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."
...or am I just incredibly messy?
Hard to tell. Both, I think. I'm at the beginning of a new rug (one reason I haven't been posting drawings much is that I've been so busy doing punchneedle embroidery, finishing off my last traditionally hooked rug, and now starting a new traditionally hooked rug).
Here's what my studio floor looked like last night and still today.
I guess I know myself well enough to know that I need to throw stuff all over the floor and leave it while I look at it for a few days. This mess with its stumble-inducing health hazards--you take your life in your hands trying to walk across the floor--will in fact result in much trial and error but eventually I'll be able to work out a color plan.
Many rug makers I know can pull a few wools from their neat shelves, roll them together for testing purposes, decide on an initial plan, start working, tweak a bit and then boom! They are on their way. Not me. My mother would probably ask me if I was raised by wolves in Lower Slobbovia, but in fact, this is how I need to work. Yes, for me, it's all about creating chaos and allowing things to arise out of the mess.
Pretty much like the way our minds work in meditation. Until we learn to let things to arise out of the mess and begin to sort through them, allowing them to pass on their way, we just have the mess on our hands. But eventually we're able to sort through it and clear the space. Or perhaps it's just that life unfolds as it will, and things get sorted on their own.
I'm very moved by chaos theory, and that sense of energy. That quantum physics. We don't really, in Hindu tradition, have a father figure of a God. It's about cosmic energy, a little spark of which is inside every individual as the soul.
I had a problem.
With sewing machines.
Other than my ancient old Singer treadle, which I somehow managed to "misplace" during one of my Year of Seven Relocations (don't ask: an unhappy time many decades ago) I have always found sewing machines super-challenging.
Oh how I loved that treadle; it was just my speed, even when I was young. It was reliable. It never snarled up or gave trouble. Photo of a similar machine at the end of this post.
After the Year of Seven Relocations, I bought a small, inexpensive Sears Kenmore that had some basic bells and whistles and looked portable. I used it a few times, had the usual issues (snarled up threads causing endless cursing), buried it at the back of a closet and forgot it.
Fast-forward forty-five+ years to 2017. Having relocated yet again, I finally brought the Kenmore in for a complete tune-up--cleaning, oiling, and a bit of general loving. It was sorely needed. (Ya think?) I had not used it once in over 40 years.
Since 2017 I've only pulled it out a couple of times but now it positively hums and performs flawlessly. It's a joy to use. I used it this afternoon to zig-zag around the edge of my latest rug, and enjoyed the entire experience. It sews like a dream. It's a trooper, after 5 decades.
What a far cry from 50 years ago. I'm sure its tune-up helped, but I know that I'm actually the one who's had the major tune-up since then. I realize now the trouble was never with the machine, which in fact is extremely well-made. The "fault"--though I wouldn't use that term now--lay with my own inner unhappiness at the time. The impatience. The self-doubt. The insecurity. The determination to blame something or someone else, never taking responsibility myself.
A little meditation (OK, a lot of meditation) and an education in the School of Life have tuned me up quite a bit! It turns out I have always been the owner of a very well-made sewing machine, and only needed to grow up enough to use it.
This is really back to basics. There's an art challenge going on that focuses on just one tangle each day in January. Really basic. No pressure. Of course I didn't get started on time but it'll be easy to catch up. Each tile is only 2" square. We began with some of the first tangles any beginner learns. A fun and stress-less project which will continue all year.
When I look back at my early start with Zentangle®, I remember that there were only about 106 "official" tangles at the time. Unbelievable. Of course as soon as Rick & Maria began teaching, all their students were encouraged to come up with their own tangles, and everyone did so with a vengeance. Now there are thousands of them. And none, not one, are originals, because humans have been drawing patterns since the Dawn of Time, and so everything we use has been "invented" many times before. The only difference is that R&M named each tangle and created easy 6-steps-or-less instructions for each one so that anyone anywhere could learn to do this. And the rest is history.
Meanwhile, this (below) is the reason I've hardly been tangling. I've been working on this rug (photo is a peep at a corner of it) but ran out of a couple of spot-dyed colors and have to wait about two more weeks to get just a teensy bit more of the fabric or the border will end up not matching. And I was on a roll! But not paying attention to my stash. Live and learn.
Nope, I haven't abandoned the blog, even though it must look like it. It's a temporary lapse caused by necessary work on an external project, as well as the fact that I've been working hard on a hand-hooked rug. Then add in a dash of generalized holiday madness. Even though I don't celebrate the holidays, everyone around me does and it certainly causes madness!
