Applying Crewel Embroidery over Hooking

To take some of the starkness away from all the stone work in the arch and flagstones, I decided to add some flowers on top of the finished hooking. As I mentioned in the last post, I had done this once before on an English Cottage tea cozy and really liked the effect (see previous post for photo). With that in mind, I purchased a large ball of variegated wool that moved through pink, to mauve to red purple, to blue….all colours already used in my piece. DSCN1866I rolled off the pink into several small balls of various shades of pink (this is what is left over now that I’m done), then using a blunt ended large needle, I made french knots on top of the hooking to create some window boxes of flowers. I started with a knot on the back, using 3 loops for the french knot, I made the french knots, then knotted the tail on the back  (just as you would in embroidery).  For the leaves, I used a 3 cut of green, hooked large loops amongst the flowers, then cut the loops …….DSCN1834 ………to create the leaves.DSCN1835I made sure the shank of each (french knot) flower was loose enough to let the knot sit comfortably on top of the hooking. By inserting the hook gently between the rows, it’s amazing how much you can add over the hooking.

I wanted a large vine to run up the wall of the arch on the right, but I felt I needed a pattern to follow so it would be balanced and look right……hmmmm…..what could I use? I glanced at the bureau and saw a roll of toilet paper left there after a “kitty mishap clean-up”.  That might work!

I rolled out the length, used a sharpie to gently sketch the vine, and then pinned it in place.DSCN1836

I think you can buy ‘tear away  stuff’ at the fabric store for this sort of purpose, but I’ll bet my solution was cheaper, and readily available.

Many, many years ago, my craft of choice was crewel work. Was there still some crewel wool amongst my stash of supplies? Yes indeed, and I was actually able to find it.DSCN1840I even had a variety of browns to choose from. Using a needle with not such a blunt end, I began making the vine using a chain stitch right over top of the pattern.DSCN1841….. as I progressed, I realized I didn’t have enough of the brown to do the whole vine, so I switched to a split stitch . (doesn’t use nearly as much wool). Actually I liked that stitch better, and wished I’d started with it, but decided not to try and rip out what I’d done. I was afraid that was a recipe for disaster.DSCN1846DSCN1843I think the flowers and leaves will hide the difference in the stitches. It was then a simple matter to rip away  the toilet paper, and use tweezers to take out the small pieces caught in the wool. (you can still see a few pieces near the top that I missed….they’re gone now).

The flowers were once again french knots, this time made with 4 or even sometimes 5 loops on the needle so they would be bigger. I let them  shade over from the pinks into the mauves. DSCN1850

I tried doing individual small prodded leaves, but they frayed trying to pull them through. I removed those and went back to the cut high loops. I found a piece of left over dip dyed wool in a yellow green.DSCN1854…..using a 4 cut I divided the strips in three for light medium and dark leaves, then after pulling them with high loops, I cut them on a sharp angle to make them a little more realistic.DSCN1862

I’ve some final touches to add…some extra brown on the stem to hide the chain stitch loops, and some earth at the base  and a bit wider stem there.DSCN1858

My favourite part is the three dimensional effect of the vine sitting on top of the wall.

So after more than a year  (working on and off) it is done. (I think).  I haven’t decided if I will add a vine on the balcony door…to add or not to add….that is the question! DSCN1865 2…..of course the finishing is next…(my least favourite part of any piece). I’m always mentally planning my next hooking adventure while I do that.

Thanks for stopping by.

Hooking the Buildings

After completing the arch, I was so happy to move on to the buildings visible in the background. Some time ago, inspired by a post by Gene Shepherd on dyeing very pale tints, I dyed a few small pieces of wool in very pale colours and thought these would provide interest for the buildings, but not compete with the women. Before starting I dyed quite a few more, and had these to choose from.DSCN1696

I dyed these in the microwave, since it is so much easier when you are dyeing small pieces. To set the dye, they can then all be simmered together in clear water and vinegar. I started with 1/256th tsp. of dye in 1cbw (cup of boiling water) then often only added a few tbsp. of the solution to the dye bath. (or you could use the wet toothpick method) I made at least two values of each colour, and also included a strip of undyed natural Dorr for edge highlights. (top left) Dyes used  were, clay, mouse grey, golden pear, mahogany, and violet, plus a couple of unknown left overs that I found in my stash.DSCN1683I wanted the roof of this building to appear to be of tile, and mused about the best way to create that impression. I considered using a light plaid and selectively using the strips, I considered separating rows with a tiny (#2) row of black, and finally decided to simply try this light mottled grey, hooking it in straight lines matching each loop carefully all the way down. Ta dah…the simplest solution worked. (love it when that happens)DSCN1686I chose brown and yellow tones for the next building, with a bit of mottled taupe wool for the door and beams. DSCN1690One row of natural helps to highlight the corner of the building. I’m using quite a bit of antigodlin hooking for this ‘stucco’ and I find it harder on my hands. So….a day of no hooking yesterday and the sore finger feels much better. My plan is to use the mahogany tones for the third building (they turned out peachy pink) . I’m not sure how I’ll like that, but I’ll see what happens.

