Let's face it: I just don't have the photographic skills to do justice to the spring colors outside right now. The crystalline sunlight. The intensely clear blue sky. And the spring flowers! Oh my--absolutely no way to capture those colors. Crocuses everywhere, and squill all around them. I'm no gardener, alas, but I walk by this lovely garden every day:
It makes my heart smile to see these small flowery gifts rising from the soil after such a very, very grim winter. Indeed, after this winter, I feel lucky to be alive to see these gifts from the earth coming back to us.
Yesterday I did some wool dyeing in order to finish the rug I've been working on for months. Because I'm doing a major revision on this rug, I've been pulling out one color and substituting another--a color I hadn't planned on and so I ran out of it. Thus it was back to the dyepots. I surprised myself by getting an exact match. It reminds me of the purple crocuses, even though it needed to be grayed down for the rug.
A VERY grayed-down lavender. But, it'll work! Onward to finishing the rug.
And WELCOME SPRING.
After SEVEN long years, my Universe Tarot Card rug is finally home. It was delivered this morning in perfect condition. I cannot believe that all of those tiny laminated cards I stitched onto the pathways of this Tree haven't fallen off by now; it must have been unpacked, hung up, taken down, and packed up again a zillion times since it left my hands in 2014. This rug has been more places in the United States and world than I will ever see.
2014. Tarot Card XXI, The World. A rug created for a traveling exhibition of tarot card rugs (Major Arcana only) which toured nationally and internationally for a few years, called "23 Artists Hook the Major Arcana." This rug is traditionally punch-hooked using an Oxford Punch Needle and rug yarn hand-dyed by me. I embroidered the Universal Waite Tiny Tarot cards (after laminating them first, and punching holes through which I could stitch). The cards are placed where they traditionally go on the Tree of Life. "Universal Waite Tiny Tarot Cards," ©1977 U.S. Games, Inc., used by permission. 41.5x24"
Twenty-three rugs were designed and hooked for this Project, by a wide variety of well-known AND unknown rug artists. I was flattered to be asked. My rug was the only punched rug in the entire exhibit, as I recall. All the others were traditionally hooked with wool strips, which is the type of hooking I've also tended to do more frequently (but oh how I love rug punching too). To see the history of the exhibit and view the other rugs, go HERE.
Most of the rug creators knew next to nothing about tarot. Some who were invited to contribute turned it down because they believe tarot is the work of the devil. I was so sorry to hear that. I simply view tarot--which I've studied for 40+ years--as a way of speaking with our subconscious selves, which cannot use words but can use images. And I do not fortune-tell, since no one can know the future. I see it as a lovely psychological tool and a creative spark. It has been a wise and compassionate assistant in my life for decades. I use it seldom but when I do, it always helps me to express some inner wisdom or insight I might not otherwise have reached.
“It’s said that the shuffling of the cards is the earth, and the pattering of the cards is the rain, and the beating of the cards is the wind, and the pointing of the cards is the fire. That’s of the four suits. But the Greater Trumps, it’s said, are the meaning of all process and the measure of the everlasting dance.”
― Charles Williams
“When you drop the idea of predicting the future, you start to experience the cards as a mirror of the psyche. That`s when playing with the tarot becomes a path to wisdom.”
― Philippe St Genoux
With a bit more time now, I'm back into mindful drawing techniques. This is based on one of Sadelle Wiltshire's classes. More of this to come. Very easy, very mindful. And very small, hence the title of today's post.
My latest completed rug. This is one of only 4 rugs I've ever put up on a wall. For a closer look, see the October 1st post. Just to the left of it is the wonderful handmade mirror a dear friend created and gave me--I blogged about that on October 5. And on the side of the stairs you can just see my "Hooker" sign. Got that a few years ago and love seeing it every day.
I don't normally enjoy putting rugs on the wall--I prefer to walk on them. But the colors in this one are so subtle I finally decided the wall would be safer. It's all scrap wool that I had lying around.
