Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Poem to Share

In my job, I do a fair amount of internet research - on lots of different topics and it is almost always fascinating. Sometimes my journeys are very linear - other times very meandering. Today, I found myself on a blog where I discovered this wonderful poem.

Her website is www.communicatrix.com and it is very brash and sassy. She's a gal from L.A. who speaks her mind. It is the type of website/blog that could potentially offend just about everyone who visited, but if something this wonderful comes from her mind, then you have to respect that talent.

I felt like there are lots of truths that she speaks. I'm just not sure she has to push that hard.


Everyone has her basket.

And in that basket
are all the things
a body gets
in a lifetime:

The long legs
the natural grace

The way with words
or people
or numbers
or animals

The force field that makes money
or love
or ideas
or children
come to them first

The gene soup
that makes eyes blue
stomachs sturdy
loins fruitful
brains prodigious

Even the luck—
the ponies
the Kojak parking
the pair of pants on sale
or the person of their dreams available
at the exact moment
where need and want meet—
even that
is in the basket.

There will be days
when you look down at your basket and marvel
at the wonderful
things inside

And there will be days
when you cannot bring yourself to look
at all
or rather
where the only place you can look
is at the basket next to you
and with longing.

But every day
someone is looking at your basket
with longing

Every day
someone would trade baskets with yours
sight unseen

I have been
in all of those places
and mostly
I am grateful
for the grace
that forgave my foolishness

This is my basket
to carry
and uncover
layer by layer
day by day
year by year

And sometimes
story by story.

May your basket overflow
with beautiful things
of incomparable joy
and wonder

And when it does not
may you be visited
by the same grace that sat down beside me
to show me the beauty
and the joy
and the wonder
I could not see


Monday, April 27, 2009

Crossing the Border

I am about 85% finished my Deanne Fitzpatrick mat "The Artful Hooker" and am very happy with how it is turning out.

However, I experienced a definite Aha! moment with the border above the lower mat.In the rug pattern, a hooker is working on a mat, so there is the border for the upper mat (where the lettering sits) and a second border under the lettering that defines the lower mat.

I had already hooked a big portion of that border, using the colours from the upper part of the mat. My suspicions were that it was a little strong and I was already contemplating pulling some of the brighter colours.

But, because I had changed the lower design from Deanne's houses to my cottage (another way to personalize the rug) once the cottage and trees were in with a more natural palette, the border was totally overpowering.

I knew I needed to find a transitional border that was quieter, but would still connect the upper and lower designs. And eureka! It didn't take long. Instead of bringing the upper part down to meet the lower part, I came up with a design solution that let them meet in the middle.

I brought the colours from above in simple horizontal lines that hugged the border. Then I created a "log" design which brought the cottage up into the border.

So now I have a border that connects two different places with something special for each. And no passport required.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Things we learn about ourselves.

It's amazing that no matter how old we become, we are always learning, or re-learning things about ourselves.

In our new class of rughookers with my friend Elaine, I am reminded of things forgotten in the time since we pulled our first loops and took our first classes. But these eager new students are running into the same issues that we did when we were starting out. And when they bring them up, we are reminded of what plagued us in the beginning as well.

One of the things they have already decided they don't enjoy is hooking on the diagonal. It came up twice last week. One student was working on lettering and had lots of capital A's in her piece. The other was not happy with the diagonal roofline on her building.

Aah. It all came back to me, how hard that was the first time. I reassured them both that once they get the wool on either side of that diagonal line, they will feel much better about it.

But the piece in this picture really hit a nerve on the weekend. It reminded me that "I hate diagonal lines" too. This is a wonderful purse pattern called "Bar-Jello" designed by my amazing friend Jennifer Manuell. I bought it from her ages ago and it sits at the cottage as an in-between project. I picked it up again this weekend and started to laugh when I came to the realization that it is all diagonal lines.

I also realized this is probably the reason it is not finished yet. In fact, I started on one side, wasn't happy with the work, pulled the whole thing,and started on the other side (which is what you see at the top). But in looking at it again,(although I has happier with the hooking) I knew that I wasn't going to enjoy finishing a project that has every stitch on the diagonal.