We had our first major snowstorm of the season last night so it’s a good day to stay in, curl up and hook. ….supervised of course by these two.DSCN1680

Thanks for stopping by


Learning as I Go

When I began The Virgins, my excitement and interest was in hooking the figures themselves. I gave very little thought to the background, with only a  variety of hazy ideas as possibilities. DSCN1466

Of course I ended up settling on having the women stand in an arch (see previous posts for details of the decision) and true to my nature, forged blissfully ahead, trusting I could eventually figure out how to do it.

I am very much a visual learner, so there is a lot of trial and error in my hooking. Creating the arch and wall has really been a prime example of that. My last post dealt with figuring out the colours and style of hooking for it and last week I was pulled up short when I realized I had completely overlooked the need for an inside corner where the arch meets the wall. DSCN1498

This meant searching out and looking at the perspective and the angles required for an inside corner,. This was  followed by some loop removal and redrawing of stones. DSCN1507Oops…that corner needs to extend further….DSCN1508

…better, but still not right. That shadow needs to follow the curve of the arch right down. I just realized now as I was writing this and looking at the photo…..that I may have to redo all the stones above the arch as well so that the whole thing doesn’t fall on their heads! (I’m learning some facts about masonry as I go!) Then I’ll have to reverse the whole thing for the other side.

….and I thought doing the figures would be the hard part!

Thanks for stopping by.

PS…after conferring with my resident building expert…I learned that the arch is safe. It gets its strength from the pressure of the walls pressing in from the sides. Whew!…no crushed virgins!

Directional Hooking and Eye Surgery

As I’ve worked on Hijab, I’ve become aware of just how important  directional hooking is when trying to capture the draping of fabric. The hooded section over her head needed care, but when I got to the shoulder, I had to stop and really study the photo to figure out how I could create a realistic effect.  The direction of the hooking had to be combined with the direction of the shading …..which slanted a different way. I took photos of the process so I would have  it for future reference.DSCF6996

The arch needed to gradually flatten out to a straight line at the bottom, while at the same time the dull section on the right needed to be “arrow shaped” DSCF6997


With the hijab itself completed, I could no longer put off making decisions about the face. After lots of thought, I went back to the first face I ever did…Emma Sue. She was hooked at a wonderful workshop I attended given by Anne Boissonoit several years ago. Emma Sue would be my directional guide.DSCF2137

I printed out a copy of her to have in front of me while I hooked, then forged ahead.


It soon became apparent however that I had a major problem!!! (I had noticed it before…but ignored it)….The left eye was too far over to the left…..there was too much space between her eyes.DSCF7003

There was nothing for it….the eye had to come out.DSCF7004

I  carefully laid the removed wool out in the order of the eye, and re-drew it (with a red marker) slightly to the right. Then hooked a new eye (adding more black to the top lid and cutting down the iris).

It’s not a huge change, but to me, it makes all the difference. Now to finish the face while I contemplate how to create that wonderful background.DSCF7008


Winter has arrived in central Ontario. It has been snowing all day today, and is to continue most of the week. The snow boots are out, the snowblower is working, the trees are etched with white, and I’m settling in to enjoy my winter wonderland.

Thanks for stopping by.

R.U.G. October 2014 and Finishing Signa Meus Vita

Normally I come home from R.U.G. with tons of photos and lots to tell, but this time I’ve failed misreably! I was only there for about an hour, and nearly all the “show and tell” rugs had been removed. Just these two beautiful roosters remained!



(whoops….just now noticed the painted toes!)

It was a perfect time  for shopping however with a number of great vendors there.




I had worked diligently on Friday to have Signa Meus Vita completed to show, but alas, it wasn’t to be….so I’ll “show and tell” the completion story here!

Anyone who follows this blog on a regular basis knows that I have a “love/ hate ” relationship with my sewing machine. I had decided I wanted a padded show binding for the Signa piece, which meant sewing a perfect seam along the edge of my hooking to attach the slub silk to the edge. Knowing that this task, if not impossible for me, would at least risk another case of heart failure, I turned to my friend Jeanne, (a master hand quilter and expert with all things having to do with sewing), and begged her to sew the seam for me .


Here she is wearing one of her quilted creations at the ploughing match.

