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.

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

“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.

Home Again &amp Some Finishes!

I always find it refreshing to be away from home! Ten days away is long enough to have lots of fun and get tired of hotel rooms. Then, when I return, I have all sorts of new ideas and energy and I see everything here with “fresh eyes”. Usually I run around cleaning, but Peter left the house sparkling, so I attacked several projects waiting to be completed.

Because we were to bring completed hooked pieces to display at the Midwest fiber and Folk Fest show, I decided that I should get the braided edge completed on Welcome Tulips. The off white and green are off the bolt fabrics and I tinted a beige stripe with fuchsia dye. This is the first project I have braided since class and with the help of Kris Mc Dermott’s directions, it went fairly well.

As I hooked this next piece, I thought it would be a pillow. When I was done hooking it I went to a nearby home deco store and found the wonderful trim you see Jasmine lying on. I basted it close to the hooking and then tried to sew it all together – several times. It finally went in the to-be-finished pile. In looking at it when I got home, I decided to finish it as a mat and frame it. If you read rug hooking blogs then you know that making hooked pieces into pillows is a challenge.

Here it is in an Ikea frame. I glued some Japanese paper onto the masonite backing. Then I attached the mat using sticky hook and eye fasteners. Of course the sticky tabs do not stay on the burlap backing, so I will have to sew them on. Finishing is never easy…

I can’t quite remember when I started this little Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt. I made it using the very fun Paper Pieces and just so you get the scale, they are 1/2 inch on a side. There was a partial seam to finish, so it was quickly completed. Here’s the back of the quilt  – I just love this look. Perhaps I should make an “art” quilt showing the backside of English Paper Piecing!

I spent one evening in front of the TV popping out the paper pieces. Then I appliquéd it on a backing fabric. When I was working on it I really debated how to finish the edge of the quilt. In my real quilts, which we use, I fill in the spaces with partial hexagons and trim them. I thought I might do that but it seemed too fussy and un-necessary. Here it is in another Ikea shadowbox frame.

This is Katie’s Leaves, the last pattern I designed for my rug hooking class at Pieceful Gathering. I decided to finish it as a pillow. As with the hooked piece above, it was not as easy as I thought it would be, but here it is. This time I sewed wool fabric to the mat to enlarge it and then had to hook a row of loops as you just can’t sew close enough to the hooking. It’s on a 12″ pillow form. Next time I want to make a pillow I have a new idea to try.

So! I think these are my first finishes of the year; better late than never!

P.S. Don’t forget to leave a comment if you would like to win a big, beautiful bunch of floral fabrics on Wednesday!

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…

New Rug Hooking Pattern & Lots of Dyeing!

This is the completed sample for the Fall rug hooking class at Pieceful Gathering. The background is a brown and black plaid; I love the way it hooks up! The leaves are an orange overdyed plaid from the store and the flower uses some of my hand dyes. I really like plaids and stripes, but I think they can be overpowering and like to mix in overdyed whites. I don’t love this piece; don’t know why, but hopefully prospective students will!

I also had a dyeing order from the store, four colors for a wool applique pattern. Katie picked out a few samples she liked and then rummaged around for a yellow. She held one up and said “This is okay, but I’d like it to be less green”. And I agreed. It was a yellow with black added and the blacks often lean towards green. So it was off to the dyeing studio (;-D) to come up with some new formulas. Peter was gone for a whole week, so I took over the kitchen for dyeing and the diningroom for making sample pages, thinking of formulas and doing dry work. The first thing I did was to mix up a stock solution for another red (351) and yellow(199c). I like to have both a blue-red ( fuchsia) and a yellow-red (magenta or scarlet). They dye tremendously different colors. And yellows are squirrely so it’s good to have several to play with. A dye that produces a ferociously bright primary yellow may not stand up to the other colors when mixed. Below are four samples I came up with. The screen colors aren’t great, but hopefully you get the idea. The green-y one in the middle wasn’t good; it was a yellow that I kept adding black to. (I find it’s never a good idea to formulate colors on the fly….) I was pleased with the other three though. My favorite of this group is the second one on the right. I was unhappy with what was happening (or not) as I was mixing the dyes and I put the two yellows together (119 & 199c). Honestly; you just have to try everything you can think of when creating a color palette!

The next thing I decided to do was to do a value study of the three yellows that I liked. When doing primitive rug hooking, there generally aren’t many values involved, but to understand color better, I like to see “where the colors will go” when intensifying the dye. And wow – am I pleased! Look at the group below! I was very surprised to see that the nice yellow became gorgeous shades of orange. This is the new yellow plus a tad of black.

And this pale yellow surprised me again; it became so rich. That middle gold is a great color and there’s another wonderful orange! This is the formula using both yellows.

One can’t help but think of pumpkins when looking at those colors and it seems like everyone is blogging about cooler weather and Fall. It is cooler in Chicagoland as well, but sticking with the season we are in, how about these lovely Mexican sunflowers that Peter and I saw at the Chicago Botanic Gardens? Those deeper oranges would be very nice.

This is the mellow yellow that I chose for Katie’s pattern. The other colors she chose were muted three color formulations, as this one is. And this is what I expected the other value studies to turn out like; darkening into browns. These are very nice browns and I know I will use them in a variety of projects.

And here are the black-eyed Susan’s at the end of our driveway. I could use all of the yellows and oranges I dyed in a design of these delightful flowers.

I must apologize to Peter – my one week of dye experiments turned into more like two weeks. The process of dyeing and finishing wool takes a long time and I don’t have a lot of pots. And when I get going, one formula or idea leads to another….. Happily, he walks around the clutter and has learned not to drink any colored water! Wise man.

Rug Hooking at the Fair

I was planning to do a quick post on Friday night and include pictures from the day’s classes and the Foxy Ladies’ display, but I decided that rug hooking deserved more time and space. So here’s the recap! I had 8 students this year. You’ve seen the heart and tulip pattern before, but not in these colors.

I do enjoy seeing what background fabric each student chooses, and then later in class the colors they want to hook for the design areas.

Can’t not say it – it’s always fun to have a man in class!

Look at the bright colors in this picture. It is interesting when a person chooses colors that reflect their attire.

And here we are on Saturday at the booth; such a welcoming and delightful entry area. This very wonderful rug was hooked (and sewn) by Karen Maddi-Perks. Hopefully the photo is good enough that if you click on it you can see the wonderful embroidery work and buttons on the border tongues.

Here is Karen with her latest rug design, explaining rug hooking to a visitor.

And the whole booth area, full of beautiful hooked pieces, enthusiastic hookers and interested fair goers…. ;-D

All in all, I think that rugs and rug hookers made quite a splash at the Midwest Fiber & Folk Art Fair!

Off to the Fair!

Whew – I am almost ready for the big day tomorrow. Since I have taught rug hooking for several years, the preparations don’t make me crazy; I enjoy assembling everything. I had the wools spread all over the studio floor on Tuesday and saw a big gap…. Interestingly enough, most of the colors I have dyed are light or medium values, I’m not sure why. So I had to do some dyeing…. I did some dark magenta, blue purple and blue jean blue in dark values. And – I did some pretty spotty wools. I dyed a light value first and then drizzled a darker value on the top and popped it in the oven. I think they will be beautiful when they are hooked.

I’m organizing so I can pack up the car. Jasmine is making sure that I have enough wool to hook the clamshell rug.

Gizmo is counting the patterns and then I will roll them up.

Here are all the supplies…… Hopefully Peter will have a minute to go over the check list with me, as I almost forgot something very important last year. Wow – it’s going to be a very busy day!