that by adding 1/2 of the dye solution to the dye bath, and then after the wool has taken a lot of that up, I spot the rest of the dye over the top , mixing minimally. This particular wool turned out to have very strong ‘splotches’ because without thinking of the result, I added the vinegar to the dyes in the mixing cups, so it was taken up very quickly without dispersing very far.DSCN0390

I dyed several pieces for my ‘oil on water’ with this method, BUT discovered when I started hooking, that I needed a smooth even colour to create the right effect.   So now I am hoping to remedy that mistake to make my 1/2 yard of wool usable.

The first step is to try and remove some of the dye. To do that I simmered my wool in a dish soap solution (or whatever you use to open the wool prior to dyeing).DSCN0391It took about an hour before the water was significantly coloured with the released dye.

Then I removed the wool, added a glug of vinegar to the water(or citric acid if you prefer), then reintroduced the wool and stirred it to make sure the dye was evenly taken up…..the result is not perfectly even, but much better.

The second fat quarter I did the same way, but since I wanted it darker than the first, I added 1/32 tsp of dye in 1 CBW to the dye bath along with the vinegar before I put the wool back in the pot. (they are both deeper and evener than this photo shows)DSCN0396

My initial foray into dyeing for this rug was a little more successful (but not much). It was intended as a ‘test run’ of colours. I prepared 1/8th yard strips of natural and oatmeal and dip dyed them using the microwave method.DSCN0380This involves adding boiling water to a microwave safe bowl (designated for dyeing only) , adding the dye bath with vinegar added as well, and dipping the wool immediately in the very hot water. When satisfied with the intensity, finish with 5 minutes in the microwave. I find this is an easy way to dye small amounts of wool quickly. To set the wool, simmer on the stove in clear water for 1 hour. DSCN0385

While I can use all of this wool, I now realize that Gene Shepherd’s ‘lazy swatch’ method will give me the best wool colours for this rug. This involves adding pieces of the wool to the dye pot at about 30 second intervals to create, light, medium and dark versions of the same colour.

Don’t you love that vibrant pink in the centre? It’s Pro Chem Rhodamine red, a new dye (for me) that  just arrived in the mail. I’m not sure yet how much (if any) I’ll dare to use, but I sure like looking at it.

Thanks for stopping by.

20th Women’s Day Art Show

This past weekend was a busy one in our little city. With temperatures hovering in the minus 20’s, We hardy Central Ontarians enjoyed activities of both a sporting and artistic nature.

On an outdoor theme, our winter carnival featured (among many other activities), ice bowling on the lake, a huge snow slide down the hill on the main street, and a polar dip in the  frigid waters of Lake Couchiching.CbM0gtkW4AAMszH

Meanwhile the Arts community was treated to three openings. At OMAH (the Orillia Museum of Art and History) the very popular Women’s Day Art Show opened, as well, an exhibit called HERself   featuring various women of Orillia who have been exemplary in their community contributions,  and across the street at the Peter Street Fine Arts Gallery and Studio,  The Singing Heart Studio opened  a Fibre Art Show entitled “Mentors and Students” featuring hooked rug creations  by several well known local hooking artists as well as several new to the art form.

This was the 20th annual Women’s Day Art Show, and this year the theme reverted to the same one used the first time it was held “Women’s stories”. 140 artists from our area have  displayed their art encompassing a wide range of media.

DSCN0336The crowd was large….and taking unimpeded photos was difficult. I’ll be back when it’s not so busy, but I did manage to get pictures of most of the fibre art examples.

Five of the Sunshine Rug Hookers have a piece on display.DSCN0361

This is Mary’s delightful and fanciful “Garden Story”.

DSCN0339Cheri’s free standing hooked piece entitled “Becoming My Mother” , created by crocheting as a base, and then hooking into the crocheting. (I waited in vain for the lady in the black coat to move so that I could get a better shot)


Gail’s wonderful and imaginative creation uses a wide variety of fibres and unexpected shapes. I did read the story, but I plead over stimulation in that the details have completely left my brain.

Cynthia’s  work is about three feet tall….lightly stuffed…and completely endearing.


It is her grandmother, who was born in Newfoundland and died in 1938 when Cynthia’s mother was only 13. She is holding a photo which helped reveal a side of her that her daughter (Cynthia’s mother) had never seen following the tribulations of the Great Depression. This photo became very precious to both daughter and granddaughter and is now a treasured part of the family history.DSCN0333My “Sigma Meus Vita” is familiar to readers of this blog, but is making its first public appearance. …..intertwined symbols from around the world which are significant in my life.DSCN0335

My friend Sandi even managed to take a picture which I could use as a profile picture on Facebook. (I’m wearing my Cheri Hempseed necklace of my sister and myself…a treasured keepsake).

