My Muskoka Magdalena

If Magdalena Briner Eby had lived or cottaged in Muskoka, I wonder if she would have featured different animals in her rugs? That was my thinking as I set off on this course to design my own version of a Magdalena rug. With that goal, I hopped in the car on Friday with a basket of odds and ends of wool, which I figured would be perfect for this project.

The workshop was held in an absolutely stunning century log home near Mount St. Louis - well century log studio on property shared with the century log home. And the venue could not have been more perfect. Loree, our hostess and convenor, whose studio is called Back in Thyme, is pictured here among many of her primitive treasures.

The teacher was DeEtta Beebe-Gillard, a friend of Loree's from the US, about who you can learn more at her website which is  What decent Maritime gal wouldn't fall in love with someone whose logo is a fiddlehead? There were lots of other reasons to love her too - an incredible warmth, love of people, great sense of humour and on and on and on - not to mention a very well-prepared, organized teacher with great teaching skills.

I tried to take a "normal" picture of her, but there was so much laughter and merriment, that this is the one I have decided to share. DeEtta in a witch's hat that she designed and created. There's a whole other story about why the hat was appropriate, which I will only allude to by mentioning the "Witches Walk" in Coldwater at Hallowe'en.

The day began with fresh scones and an exercise in moving down memory lane in order to help design a Magdalena rug that would be personal - filled with your own stories. And it was a great creative stimulant. Really got the grey matter going back to things you hadn't thought about in years.

And we all had to tie a piece of wool around one finger, so that if we started to over-think what we were doing, we had to give the string a pull and let it go. Quite a helpful trick, I must say. From the stories we created templates of animals that we drew ourselves, in a folk art style, and then arranged them on our backing.

To get ready for the class, DeEtta designed quite a few Madgalena style patterns, which she shared with us. The names of her patterns were very clever and demonstrated how they all came from her bank of animal stories.

She also hooked this little mat to demonstrate the style.

Here are a few pictures of the student designs in progress. Mine is at the bottom. They were all so different, it was fun to see them evolve.

After designs were on backing, we had a delicious lunch inside Loree's home - complete with white tablecloths and a great salad dressing, for which we got the recipe. The bar has definitely been raised in the world of "workshops".

In the afternoon, we began hooking and had to tug on the string a few times to stop from thinking about how we were hooking. Upside down animals, hooked in the vertical or horizontal is just part of the whimsy of the style.

I left the workshop feeling exhausted but energized and eager to get back on the frame, which I did a lot over the weekend thanks to the combo of rain (at last!) and the Olympics. I made myself finish this goose stair riser before I started, which brings me to a "planets aligning" story that goes with this as well.

The stair risers I have been hooking were designed by Evelyn Lawrence, an amazing rug hooker and designer, who just happens to be the co-author, with Kathy Wright, of the book I bought on Magdalena at the workshop. Evelyn is probably one of the most knowledgeable rug hookers about the style of Magdalena rugs and has reproduced virtually every original rug that has been uncovered to date.

Here is the book. The ISBN number is 978-0-9838905-0-8  with another number below that says 52495. It is a great addition to your hooking library, especially if you are interested in the style. The thing that I love about this style, as much as the simplicity and the folk art animals, is the treatment(s) of her backgrounds. You can definitely see that she used what she had on hand and that she didn't care if she was mixing styles or motifs. I guess that is truly what makes it folk art.

So, how far did I get with the rug? Let me just say that there is something so freeing about this style, it's like taking a holiday from all the discipline that exists in the other forms. I know that it is a style unto itself, but it's a style with a smile in every loop.

So what makes for a Muskoka Magdalena. The animals of course, but the "Group of Seven" pine tree is in here as well, albeit fractured to make it a bit more folky and less expected. The Magdalena leaf or feather motif will be interpreted as a fish, and I can hardly wait to get on to the background.

Here are a few pics of my Muskoka critters under way.

I promise to share progress as I go, though I fear that it won't continue at this brisk pace, now that real life will replace the Olympics. LOL


Orange Sink said…
Oh my! I can tell the workshop was really great! Your description of everything down to the food and laughter! And look at the results already..... loving the way you are hooking each motif in the Magdalena style! I need one of those strings to release tied around my arm!!! LOL!! What a great idea! Thank-you so much for sharing your experience!
Back to reality and the studio for me to today!!
Cathy G
Very cool critters, Wendie!
Looks like so much fun!
Tony :)
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