I've also run out of room for rugs at the moment and may have to put a few more of my patiently-waiting rolled-up rugs on walls around the house.
Less than 3 minutes was all it took to hang this, once I had some assistance. A very small amount of time (title of today's post), and something I've wanted to do for weeks.
Today I made it (with mask on my face of course) to a new shop called Swanson's Fabrics in Western Massachusetts. I'd heard about it but hadn't gone until today. It was large enough to feel safe inside. Part of the time it was just me and the owner, and there were never more than 2-3 others at any one time, all distanced.
But oh, the treasures! Kathryn Swanson, the owner, has more than fabrics; she also has yarns, threads, sewing notions, and braiding equipment.
NOTE: All her fabrics are $4/yard. No matter what they are made of. Seriously! Cottons, upholstery and lots of other fabrics, and even wool yardage (the wools go out the door nearly as soon as they arrive--I grabbed 1.5 yards of the light colored wool you see above on the right, for $6 total).
And I'm pretty certain she mail-orders, so feel free to contact her and ask.
All of her fabrics, yarns, and notions are rescued from people's basements or from fabric stores or yarn stores that have gone out of business. You could go one day and find nothing, and go back the next day and find tons of wonderful new rescued goods.
When you click the link to her website above, be sure to go to her "About" tab and read her mission statement. I'm in awe.
I also got seventeen 100-gram skeins of off-white, 100% wool yarns, very high quality if a bit grubby from being stored for quite a while. I'm pretty sure they were originally from Sweden. Some are worsted weight and some are DK. I can overdye them all. Very exciting. I cleared her out of these, however, so you'll have to find your own treasures some other day.
This was a Big Find, and therefore doesn't fit the title of today's post. But I didn't think any of you would mind...
The start of any creative project requires something called Beginner's Mind, or Don't-Know Mind, which is also an ideal state for meditation. Since every meditation is different, using Don't-Know Mind is the best way to approach each one.
Just as with wool work, holding expectations at bay until I find out how things actually look and what actually comes up in this moment always works best for me. I learn this lesson repeatedly. Next time you see rug photos, the work will look different. Next time I meditate will be different as well.
Below is a new frame I was lucky enough to have delivered today. It turns so easily. As I said, I have two rugs underway right now. The one above is traditionally hooked and the one below is punch hooked.
Frame is available from Notforgotten Farm.
Just finished binding this rug (triple binding technique), a "pandemic rug" I designed and hooked in a 8-cut. All scrap wool; no bought wool. What fun. Every loop pulled was enjoyable. I'm delighted with how it came out. However, the subtle colors just don't show in a photograph. But that's ok--I know what it looks like. I smile whenever I see it.
The big: I spotted this amazing old stove for sale in the window of a business downtown today. Imagine having to polish this! Holy cow. But it's such a great example of what the workmanship of every day objects used to be like.
And the small: I dyed ten grams of yarn this afternoon; that's hardly anything! But I'm still working on binding my rug and don't want to end up with a large amount of yarn that I likely wouldn't use for other projects.
The thing I love about the Wooly Mason Jar Dyeing system is that it allows you to do this and reliably replicate a color. No matter how large or small the amount. The entire project today, start to finish, took me no more than 10 minutes, including heating in the microwave. It's a Canadian small business and Lucy, who created and runs it, is a dyeing genius. Thanks, Lucy!
Ooops, I forgot to include this great poetry I spotted on Facebook this morning. I wish I could attribute this to the author but I don't know who wrote it.
I needed to dye some yarn to bind a rug that I'm nearly finished with, so I did a test skein and was pleased. Just ten grams. I liked both the color and the value.
But then I needed to dye a 4 oz (about 113g) skein to match the test skein. I'm sure I'll need a lot more yarn than that for the binding, but the big question was, could I match that tiny test skein with a regular size. Results below!
In each of the two photos above, the same tiny test skein is on the right. In the first photo on the left, you can see that the 4 oz skein came out too light. Pretty but not quite a match. I had actually already overdyed that 4 oz skein because my first try was SO light that the mismatch was even more obvious. So what you are seeing on the left was an overdye with additional dye solution.