Result: I haven't put my pen on paper to draw in a month. And wow, have I missed it.
So here you have me starting over. This is a piece-in-progress, one that I began last night. It's not even half-done yet. We'll see where it goes.
I treated myself to a new t-shirt and I love it.
Last, here is a sneak preview of an upcoming rug I'm working on. This is what has really been taking up most of my time. This and doing a lot of reading (see the t-shirt above), along with some teaching.
All in all a very busy end to this year. Wonderful. And now, I hope to get back to drawing in 2022.
Starting a new rug. Some of the work is deceptively tricky but I think I'm getting the hang of it. This is my second try and is an obvious improvement over the first. I'm learning as I go. That's the story of our everyday life, yes? "Learn as you go. " No instruction manual, no do-overs.
Taking each day as it comes. Not so easy to do! And not every day is a masterpiece either, that much is certain. But day by day, moment by moment, we create our lives. Hopefully, we learn as we go.
At least with rug hooking, you get to pull something out and do it over if needed.
"Yesterday I was clever, so I changed the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself." --Rumi
The most closely-watched trial in this country in a long time ended today, with three guilty verdicts. Perhaps this signals the beginning of some kind of reckoning for racial injustice in this country. There is so much work ahead. I put my head down and sobbed when I heard the convictions--relief, and sadness. All mixed in.
Allow me to change the subject completely, as I do not want to get into the habit of posting political thoughts--that's not the focus of this blog. So there was another ending today: I finished this rug, which I've been struggling with for quite a while. I had one color scheme in mind, and it didn't work out.
Not. At. All. Which meant I had to rip out a large proportion of the rug, think about what else might work, and then re-hook a large proportion of it. I did, and just finished binding it today. Next I gave it a good steaming and took a picture. Tonight I'll sew on the label. Hurrah!
The pattern is by Pearl K. McGown; I at first thought it was a very early design of hers, done while she was still in her early "geometric phase" and before she started designing the florals for which she's better known.
Later I discovered it's actually one of the last rugs she designed--another spate of geometrics named after her grandchildren, one of whom is named Duncan.
I did the color planning--much trickier than it sounds, as I mentioned above--and of course I did the hooking using largely #8 strips (with a few 6s and maybe even some 5s) from my stash. I bought a few scraps, but nearly all the wool (some of which I dyed) was from my stash so this rug didn't require more than perhaps a total of one yard of new wools. If that.
There was a LONG period as I worked on this where I was aiming only to "get it done," thinking it was so ugly that I'd never want to see it again. But now that I've changed the colors and done a lot of re-hooking, I like it.
My "Duncan" was inspired by one I saw in 2009 at a rug show of the late Lida Skilton Ives' work. The show was held at UConn in Storrs CT and the "Duncan" Mrs. Ives did stopped me dead in my tracks--I fell in love on the spot and knew I would hook it one day. Gee, it only took me twelve years to start my own version. Mine doesn't resemble hers one bit, but she completely inspired me. Thanks also to my friend Kathleen H who, when she saw the photo of the Ives rug, told me it was a McGown pattern--I would never have guessed. And Kathleen had already hooked her own version before we ever met, and since then has hooked a second one. Phew.
The beginning? It's time to begin cleaning up the mess the production of this rug generated. And to begin a new rug. I have just the one, ready to put on the frame.
My country is in trouble on so many levels at this moment. I am aware every day of my sorrow and concern. I am sitting with both, and experiencing these feelings. Under no circumstances will I turn my back on them, or on what is going on here right now.
At the same time, I took a walk today and was greeted by the utter and complete beauty of a spring day.
I hold both in my heart, the sorrow and the beauty.
I have also reached the point where I am binding the rug. Who knows if this is going to work or not? I'm trying a crocheted binding, which I have not done on this size rug before. I have some doubts about it but here it is so far.
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
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.
Yup, I'm starting another rug. This (below) is the first throw-down of possible colors. Who knows how many will be used? The design is a "challenge" my local rug hooking group is taking on--we are all hooking one particular pattern in our own way. Some members are already done; I haven't even begun mine yet but hope to get it underway tomorrow or later this week. I'm getting excited.
I actually introduced the pattern to the group in February and everyone wanted to try it.
The entire phase of beginning a rug reminds me of meditation practice. Every single time one sits to meditate, it's a form of starting over. You never know what will happen. It may not be fun every single time, but it is always interesting.
