Hooking at the Florida Harbor Hookin’

The room at the Florida Harbor Hookin’ was – obviously – filled with women hooking. Between classes, the vendors and people to talk to, many seats were empty, but still, there was a lot of hooking going on. Here are some of the fun pieces I saw.

My table mate, Suzanne, was working on this great runner. The photograph that came with the pattern showed that the designer had hooked it in browns and beiges, but Suzanne asked her teacher for bright colors. These really do sing, don’t they?

Suzanne's runner

It was fun to be in Florida and see what colors and motifs the ladies chose! This woman was finishing up a project that her friend had started. What a cute bunch of frogs.

Frog hooked rug

This is a great start to what is going to be an interesting piece. The hooker wasn’t at her seat, but from the drawing on the linen, it has a very Zentangle feel to it. What a fun project to hook!

Zentangle hooked rug

This was a pillow design I found in the Heavens to Betsy booth. For those of you who are not rug hookers, at the bottom you see what a design drawn on linen might look like, when you buy it. It’s like a coloring book. This was hooked using very wide strips.

Heavens to Betsy pillow

This wonderful piece was also designed and hooked by my dip dyed scrolls teacher, Angela Foote. I asked if this was dip dyed wool as well, but she said that she hooked with variegated wools (dump dyes). I really like the intensity of her colors.

Angela Foote design

These next rugs were designed and hooked by Carol Feeney, whose work I was happy to discover! She and her husband moved to Florida some years ago and she said that her designs and colors are greatly influenced by the area. I seem to have photographed many of her tile series; this is called Aesthetic.

Carol Feeney  Aesthetic


This is Flower Medallion Tile. Her colors are so rich and her hand dyed wool adds such texture. This piece is probably larger than it looks at 39″x39″.

Carol Feeney Flower Medallion Tile

This is Funky Flower Tile. I was really drawn to the lacy leaves and asymmetry of this piece. Click on this photo to see the many fibers she uses – funky yarns, sari ribbons and even buttons and beads.

Carol Feeney Funky Flower Tile

And just one more – this is Double Trouble Tile. This piece has lots of interesting fibers hooked in the design as well.

Carol Feeney Double Trouble Tile

I was inspired and delighted by all the rugs I saw. And now, I have added the heart scrolls piece to my rugs-to-finish list!

A Rug Hooking Re-do Project

I am in the midst of trying to finish up the Vermont Shells hooked rug and it’s bulky to move around. I have joined a local rug hooking group and need something to take along with me to work on, so I dug around in the rug hooking bin and found this rug! This is not a new project, you can see the part I ripped out, but one that I started in Illinois and was not happy with. I was teaching rug hooking at various places and kept designing little 8″ pieces that seemed like a good size for students to complete and could be made into something. I liked the designs, most of which were quilt-y sort of designs and came up with the idea to put them all in one sampler rug. You can see that I started to hook the heart square and I am fairly sure that I was using dark reds and trying to choose a black and white tweedy background and I didn’t like any of it! I am so glad I stopped working on it. Now that we live in South Carolina, I am not so interested in dark, wintery sort of colors. I am always very affected by the colors where we live and dark just doesn’t sing to me right now.

Sampler Hooked Rug

So, what colors to play with next? I was sifting through my shelves of hand of dyed wool and came across the basket with marbleized fabrics in it. Wow! I really enjoyed dyeing them but they are so different and I wasn’t sure where to use them. How about using them in the re-do?

Marbelized wool choices

So here’s the start of the hooking. I designed this pattern for a quilt store class (called Katie’s Leaves) and here it is in the Primitive Colors that they liked so much! I know I am going to love my version…

Katie's Flower re-do

I am now very pleased to have such a fun portable hooking project.

Hardly Hooking…

In truth, until two weeks ago, I hadn’t pulled one loop since we moved into the house last September! The outdoors, the new locale, getting the studio set up all took precedence. Now that it’s football season, I’ve decided to get my two very old rug hooking projects completed. {Actually, I really would like to start something new but I am not allowing myself to do that until I finish Vermont Shells. Each time I get it out and look at it I wonder why I haven’t completed it!!!}

The first thing I had to do on the Vermont Shells rug was to rip out and re-hook some lines. When we moved to The Residence Inn I found that I had remembered everything I needed except the brown wool that outlines the shells. I decided to use the bright blue as a “placeholder” and pull it out and re-hook when I had the brown wool.