On the right is the finished product. That was the 2nd overdye using even more dye solution. Voila, perfection! I wanted some slight variation and I got it, but I also matched the color of the small test skein. Now that I know how much dye solution to use, I should have no trouble dyeing more yarn to match as I start binding the rug.
We're still in the middle of a pandemic and we're back in the center of facing racism and injustice in America for the first time in a long time. It's been a very hard few months for this country and the rest of the world.
But, today is sunny. It's lovely out. The color I got was perfect. It all feels great, despite all our current issues, just in this moment. A lovely respite.
"Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine." --Anthony J. D'Angelo
My closest friend, to whom I gave this rug that I hooked years ago (2013), just sent me a photograph of the rug and the sculpture above it in her home. I love her arrangement. After I gave her the rug she gave me the carved horse figure above it, which she had found in the Southwest. Eventually I realized the carving needed to be with the rug. They are a perfect match.
I dyed the teal and red wools in the rug; the light color is actually an as-is, off-the-bolt yellow wool plaid. I loved this pattern from Underhill Farms (no longer in business) but by the time I finished the hooking I was so thoroughly sick of looking at it that I gave it to my much-loved friend who had been drooling over it right from the start. I'm delighted she still feels that way and it has a place of honor in her house.
Here is a better photograph of the actual rug.
Slowly but surely it's coming along, and is it ever fun to do. I am totally into this rug in a way I haven't felt about hooking in years. Fun, fun, fun.
It's all about the color, and all about using up scraps that I've had for years. No new fabric, just things I've stashed away and couldn't get to before I moved to this larger space.
In such a challenging time, when we are all in "lockdown" over this pandemic, it's lovely to work in my studio, playing with color and listening to music or simply enjoying the silence.
But I'm aware of how many people are struggling--hungry, incredibly sick, risking infection by being a front-line provider, dealing with the loss of a loved one, or going bankrupt from losing a job and/or losing a business. The fear, the anxiety, the terror. So far my health is all right and I don't know anyone with the virus; I have a home and my finances are stable. I have food, friends, love. I meditate. In short, I am unbelievably privileged; and I am very aware of it. I'm also aware that my circumstances could change on a dime, any day.
May we all be safe and protected. May we all be loved; may we find peace each day, no matter what happens. And may we look after each other with compassion and kindness.
On the left: This was a pillow top that I traditionally hooked with wool strips last year. The pattern was developed from a design on an old piece of pottery by Ruby Hill Fiber Arts in Nevada. I found it on Etsy and really enjoyed hooking it.
On the right: I wanted to punch hook the same pattern, using my own hand-dyed yarn rather than hooking it with wool strips. So late last year I tried to buy it again on Etsy. But after a prolonged and extensive search there and on Google, I could no longer find the company anywhere online. It was as if it had never existed. Finally I re-drew the pattern and changed it up a bit, and then punched it. I just completed the finishing this evening.
This developed from my interest in showing the difference between traditional hooking with wool strips, and punch hooking with yarn. They are both very similar and very different. I only wish I could have found the designer again and bought the pattern a second time, and would be happy to pay her if I can ever locate her. I really enjoyed both projects. But not the finishing. I'm fine finishing a rug, but anything involving sewing is not fun for me and finishing pillows, of course, falls into that latter category. Glad these are done!
Can you hear Elton John singing it? "Saturday, Saturday...Saturday night's alright..."
Actually it was the day that was alright but that's beside the point. I'm testing some colors for possible use in an upcoming oriental rug, and here's what I've got so far. First I had to make some skeins:
"Niddy-noddy, niddy-noddy...two heads, one body.
Tis one, ’tain’t one, ’twill be one soon
’Tis two, ’tain’t two, ’twill be two soon
’Tis three, ’tain’t three, ’twill be three soon …"
This is one version of an incredibly old counting rhyme I first learned back in the 1960s when I was first introduced to the tool (niddy-noddies were in use as early as 800 A.D.). To find out more, click HERE.