So, I decided to modify it. (I'm sure Jennifer is quivering as she reads this post.) I decided to keep the Bar-Jello at the top of the bag, but to introduce circles in the same colours, in various sizes, over the rest of the expanse. I will duplicate the same elements on the other side (which means I will have more diagonal hooking at some point - just not as much).

Come to think of it, circles are another thing that trips up new hookers, but for me they're an element that I have been incorporating into lots of projects, and I don't mind them in the least.

Let's face it, a life of straight-line hooking would be a boring one. But I think I will keep those diagonal lines as few and as far between as I can.

And I will undoubtedly be reminded of other little things about my hooking self that I have forgotten.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Totem Whipped and Pressed

Well, here it is. Finished, other than figuring out a hanging mechanism.

It's been quite a journey and I feel really good looking at the end result. I really like the effect of the triple cord whipping. It definitely "frames" the piece and was worth the extra effort.

Pressing it flat was as much of a challenge as I expected, but my laundry room floor worked well with wet towels above and below. I will probably repeat the process again, once it has a chance to settle.

I think taking one of the happiest moments of your life and turning it into a mat is a wonderful experience. Although committing to full, realistic portraits meant having to make people look like themselves, rather than indicating features, I think all four of us look like ourselves. (I may still have a little fine tuning on Laura's left eye and Rick's nose, but basically, I'm pretty pleased. If I don't stop now, this could go on until I'm 6o. LOL).

I really do love hooking people - more than anything else that I've tried so far. But they do present a unique problem (over and above the hooking that is). You really don't want to walk on them. And how much wall space do you have anyway?

So my next people projects - I'm planning a series of other happy moments - will be small 8 x 10 size, so that I can do a grouping on a wall, rather than a dominating piece. And the floor mats will become my faster, more primitive snacks between these realistic pieces. I like to mix it up anyway.

For those of you who will be at the Annual in Kitchener, I will have this piece on display. No matter what, they always look better in real life. (And even standing on a chair, I had a hard time getting the whole thing in, and as you can see, not crooked.)

Thanks for following along the journey with me.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Triple Whip Whipped

Yikes, I think this shot is a little closer than I thought when I snapped the picture. But here is the last cord whipped! And the double strand means I made good time in the final round.

As you can see, the double strand plus the rolling in of the backing really made a size difference between the inside cord whipping and the outside cord whipping, even though the cording itself is exactly the same size.

Am I completely finished yet? No. When I whipped the third time, the yarn going into the holes separated the yarn in the second whipping in quite a few spots, so I have to go around the middle one to touch up the little show throughs. Lesson learned, always use a double strand, especially on cording that large.

I also need to do a BIG press on this piece. This is the first time that I wish I had a cleaner nearby who could do it on an industrial iron. I know a few fellow hookers who have found folks who will do that for them. But I'm not about to trust this rug to anyone whom I haven't tested first. So, it'll be wet towels on the floor for me tonite. And I will post a picture of the finished product once I have everything lying nice and flat.

I did find a video on YouTube that demonstrated what Bea Grant said about keeping your finger in the yarn until you are ready to place it. I hope this is the link to the video. I ended up discovering it when I watched one of Deanne Fitzpatrick's videos. It's really quite amazing what you find in there once you start clicking on the videos.

At the end of all this whipping, am I happy I made the decision to go around this big piece three times? Indeed. I really think it gives the effect of a bevelled frame, which is exactly what this piece needed.

You can see for yourself later in the week.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Round Three

This is a picture of the third round of whipping for Totem 40. As you can see it is basted in place (no, this is not "rope" effect for the outside whip).

This is the first cord of the three that did not sit ON TOP of the backing. It is rolled inside the backing, in a roll-forward method. This means that instead of rolling the backing to the outside around the cord, you roll it in towards the hooking. (If you click on the image, you can see it full size - HUGE - and get a better idea of what I mean.) "Roll forward" is my favourite method, because it eliminates the need for tape around the back - and especially here, I'm keen to lose yet another finishing step.

Interestingly, the bulk of the backing over the cord produces a third size of whipping. It is quite a bit fatter than the first one (closest to the hooking), but still a lot narrower than the fat, middle one.

I will also try to do double strand whipping around this third cording, as it will go faster and cover better. I realized as I was basting the third cord that a few strands have separated on the second cording, so I will have to go back around it and fill in, which I wouldn't have had to do had I doubled my strand.

