Monday, March 30, 2009

Prep Time

This weekend was a mish mash of prep time projects. This image shows three patterns and the wool to hook them, which I prepared partly on Saturday and partly on Sunday.

My pal Elaine and I are starting a new teaching stint in her fabulous new basement studio on Thursday night and I have a couple of new hookers who each needed a pattern. So, I got those ready and did a colour plan and cut everything and put them into these neat little cases from the Dollarama.

The third box is a little name sign for a friend who just built his new dream home in Haliburton. I have been following the trials and tribulations of the journey, and acting a bit as a buffer - since our renovation experience is still a bit fresh in my mind. (It does take a long time to recover, you know.)

I also trimmed Totem 40 to get it ready for the 3rd and final whipping, and I serged a couple of other pieces of rug warp to get them ready for patterns.

At the end of all this prep, my little hooking room looked like a torpedo had been fired into it. I guess I had opened every case looking for wool and came to the realization that my filing system for wool needed a complete overhaul. So, I refiled everything in what I hope is a more intuitive fashion. And then went on to file all my "worms".

So prep and post-prep time ended up taking most of the weekend, leaving very little time for hooking. However, on the sunny side of this, my wool is now better organized - the big pieces, the small pieces, and the worms. And my little space is tidier than when I started.

Plus, I'm ready for my new students on Thursday and it's not even Wednesday night yet.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Inspired Progress

In my typical ADD fashion, I have spent my week flitting from project to project - variety truly is the spice of my life.

In doing so, I have completed the background behind the lettering of this wonderful Deanne Fitzpatrick pattern. Earlier in the week, I cropped my likeness to use as a new icon photo on The Welcome Mat. Of course my trusty friend Jennifer Manuell noticed right away and asked to see the rest of the progress - so here it is.

The blue in the background is a wonderful colour which, in fact, Jennifer gave to me. I thought I had plenty of it - famous last words. Not by a long shot. So, I ended up mixing in some ribbon yarn and regular yarn which has given it some interesting texture. The thing about doing a background behind lettering is that you can't create too much texture, or you start to jeopardize the legibility of the words. I think this strikes a balance.

I hooked a bit more last night on the left frame border, which will be quickly finished. I am really liking the colours in this mat. They are as inspiring as the words and quite a bit brighter than my usual palette.

The last big decision will be what to put in the bottom of the pattern - what will be the image in the rug being hooked? Rather than hooking the Deanne houses that are in the pattern, I have decided to put in something that is more personal to me.

Stay tuned to see updates and the final decision about the mat.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Dyeing to get better.

Here are some pictures of my latest dyeing venture.

I am calling it a success, although if being graded by the dye police (please tell me they don’t exist) on results specific to the formula and photograph, I may have failed.

Here is the tale, with most of the details:

I had decided to try to create a couple of Wanda Kerr’s “Colours that Sing” from an old issue of RHM. I had used some of the “Glowing Wet Rocks” from that grouping which had been dyed by Barb D’Arcy. There truly is some luminosity to the colours and the “wandering method” really appealed to me.

I settled on "Mountain" and "Amethyst Cave" and got everything ready to go. Since I didn’t have a Turquoise (which I think was a Pro Chem), I decided to substitute the Magic Carpet Blue Green.

I haven’t ever dyed with anything other than Magic Carpet, so am blissfully naïve as to how different the colours by different manufacturers truly are. And Wanda is forever encouraging experimentation, so I figured that at the end of it all, I would have something wonderful – even if it wasn’t her specific wonderful.

How correct that assumption was. I think these colours are quite wonderful.
Surprisingly, they are quite close to one another when all is said and done.
And the formulas were very different. (In these pictures they look more different than they do in real life. That's Amethyst Cave on top and Mountain on bottom.)