Other fibre art examples include…this arresting panel depicting where the artist has lived:

DSCN0352In Saskatchewan (represented by the wheat fields)DSCN0353Alberta….and its spectacular mountains…DSCN0354Amidst the icy splendour of The North west Territories….DSCN0355

….the vivid colours of Australia’s sky…(sorry about the shadow of my head)DSCN0356

and finally the beautiful water and rocks of OntarioDSCN0358

Each artwork is accompanied by some sort of comment or explanation  written by the artist.

Some meanings are self evident….DSCN0351DSCN0360Some are explained by the artist….as this on the role of motherhood…DSCN0359….or this self portrait in wire and metal…


….while others remain an enigma….DSCN0349….which even after reading the story, my simple brain does not really comprehend, although I can fully appreciate the artistry.

I’ll be back to the museum to spend some quiet time with many more of these Women’s Stories. I hope you’ve enjoyed this tiny glimpse of a wonderful art show.

Thanks for stopping by.


I love this part of the rug hooking process…the getting it all ready part. The pattern is decided upon and now the fun begins.


The first step was to enlarge my photo. My original is 3″ x 5″ and it will be the basis for my 5′ x 7′ rug.  There are a number of ways to achieve this and I chose the very easiest. I took my little picture to a copy shop and had it enlarged to 48″ x 80″  .  That’s not the size of the rug, but the background can then easily be extended to the required  60″ x 84″ with 6″ extra background on each side, and 2″ extra at top and bottom.

DSCN0324Here was the first glimpse I had of it  down on the living room floor.  (you can see how tiny the original was)

It quickly became apparent that my arthritic knees wouldn’t let me work on it there, so, Ray came to the rescue once again. He  quickly created a 5′ x 8′ table top for me to work on, and donated his workroom for the process . That made it much easier to do the required measuring and drawing for the edges. Well as you can see he has momentarily taken it over, but he has promised to remove the carpentry tools as soon as I need it again.DSCN0331

Preparing the backing was a bit complicated. I had ordered three yards of rug warp a couple of months ago, with this project as a vague possibility in my mind. When I made the decision to go ahead with it, I discovered that the hall rug was larger than I’d thought, and the rug warp was narrower than I remembered. . Three yards wasn’t enough! After a day spent making diagrams and looking at options which wouldn’t require importing extra wide rug warp from the states, I figured out a way forward.  My friend JoAnne Harris from “Wool Gathering” quickly came to my rescue with a swap of my three yards for the required four yards. The very next day she personally delivered it to my door no less . (unheard of personal service since we live 100 km. apart) A thousand thank you’s to her!!

I had determined that by splitting the 4 yards of backing into two 2 yard pieces, and putting them side by side, It would work perfectly. I would however have to hook the two sections together. I saw Cheri Hempseed do this with a large rug a few years ago, and a quick call to her confirmed how she had done it.

Leave about a two inch overlap and simply hook through the two pieces of backing for that section. DSCN0332`To make sure that I could hook through two pieces of rug warp at once, I did a little test strip, and it worked just fine. I think using a hook with a wide shank (I use a 6mm hook when working with an 8 cut)  easily opens the holes wide enough to lift the wool strip through. I will baste the two pieces together when the time comes. For the initial hooking stages, it will be much easier to handle in two sections

In the meantime…..I started thinking about the wool I’d need….lots of wool!  With 5 times the coverage, I’ll need about 19.5 square yards of wool in total.  (my little note book is full of diagrams and mathematical calculations already for this rug) and I’ll need at least 10 yards of background.DSCN0326

So while I’ve been gradually working on preparing the pattern itself, I’ve been gathering a  variety of plaids and textures from my stash to use for the background. I started my dyeing with the blues. I chose three colours of blue dye….brilliant blue, national blue and navy, (all Pro Chem) I used 1/8th tsp of each in 1 CBW, and added vinegar to each cup. I put 1/2 of the navy in the pan of simmering water, added the wool and gradually spotted everything else over the top. That batch is lighter than I want for most of it, so the next time I used 1/4 tsp of each colour . Since most of it is recycled wool, many of  the pieces are irregular shaped but  I guess each batch was about 1 yard.DSCN0330

So here I am with blue tinged finger nails, and hands tender from scrubbing off the dye stains, but I’ve got a small stack of beautiful blues . It’s a start, but I can’t wait to try other colours as well. (I see some mahogany in my immediate future).

I’ll get to actually drawing the pattern on the backing soon. I’ve still got some details to sort out , mostly concerning the overlap section.

Thanks for stopping by.