This piece is experimental in so many ways. I won't say what it is yet. But I will say it's my first time using a #8 Oxford Punchneedle (normally I go with the #10), and I've enjoyed punching with it. The loops are so lush. The design is my own and I dyed the green yarn years and years ago; the other yarns are from Halcyon in Maine and from Judith Hotchkiss in Maine.
The big question: will this project actually come together and succeed?
I will have to wait and see. If it does work out, I'll be incredibly chuffed and you can be sure you'll see the end result here. Hopefully soon.
This was a terrific learning project! I did so many things wrong, and learned a ton in the process. I won't list them all but I can see them and you probably can as well. I value the piece anyway, precisely because it shows me what I learned.
I was at the Oxford Rug Hooking School in VT a couple of weeks ago for a fine shading workshop with the fabulous Judith Hotchkiss who came to us from Maine. Her unique hand-dyed wools were so much fun to work with. The pattern is Judith's own. I added the beads (which aren't particularly visible in this photo).
At some future point I'm inspired to try more fine shading, but I have several other projects lined up first. In fact I may even try another hydrangea, and prove to myself how much I learned by doing this one. We had a great time!
This is my latest experimental departure from Pearl K. McGown's "Duncan" pattern. First I took the classic pattern, made a tesselated version, and then drew in randomly-located triangles inside each tesselation piece to create something different.
So it's both tesselated and triangled.
Some cursing was involved. But by my standards, not too bad. What is it about cursing that makes things easier? A few choice swear words are good for the soul.
"There ought to be a room in every house to swear in. It's dangerous to have to repress an emotion like that."
It's done! My fingers are a bloody mess from trying to push a needle through the thick canvas of the old tote bag to attach the punched piece. One finger is quite sore. But--I did it. Pleased. Thank you Amy Oxford for this design.
The finished punched piece is done, steamed, etc., but I want to sew it to a canvas zipper bag and I cannot find a bag that fits this size, 8"x15". If I had the skills to sew such a bag I would do it, but I know my own limitations and that type of sewing is beyond me. So, I'm on a search for the right kind of zipper pouch. That way, I can sew this on and have a "Punching Bag" to put my punch needles in. Pardon the pun (ch).
A good friend and I met in Vermont Tuesday afternoon for a textile tour (self-planned), the high point of which was a stop here.
Oh my! I had not been back there in SIX YEARS. Awful, because I absolutely love the place. And there have been so many changes in the meantime. It was fabulous to hang out with Amy, Heidi, and the others I hadn't met previously because they've all been hired since i was last able to visit. Of course I bought some goodies for myself too, the last of which was this brightly colored hoodie. It's warm and comfortable and I may never take it off.
What the heck?
Explanation: Rug punching is done on a pattern printed backward, so words are reversed. The "wrong side" side you punch into; the "right side" is the reverse. I'm using an Oxford Punchneedle #10 (thank you, Amy Oxford, for inventing this) and a small pattern (from the Oxford Company) to create a "punching bag" for my punching supplies.
I need a "brainless" small project to bring to rug hooking meetings with me. My current traditionally hooked rug-in-progress requires constant thinking/planning, and I cannot go to what's basically a social event and bring my entire wool stash with me just because I haven't finished the color plan yet and "might need" a dash of this or that.
Fortunately, I have enough of my own hand-dyed wools that I can start in on this immediately, and it's quite portable. Ideal for attending a rug hooking group.
An hour later:
Here you can faintly see the word "punch" up above on the linen, and I've done some outlining. This is the messy stage of punching, before you fill in background--which makes those unruly loops get back in line and behave themselves. The last step is to push around any remaining straggly loops, part of the clean-up process after the punching is done. More to come.
Two views of the same luscious hearth-rug designed, dyed, and hand-punched by my buddy AE.
You haven't lived until you've sunk your toes into a hand-punched rug. So luxurious.
I would love to say "I taught her," but it just ain't true. I spent about half a minute several years back showing her how to punch and ditto showing her how to dye wool (yarn). She already had killer textile instincts in other media, and with basically no instruction developed her own style and vision. Now I feel like I'd recognize her work anywhere, and she's far surpassed me in her dyeing skills. Really beautiful work here. She also weaves, sews, embroiders, beads, and draws. Some folks just have the gift!