When I pulled the Amethyst Cave out of the dryer, it looked so much like the first one I had done that I was laughing at myself and thinking that no matter what formula I start with, will I always wind up with the same colour. (I think that would be the Groundhog Day of dyeing – how funny would that be.) But I do like both these colours and they would work very nicely together in a piece – and go beautifully with the pinkish piece I dyed on the previous outing. And they are truly luminous, so the wandering method is definitely my new favourite.

Then I read something about aluminum pots and how they can affect results.
So I posted a query on The Welcome Mat to find out exactly what aluminum does and why it affects results. Have received many informative responses and appreciate the feedback. There seems to be consensus that aluminum pots heat more quickly than stainless steel and that my gas stove at the cottage may be “fuelling that fire” even more aggressively - no pun intended.

In order to eliminate a few of the variables from my dyeing experiments, and to get a better grade from those dye police (should they exist), I have decided to indulge in a stainless steel pot, if I can find an affordable one at a local restaurant supply place.

If I do, I will repeat these same formulae again, just to see for myself if, in fact, the variables can be controlled.

I’ll share the results when I have some.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A great whipping tip from a pro.

I got an email in response to my post yesterday from Anne Boissinot. For those of you who don't know Anne, she is a dynamic hooker, teacher and inspiration point for many of us in the hooking community.

I have been privileged to be her student a few times as well as a co-committee member with her. She is creative, talented and an incredibly valued mentor to me. She is my voice of reason and keeps me on track and reminds me constantly to pace myself. I am honoured to call her my friend.

Her comment regarding yesterday's post was as thoughtful as all others. And as helpful. It comes as no surprise that this "multiple whipping" is another thing she has mastered and so her suggestion is tried and true.

Her recommendation is: "If you put your hoop on and do the first two as you would needlepoint it holds it steady and assists in moving a bit faster." In hindsight, I realize this would definitely things taught and straight and would have been very helpful. Good advice for next time. (Yes, I do plan on doing this again someday.)

As far as the last whip, you definitely need to do it freehand, since you will have trimmed off all excess backing. And Anne agreed with the roll forward decision - after all, she's the one who taught me that in the first place.

Thanks again, Anne. For everything.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Another whipping post.

Round two is complete. I love how the Briggs & Little brown heather looks with the hooking and the first whipping. It has all kinds of colours in it - specs of blue and green, so it picks up everything in the rug.

It is a long journey around this rug each time, but there is something quite hypnotic about it once you get your rhythm. I spent both mornings this weekend and then some more time in the afternoons getting it done. With my coffee and favourite tunes on, my mind was free to wander as I whipped.

Where your mind goes when it doesn't need to focus is quite interesting. This weekend I kept a little note pad beside me, because I kept coming up with ideas - all kinds of ideas. All mixed up together. Some were brilliant later - some not so much. But I wrote them all down anyway.

One of the things I was working on was a music mix for my upcoming class at Trent. Since it's called 1-2 Hook a Few, I was trying to think of songs with One or Two in the title. Amazing how many I cam up with.

Then I was designing in my head - which is an ongoing activity. I sketched out a couple of things which have potential. I will add them to my idea book, which I keep forgetting to review. It has some great stuff in it. For some reason, instead of seeing what's already there, I keep adding more. And guess what - sometimes the same great idea is there more than once!!! Guess that means something.

Anyway, back to the whipping. I have opted for a single strand approach, after trying doubles on the first go round. It just wasn't precise enough and I wasn't pleased with the result, so now it's one strand, one hole and sometimes doubling up in the same hole if it's looking a little thin.

Now I must begin the third and final whip. And I think I have decided to do a roll forward so that it sits at the same height as the other two. I can't quite figure out how a roll back would sit at the same height. In my head, it would pull away from the other two which sit on top. But, I could be wrong.
And the article that I read in RHM said you could do either.

Since I need to serge my edges first, which I hope to do one evening this week, I should get this done by the end of next weekend, so stay tuned for the last instalment on triple whipping.

