Hooking Tips from "Heloise"
March 2017 - Counting Hooking Hours - “How long did it take to make that rug?” is probably the most frequently ask question directed to rug hookers. It certainly comes up all the time when we are demonstrating at local fairs and festivals.
Kathy Kane shared a tip with Heloise on her easy way of keeping track of her hooking hours. When you start hooking record with a marker along the outer edge of the rug backing the time you started hooking and then the time you stopped. It is then easy to keep track of your hooking time.
February 2017 - Spotting What is Not Working - Jackie Lee recently shared with Heloise a tip she learned at a Massachusetts guild meeting she attended. To spot anything that is not working in your rug, hold it up to a mirror and what is not working becomes apparent. This is a simple but effective technique!
January 2017 – Wormwood as a Moth Repellant and Deodorizer – Hooked rug restorer Cindy Comly mentioned during her presentation at our November meeting that she uses Wormwood as a moth repellant. Heloise recalled that Cindy’s use of Wormwood was first mentioned in the December 2012 issue of The Loop. That article is presented again for those not familiar with this ancient herb.According to Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs, “Wormwood (Artemisia Absinthium) is an ancient herb and may be best known as an active ingredient in the alcoholic drink absinthe. It is among the most bitter of all herbs and not used much in cooking for obvious reasons, but is useful in many other ways. For centuries Wormwood was used as a worming medicine for men and animals. It was also used as an antiseptic, antispasmodic, sedative, tonic and stimulant. It has been given to those suffering from poor circulation, rheumatism, fever, colds, and jaundice, and to women in labor.” Fortunately for rug hookers, Wormwood is also an effective natural insect repellant and can be used to keep moths away. Cindy Comly discovered that it is a natural deodorizer too. She had an old quilt that had a musty smell. Cindy placed fresh springs of Wormwood on the quilt, rolled up the quilt, wrapped it with a sheet and let sit for two weeks after which the musty odor was gone. Cindy hangs springs of fresh Wormwood around her wool to repel moths. After the Wormwood dries, like most herbs, it begins to crumble. Cindy then wraps the dried herb into hankies forming a sachet and then places them in her wool stash. Heloise is grateful to Cindy for sharing these tips with us.
November 2016 – How to Tell Good Wool – When buying wool either new or recycled, how can you determine whether it is good wool for hooking? Norma Batastini shared a simple technique with Heloise – simply hold the wool up to light and look through it. If you see light through the wool, it is too thin. No light means that the wool is thicker and ideal for hooking. Thank you Norma!
Tips from Heloise – Preventing Gripper Bar Damage – Kathy Kane incorporates various yarns, roving and mixed media materials in her rugs. She has experienced that the gripper bars on her frame often pull out hooked portions when she is removing her rug from the frame. Kathy discovered a solution to the pulling problem which she shared with Heloise.After a section is hooked, Kathy takes a piece of Glad Press’n Seal and presses it on the back of the hooked portion of the rug and runs her finger around the edge of the hooked area. The Press’n Seal protects the hooked area from being pulled out by the gripper bars and is removed when the rug is finished.
October 2016 – How To Avoid Packing - Hooking rows too closely together, commonly known as packing, is a practice often found with new rug hookers although some seasoned artisans do it as well. Too many loops packed into the backing strains the fabric. The ideal number of spaces between rows will vary depending on the thickness of the wool and the width of the cut. More space should be left when hooking with a #9 cut as opposed to a #4 cut.
Heloise overheard Iris Simpson share a practical and simple technique with her 2016 Rug School students that helps to avoid packing loops. Iris was right when she noted that “the tip was easier shown than written about.” Here are two efforts:
1) Putting the hook across the last line of loops rather than snuggling up to it from below will prevent packing.
2) When hooking horizontally, hook above the last row rather than below. When hooking below there is a tendency to hook closer to the last row. The opposite is true when hooking above the last row.
One way to tell if you are packing is to look at the back of the rug. Ideally you should see backing material between the rows.