No, I am not in Nova Scotia. But since I'm useless as a cook (food cook), I thought I'd cook some yarn today for a textile project. The color is from a recipe called Nova Scotia Blue. What fun!
I'll have a relaxing day and then go out to a local restaurant with friends for a traditional U.S. Thanksgiving Dinner with all the fixings. Therefore, the fact that I'm hopeless at cooking - except for cooking yarn - won't matter one bit.
I am grateful for good friends and for the privilege of enough health, enough time, enough money, and enough shelter. So many folks do not have any of these.
May all beings have enough food to eat today. I know that is not true for a great many in this troubled world. May we all have at least that much and more, on this American Thanksgiving holiday.
Hmmm, I appear to be working on a series of posts with titles named after Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Yesterday was Grumpy, today Happy.
A good night's sleep makes all the difference (oh no--I can foretell a forthcoming post with the title "Sleepy"). That plus the fact that last year at this time I was still unpacking, and would feel terribly guilty if I tried to find the time to do anything creative when I felt I "should" be working on the house.
If I know anything about myself it's that a day or two without time to do handwork or drawing renders me hyper-cranky and anxious. I'm afraid I'm addicted. It doesn't matter if the result is only mediocre; it's the act of creating that releases stress and puts me nearly into a state of bliss every time.
Today I was able to do some rug punching (for a pillow not a rug) and at the same time practice singing. My singing was absolutely horrible, but who cares? The combination was my idea of heaven. Start of punched pillow is below.
Contrast this punched version with the identical but traditionally hooked pillow (see my post from December 27th) to see the difference between punching and hooking. Both of which sound either violent or sleazy, eh?
But they are the polar opposite. So soothing.
In less than a week, 2018 is done. I'm doing my annual review by re-reading my journal and reflecting. It's always a bittersweet process.
That's not all that's winding up. On the right is yarn I over-dyed yesterday, preparing for my next project. I just finished winding it into this yarn cake.
Here it was in the dyepot just before I nuked it for the final time. And yes, the lighting was different. The color in the photo above is truer. The original yarn, a worsted weight, was beige. When I saw this in the dyepot It looked so much like spaghetti I couldn't believe it.
Also winding up--and now actually finished--is this hooked pillow I put together yesterday. The pattern is from a vintage piece of pottery, and I'm thrilled with how it came out.
The yarn I dyed above is actually going to be used in a twin of this piece--I will punch hook the same pattern, to illustrate the difference between traditional hooking and punch hooking.
I finally finished my "Red & Black" rug today. This piece feels as though it's been underway for years.
It's not a big rug, either; it's probably about 2'x3' at most.
After I finished the binding and then the final steaming, I laid it down on my tile floor to dry and went into my journal to search for the starting date of this rug. I couldn't find it, but it has to be either 2016 or 2017, early in the year*.
So in actuality, I don't know how long it did take me. But certainly over a year. Things got incredibly complicated when I bought the house, packed up after 40 years in one place, moved, started unpacking, and broke my wrist.
There were a lot of lessons in this rug, and good memories too.
I thought when I designed it (yes, it's my design) that I could use up all of my red and black wool. Well, that didn't work out! The wool apparently multiplied itself secretly overnight and I am left with what looks like the same amount of red and black wool as I finish the rug as I had when I began. So one lesson is that wool you want to use up never fully goes away, while wool you are worried about not having enough of will ALWAYS run out in a crucial spot. Guaranteed.
I thought hooking in straight lines would be a cinch. Surprise! Not so easy for me. I learned I am not good at hooking in straight lines at all. But...I kept on truckin'.
I started it while living in one place, and finished it in another. I miss my Woolies so much...and at the same time am forging new friendships out here. I feel fortunate to be making some new friends. (But still wish my other peeps weren't so far away...)
I had to put it down and pick it up about a zillion times, with long delays in between due to packing, moving, unpacking, and my damaged wrist and hand. There was a major lesson in patience and persistence to get it done.