The picture above just shows a corner, so that you can see up close. When I am done, I will post both the close up of the third whip and the finished result. So far, I am very happy with how it looks.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Gagetown Hookers

This rug was given to me last week by my childhood friend, Gaye, who I grew up with in Fredericton, but who now lives north of Toronto in Palgrave.

Although Gaye is not a "rabid" hooker, she is a big fan of hooked rugs and has, in fact, hooked a couple of projects herself. She took my very first beginner workshop and I think is the only one who actually finished the project. She was also the lucky winner of our "Cat's Meow" fundraising rug at our hook in last year. And we love to talk about rugs and hooking when we get together.

Anyway, she bought this rug, and another one, about 10 years ago in Gagetown, N.B. on a trip back home. She gave me this one for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it had been a little damaged by either a cat or (shudder) a vacuum cleaner and needed a bit of repair. But she also knew that I would LOVE to have it. I think she thought the damage was more extensive. I think it just needs a couple of strips re-hooked and it will be fine.

The story behind the rug is a story about a couple called The Gagetown Hookers. They were a husband and wife team (ironically named Scott) who started hooking rugs for therapy after the husband suffered a heart attack. They were definitely a "team" as attested to by both their initials in the bottom corners of the rug.

Raymond was the hooking part of the team. Lydia was the designer of the rugs. She was also the color planner, as he was colour blind. But more amazing than the story of how they shared the creation of these rugs is how prolific they were. He hooked every day from about 7:00 a.m. till long into the night (neighbours said they often saw his lights on after 11:00 at night). As a result of the hours he put in, he hooked approximately 2 rugs per week!!!!

Gaye also gave me a book about them, written by Larry E. Dubord, which has photos of many of their rugs. They were best known for their pigs, but all their animal rugs were very popular. They hooked what they knew, which was the animals on their farm and other simple designs. Their neighbours supplemented their wool stash, and they did use other fabrics as well.

In 1981, Larry Dubord, an antique rug collector and dealer, met the Scotts for the first time and bought a few of their rugs. The couple were so humble that they weren't sure their rugs were "good enough" to sell. They were so popular that Larry came back again and again. As a result, a casual business relationship was developed and over the next six years, he sold nearly 500 of their rugs.

People loved how folky and colourful they were. And I can definitely see why. Their work influenced many other rug hookers and I am very proud to have one of these rugs in my possession. When I see how joyful these are, with such a simple design and palette, it reminds me once again about that great expression "less is more".

As soon as I got the rug, I wondered whether or not their collection has been preserved and their story told. I hope that this wonderful couple will be well represented in our Rug Museum of North America when it is opened, since their story is one that should be recorded for all time.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A first rug - Bragging Rights

This beautiful rug was hooked by my friend Josie, whom I met thanks to the Internet a couple of years ago. She was looking for hooking lessons, and at the time, I didn't have anything to offer.

We became email pals and she told me she had been buying wool garments at Goodwill for some time, and was developing quite a stash - all in advance of pulling her first loop.

So that she could meet some members of the hooking community, I told her about our Hook In. She came and that is where we met face to face for the first time. When Elaine Copeman and I started our beginner course nearly a full year later, I contacted Josie again and she came to the classes.

Winter classes always have the challenge of bad driving conditions and our four-week course last January was plagued with them, so I think poor Josie only made it to half of the classes.

But that obviously didn't slow her down. This first rug is incredible. It's a gift to her mother - a mat of her dog Effie.

She was kind enough to share it with me, so I am extremely proud to share it with all of you. I think that seeing projects that I am connected to in any way - no matter how small - gives me such a wonderful feeling. Finding like-minded souls who discover the joy of this art form will never grow old.

Unfortunately for me, but lucky for those who get to meet her there, Josie is moving to Nova Scotia, where I assure her there is no shortage of rabid rug hookers.

Good luck with everything Josie. And keep sending me pictures of your rugs.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The biggest UFO yet.