More to come on this tomorrow or early next week.
The prep for a grand experiment.
(this is Teaser #1)
I know the general outline of the experiment will be, but I have no idea if it will work or not. Hmmm. This could be the first & last you hear about it.
Teaser #2 is below
It's the same little punch needle "ruglet"--which I showed here a few days ago--only this time, it's lying on part of my new rug. I'm now binding the rug, and will show it in full once it's done.
"To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it."
I needed a quick and easy diversion so decided to punch up this tiny 8x8" pattern from Storyteller Wool, to celebrate spring and all the crocuses popping up all over the place in my 'hood. What a cutie!
Spring feels so GOOD this year, for a thousand reasons. Yet even as I write this, I'm thinking of the hundreds of thousands--millions--of people who are not here to celebrate, and their grieving families.
It is bittersweet, yes.
But for those of us who made it through what felt like a time a profound darkness, this Light Return is deeply healing.
I bought this little kit (including yarns--so pretty!--from Storyteller Wool to take a break from drawing and traditional hooking for a couple of hours of hand-punching and a sweet reminder of the return of spring after a long, long, dark, cold time.
May we heal together. May we all remember those we miss so much. May we move forward and know joy again, even as we hold them in our hearts.
I'll add a picture of the completed piece soon. Happy International Punch Needle Rug Hooking Day! April 10th, 2021
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
Every year at this time I find myself looking backwards. And forwards. Today I was doing some cleaning in my art room, and I found these 12-month-old-tiles below. Bittersweet, indeed.
In mid-December 2019, I was just back from a wonderful weekend with a good friend at Kripalu, drawing tangles with Martha Huggins (on the left) and Molly Hollibaugh (right) of the Zentangle® family. If this year had been normal, I'm sure I'd have done the same. But we all know it was not a normal year.
So here is a short review of some of the work we did in December 2019, with the fond hope that we will be able to do something similar in 2021. Looking at these tiles brought back so many good memories for me.
And although I'm not a Christmas celebrator, I just happened to get some non-Christmas presents this year (the timing just worked out that they arrived at Christmastime). Here are two that I'm thrilled by but haven't had time to try out yet.
This is a commemorative but perfectly functional Oxford Punchneedle, called The Peacock. Amy (Oxford) had only 1300 of these made from laminated wood, to commemorate her 25th year in business. It's a #13 Fine size and I cannot wait to try it out. Check out the bag, made of fabric to match the needle. I love it! I gifted this to myself from myself.
A friend is a gift you give yourself.
Robert Louis Stevenson
Above you see one classic type of pretzel knot. On the left, when you think of it, is another type. Those are washed and dried worsted weight yarn skeins from my wildly successful bargain hunting the other day--twisted into the kind of gentle "knotty looping" that is useful when storing yarn.
I drew the tangled piece as a bookmark for a friend having a birthday next week. It's inspired by one of Sadelle Wiltshire's very nice freehand-knotting videos and this is what fell out of my pen. Perhaps I should do a Celtic Knot punchneedle piece with that yarn. These knots are very relaxing to draw.
And given the knotty problems facing us all right now, with the pandemic and a planet dealing the climate change, political messes and human rights issues, I seem to have knots on the brain.
We learn the rope of life by untying its knots.
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.
Goodbye to 2019. I'm somewhat inclined to add, "And good riddance," but it's more complicated than that.
To the left is the result of a test patch I did today on an oriental rug pattern I've owned for years and have always wanted to make. The question is, what if I punch-hooked it? Is that possible?
Using some test skeins of 3/36 rug yarn that I dyed, I produced this.
Mmmmmm, I just don't know. I need to live with this for a few days but my first reaction is, I am not sure I like it. Best to leave it for awhile and see what my reaction is over time before I make any decisions. (These are not the colors I would use on the final piece; they are just for testing.)
It's been a long, tough year. Some things in my life have dramatically improved. And I'm frequently aware of how privileged I am on so many fronts. But the state of the planet and the political situation in our country are downright frightening and discouraging.
All I can do, I know, is try to stand up for what I believe in and at the same time try to be kind and compassionate. And I can be thankful every day for what I have and for all the good things in my life.