But I got it done. That's the biggest lesson.
"Nevertheless, she persisted."
*Addendum: Checking my photos of this rug, I see that I started it in January of 2016, so over two years from start to finish. Yikes. (I may have put it aside to complete at least one other rug in the meantime, however.)
A HAPPY SUMMER SOLSTICE TO ALL
(in the northern hemisphere)
This was my way of celebrating the Solstice and our gorgeous weather. I took ten skeins of fingering-weight yarn, each ten ounces, and dyed around the color wheel using the Wooly Mason Jar Dyeing Technique. Below they look even better, dried and rolled into yarn cakes.
This is the first time I've ever dyed the entire color wheel in one go.
I was trying for variegated yarn, which I prefer. I didn't succeed with the three primary colors (check out the evenly-dyed red, yellow and blue skeins at one o'clock, five o'clock, and nine o'clock), but I adjusted my method and am very happy with the variegation in the other nine skeins. I'll be using this technique to dye for my punch needle embroidery work, and also for future rug hooking.
Thank you Lucy Richards! (originator of this technique) Lucy should be canonized for answering all my dumb questions up to this point. Unfortunately I'll undoubtedly be sending more dumb questions her way in the future. But what fun, and I think I've finally gotten the hang of this. It can only build my confidence for future dyeing adventures.
If you read the previous post titled "A Good Yarn With a Sad Story," you'll know that a few days ago a friend and I took a very confused-looking cone of wool yarn from WEBS, carefully turned it into skeins, and made it glamorous.
Well, I went back to WEBS for more of the Sad Story yarn, because there was just one cone of fingering-weight yarn that I knew would be perfect for punch needle embroidery. And if you didn't already believe me about the sign on the shelf, here is a photo of it:
Unbelievably, the cone that I bought was in even sadder shape than the cone my friend had bought last week. Here is my cone on the shelf as I saw it:
It was this very yarn that I turned into the color wheel above.
I know it's much happier now. Me too.
The sound of colors is so definite that it would be hard to find anyone who would express bright yellow with base notes, or dark lake with the treble.
I don't yet have a new project to dye wool for, although I'll be starting one soon. But I do have a dear friend who was visiting and interested in learning to dye yarn, so I thought it would be a good time to try out Lucy Richard's Wooly Mason Jar Dye technique.
And it was--we had a lot of fun last Saturday, even though we went "off-road" and did our own thing rather than following Lucy's directions. Why? Because I'd had no time to read Lucy's instructions and so hadn't done any of the prep work. She has a very specific and relatively foolproof system that I'm interested in learning.
Although we didn't follow her method, we still got into the dyepot and had a lot of fun. Here are some photos from the day.
Oh, and where does the title of today's post come from? Read on; the story is after the photos. Pretty funny.
The Lucy Richard method involves making dye solutions in jars. One of the 3 "starter" primary colors is Warm Blue, and that's what you see here on the right. We didn't have time to mix up all the initial solutions for this very exact method, so we ad-libbed and tried our own thing, which you see in the pink jar.
THE STORY OF THIS YARN AND THE TITLE OF TODAY'S POST:
We had gone to WEBS on Friday. While there, my friend decided to pick up some white wool with which to practice dyeing. After walking around in the warehouse, she spotted a poor...unfortunate...very small cone of white wool yarn sitting all by its lonesome on a shelf with a few other assorted fibers. This cone of yarn was. very messy and disorganized, to say the least. The strands of yarn in the upper part seemed to be trying to jump off the top of the cone and run away.
It looked like a fiber in distress. The tag said 100% wool and the price was only $2.50.
Next we spotted a sign on the shelf that said (I'm not making this up):
"Good yarn with a sad story." ???!!
Well, what could we do? She HAD to buy it and take it home. So she did. We carefully took it off the cone and wound it into 3 skeins when we got home. There was only about 40 ounces total on the cone, but it was enough to play with in the dyepot.
