Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A New Blog Friend.


A wonderful thing happened last nite.

I found a comment posted on my blog entry yesterday and followed a trail that led me to Sunnie Andress, a folk artist in Vermont. She is a hooker, but also an amazing folk artist who works in many different media. Her website features many pictures of her amazing farm and the wildlife and snowscapes she captures. It is also filled with inspiring images of her work.

I visited her blog and left a couple of notes. I also visited her website and then sent her an email. I really do feel as if I have made a new friend. I have added her blog to my "sites I like" and if you have time, please go visit. She is doing the same on hers.

When someone leaves a comment on your blog, it's a bit like finding a gift at your door. It's a delightful surprise and it forms an instantaneous connection. In this world of internet doors, and the little gifts you find, there is invariably a journey that goes with the gift.

Sunnie's blog and website have postings from people from all around the world. It is fascinating to see what they have to say and to follow the links to their part of the world.

Thanks to the internet, it's easy to travel and meet people. I hope I get a chance to meet some of these new virtual friends. Who knows, we may just end up finding one another in the real world.

If I make my way to Vermont, I will definitely try to find Sunnie.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Home Stretch.


I always thought this was such an optimistic expression. No matter what activity or undertaking, whether a 10K walk, a 19-month renovation or a many-hundred hour Oriental rug, it is a thrill to be able to utter those three words.

This weekend seemed to be filled with "home stretches". As you can see from the picture of the rug, I have only a few inches left of border background, and a couple of motifs that I hooked around. But after that, just a few rows of outlining, then whipping and creating fringe and this wonderful work of art is completed.

I am thrilled with the results. And I am pretty sure that my daughter will cherish this rug for years to come. If not, I will just have to take it back. (You can do that with your offspring.) And, as per my previous blog entry, it has actually inspired me to do another Oriental, despite my initial misgivings.

The other occasion to use those three words this weekend was at the cottage.
Yes indeedy - we did our walk through with the contractor on Sunday and we said them out loud. Just a few little tweaks with the electrician, a couple of drywall pops and we are finished.

Here again, we are thrilled with the results. And I’m positive we will cherish our new space for years to come, once my husband recovers from his severe case of renovation fatigue. For me, renovating is like childbirth. It is excruciatingly painful while you are in the throes of it, but the prize at the end is so wonderful that the memory of all that pain is gone very quickly. And you gradually do forget and then turn around and go through the whole thing all over again.(Who was it who said that if our husbands were the ones doing the delivery, there would be a lot more single children. Agreed.)

So, I’m very happy to be on the home stretch on both of these time intensive, emotional journeys. It's interesting that they have coincided somewhat. Not sure why that happens, but it seems to.

And we all know what comes immediately after the home stretch?

You guessed it. "What next???"

Monday, February 18, 2008

Oriental Rugs with Punch


As I approach the finish line on my little Oriental, I have found, much to my surprise, that I am already thinking about my next one. With that in mind, I did a search on the Internet last week for "Oriental Rug Patterns" and found this website www.orientalrugsdesigns.com.
It's a punch needle site with a very large inventory of authentic Oriental rug designs which have been lovingly reproduced with historic authenticity. The patterns are available in kits, or on their own. There is a great variety of styles - something for every taste. There are traditional prayer rugs and some contemporary pieces as well. Many are quite large, which is what I am looking for in my next rug.
They use a backing that allows rug makers to punch without a frame, so their rugs are very portable. The kits include the wool yarn required to complete the designs, and although they offer the palettes shown in the patterns, you can create your own combination.
There is a very comprehensive "how to" section on the site, which is wisely protected from being copied by every person who visits. Everything from learning to hook with a punch needle to creating the crocheted edge and fringe for your rug.
I like quite a few of the patterns on the site, so I decided to contact them and find out if you could hook them in the traditional style. Julie, who responded to my email, said that she had only done punch needle hooking, so she wasn't sure. But, by joining the site, I was entitled to a sample of the backing, which I would be able to try to hook with wool strips.
It arrived within 2 days of my signing up, along with a handwritten note from Julie and a catalogue of the rugs I had seen on the website. She had punched the small area you can see in the top of the picture, leaving the bottom row untrimmed so I could see what the yarn loops looked like before shearing.
The backing easily permitted a 4 cut, so I tried a 5 and you can see that both worked well. The backing feels like a heavy rug warp to me, but has a really nice heft to it and you can see why a punch needle hooker wouldn't need a frame. I sent a note back to Julie to let her know how I made out, and she told me that she had quite a few people ask, so this was good information for her to be able to pass on.
Several aspects of the punch needle hooking appeal to me. I like the "no frame" part. I also like the fact that the patterns come hemmed so that you can hook right out to the edge and then just put your masterpiece on the floor when you are done. I guess my next decisions are which pattern to choose and whether to use wool strips on a frame, wool strips not on a frame or yarn as per the punch needle kits.
Once again, the Internet has provided me with a delightful surprise. I feel like Forrest Gump with his "life is like a box of chocolates - you never know what you're going to get". This search was a delicious suprise. A new site for my favourites. A bevvy of patterns. Another nudge towards punch needle hooking (more inspiration to try the hook I bought nearly two years ago) and a new e-pal in Julie.
Go visit her site if you have time. You won't be disappointed.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

True Blue


Yippee! My new blue (bottom) is pretty much dead on the old blue (top). And not too much tinkering was needed to get it there. I did have to do one more abrash than I had planned, since it was a bit lighter. But in the end, when it was dry, cut and mixed in with the other strips, you can't tell the difference.