September 2016 – Hooking with Three Strips of Wool – Heloise had the opportunity at our Rug School to observe Weezie Huntington hook simultaneously with three strips of wool that created an impressionistic look. Weezie has shared her creative technique with us.
“In order to achieve an "impressionistic" or "pointillist" painting effect, cut several different wools in #3 or #4 cuts, and hook with three strips at a time. The strips can be each a different color, two of one color one different, or all three the same. If your strips are different lengths, as one runs out, replace it with a strip of a different color. This makes subtle changes. Hooking three strips at a time is equivalent to using a #8 - #8.5 cut. Be careful not to pack. Also be aware of "striping." If you hook higglety-pigglety your loops will tend not to line up in a row. If you are hooking a section that is a straight row, twist your strips underneath in order to have the colors shift places on the top side (twisting is not appropriate for floor rugs).”
June 2016 – Storing Hooked Rugs - What is the best way to store our rugs? This perennial question generates a variety of suggestions. One generally accepted approach is to roll our rugs with the hooked surface facing outwards, thus placing less stress on the backing. The rugs can then be placed in your storage location.
Jackie Lee, our member from Cape Cod, shared with Heloise a concern she has with this approach. Many of Jackie’s rugs are often hung on the wall and she finds that when they are stored rolled up for a period of time, the rugs tend to curl when removed from storage. She prefers to store her rugs flat, one on top of the other. This avoids the curling problem.
May 2016 - Collecting Hooking Dust - Marian Hall shared a practical use for “Swifter” cloths with Heloise at the April Hooking Retreat. Freshly cut wool strips produce a lot of wool dust. That dust settles on whatever surface the wool strips are placed. Some of us place the strips on the surface of the rug being hooked. Others place the strips on an adjacent table. Marian lays her strips on a sheet of Swifter cloth which captures the dust and prevents it from accumulating on the surface of the rug or table.
April 2016 - Use Surplus Strips Immediately - No matter how well we plan, there always seem to be surplus wool strips remaining after a rug is completed. In the past Heloise has put the left over strips in small bags and stored them in a plastic tub. In retrospect, Heloise realized that the strips were not used often and a large supply developed.
Left over strips are perfect for “hit or miss” rugs. Heloise suggests starting a hit or miss rug and using the surplus strips right after the last project is completed, then putting the rug aside until strips are available from your next project. By using the strips immediately, building up an unmanageable supply of strips is avoided and a colorful rug can be created.
March 2016 - Solvron for Embellishments - Eleanor Dunker shared an embellishment tip with Heloise that uses a product made in Japan known as Solvron which causes wool to shrink, creating puckers in the material. She learned of the product while taking a class at the recent ATHA Biennial is Texas. Solvron was used for the wing in the “Funky Chicken” project taught by Carol Kassera.The product is easy to use and creates an interesting look. Eleanor provided the basic process:
Jackie has discovered a reusable non-sticking ironing mat produced by Bo-Nash (www.bonash.com). that she has successfully used to block her rugs. The mat allows steam to pass through without flattening the loops. Jackie reports that she sets her iron for linen and turns on the steam. She likes not needing to use wet towels in the blocking process. “It did a TERRIFIC JOB!” she reports, but Jackie was wondering if anyone had tried it or heard of any bad results from using it. Sandy Denarski noted at the meeting that she had successfully used a similar version of the product designed for applique quilts.
Has anyone one else had experience with Bo-Nash Ironing Mats?
Januray 2016 - More on Getting Rid of Moths - Keeping moths from our stash is a perennial issue for which many suggestions have been discussed. Diane Stoffel shared a solution with Heloise at our last rug school that was new to us. Her recommendation is to get moth balls that kill larvae and seal them in a plastic bag along with the wool for seven days. After seven days, remove and wash the wool. The key is to find moth balls that kill larvae. The information should appear on the box
December 2015 - Moth Control Kits - Cindy Comly who is a professional rug restorer was at our last meeting and shared with Heloise new moth protection products available from Gaylord Archival. Gaylord now has moth lures and traps which attract and destroy moths if they are present. Information on the moth kits can be found by going to www.gaylord.com, clicking on Environmental Control and then on Pest Control. Cindy has found the kits to be effective, but notes “they are not inexpensive.” Contact information for Cindy Comly can be found on the Resources Page of the Guild’s website.
