Ordered Pancake (casserole) Dyeing

One of the reasons I so admire Gene Shepherd’s work, is his amazing use of colour. I am instinctively a monochromatic person, but I’m determined to learn, and push the boundaries of my knowledge and imagination regarding the use of colour. I think that’s why I have been rather disappointed with my dyeing to date for Hygieia. It was only variations of two colours. I’ve spent time staring at the details of the painting, and trying to analyse the actual colours in the folds and curves of the fabrics. Then I had to decide how I could merge these colours seamlessly into my hooking, what colours to try, and how to dye them.

I decided to use the pale yellow cashmere jacket I found at Good Will and use the  ‘ordered pancake’ dye technique. By roughly laying the pieces over other wool, I decided I had about a yard of fabric. I re-watched Gene’s video, and set out with my fingers crossed, to create something beautiful (I hoped).


I settled on 6 colours: (all pro chem)  poppy red, red, paprika, raspberry, mahogany, and mustard, and made up a dye bath for each using 1/8 tsp. dye in 1 1/2 cbw….plus a little vinegar in each one.


Since I was using odd shaped pieces from the jacket, I cut the larger pieces to fit my pan, and for the last layers, used several of the smaller pieces in one layer.


With the first layer in the pan, I spooned on the colours in splotches, making sure it was entirely covered.


I did this for each successive  layer, but kept each colour in the same general position each time (raspberry – top right, mahogany – bottom right etc. I added water to the dye baths as I got near the last layers, spooned dye from the edges to help blur the edges, and added a bit of water to the surface, when I wanted it a bit lighter.


I think I had about 10 or 12 layers, but I didn’t count them.


Ray helped me pour off the excess dye, keeping the wool in place so it didn’t slide out of the pan. Then I added white vinegar around the edges, and some water so it wouldn’t boil dry. I covered it with tin foil, and simmered on the stove (I used 2 burners) for 1 hour.


This is what I ended up with…….that’s more like it!

Snow Cleaning my Rug

Last year on Gene’s IRC, there was quite a discussion about cleaning rugs by putting them out in the snow. Apparently this was a tried and true method used long before vacuums were available. It didn’t work though for Cilla Cameron in Nottingham, England. They had quite a snowfall last year and she followed the steps carefully, but her dog simply wouldn’t leave the rug  covered with snow, and yanked it out to play with in the yard. (there are some great pictures in the archives of Gene’s blog)

We certainly have an abundance of snow here in central Ontario, and my dog doesn’t have access to the front yard, so I decided to give it a try.


This rug is on the bedroom floor, and the dog sleeps on it for at least a part of every night (when we won’t leave him enough room to stretch out to his liking), so it certainly could do with freshening up.


I turned the rug up-side-down, and covered it with about 3″ of fresh, clean snow….then left it for about 2 hours. I then shook the snow off, brushed it with a broom and hung it over the banister to dry.


In all honesty, I can’t see much difference, however this rug is less than a year old…so maybe it doesn’t have enough ‘patina’ yet, for the snow to work on. (please excuse the ugly toes…I forgot to crop them out before I posted the picture)

On the other hand, I think I raised the eyebrows of neighbours and passers-by  when they saw this weird lady out burying her rug in the snow on a Sunday afternoon.

My Hook History

Since I’ve been relating the chronology of my hooking, I thought I’d include the progression I’ve gone through in hooks. It reminds me very much of ‘scissors’. (This was one of my pet peeves as a grade one teacher…we give children blunt, dull scissors and try to teach them to cut well with a tool an adult wouldn’t think of using). We start cutting with these basic, non-sharp scissors, and move on as our skills develop to sharper and more accurate ones. Gradually demanding ones designing specifically for particular tasks. I have many pairs now, special ones for a variety of chores…ones for paper, embroidery, fabric, bent handled for hooking, kitchen scissors etc.


The same thing has happened with my hooks. I started hooking with a general purpose Moshimer hook  ( hook number 1 in the picture) which  was included with my first pattern). The ‘scissors’ analogy breaks down here, because the Moshimer hook is an excellent tool unlike children’s scissors. I held it pencil fashion. (I was a teacher after all!) I used that for the first two phases of my hooking. Somehow I now have three Moshimer hooks, and I have no recollection of getting them….I think they must spontaniously reproduce!