To my surprise and delight, when she returned it, she had completed the entire show binding!!! To say I was thrilled was an understatement….sewn, padded and hand sewn underneath.DSCF6870

She didn’t sew down the mitres at the corners, leaving it for me to decide if I’d rather leave them open. All that remained was for me to sew and attach the tabs for hanging and steam or press the binding (which I haven’t done yet)


Don’t you love it when a vision in your mind comes into reality? Especially when you are helped out by one of the generous and skilled members of your “hooking family”. Thanks so much Jeanne.

Borrowing an Idea

Signa Meus Vita is now steamed and lies flat and ready for the next step……the finishing.  (the variations in the background are not nearly as extreme as the photo makes them seem.)DSCF6775

The steaming itself presented a bit of a problem because of the “silk tears”. I didn’t want them to be squashed down , so I very carefully worked around them with the iron. However there were spots where they were too close together for me to steam the hooking and avoid them.  Luckily I found that if I quickly flipped the piece over and puffed the silk up with my fingernail, no harm was done.DSCF6778

They still stood nicely above the hooking.

The decision needed now was how to finish the edges. I knew i didn’t want a border, a whipped edge, or a frame. I want it to be a “hanging” as in “tapestry” style, as opposed to a framed “picture”. … on Tuesday at our first fall meeting of Sunshine Rug Hookers, I sat down with Cynthia (one of the most creative people I know), to ask her advice on how she had finished a rug I had seen and admired.

This picture of it doesn’t do it justice, but you can see the effect of the beautiful slub silk border, which has been lightly padded.


….so with her information in mind I headed off to Fabricland, and found this beautiful slubbed silk which perfectly recreates the picture I had in my mind


….once again the colours aren’t true….they go together very well in reality.

….as I said to Cynthia, I’m nervous to start the edging procedure, so I’m procrastinating by writing a blog about it instead. The plan is to create a type of “show binding” by cutting  bias strips of the silk which will be lightly padded with a small strip of quilt batting . ….just have to get up the nerve to start..

I’ve been hooking a bit more on “Dream Big” …less than two weeks now to the Ploughing match, so I should have some left to hook while demonstarting.DSCF6788Thanks for stopping by.


Don’t Do As I Do

Yes. My ugly habit of “packing” has reared its ugly head once again. It looks so beautiful while stretched tightly on the frame, but take it off and hang it up and it has buckles and bows in it that weren’t meant to go on shoes! For anyone who wonders what “packing” is…it’s pulling either the loops or the rows too closely together so that the hooking doesn’t lie flat when it is off the stretched frame. This can usually be corrected with a good steaming, but I want to fix most of it by re-hooking the problem areas.


So after slapping myself on the wrists since I should know better, I’ve been fixing it as I continue to hook the background. In this photo I’ve already adjusted the scroll of the cancer sign, but there is still buckling in other areas, as you can see.

When I hooked this section of the background and hung it up, I wasn’t pleased with the outcome (quite apart from the packing). Let me back up and explain. I’m very much a visual learner. (which surprised me when I discovered it, because I have spent the majority of my life as a singer and vocal teacher.)….but I am not an auditory learner, I learn primarily by seeing. That’s why, many of my hooking decisions are made after I hang my piece and look at it for a period of time. I had been merrily hooking away on an echo background, letting the echos merge where they would….but in  this part, the background was all wrong…..whereas this part….DSCF6707

….the background was right. As I looked at it I realized that what I liked was the rippling out effect from the main body of symbols….It seemed to add life and vitality to what symbolically  was me. Now my hooking of the background is no longer without specific direction, and I will redo large parts to enhance that ripple effect.

These two supervise my every move and were obviously disgusted with my packed hooking…..Hopefully they’ll approve of the finished version a little more.


Thanks for stopping by.

A Palette but no Plan


There was a fatal flaw in my colour choices for my Signa Meus Vita piece. I hadn’t thought about the fact that it is made up of a small number of large elements, and that didn’t leave options for enough repetition. My poor brain has been spinning this past week on how to place them.


At this point I was blissfully unaware of the problem.


I liked the bottom part, but the big blob of raspberry didn’t fit…..and all together it made me cringe….DSCF6613

….so it has been a great learning experience. While I loved this…DSCF6605

…….my piece with it’s large elements just didn’t translate to create anything like this . So back to the drawing board.

I reduced the colours in the palette…..removed the peach and the raspberry altogether, which allowed for more  repetition of the five colours I had left. I took the blue and dyed it very dark and used that for the central spider element…..something to anchor everything else.



I went around in circles for days trying to come up with the best way to locate the colours, and finally just added a strip to each element in a possible colour to give me some idea of the outcome.  I make up my mind, then I think of something that I feel would look better, so I change my mind…..then the process repeats!!!!!  Yikes.