Bo brown

It looks much better with the brown outline…

Vermont Shells Outlined

And look how much progress I’ve made! It’s amazing what can happen when one sits down and hooks.   ;-D

Vermont Shells Half Done?

The next issue is the border color which I have been thinking about as I hook. Before we moved I had a marathon dyeing session, trying to get every color I needed to finish the rug. I wanted the outside border to be the darkest purple in the middle. I pulled out said wool the other day and I don’t know why I thought that color would work…. it is more of an indigo than a blue purple and does not relate to any color in the rug.

I’ve been mulling over why I could not match the purple and then I remembered that when I planned this rug and dyed the middle colors, we lived in Shanghai China. The water there was undrinkable. One day I’d turn it on and it smelled dreadful and was a brownish color. Another day I’d turn it on and it was so full of chlorine that it made my eyes water. Those purples in the middle are unique and because of the water, I will never be able to duplicate them!!! I dug around in my wool stash and came up with these plaid options. It’s impossible to tell just by looking, so I will cut and hook some strips.

Vermont Shells border ideas

And of course the second project to finish is Eliza. I don’t know why I am having so much trouble with being so picky about the colors in this rug.

Eliza progress

I’d like to mention some blogs about rug hooking that you might enjoy as much as I do. Sarah at The Paisley Studio has a list of many rug hooking blogs and kindly put me on it, though I have been MIA recently! Sharon at Off The Hook Wool Rugs found me and I’m so glad. I have seen her wonderfully designed and unusually colored rugs at several shows and wondered who she was. Both ladies have websites where you can admire and purchase their creations.


More Dyeing at PRO Chem

Here is the PRO Chem studio where we toiled away. ;-D Everyone had their own table which was great as we each had different systems for the dyeing process. Behind where I stood to take the picture are booths for lunch and relaxing. It’s not a good idea to eat or drink around dyes.

PRO Chem studio

Day Three was just as intense as the two previous dyeing days. There were still samples that needed to be steamed and then washed and spread out to dry. Vicki, the quality control expert, eyed the samples to make sure they were correct.

Steamed samples

We literally had hundreds of samples to tie on recipe sheets. It was fun to admire the colors as we worked away and think about what projects we might use them for.

Samples to tie

We snipped off the knots and tied the samples onto their proper pages. I saved my knots…..


And by the end of the day, we started collecting the pages of samples. Wow – talk about inspiration!

Lots of tying

And here is our homework. These are the samples that we did not have time to tie on their pages during the workshop!

Three color samples

Day Four was a day for us to experiment with a project of our choice and when our different fiber focuses came to the fore. There were felters and knitters and weavers and hookers, dyeing wool and silk of all descriptions. I was pretty boring, dyeing wool fabric for hooking.

I’m off to the office supply store today to get larger binders; I underestimated the amount of space they would take up. Just look at all these lovely colors. I can’t stop playing with them.

Amazing colors

It really was quite an amazing week. It is always fun to be with “one’s own kind” and talk about nothing but fiber. Thanks so much to the unfailingly patient knowledgeable Vicki Jensen (and PRO Chem) for designing such a great workshop.

Pro Chem Wool Dyeing Workshop

I have been dyeing wool for years and years and years. My mother and I took weaving lessons when I was in college and I found that the fibers I wanted to use only came in their natural colors. Not being a beige or white person, I started to read and do research. Way back then most people were into natural dyeing, which I tried but quickly discarded. It’s anything but natural with the strong chemicals that can be needed to fix a natural substance. I discovered the go-to company for supplies and information at a Convergence – Don Weiner and his Pro Chemical & Dye Company was and is the place to find anything relating to dyes! I attended some of his lectures and bought one of the few books which he endorsed. Some years later, when getting my Professional Crafts Certificate at The Worcester Craft Center, I had a lesson on wool dyeing from my teacher, Fuyuko Matsubara. Other than that, I’m self-taught. And I often have questions and when something goes wrong, I can’t always figure out why.

The wool dyeing workshop at PRO Chem caught my eye a few years ago and when I thought I’d be hanging around waiting for the house to sell this summer (ha!), I signed up. There were 13 of us, with varied and amazing backgrounds in fiber. Introductions were the first day, when we were anxious and excited, so I don’t remember a lot, though amazingly enough there was another rug hooker in the group!!! Our instructor, Vicki Jensen, has been working at Pro Chem for 17 years, and was full of great information and inspiration.