And so, our "good yarn with a sad story" actually got to have a happy ending. It now looks far more glamorous, and my friend will incorporate it into one of her beautiful woven wall hangings.
A very happy ending indeed.
Oh, and did I mention that she is now addicted to dyeing yarn? Yup. She'll be fabulous at it.
When I went to my last local rug hooking meeting, I only expected to work on my rug and have fun.
I had NO IDEA what would be waiting for all of us who attended.
We were treated to an incredible show of rugs from Turkey, China, and Iran by one of the members, Elizabeth Vierling. Dr. Vierling is a Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, but she is also a rug maker and clearly has a passion for textiles. I took a million photographs...unfortunately my memory of her very informative commentary on the origins and purposes of each piece is fading fast, but here are some of the photos. Enjoy!
I believe this first piece was from Turkey. It is very large and I think Elizabeth uses it as a rug in her home. It is embroidered, using a couching stitch I think (see detail in last photo). Probably circa mid 20th-century.
The color work is just sensational. After ogling the piece (above) for a good long while, we all decided we are not using enough orange in our own designs.
Apologies in advance to Elizabeth for how much I have already forgotten of what she said about each textile. Her commentary on where she located each one, where and how each was created, and what each may have been used for, was fascinating. But in the week since I saw these works, all of her commentary has started to slide right out of my head. Darn!
If memory serves me--which likely it doesn't--below are two clothing panels embroidered by the Miao people of China (one of China's long-suppressed minority groups, now finally beginning to emerge and be recognized for their rich history and cultural treasures).
And if that weren't enough, there was more, and more still...click on each thumbnail to progress through the items, or just hit "Play."
One of the most dramatic textiles was the one below. I loved these tiny aliens. The work is so beautiful, and the colors vibrant. Each thumbnail has a different view (or you can just hit "Play").
Elizabeth travels for academic conferences, and is occasionally able to extend the travel time in order to take in more of the culture of the countries she is in. This is why she has been able to explore and research textiles on some of her trips.
Aren't we fortunate--those of us who were there to see this show? With thanks to Elizabeth for letting me photograph and post the photos, for her lively talk and especially for lugging all the heavy, bulky textiles to the meeting. All of her hard work resulted in a fabulous experience for the rest of us.
I have indeed been absent from writing for a long while.
It's nothing bad, nor have I abandoned my blog. Instead, life has been overly-full with good things, including two major projects. I'll write about one of them today.
I just returned from a less-than-24 hour trip to Cornwall, VT, where I stayed overnight at the Oxford Rug Hooking School and completed the requirements to become a Certified Teacher Punch Needle Rug Hooking. (!! Hurrah !!)
And as if that weren't wonderful enough, just look at the weather and views I had while I was there (even though I hardly had time to be outside).
There was earthy eye candy everywhere.
Here are some samples, a photo journey for your enjoyment:
Amy Oxford's school is a bit of heaven on earth, one of my favorite places to go and well worth the four-hour drive for me. (Although TWO four-hour drives in 24 hours just about did me in.)
And then there is Amy herself, one of the kindest and most generous people I know. A fabulous artist, teacher and businesswoman. And there is also Heidi the dye wizard, working her magic on both creative and administrative aspects of the school--and just as nice. (Heidi also can repair absolutely anything.)
It is sheer pleasure to be in residence there.
I am ready to collapse for the evening and try to take in the fact that I'm now certified...a fact which just makes me think, "But I have so much more to learn!"
My one regret is that I couldn't stay longer. Anyone who has been to the school and is reading this will know exactly what I mean.
As for the other project I'm involved in: that one is bigger, longer-term, and more disruptive, and may prevent me from writing much for a while.
It's all good. But it's also all-consuming.
To quote the old Beatles' move, Help: "I can say no more."
I have been busy today, despite excessive heat and humidity. Although it hardly seems possible that I actually needed to dye more gold yarn for my current rug (after all the excess I had at the finish of the last one), I did.