Feeling confident, I then proceeded to overdye and abrash a light ochre value that I had dyed and never used in the rug. And this was equally as successful. I even anticipated that the original colour had a bit less bottle green in it, so added that to the abrash forumula - and eureka - it's a match.

I guess this dyeing thing is like everything else in life. Practice makes perfect. And as long as this isn't going to be the last rug you ever hook, you will find a place for all the little "accidents" you create.

In addition to feeling much more confident about my dyeing prowess, I have discovered something else about myself. Despite earlier indications that this would be the one and only Oriental rug I would ever hook, I find myself looking at larger ones. I guess the richness and sheer splendour of these masterpieces is enough to win over a dyed-in-the-wool primitive hooker.

Who knew.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

We have a winner!


Sorry for the delay in getting to this post - a rather crazy week. And sorry to repeat the same picture from a few posts ago, but it is the star of the post.

The Hook In was a huge success, despite the crazy weather. Just like the postmen, neither sleet nor snow nor dark of night will keep a hooker from a Hook In. I think we had more people than last year. And the people coming from the north made it there in record time - including all the vendors.

The turnout was a combination of veteran hookers and a few novices. I am happy to report that many of Elaine and my new eager beaver hookers were there, and I think they totally enjoyed the day.

Our guest speaker, Barb D'Arcy was a huge success, telling stories about more than 20 of her rugs. I had the distinct pleasure of introducing her and thanking her. What a body of work she has created. She definitely illustrated how each and every rug is a piece of your life. She had everything there from primitives to Orientals, to fine-shaded florals, original designs - no category left untouched. I think that every person in the room was duly inspired by her.

The day flew by and before we knew it, it was time to draw for the prize of the day - the rug. I am thrilled to announce that one of the tickets I sold was the winner! My friend Gaye, whom I have known since I was a kid in Fredericton, won. She was, as the Brits so aptly say, gobsmacked!! I couldn't believe it either. Of all the people to whom I sold tickets, she was perhaps the cat craziest of all - followed closely by my sister Nancy and my friend Cyndy. The rest of the ticket holders were more than happy to support the cause, but probably wouldn't have appreciated the feline subject matter quite as much as these three.

It really added to the excitement, having the winner at the event. Much more fun than having to make a phone call to someone to tell them they had one. We took a picture of the rug, the winner, and the ticket seller - me. I will post it once I get a copy from someone.

And the Rug Museum of North America is a winner as well. Thanks to the support of everyone who bought a ticket, we surpassed our goal of $1,000 by over $400. So, we will be sending a big fat cheque their way.

How much fun it is to bring everyone together on a winter's day to share stories and show rugs in progress. What a way to chase the February blahs. I sure feel like a winner just for having been there.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Unbridled enthusiasm.





My friend Elaine and I are halfway through a four-night “Introduction to Rug Hooking Workshop” which we are co-teaching at a local community centre.

This is our second attempt to get this workshop off the ground. The first time, we didn’t get the 8 people needed to run the class. This time, we had an enthusiastic and robust registration. In fact, when we turned up on our first night, we found out we had 12 students - 2 more than we were expecting. Luckily, we had one extra kit and one spare pattern, so we managed to pull together materials required for these surprise students. (Lesson learned: always have extras of everything, especially when you are not controlling registration.)

From the very first night, there was great chemistry in the room. There was an interesting range in age. A few students came in pairs, but mostly they were women who didn’t know one another, many from the neighbourhood, eager to try this new art form. The pulling of loops quickly brought them all together and encouraged lively discussion around the table.

The sampler we created for this beginner workshop is designed so that the students can hook one shape each week. Spreading the shapes over four weeks provides ample hooking time in class plus allows us to teach some theory each week. And the students can use the week between classes to finish each shape before moving on to the next one.

By the time everyone came back for the second class, many had moved well past the first shape. Some had all four done and were ready to start on their borders.

I remember being told that in any group of students, there is this rule of thirds: 1/3 of your students will become rabid hookers and will adopt hooking as their true passion; 1/3 will add it to their menu of art forms and come back to it from time to time, and 1/3 will not pick it up again after the class is finished.

Our little dozen appear to defy the formula. In fact, I believe we are 12 for 12, which is pretty amazing. Although it is still early in the process, I have a feeling that we have at least two thirds - if not three thirds who will stick with this new found love.

The real eager beavers are coming to our Hook in tomorrow, since we told them there would be vendors there. They are stoked to buy a pattern and the supplies they need to start a bigger project.

How wonderful is that!