I was quite curious about how we’d do so many dye samples in two days. We used 12 of PRO Chem’s pure colors; that is the dye powders they use to formulate their other colors. Dyeing them in their many possible combinations is a lot of samples……1000? 1200? more? Turns out we steamed the samples, which is something I’ve never done. We were assigned a color family and we had to mix the dye formulas and paint the tiny skeins. The process of steaming only takes 30 minutes, as opposed to more than an hour for an immersion bath, thus we were able to get many, many colors done each day.

Painting dye

After being painted, they were carefully wrapped in plastic wrap and labeled and then put in a bucket to await steaming. And then we started on another formula.

Ready to steam

When they came out of the steamer, the plastic was wrinkly and sticky, but not melted! Vicki would sort them into their color families to cool.

Ready to unwrap

Then they were rinsed and spread out to dry. Here are some wet value studies…..


We spent two days doing this. It was quite hard work as each sample had its own set of formulas. We had to concentrate to make sure that we would all get accurate samples. Aren’t these great?

More samples

All About Eliza

I finally have some free time to write about Eliza, the rug that I started in the class with Donna Hrkman in March!!! Although I wasn’t doing anything as complicated as a face, dear Eliza is giving me a challenge! The first question I had for Donna, was should the birds be hooked realistically or in a fanciful folk art style? Donna felt that they should be fanciful to go with the Fraktur nature of the design. My other big concern was I might use for the background of the center of the rug and happily we both liked the “parchment” colored plaid that was among some that I had chosen to audition. {whew} Finding a background can be A Big Deal. The wrong color can kill a design, for sure.

I love/hate the birds and as they are the central part of the rug design, I need to get them right first. The flowers will be fun and easy. Their necks and funny heads appeal to me, but the tails and wings seem so like peacocks, which is not the sort of bird I want to hook. Donna and I sat down on the floor with my big container of colored wool and picked through it. There really is a lot of area in each section of the birds and they are about equal; the neck/breast, the wings and the tail. Here’s the first color try during the first day.

Peacock colors˜

Foxy Ladies meets in Lisle, IL, which was at least a 45 minute drive for me. On the way home, zooming along in traffic, I thought about what I had hooked on Eliza….. By the time I got home and Peter asked if I was happy with what I had hooked that day I said “No!”. Here’s what I told him – The plaid/texture in the wings as well as the gold I’d chosen to highlight them was too “dull”; my colors are pretty bright and clear. And though I did not want to hook a peacock, somehow I had chosen what screamed to me as peacock  blue-green for the head/breast area. I needed a new plan. That night every time I woke up I puzzled over the color dilemma. And the next morning I had another 45 minute drive to think some more. When I arrived at the workshop venue, I spread the rug and wools all over the floor again. Below is the next experiment. I love purple and the breast/neck is now hooked in two over-dyed houndstooth fabrics that I bought from Donna. They are mellow but happy colors. You can see just how different the two color plans are! She suggested that the eyes pop out and I always like birds that have crazy and kooky waddles or eye colors, so that went easily.

Pretty purple

Then I started to play with the wing area. In Asia, I saw a lot of blue greens and yellow greens put together and I like the sweet/sour aspect of that, so I tried a section. Notice I did the feather area… I’m not sure whether I like the criss-cross area of the wing. Then it was time to decide on the tail colors. Donna pointed out that I had used all cool blues, greens and purples so far…..I hadn’t done much in the pink/orange families, so I chose another of Donna’s over dyed houndstooths in magenta. I like the idea of incorporating every color I want to use in the rug in the birds and then the flowers and leaves will relate well to the middle. Looking at the magenta, it just seemed so strong. I don’t want the bird to be all about the tail!

Too much magenta

I made some time, the week after the workshop, to dye some more of the colors I thought I would want. I also ordered some back up colors from Donna. What to do? What to do? The tail is giving me fits!

“Eliza” Hooked Rug Pattern & a Finish!

This hooked rug pattern, called “Eliza”, was designed by Joan Moshimer, one of the doyens of the rug hooking world. It’s folk art/Fraktur quality is what still attracts me to the design. I bought it in the late 1980’s at her studio/store in Kennebunkport, Maine and it’s been tucked away in my rug hooking bin. I periodically get it out and look at it. I love the design but am not sure quite how I want to hook it. The flowers and hearts are so sweet and will almost hook themselves, but it’s the birds. There’s a little too much detail for my taste and I keep wondering, do I hook them realistically with plaids and earth tomes or should they be fanciful as the birds are in a Fraktur piece?