I wish the same for all--kindness, compassion, safety, enough food and warmth in life and plenty of love.
Let's move forward into 2020 with clear eyes, wise action, and inner peace. Thanks for reading.
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.
A lovely calming meeting today with rug hooking friends Diana, Lynda, and Judy.
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.
It seems Spring is scarce as hen's teeth around here. It comes and then goes just as quickly. Fortunately last Saturday we had one glorious spring day, coinciding with our rug hooking meeting in Connecticut at Ann's farmhouse. The weather and sun smiled upon us; all of us were able to attend, and we had a blast.
I have only a few pictures (since many of us have been working on the same projects for quite a long time) but they'll be worth seeing.
Well, of course--those of you who've been reading the rug hooking category of this blog will recognize Cheryl the Rug Rescuer's name and title. Yes, this is ANOTHER rug rescue by our intrepid colleague. I believe the designer's name is Denise Mitchell...see this close-up below:
Apparently Denise (if I have her name correct) was a rug hooking teacher who died recently. Before her death she designed and hooked most of this rug, but was unable to finish it. Another rug hooker who didn't feel able to tackle the job approached Cheryl, asking her to do complete it, and gave her the remaining wool for the rug. Cheryl accepted the challenge and is basically done with the hooking now. Someone else will take care of the binding, and then the rug will go to the woman who asked Cheryl to finish it. Denise, wherever she's currently existing, would be proud to see her rug completed. A better photo is below.
Elizabeth was punching away on this beauty:
And Kathleen had brought along this pattern to work on for the day (K is in the middle of two other very complicated gorgeous rugs, too large to carry around):
That's it for the rug photos, but wait until you see what is coming next. Ann, our hostess, brought out a hand-embroidered tablecloth that had us all drooling down our shirts. One of her relatives (grandmother? uh-oh, I can't remember) had begun this, and I think Ann prevailed upon an aunt to complete it. It is just stunning. I took lots of photos. Here it is:
Here are more photos of various motifs, and some close-ups. What a labor of love.
You may be wondering (but you probably aren't!!!), "Where's your rug?" My rug is so close to done that I've decided to wait until it is done to show the photo. Since I am moving at a snail's pace--too busy to work on it much--that could be another month, but I hope not. I'll try to get it done and on here sooner.
Instead, since Ann had been asking me about punchneedle, I did bring my latest punchneedle project. I finished it this morning. Still debating how to frame it. Below you can see the original tee-shirt I've had for at least ten years, if not more, with this design on the front. And next to it, my punchneedle version. The tee-shirt is fading, and I've loved this redwing blackbird image for so long that I cannot bear to lose it, so I wanted to immortalize it in punchneedle.
The one problem: I cannot find any contact information for the original artist, Rob McClellan. I believe I've traced him to Ohio, and have even found a gallery there that sells some of his work. But the most recent work they have is decades old. I wrote to the gallery to see if they could help me locate him, but they wrote back to say they have no idea how to do that. If anyone--anyone!--knows how to locate him (I suspect he may be long dead--I've found some photos of someone with that name on the internet but they too are decades old), PLEASE let me know. Clearly I did this for myself only and will not be selling or profiting in any way from the piece, but I would love to find him and thank him and credit him even more than I can by doing this.
A happy Spring to all. May it come, and stay for awhile, before the summer.
A lovely ride with new friends this morning to a rug hooking event at a church about an hour away. Very well organized, and 165 people in attendance. I only photographed a few rugs, but aren't these wonderful?
Good people, good food, good vendors. What's not to love? I even won a prize, and I never win stuff at these events. All in all a very satisfying day. We started out early in very cold weather and saw plenty of snow on the ground and gorgeous snow-laden trees. Driving home, all the snow was gone. Spring is on the way...if we can only hold out long enough!
Oh, this was fun to do. It has been a long time since I've done any punchneedle embroidery, and I enjoyed every minute of this. I've done a lot of my own designs but when I saw this pattern by Lori Brechlin of Notforgotten Farm I just couldn't resist.
I recognize this sentiment as being universal to all rug hookers and rug punchers. Here's a shot of the piece before it was framed:
After all, a hooker can never have too much wool.
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."