A while ago, I purchased a 4 x 6 Kilim rug from someone who realized that she was not going to finish it. It was an absolute steal and I felt a little guilty getting the pattern and wool for as little as I did, but I convinced myself that knowing that someone would finish it would make her feel good.

As if I didn't have enough UFOs of my own, I had now inherited the mother of all UFOs - considerably larger than anything else in my stash. The pictures above show what I have managed to get done and what is left - YIKES!

Most of the colours that were chosen for the rug were perfect at the cottage, other than the red, which was a little too blue for my liking. So I started Saturday morning with a dye experiment to see about warming up the red. I used yellow - figuring that either it or orange would do the trick. Although it looked as if there wasn't much difference at first, after it was dyed and dried, it was just enough.

Then I needed to take out the little bits of red that were already hooked. (Another lucky little thing about this mat, the previous owner had done one horizontal strip of the pattern across the rug, so the colour placement was already decided.)

I cut new strips in a 4 and replaced them, realizing they may have been a 3. There were not many cut strips with the mat, so I am happy to trade up a size.

As does every rug we touch, this one will have lots of lessons to teach. Already there's been a dye lesson. And I'm back to a small cut and straight line hooking, which is always a reminder of how tension gets out of whack on big looped projects. A little discipline is a good thing.

Another challenge presented by this rug is finding someone to make me new, longer rails for my Cheticamp frame, so that I can set this rug up at the cottage and leave it set up.

Rather than having them shipped from the east coast by bus, I have found a dear friend who has the most amazing dust-free workshop ever - and he has offered to make them for me. I will barter a hooked sign for him in exchange. Another win-win situation.

For whatever reason, in recent weeks, there has been lots of talk of UFOs - how many we have and the recurring New Year's Resolution to finish a couple. Jennifer (Fish Eye Rugs) even had a contest for the best, oldest UFO story and gave away a UFO as a prize - very ingenious!

So now I feel like the Queen of the club. This is a big, wonderful one that I hope will not remain one while in my keeping. If it stays up north and becomes the dedicated project there, I can continue with the smaller, faster projects in the city.

And somehow that will be fitting. Fast and furious in the city. Long and slow in the country.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Triple Cord Whipping - part 1

Although I'm wayyyy too busy at work to be doing this, my brain is scrambled and I need a little break. I have come to the realization that my brain is a better "sprinter" than it is a "marathoner" so a long, never-ending writing project is far more taxing than 5 shorter ones.

I decided I would sprint over and post this first step of my latest venture - triple cord whipping my Totem 40 rug.

It is unusual for me to have the patience to take on this much whipping, but I really feel the end will justify the means and after working this long on hooking it, I want the finishing to be worthy. Since the rug is approximately 28 x 40, it means that I will be whipping that distance three times - that's a lot of inches.

So the picture above shows the first cord whipped. It is sort of the normal cord, about the same diameter as my baby finger. The second one shows the second cording - much fatter - lying next to the first. It is now basted into position and ready to go. Both of these whippings were done by placing the cording on TOP of the backing, which was new to me.

The most important thing is to get it straight because if it isn't, the wonkiness (and that's the technical term) will become more exaggerated with each additional cord whipping.

Since I have now received my samples from Briggs & Little and placed my order for the contrasting brown for the fat cord, I am ready to go around the second time. I left the rug up north and we may not go this weekend because the forecast isn't great, so I may have to wait another week to start.

The third whipping will be on the same size cording as the first one. And the same colour wool. But it will be either a roll forward or a roll back - what I generally do on all my rugs. I am hoping the effect of all the whipping will look like a moulded wooden frame - apart from the rounded cordners that is.

I'm also hoping that a good sturdy binding will help keep it from buckling too much when it is hanging.

Stay tuned.

I will take more pictures as progress warrants.

Knitting in Paradise

Every year when we come to Barbados, I pack a knitting project or two. Usually socks to knit on the plane and something to take to the ...