Joan Moshimer's Eliza rug

I am about to get help with that! Foxy Ladies Rug Hooking Guild is having a national teacher, Donna Hrkman, come for three days to work with us. We will all have different projects going and she will work with each of us several times a day, I would think. There will be some general teaching as well on topics we’ll all be interested in knowing more about. I am really looking forward to finally working on this project, as well as eavesdropping on what the other ladies are doing. ;-D Back in January, when I was trying to get messy things done, I dyed up a color family I want to use. They are primaries with a bit of black to tone them down. My first big question will be what color background I might use. There are two background areas, one in the middle and one on the border, so I am thinking light in the middle and dark all around. Another burning question is how many kinds of wool can one hook in a rug and not make it too busy. You know me – more is better! Lots more on this topic coming soon.

Cooking wool

Any rug hooker will tell you that one issue we all deal with is how to store all the wool for a project. This is my latest idea – here you see a divided container that is meant for Christmas ornaments. I think this will be great, but we’ll see how it works once I start cutting the strips and hooking madly… (Now I’m wondering if I should have two of them.)

Hooking strips organized

And here’s a finish! I debated how I wanted to use the piece I made in Susan Quicksall’s workshop. I do not need anything more to hang on the walls, so I wanted to make it into a pillow. I am one of many hookers who finds finishing wool mats as pillows very difficult, so I bit the bullet and took it to an uphoslery store. They of course charged me more than I really wanted to pay, but the man agreed that it was no easy thing to do. Here is the completed pillow, looking wonderful in the livingroom! Yippee for me!

Susan Quicksall pillow

Dyeing & More Dyeing

I have decided that this is the year that I will complete the Vermont Shells hooked rug! In order to finish the rug, I needed to decide on the color for the corner shells as well as the border, plus I’d run out of greens. When reorganizing some rug hooking files and papers and notebooks recently, I came across my planning page for the rug. I began it in 1995 when we lived in Shanghai China, which I remembered, but the page also had my ideas for colors and the purple dye recipe. My plan was to take 2 or 3 days… but it took over a week… In the next house I would really like a sink and a stove that I can dedicate to dyeing rather than taking over the kitchen. Peter has been traveling during the week and luckily (I guess!) he had a cold last weekend and spent a lot of time in bed or watching football and wasn’t feeling like being in the kitchen. I finally resorted to buying a grocery store roasted chicken and frozen veggies so as not to disturb my work. Anyway.

In Shanghai, I guess, I hooked the cobalt blue shells in the right hand corner and I still think they are a good color choice. There is a thin border between the shells and the big border and I am using the different pinks that are the flowers in the green shells. My rug hooking teacher was always talking about relating colors in a rug, so I felt like the best choice for the border would be a dark purple, from the center.

Blue chosen

I usually enjoy dyeing, but getting the correct values can be tricky. The first job was the green values, and they always give me fits! I think it’s the yellow dye, which seems to vary wildly every time I make a new stock solution. And, as I mentioned, dyeing always takes much longer than I think it will. Here’s the process in a nutshell: soak the wool, dye it in pots or a roasting pan on the stove top, let it cool, wash it, dry it and then you can audition it. Dye is like paint; you can’t tell the finished color until it is dry. And I also hooked small areas so I could really see how it fit in with the other colors. Below you can see my final choice for the border color, and it was not easy to get, nor quite the color I wanted. I had the formula but remember, I dyed that in Shanghai in 1995! I was getting very frustrated because no formula I tried looked like that purple…. and then I realized – the water was very different. We did not drink the tap water in Shanghai; Lord knows what was in it! I do know that there was lots of chlorine. Every few days we’d turn on the tap and our eyes would water from the overdose. Certainly the Chinese were making an effort to make the water safe to drink, but there seemed to be no one using a formula or any consistency. Any dyer will tell you that whatever is in the water affects the dyes and so that would make this an impossible color to duplicate! {sigh} The colors in this photograph aren’t really correct, but I do think the purple border will be okay. It has to be okay.