When I was a kid, I remember my mother complaining that I never finished what I started. She was right. I would develop some sudden enthusiasm and throw myself into whatever-it-was and then just as suddenly lose all interest and drop it. I had unfinished projects littering the house.
I remember being furious with her for pointing this out--because I knew it was true.
I made a vow to myself that I would "finish what I started" from then on. And mostly I've stuck to that vow. My mother did me a big favor.
After completing a really challenging project last week (more about that in a future post), I had finally cleared the decks of all my recent textile endeavors and was free to think about what's next. I do have one additional rug underway but can finish that as soon as the weather turns cooler and I can get back in the studio.
As soon as I asked myself, "What IS next?" I realized I had two ancient unfinished objects that I truly wanted to complete. One is a quilt I started at least 30 years ago. But that's in pieces in various boxes and will have to wait a while longer, until I can find everything. The other, though, is a punch needle embroidery face that I started at least seven years ago. Here it is.
I finished 9/10s of this back around 2009, and then I had to stop for reasons I no longer recall. Not smart.
This morning I finished the face, despite running into a soft spot in the backing that was threatening to disintegrate completely. (Eeeek! Desperation was only seconds away.)
The piece itself is actually in full color, but I used an app to switch it to black and white to study the values.
I think I could have done a better job of finishing. However: If one has abandoned a project for over seven full years, and one has been silly enough NOT to store it neatly in a bag with its appropriate colors, then "one" will have to spend most of the day guessing at what colors were used, at how many threads were being used per stitch, and at what in the world I was thinking when I put it down with so little to finish. Jeez!
After I got all that sorted out--kinda--I finished the tiny space that remained in less that half an hour. I mean, by dropping this piece to work on something else seven years ago, it just made everything so much harder when I went to pick it up again. Oy!
Perhaps I thought I'd get right back to it. I never did. And I've thought about finishing it ever since. There is still a lot of work to be done.
Next up: punching the hair, then some type of background.
I'm now thinking of a whole series of embroidered portraits. I know that when I finally finish this project and post a color version, it will be clear just how far I still have to go to improve--but that's half the fun of learning to draw/punch/paint/hook. I can only get better!
Or so I tell myself.
And much as I hate to admit it: Thanks, mom.
"Consider the postage stamp: its usefulness consists in the ability to stick to one thing till it gets there."
"The artist uses the talent he has, wishing he had more talent. The talent uses the artist it has, wishing it had more artist."
Or perhaps I should have titled this, "Errors in Art."
How does one know if something is ruined, or retrievable?
I spent hours punching today, and only after those hours did I suddenly look at my highly-structured, visually precise geometric pattern and realize that something was very wrong.
This is not a forgiving pattern--it depends entirely on balance. I saw I had punched the entire center of the rug (yes, the CENTER...oy) in a very unbalanced way, since I was being mindful of my delight of the process but not the slightest bit mindful about the plan of the process. When I sat back and looked at the big picture, I was shocked.
(Does this sound like something that has ramifications for life beyond a rug?)
At least 1/3 of the center would have to be ripped out.
And so I ripped and ripped and ripped.
Monks cloth, which is the foundation commonly used for punching, is very sturdy, but somehow my battered foundation is now looking fragile to me. Will it hold?
(Another life metaphor. Sorry, I can't resist.)
And then there is all that beautiful yarn I dyed. I ripped out a mound of it. Can I recycle it, or will I have to discard it all (!!!), and dye more?
I did soak, dry, and recycle yarn in an effort to save it. Since I took this photo I have put these last few bits on the drying rack to straighten out. It will be awhile before I know if this has worked or not.
But I'm not done with repairing...tomorrow I have half as much to rip out and re-do.
I cannot believe I made such a huge error.
So what have I learned: It's not only about the process. When doing a geometric, planning is 50% of what's needed. I knew that already--what made me forget? I'll never know.
Tomorrow I'll get back into it and see if I can finish the repair. When I take the rug off the frame--and not until then--I'll know if this worked, or if I have a much more serious problem to face.
Is the rug still salvageable? I won't know for at least another day.
Centering...that is what I should have done repeatedly as I worked. I didn't, and this is the result.
A lesson for life-in-general, not just an art project.
"Nothing is more intolerable than to have to admit to yourself your own errors."
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