Last Friday I traveled up to Vermont with my studio-buddy, K, for a workshop on dyeing rug yarn. This was a long-scheduled trip. We headed off to our beloved Oxford Rug Hooking School and spent a weekend dyeing with Heidi Whipple, Manager and Master Dyer of the School, and one other student, the funny and wonderful Julie.
Friday night we simply settled in. I took a long walk in the fields behind the school, listening to the Redwing Blackbirds and Canada Geese in the high wind and slanting light of early evening. I felt so grateful to be able to be in such a gorgeous place. When you stay at the school, they think of everything and take great care of you.
Saturday we began our work. Here's a small portion of the dyeing room:
We spent all day Saturday on three techniques. The big challenge for me was the 8 value dyeing. Although I doubt I will use this much, or need it (but ya never know, eh?), I still wanted to learn it. Here were my results:
I admit to being chuffed. But it was a LOT of work. Very glad I know I can do this, "just in case."
And here is part of the method of creating what you see above. Double, double, toil and trouble...
Heidi and I both decided to try a recipe that appeared to be full of typos. Even though we had doubts, we thought we would try it "as written"; it involved applying the same color in the same amount three times. This doesn't sound like it would produce anything other than one color, right? That's gotta be an error.
See the little slideshow below for results.
Safe to say we weren't expecting that.
Sunday we went to work early and continued through lunch. We could have continued all day but with a 4+ hour drive home facing us, and all we had already learned, we were out of brain cells.
Results from the weekend:
Left-to-right: 1) The experiment with the odd recipe that turned out surprisingly well. 2) A "flat color" experiment in which I tried to achieve a mid-range value of a particular shade, and succeeded. It turned out the exact shade...to my surprise. 3 & 4) Two recipes using slightly different amounts of the same colors. Love both these results. 5) Underneath the four skeins is an antique punch needle from Denmark.
These goodies and the 8 skeins of green are what I brought home.
I am so grateful to Heidi for her teaching. And we were lucky that on Saturday Amy O stopped by briefly, along with Miss Lily, her long-haired dachshund. Any time I get to spend with Amy is always a gift.
After a very, very, VERY long ride home, I'm taking today to regroup. I can't say enough about what a magical place Amy and Heidi have created. It gives new meaning to the word "haven." If I lived any closer, I would probably be trying to move in.
Gratitude is my operative word as I think back on the weekend.
Woke up early today and by 9.30 a.m. had dyed one final skein of the background and was on my way to the studio. I'm now about 3" x 36" away from finishing. However, I may not get to work on the last bit for another week or two. I have other commitments (all of them wonderful) that will take up my time until then.
Or perhaps it's mystery flowers? Any ideas what plant(s) this rug is portraying? At first I saw what I thought were blueberries...but then I realized that the blue round-and-oval-things were probably flowers, not berries. And I spotted the larger round fruit.
I am mystified. If you think you know, please tell me.
This rug is hand-hooked, but not by me, It's an old rug from Orvis, and is one of the three rugs I spotted on craigslist earlier this week. It was made in China and sold in quantity. Orvis, from what I can tell, doesn't sell hooked rugs any more. It has a tag on it that says, "100% wool, hand hooked. Made in China." (See yesterday's post for more on the adventure of buying this and one other rug)
While I'm sure it was mass produced (hand-hooked but still mass produced), I'm still enchanted with the design and even the soft colors. For $12, I'm happy to have it. I'm only sorry that whoever made it was probably thoroughly exploited...but it was imported and sold here long ago, and now it's in my care.
Those are some hiking staffs on the upper left--I was too lazy to move them.
Look who paid me a visit in the studio today, completely out of season:
I mean, it's April, for heaven's sake. What is he doing around? At least he brought his cat. That was fun.
Ok, ok. What is this about...?
On Monday, I noticed a craigslist ad for three hooked rugs for $12 each. With photos. They were all wonderful. I wondered if they could actually be hand-hooked. If they were, I found the price both exciting and depressing.
Anyway, I am NOT, repeat...NOT...a Christmas or a Santa fan. But I know lots of people who are, and I had one in mind. Plus even I--the original Grinch--thought this Santa-with-an-adorable-obviously-loved-kitty was darling.
I emailed the photos to my rug hooking group and sure enough, Cheryl the Rug Rescuer was interested. And I was interested in one of the other two rugs. So on Monday I drove to a local Costco parking lot which was halfway between the seller's town and my town, and bought two of the rugs. Of which Santa is one. On the way there it occurred to me that I had sadly neglected to ask the most important question: "Are these rugs hand-hooked?" I can't believe I didn't ask that!