Border check

It’s critical that the sun be shining; it’s very hard to see values when it’s overcast or dark. Here are the finished samples, which looked pretty good. The next step was to figure out how much to dye of each color and value. It was a lot of wool – hooking eats it up even if you are doing fine hooking.

Final choices?

To amuse myself while waiting for less exciting dyeing to finish, I marbelized some wool. I did two bundles that I really like. The “bleeder” was a maroon-y red (nothing I would use as is) white and an orange I wasn’t in love with either.

Marbelizing wool

The second pan had the red, the orange and a yellow. Yummy! One of the really fun things about this sort of dyeing is that the front and back of the fabrics are so different, depending on how they are wrapped. I really need to hook these to see what they will look like; some sort of yummy flower.

Marbelized wool

I also did some dyeing for another project, but that’s a story for another day.

Color consultant

And now I must finish scrubbing the kitchen and put everything away.

More Rugs From Indiana

There were some great rugs to admire, both in the Woolkeepers Hook In show and in the process of being hooked. This was a vendor piece. I was admiring the bright lollipop-like flowers and then I saw the bunny! Can you see his whiskers?

And while we’re talking about animals, here’s a very cute flock of sheep. It’s a DiFranza design hooked by Angela Thomas. The sheep colors and textures are really good.

And more animals. There was a group of ladies discussing backgrounds, as you can see. I really like this design with a farm animal on each edge. And the size of them is quite large so the hooker can play with some fun texture.

Another animal with vegetables! This show rug was probably hooked in a 4 (smallish width) and had wonderful detail. I particularly like the border of Fall leaves and bittersweet. It’s called Harvest Blessing, designed by Kaye Miller and hooked by Jyl Clark (?).

This woman was hooking a 3 or 4 cut Oriental. It’s going to be magnificent when she’s done. I asked if she had a spot for it and she said in her entryway. But she was worried about her dogs ruining it. I do put rugs on the floor and use them but not in the entryway! I hope hers is large enough so that visitors can walk around it with dirty shoes!

This snow family rug was in the show and I bet it really is her family! It was a cutie. The design is Let It Snow by Barbara Carroll and hooked by Becky Chenault (?).

Here’s a fun way to finish a hooked piece – as a neck roll.

Oh – just one more! This piece is going to be lovely! The flowers and perhaps the leaves are being hooked using dip dyed fabrics. That sort of dyeing gives a water-colory, batikish look. It’s a bit fussy to hook, but is well worth the effort. It makes me want to get my dyepots out….

I hope you enjoyed this hooking show and tell. The result of all this is that I want to do nothing but hook!!!

Rug Hooking Class & Some Dyeing Results

Saturday was the first class of Primitive Rug Hooking at Pieceful Gathering. I was pleased to have 4 new ladies and a “repeater” from the last class. The first class is always rather crazy and I only took a few photos. Brenda from the last class has made some good progress.

Learning to hook can be a slow process…

…but there will be more to come after their second class in March.

Chicagoland had the most amazing snowstorm yesterday. The flakes were huge and looked like large feathers falling from the sky. It was a very wet snow and today everything is covered in white….but in the kitchen/dye studio it’s very colorful. Last week, I dragged all my dye supplies out. I so often do samples, which are 4″x18″ pieces and not very useable. One of my plans was to dye some larger, mottled pieces. I started with a green formula, using all three primaries. I dumped the dyes and salt into a pan with not much water and dropped the wool piece in. I didn’t stir it but let it sink in and absorb the dyes undisturbed. After about 20 minutes, I lifted it up with tongs, added the acid and dropped it back in. I did several pieces, varying the amount of dye I used. I love these results!

This is my favorite piece of the bunch. These fabrics are hard to photograph because there is such a variation in the colors that my camera had trouble focusing. It has all sorts of dark browns and golds swirling around. It will be an amazing piece to use for stems and autumn leaves!

Then this week, I started dyeing another set of colors. Pieceful Gathering and I are planning A Hooker’s Gathering next month, trying to get the ladies I have taught how to hook into a group! I had the idea that offering a free pattern each time we meet would be fun, so I drew a little runner. It will be easy to add borders to, so people can make it larger if they choose.

I am calling it Welcome Tulips and so I needed to dye some Spring colors. I did some dyeing over plain wool, but I also ripped some pieces of plaids and stripes and was delighted with the results! Aren’t these yummy colors??? Welcome Spring indeed…