November 2015 - Add Tweezers to Your Hooking Toolbox - Kris Miller suggested to her students at our August Rug Hooking School that they add a pair of tweezers to their basic tools. The tweezers are ideal for straightening twisted loops and for turning loops so that they are positioned properly. After sniping off the tail of a strip, we occasionally need to raise or lower loops to achieve more consistency in their height. Tweezers are a perfect tool for grasping and pulling the snipped tail.
October 2015 - Hooking with an Assembled Shading Swatch (Michele Micarelli) - We thank Michele Micarelli for sharing with Heloise tips she discussed with the students in her workshop at our 2015 Rug Hooking School.
“An assembled swatch would be one put together from your wool stash. Let’s say you want to make a leaf -- gather your greens.
“For a primitive leaf maybe four colors will do. For a highly shaded leaf from 7-12 will do. This of course depends on the cut of the wool and the size of the leaf. Arrange the wool from dark to light disregarding the color/tone of green and paying close attention to the value. OK, so now you have an assembled swatch and you can hook the leaf in the usual way with the darker values near the vein and the lighter ones near the edge. This is a fabulous way to hook and creates a much more living looking motif, more like painting with the wool. Be sure to mix spots, solids and dips. Even plaids work in this way.
“This can be done with your reds for a barn or your yellows for a sunflower. There is no limit!”
September 2015 - Diane Stoffel’s Unique Rug Blocking Technique - At one of her informative rug school teaching sessions, Diane Stoffel shared a technique for blocking rugs that was new to her students. Diane provided Heloise with the following explanation.
“When you are through hooking your rug, place it upside down on a heat resistant surface with a large towel or wool blanket covering the surface. If you are working on a very large rug, place it on a hard surface like a garage floor and proceed following the same steps. Then take another towel large enough to cover the rug, dampen the towel really well. Set your iron on dry on linen. Do not use steam. Place the damp towel over the rug. Starting in the center, push the iron out to a diagonal corner counting to 10 once at the corner and the edge of the rug. Lift the iron up and go back to center. Push out to the opposite diagonal corner. Repeat so that all four corners have been done and you have formed an x. However, you will need to do a large rug in sections and rewet the towel and move it to a new spot until you have blocked the entire rug.
“Now go back to the center and push up to edge of rug. Again you will count to 10 before you lift the iron to go back to center and push down to the opposite edge. Go back to center and push out to the other two sides in same manner. You have formed a cross. There are now pie shaped pieces left. Do each section always going opposite the one you complete until the rug is done.
“DO NOT move the rug but remove damp towel from surface. Let the rug dry for 24 hours before moving the rug to finish the edge in the manner of your choice, whip stitch, show binding, bias cotton rug tape, crochet, or turn under.
“The reason for pressing in this manner is to bring the rug back to size. You have been pulling loops up between the warp and weft threads to form your pile and in doing so you are pulling the warp and weft threads closer together which has made your rug smaller than when you started .You need to block it back to size. Before you hook any rug, measure the backing and note the size. When you block your rug, aim to bring the hooked rug back to the original size of the pattern.
"We block needlepoint, counted cross stitch, crewel, and knitting. Why don't we block our rugs? They block hand knotted rugs by soaking them in the river and beating them with stones to size. So we should block our rugs.”
June 2015 -- Add Variety When Building Your Stash – Jayne Hester, one our favorite camp instructors, is known for hooking with wide cuts of textured wools – herringbone, tweeds, and checks. Heloise observed her working with a student on a rug background that was in the form of a series of squares and rectangles hooked in a log cabin pattern with brown textured wools. Jayne encouraged the student to incorporate strips from four to six different wools in each square/rectangle.