At our Teachers' Branch meeting last Saturday, Bea Grant did a presentation on Triple Whipping with Cord, which was very similar to what I have been doing here. (Amazing how coincidences like the timing of this seem to happen all the time.)

All the teachers were asked to bring a small piece to try this finish on. One of the things about it is that it gives smaller pieces more presence. (Plus she didn't want people to have to hook big pieces for this exercise.) But, she asked me to bring my rug to show how this effect looked on a big piece.

Bea shared a little tip about keeping your whipping smooth and not twisted as you go, and that is to actually keep your finger inside the whipping loop until you can lay it in place. I am going to try this and see if it does eliminate the bulk that happens when the strands twist. (Not sure this makes sense without a demo, but if you try it on your next whipping project, you should be able to see what I mean.)

So, for Easter Weekend, my task is to complete Round Three. I find it quite relaxing to do, but certainly not as creatively challenging as dyeing or designing, which I will postpone until this is finished.

And it will be ready for display at the Annual. So those of you who will be attending can see it "in the flesh" at the show.

Monday, April 6, 2009

New Side Rails for my Cheticamp

For those of you who don't recognize this image, it is a Cheticamp frame, which is ideal for big rug projects.

This is Deanne Fitzpatrick's frame of choice (in fact this is her image) - and if you go to her website, you can see a demo of her working away on one. She is able to put her wool, scissors and other hooking supplies on the mat she is working on - great for not losing scissors, etc.

My hubby bought me this frame for Christmas a couple of years ago and it stays set up at the cottage. I used it to hook the Totem 40 rug and it was great to be able to roll to the section I was working on without taking it off the frame.

I wanted to put the large Kilim rug that I bought at a silent auction on the frame and leave it set up. But, because it is a 4' x 6' rug, I couldn't figure out how to put it on the frame, without folding it or only being able to work on a small section at a time. So, I decided to see about getting some 4' side rails for it.

Deanne said her supplier could make a set, but I realized that if I could find someone closer to home, my rails wouldn't have to ride the bus from Nova Scotia. I was lucky enough to find a friend who has taken on the task. My friend Harry has an incredible workshop - dust-free I might add - near Owen Sound. When he retired, quite recently, he started turning wood bowls from the trees on his proerty there. They were (and still are) incredible works of art.

From bowls, he graduated to simple projects like candle holders and trays, and within a blink of an eye, he is now making amazing pieces of heirloom furniture. On the weekend, he showed me a queen size bed that he made for his daughter as a wedding gift. And he did this "without a pattern". Till now, he's been following plans. This one he designed himself, with a little inspiration from Crate & Barrel. What a wonderful accomplishment.

When I asked him if he would do my rails for me, he was kind enough to say yes. So when we looked at the rail I brought him as a template, he quickly figured out exactly what was required and how he would approach it.

I think we have a kinship, he and I. He is someone who truly appreciates the time and effort that goes into creating something. And I think that is why he agreed to do this for me.

I'm still trying to find out a way to say thanks to him. And I think I may just hook him a small mat of a measuring tape for his workshop space.

After all, what is more useful to a master carpenter than a tape measure????

Friday, April 3, 2009

The "first loop" thrill.

Last night, my pal Elaine and I started a 6-week class in her wonderful new studio space. We had a small group at a beautiful large table in a brightly lit room that felt cozy and comfortable.

In our group we had one completely new hooker, one who has just started recently and two who are within their first couple of years and projects. Putting together an outline for the 6 weeks meant finding something worthwhile for all levels, and last night it was about tools of the trade. Lots of tricks and tips, and certainly everyone benefited.

But, at the end of the night, I was reminded once again of that thrill of starting something completely new. In this case, that pulling of the very first loop - the first strip - the first row. It took me back to the wonder I felt at the beginning. How amazing it all seemed to be able to pull wool through holes and create hooked things. I think we can hook merrily along and forget that feeling.

It's quite incredible how contagious that feeling is and how great it makes you feel as a teacher that you had any part in the discovery. For that student, there will never be a 'first loop' again. And you were there to share it with them.

That's pretty awesome, for sure!!!