… the meantime….I thought the tears might look effective with something sparkly. I have a great gold ropey thread that would work well if I could find it in silver. Of course my local fabric store didn’t have that, but I found a fine sequin rope that I thought might be very effective. Well I was wrong again!DSCF6609

…after tugging the sequins through the backing, they wouldn’t all lay face up, so the effect was lost. (as well as the shape).

…attempt #2 at the tears…I was able to acquire part of a beautiful silk shirt that had been from Hilda Hayes’ stash. (I loved that I would have a symbol of that dear lady in my “symbolic” piece.)


The photo doesn’t show it but the silk has a lovely shine.


….so here it stands to date. I want to redo the green twist on the right….I don’t like the way I’ve manipulated the shading, and it’s too fat…..and I’m debating the possibility of replacing all the lilac with peach, since it also seems very subdued….who knows how it will end up!

Tweaking and Making Cake

I’ve heard many people say that hooking hands is difficult. Now I agree. My first effort sure didn’t please me, so I resorted to my usual route when I’m not happy with my work….I hang it up and look at it for a few days. DSCF6257 The easy part is figuring out what’s wrong….the hard part is figuring out how to fix it! The choppy angles looked silly. My first inclination was to take out parts of the hand to smooth it out, but eventually, instead, I added more black.( I wanted to keep the hand knobby and chubby overall) DSCF6265 I’m still not completely happy with it, but I’ve moved on for now. Somehow when I transferred the writing from the cake to the top, the” ? “at the end became an” ! ” I didn’t even notice it at first, and when I eventually did, my first reaction was  just to leave it. DSCF6217 But it really does change the impact. Canadians are well known (and made fun of) for their  frequent use of “eh ?” at the end of a phrase, and the “interrogative uplift of the voice” is very distinctive. I tried to fix it by just removing the top part of the “!” and inserting a hook, but eventually took it all out and replaced it.

DSCF6269 Now it is truly a Canadian phrase.

I made two adjustments to my pattern by shortening his right thumb, and bending the tines of the fork over to make it more realistic…..then I started on the cake itself. (not sure what kind this is) DSCF6266 …and the candle. DSCF6267 Hooking with a #2 cut has its own challenges. First, many wools don’t have a tight enough weave to hold together when cut this small, (so my choices are limited), and the loops are so narrow that they “flop” somewhat and must be snuggled up closely to another row of hooking. There are fixes to come with the candle flame. My dilemma?…my black cashmere is by far the best to hook with in a #2 cut, but it is too strong for many places……decisions, decisions…..

I’m waiting for my order of Dorr natural to arrive….I’m going to try mixing the natural and the white in the background and see how it looks.  DSCF6271

A lazy Sunday afternoon stretches ahead. It’s cloudy and raining, so I plan to hook and watch the Blue Jay Game, then Ray and I are going out for dinner. Spring has finally arrived (well our version of it)….the snow is melting (and the basement has water in it of course)…. there are actually some Snow Bells sticking up their heads, and the garden centres are opening and have boxed pansies already available. We’ll be sure to have one last “kick at the cat” snowfall….  but I’ve actually been out twice without my snow boots on. Yeah!!!!

Hairy Chores

I spent the weekend with one “hairy” chore and expect to spend the week ahead with another one.

Hooking Sir John’s untidy mop was both fun and a challenge. I used the original cartoon as a general guide, then went my own way. The challenge was to get the movement, and yet not have it look stripy. to have some “clumps” but have them still look like hair.


I put very little detail into the pattern of the hair  when I drew it….just a general outline as a guide, and I began blindly by hooking a few black lines.


….then adding a variety of greys. I found that even a #2 cut black was very strong, so on the left side I changed the black out for a dark grey


Before starting the right side, I drew in some extra detail , then started with the black lines, and filled in the rest.

I used quite a variety of greys to get the effect of the hair.


Along with a bit of white, these are the wools I used. ( note…the wool 2nd and 4th from the left is all one piece, and I didn’t use the section that has a greenish cast.  Another chore was to select greys of the same tone)


Done….with the exception of changing the black at the bottom of the left side. It sticks out, so I’ll redo those lines in a finer cut of dark grey. (I think they must be #3 not #2).

Now my subject for the second hairy chore won’t likely be quite so cooperative!

DSCF6167 DSCF6169

Under all this mess is a standard schnauzer. Poor Baxter. I haven’t groomed him all winter. He’s 12 years old now and beginning to feel the cold, so I decided to let his coat get long. I strip his coat by hand, so we have many hours ahead on the grooming table. Not terrific  fun for either of us, but I’m sure there is a handsome dog somewhere under all that hair, and I’m determined to find him!