But dyeing during the heat of August is not my idea of fun. So what to do?
I woke at 5 a.m. and it was only 70 degrees outside, so I zipped into the kitchen and dyed four skeins before the heat could build. Hopefully this will be enough to finish the rug. After hanging the skeins to dry, I spent a few hours punching also and am coming close to finishing everything but the borders. on the rug Well, perhaps that's pushing it just a little bit...but I'm definitely making good progress and I think the above statement will be true after one more day of work.
Once I wound the yarn, I amused myself by making a yarn-cake mandala on my iPhone. Love these fun iPhone apps...
It's too early to show my rug design, but a took a photo of a small part of the rug and ran it through another iPhone app to make a spiral.
Wow, these apps are powerful...I love this and only wish my rug could look like this! Quite amazing. (Indeed, my rug looks nothing like this at all.)
And a happy Fourth of July to all in the USA. I am lazing about and having a quiet one; I'm also tidying up some of the many tasks on my to-do list. Everyone has left town. It's extremely quiet, and one telltale sign that it's a holiday weekend is the lack of traffic and a plethora of parking spots everywhere.
One of the tidying-up things was that I ran out of background yarn for an 8" sampler I was making (on the left above). So close...and yet so far. So, I dyed up a skein of yarn to match yesterday morning, and this morning I finished the punching:
I've gotten two other big tasks off my to-do list today, and made a good start on a third. This is one reason I love long lazy holiday weekends. Although I define them as "lazy" because I don't go out and do events, I usually get a tremendous amount done at home with minimum effort. I don't feel that I've been pushing at all, and yet I've accomplished a lot.
Long live holiday weekends. Especially summer holiday weekends when the weather is just perfect.
"Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability."
This is the last installment in the series on my experience at the week-long certification workshop at the Oxford Rug Hooking School in Cornwall Vermont last week.
I'll start with some pictures again--these are from Chris H, with his permission. They are photos he took on a brief walk he took up the dirt road just to the side of Amy's property. (I did not take a walk all week--unusual--and I lived to regret it, but that's another story. Note to self: Always take at least one walk a day...)
It really was that beautiful there, and it was that way all week. Sunny, warm but not too hot, low humidity, Kind of staggeringly beautiful.
Amy is a genius as an instructor. She had the entire week so well-planned...we introduced ourselves, talked about what makes a good instructor, and set goals. And then we set about meeting our goals for the week. Amy modeled the type of teacher we all hope to be. She was completely organized, but not rigid. She was great at time management, without making us feel we were on a "regimen." She told us what we'd be learning for each day--and then we actually learned it. And she had great handouts, clear and useful. The kind of handouts we can use with our own students.
At one point, the wonderful Diane Burgess came in for an entire morning to teach traditional rug hooking to those of us who had never tried our hands at that. Diane specializes in teaching traditional hooking to newbies.
Amy even managed to squeeze in a thorough lesson on photographing rugs, something I think we all needed to learn. (She's not mad here--the sun was so extraordinarily bright that she is squinting)
Every day she gave us tip after tip, provided lots of time to punch and to teach, taught new techniques, and then ended with a hilarious graduation ceremony. I managed to photograph most of us at graduation, but unfortunately couldn't photograph myself and because Kathleen came right after me, I couldn't get her photo either.
Here are the graduation pictures. Note the kazoo in Amy's mouth as we go through the process!
Since we didn't have caps and gowns, we pitched balls of novelty yarn in the air to finalize the celebration. And speaking of yarns:
Chris dyed up these colors before coming to the workshop and they caused a sensation. I think all of us used some of his yarns in our work last week, and I also think all of us took home one of the colors. Here are the colors he gifted us with.
I got to go home with the blue one, and just today used more of it to finish one of my homework assignments. Chris raises sheep at his home, and spins; he also has the fleece commercially spun into rug yarn, but the hand-dyed yarns he dyed that are pictured above were, I think, from KnitPicks; they weren't from his own sheep. Thanks, Chris, for letting us all take one of these home.