After I started hooking with June Baker, I bought a pencil hook (which I have since given away…it was too thick for me and I never found it comfortable) , then got a finer one (hook number 2) which I really liked the feel of and used for quite some time.

As I started hooking more, I gradually began having difficulty with pain at the base of my thumb joint. I bought support gloves , but nothing really helped and I would have to stop hooking for days at a time to let the pain subside and the swelling go down. I mentioned this to a vendor at the ‘Annual’ in Midland a few years ago, and she sold me a hook designed to aid those with arthritis (hook number 3). It has a groove for the thumb to fit against, and she demonstrated it being palm held. It took me some time to convert myself to palming the hook…unless I concentrated, the hook would magically revert to a pencil hold. I found it less painful, but awkward with the shaft out straight, and I had to use a whole arm motion to hook. When I began reading Gene Shepherd’s blog each day, I quickly became aware of his dedication to the bent hook. I was moving to larger cuts, and needed a hook designed for them so I bought Gene’s 6mm bent hook. (number 4 in the picture) What a difference! I was converted. I no longer have pain, and the bent hook allows me to use a rolling motion to hook. The 6mm was a bit large for 5 and 6 cuts, so I purchased a lovely Irish bent hook from Rittermere’s, which I use for medium cuts. … hook number 5

Luise Bishop heard me talking one day about wishing I had a fine bent hook. She whipped out a little gadget (actually a small piece of wood with a hole drilled in it) inserted my fine Moshimer hook, and bent it backwards. … I had a  bent hook for fine cuts! (numbers 7 and 8) Hook number 6 had been in my tools box forever…no idea where it came from either. I had never used it because it was bent, and the handle isn’t particularly comfortable. I use it frequently now because the size fits between  the Irish and the Mosimers and it’s handy for adding a small piece for a special effect.

I now have this array of bent hooks which I use according to the cut and the backing. I’m a bent hook convert. (with a pain free wrist)

Double Cross

One of the perks of being a member of Gene Shepherd’s Internet Rug Camp, is the access to free patterns. The first one he posted was “double cross”. It is a very old pattern which has been interpreted in countless versions throughout the years. It was fun seeing the many ways it was hooked by members of the IRG. There were pillows , table runners, and mats,in a wide variety of sizes, cuts and use of the geometric pattern. If they were shown together, it would be difficult to recognize that they all originated from the same pattern. The original is simply a series if interlocking steps arranged to form crosses. By adding some diagonal lines, and colour blocking, this is the version I came up with.


When I first saw the pattern, I must admit it didn’t particularly interest me. However, when I saw Gene using transitional dyed wool to outline with, I thought it was beautiful, and decided to give it a try. Doing transitional dyeing creates wonderful blended colour variations, and is so easy to do….no dye required! As a result, I was able to have the outline move smoothly from colour to colour. I decided that since I loved that aspect of it, I wanted it to be highlighted, so I chose to outline the outline (does that make sense??) with an oatmeal colour so it would stand out against the rest of the rug.


I used monk’s cloth which had pre-marked squares, as a backing. That made drawing the pattern much easier. It is hooked with a #6 cut. I marbelized most of the other wool to marry the colours. It is all straight line hooking, so I had plenty of opportunity to work on my basic hooking technique. I whipped the edges this time without using a binding cord, and whipped right into the binding tape. (another method learned from a Gene Shepherd video) What a lot faster!! Now I might even get all those unfinished rugs bound!

Proddy Centre Piece

I first heard about Gene Shepherd on the Yahoo Rughookers Group, and soon began faithfully reading his daily blog. I became a member of his Internet Rug Camp when it began last January, and  in addition to the daily posts, I now have access to a growing number of videos on many aspects of rughooking. His work embodies the direction I am striving for in my hooking, and I have learned a great deal from him.


For Christmas last year I asked for Gene’s newest book, which is on ‘proddy’. I had admired this 3 dimensional form, but had never ventured to try it. This fall centre piece is featured on the cover, and the pattern and directions for the various flowers are included in the book. It was an excellent introduction to creating a wide variety of proddy flowers…. a workshop in a book!  Creating the wool for the corn was an interesting experience, unlike anything I had tried before- (adding the dye to the wet wool while it was laying out on a table), as was hooking it with increasingly long loops in the centre to create the cob-shape.

It had a place of honour in the centre of my Thanksgiving table this year.

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.


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.