By the time I pulled into the parking lot I realized my error and pretty much assumed they were machine-made in China. And that's how it seemed at first. But then...
Here's a closeup of the cutie-pie cat. Who cares if he's not hand-hooked?
Ok, so I meet the seller in the parking lot and my first question is the one I should already have asked. I can see that the three rugs all have a weird backing attached to them. A bad sign. Definitely machine made. Then the lovely and nice seller tells me she bought them from Orvis (she thinks) years ago. Ok, not just machine made but machine made IN CHINA probably. Worse and worse.
But who can resist these rugs? (I'll show the one I kept tomorrow.)
So for $12 each, I buy 2 of the 3 rugs. They are in great shape and totally clean. Well-loved. In the car, I see that the one I'm keeping for myself is "!00% wool, made in China." Definitely not hand-hooked.
I researched hooked rugs at Orvis tonight and found the following statement on an old webpage they had (they no longer sell hooked rugs): "All of our wool hooked rugs are still completely handhooked for an authentic texture, character, feel and coloration. Each depicts a domestic scene that continues the 200 year old tradition of hooked rugs."
No kidding! So while I'm sorry that some unfortunate Chinese laborer, who doesn't believe in Christmas (I get it, neither do I) was likely forced to make this a few decades ago and probably wasn't paid more than 25 cents, the rug IS here, after all, and we may as well care for it and love it for as long as it exists.
Sad. But also, a really wonderful design. And hand-hooked, after all!
So Santa really did come to visit my studio today, and he's sleeping there with his kitty tonight, at least until Cheryl comes tomorrow to take him home.
Last week (on the left) and today, seven days later (on the right):
Hmmm, have I mentioned that this is a large rug? [Only about 30 times already...]
Meanwhile, two of my favorite folks joined K and I at the studio on this rainy-windy-gloomy day, and we had a great time discussing how we would run the world, telling funny stories, and having the usual excellent discussion on rug hooking.
I continue to feel blessed by friends--each one generous, smart, and hilarious.
"Each friend represents a world in us. A world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born." --Anais Nin
(If you have crazy friends, you have everything.)
You may well ask, what the hell are those things?
They are my new laundry detergent.
At least, I think they are. I am still in the testing stage. I've only used them in one laundry cycle so far and they appeared to work great, but I want to try them in several washes before I'm convinced.
Have I lost my mind? And...how did I find out about these things?
Facebook, of course. Someone mentioned this company in their "reply" to a post on the environment. They raved about this product.
Two things made me go immediately to their website:
So, I did.
Result: Apparently perfectly clean clothes with NO scent. And it was a stinky wash, with old blue jeans and some tee shirts I'd worn on a couple of recent hot days. As far as I can tell, the berries did exactly what I wanted.
Aside from the apparently effective washing (I'm still reserving a final opinion until I do several more loads and see what I think then, so stay tuned), I love the fact that the company is family-owned and based on Massachusetts on Cape Cod. The box they came in was recycled and didn't contain any nasty styrofoam peanuts--all that was in there was the bag with the berries. And this sweet note was included in the box:
Adorable. What's not to love? Unless the product doesn't work, and so far I think it does. Time will tell.
No really--I am not getting any money from them for writing about this. And as I've said, I am initially impressed and hopeful but am reserving judgement until after a few more uses.
(After I ordered this product I discovered that my local excellent natural products store also carries soapberries, but apparently a different brand. If I like these, perhaps I'll give those a try also. Who knew there were different brands?)
UPDATE: It's now three washes later. I took the soapberries out of their bag to see what's happening to them. As you can see, the bottom one has split open. In fact, though it's not immediately obvious, they are all splitting open. The one at the very top is clearly in the process of splitting. From what I read on the SoBerry website, these are still quite usable, likely for at least 2 more washes. I will check after each wash I do.
And the results? Thus far my clothes, sheets, and towels are still getting very clean, and there's no artificial scent to deal with. One thing I forgot to mention is that if I need to pre-treat a stain before washing, soapberries can't be used for that and I'll need to use my standard laundry pre-treater. But I don't have to do that very often so that's not an issue for me.
I am really liking these a lot. Unless something happens to change my mind, I think I have found my new laundry detergent--and it's guaranteed not to pollute! The used berries are completely compostable, so I'll just toss them in the garden when they are done.
I'm a textile artist (traditional rug hooking, punch needle rug hooking, and other textile arts), a long-time meditator, a certified meditation teacher and coach, and focused on learning about the interplay of art, creativity, and mindfulness every day.
SITES TO WATCH:
Insight Meditation Society
Oxford Rug Hooking School
Zentangle: The Official Site
Green Mountain Rug Hooking
Massachusetts Tarot Society