After graduation Amy gave us each a tiny charm, as well as our diplomas. I loved the charm and am already using it on my keychain.
When I left on Saturday, I left with inspiration, with a good-sized manual for techniques, with the work I'd completed during the week, with plenty of resources, with plenty of homework ahead of me to complete the certification, and with the confidence that I could continue to improve and to pass on this technique as needed.
I forgot to mention that part of the homework is to complete a rug of our own design within the next four months. We had all sketched out our designs in advance, and one of my very favorite parts of the workshop was when we shared them with each other. I think we were all stunned by the level of creativity shown. I was impressed and inspired by what I saw and can't wait to see the completed rugs.
Because we had worked so hard, had bonded, and had so much fun, we were all pretty emotional as we were leaving. I saw tears (and had a few myself) and although we were all eager to get home after such a long time away, there was substantial foot-dragging as we said goodbye.
My thanks to Amy, our incredible teacher, and to the school manager (and dyer extraordinaire) Heidi, who kept everything organized and running smoothly while we were there.
Final thoughts on all the inspirational, dear, creative people I met last week:
"When I find myself fading, I close my eyes and realize my friends are my energy." (Anonymous)
Thanks to all of you for making this such a wonderful experience.
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.
Not only am I blessed with many friends, but all my friends are gifted in some way.
And certainly they are gifts to me.
Today we had another small meeting of the Wooly Bullies (my rug hooking group) at K's house. We had several members who couldn't come and they were much missed, but we had a great time as usual. Here are the pictures to prove it.
This is Cynthia's current rug-in-progress. The last time I saw this rug was about 5-7 years ago; Cynthia thinks she began it about 15 years ago and then put it aside to work on her very large Kokopelli Rug, which is now finished. I highlighted that rug in my last blog post on the Bullies. Because she had put it away to work on Kokopelli, Cynthia hadn't seen this floral rug herself for a few years--now she has fallen in love with it again and is thrilled to be so close to finishing. She did all the dyeing for this rug. The background is a wonderful onion skin dye. (This made me want to delve back into onion skin dyeing myself--I so love her background)
In the "How-adorable-is-this?" category, the winner today was Maria's small bunny-board, above. This is probably less than 12" long from head to toe.
I mean, seriously, people--doesn't this have "THINK SPRING!" written all over it? Here is the back of the piece, in case you have never seen a rug-on-a-board before (really, a "ruglet-on-a-board").
Cheryl just completed binding her Parrot Tulip chairpad, another Pearl McGown design. She was working on this in February when we last met, and you can see the progress she has made since then. I love these colors!
Kathleen is nearly finished with the interior of her fabulous fish rug, titled "The Last Cod." You can see the small unhooked area at the very top. She will then have to decide what to do for a border and was taking suggestions today. (The Wooly Bullies are never bashful about giving suggestions!) This is an amazing rug, very large and complex. And a sobering theme. Designed by Kathleen, with most of the wool hand-dyed by her--a few pieces were dyed by Michele Micarelli as well. I have watermarked this picture because it's Kathleen's original work, all of it, and I don't want to take any chances (she has given me permission to post it).
And last but by no means least, Maria was working on finishing the background for her stunning apple tree rug. Whose pattern is this, I wonder? Another McGown? Someone else?
I am working on my red & black scrappy rug and did not take a photo of it. But you can see it here in recent previous blog posts, as well as the punched rug I am working on (see a photo of that in progress in yesterday's post).
Kathleen made a delicious soup, Cheryl brought cupcakes, and I brought two types of cheese (one was a really unusual honey-lavender goat cheese) and crackers from the local gourmet cheese place, so we certainly didn't starve as we worked.
We worried about, and missed, members who couldn't come today and hope all is well. I spent quite some time just listening quietly and thinking about how fond I am of all the women in this group, and how lucky I am to have you in my life. You each inspire me in different ways.
As the saying goes, "Good friends are like stars; you don't always see them, but you know they are there."
Thank you for being there. All of you.
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