It's the same with hooking rugs. I always have a hazy mental picture of what I'll be producing, but the final result may or may not agree. Getting to the finish line can be a series of daily, or even moment-to-moment, changes.
My next unpredictable rug adventure is officially underway.
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.
It may look done, but it's far from done. Just like this year. Just like this never-ending plague. After the hooking is completed, there is a LOT of cleanup--searching the back for large unhooked spots to fill in, trimming stray ends, then steaming it to lie flat and to "relax" it (a newly hooked rug is often stiff before being steamed), and then binding it. I have only a small strip 1"x2" to hook.
You can see I've hooked in "2020" around the corner (lower left and middle right). What a year. And not quite halfway over yet, with some of the highest suspense still to come.
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.
Just some of the words I'm thinking and also hearing from others as the pandemic ramps up in the USA and other countries. There's the cascade of cancellations, the hoarding of odd things (toilet paper, really?) leading to empty shelves in stores. I could, but won't, go on.
With all the cancellations I've been able to focus a bit more on art. I just finished this small piece that's part of a group challenge. Meaning, a number of us are doing the same-sized piece with the same word on it, but other than that, we are each deciding on our own colors and border patterns used. It was fun to do this, and I'm doing a second one as a punch-hooked piece. I hooked this one in traditional fashion.
I didn't plan this and just made-it-up-as-I-went. And it probably looks that way! I like it though.
Today I took an online class with Joanna Quincy (a CZT from the UK) on the tangle Mooka, which I've used for years and love. But I know I can always learn tips and tricks and get better at anything, so I signed up. We did lots of fun practice and all did a similar tile. As you know if you read this blog, tangling is like handwriting and looks wildly different from person to person--part of its charm, fascination, and fun. Here is mine:
And here is the mosaic of the entire class' tiles:
Both rug hooking and tangling are incredibly relaxing, a much-needed, outrageously helpful characteristic right now. All forms of art practice can help us get through this. Read this fascinating article on the topic.
And finally, a quote from the late John Lennon which captures it all:
Nobody told me there'd be days like these;
Nobody told me there'd be days like these;
Nobody told me there'd be days like these;
Strange days indeed -- strange days indeed.
Finally finished yesterday, steamed one last time this morning, and hung on my kitchen wall this afternoon. For such a small rug (I think the length is about 26"), it took me way too long to get it done. But there's quite a story behind it, and while this rug is silly and funny, it means a lot to me.
Here's the story:
The original version of this pattern, which I have greatly modified, was designed by George Kahnle and hooked by his husband, Dick LaBarge. I believe it was titled, "Americus Tunafishus" and Dick dyed the wool and hooked it in red, white, and blue as a patriotic rug. I first saw the finished piece in Vermont at a rug show, and took note of it as I am a tuna fan. Note: It even says, "Loves tuna fish" under my photo in my old high school yearbook. And one of my memories of my dad is that he ate a tuna sandwich for lunch every day of his life--apparently my fondness for tuna is genetic. (I do know about the mercury danger and the over-fishing, and am pretty careful about where I get my tuna)
The original pattern is still available from Betsy Reed of Heavens to Betsy; she bought Dick & George's pattern stock from their former business, Hooked On the Creek. After I heard that Dick had died in 2018, I'm sure I bought the pattern from her late that year. It isn't shown on her website but if you ask, I believe she can bring it up. As I said, the original pattern doesn't resemble my rug much. I changed the wording and I completely redrew the fish.
Dick and George were just two of the nicest, most talented, and funniest guys I've ever met and I adored them both. I never got to visit them in Victory Mills, NY, where they lived, worked, and taught rug hooking for decades. They also had a fabulous antique store. But I was fortunate to take some classes with them in Vermont and count them as friends.
They were devoted to each other and were life partners long before it was safe to declare their relationship. I believe they were finally able to marry in 2012, just two years before George died, aged 82. Dick died in 2018 and he was 85. I swear I miss them both to this day. When I heard Dick was gone, I sat down and cried; but then I began to smile as I remembered how funny he and George were, and all the good times we had in their classes.
I knew I wanted to hook a rug in their honor, and this is it.
I just took a look at both their obituaries and true to form, it's Dick's memorial write-up that says it all. George's is short and contains few details, but you can get a flavor of both of them from reading Dick's.
Dear friends, I am thinking of both of you today with much gratitude for your fine teaching and the hilarity and kindness you offered those of us who knew you.
I miss you.
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!
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