The student, a new hooker, started to build a stash before camp and had a brown herringbone, brown tweed and a brown check but failed to realize the importance of having multiple shades of each in her stash. Jayne pointed out the subtle differences in the varieties of brown textured wools that can be found and how those subtle differences add depth, richness and interest to the rug.
When building your stash remember the importance of building variety into the wools selected.
Roberta noted that “The first rug I did was done on old blanket material from Helen Wolfel. (Helen was a perennial favorite HCRAG camp instructor until she retired from the ‘teaching circuit’ in the early 2000s.) She also did a rug on this material. Then when I wanted to do another rug, I went to Walmart and bought one of those very cheap summer blankets that are made out of cotton and have an open weave - really open so the holes are not only visible but big enough for selvage edges to pull through easily. I then cut the blanket into the size I wanted, plus holding edges. I double taped the edges as they unravel and pull apart very easily. I don't have a sewing machine, but I guess the edges could be zigzagged. At times while hooking it was annoying that the hook would snag the material, but I found that that did not deter me. I wanted to make bathroom mats, but I certainly did not want something in the bathroom that was not washable. I finished the mats off with whipping. I wash the mats in cold water, gentle cycle and let them hang to dry.”
Roberta’s hit or miss “Silly Selvedges” rug that is hooked on a cotton blanket can be seen on page 15 of the ATHA Magazine for April/May 2015. Heloise thanks Roberta for sharing this nifty idea with us!
April 2015 -- Advantages of Interfacing Bonded to Recycled Wool – Sandy Denarski recently shared with Heloise her experience using wool from a recycled suit that she picked up from the recycled wool available at our meetings. After washing and drying the wool, she was initially frustrated when she found a white interfacing bonded on the wool of a suit. But she found “the bonding is wonderful to have if you sew on the wool for appliqué work. I made one small pillow/pin cushion and used the bonded wool as the base. It allowed me to do some machine embroidery without adding a stabilizer. It was a dream to sew. I added hand embroidery and that was also easy. The iron on stabilizer can make the hand sewing difficult.” Thank you, Sandy, for the tip!
January 2015 - Removing Wool Interfacing - At a recent meeting Lydia Brenner ask Heloise what hookers who use recycled wool do with wool with interfacing affixed to the wool with an adhesive. (Interfacing helps keep the shape of the garment and is often found on the front of blazers and sport coats.) Heloise surveyed several members who work primarily with recycled wool and learned the following:
• If the garment is very old, the adhesive may be dry and the interfacing easily pulls off.
• Some interfacing is made of a paper like fabric and becomes soft when wet and can be removed without much difficulty.
• The adhesive may soften when the fabric is washed and put in the dryer. The interfacing can be pulled off without much trouble while the wool is still warm.
• If the interfacing cannot be easily removed, some hook with the wool anyhow. If the wool is thin, the interfacing provides additional thickness. An added benefit is to reveal twisted hooked loops since the interfacing will appear on the surface which can quickly be corrected.
• Some simply discard the wool pieces with the interfacing.
December 2014 - Shortcut When Dyeing Wool - After taking wool from the dye pot put it in the clothes washer to rinse and spin dry. This eliminates the interim step of rinsing and squeezing dry the newly dyed wool by hand. Then dry the wool in the dryer.
November 2014 - Pulling Loops of Ripped Wool - Betsy Reed (Heavens to Betsy) is known her work with ripped wool that produces very wide strips for hooking. As those who took her workshop at our last Spring Fling learned, pulling extra wide strips can be tiring and put strain on hands and shoulders. Heloise overheard Betsy advising her students to pull the loops towards them instead of pulling them up as is the normal practice. That slight change makes all the difference!
October 2014 - Storing Miniature Punch-Needles - The needles used for miniature punch-needle projects are difficult to store because of their shape and size. Carol Kindt recently shared a neat tip with Heloise– put your punch needle tool, accessories and snips in a travel toothbrush holder. You can put small pieces of cardboard in each end so that the sharp needle will not poke through.
September 2014 - Storing Rugs in Plastic Bags? - Heloise reached out to the Guild for thoughts on a question raised – Is it OK to store a rug that has been cleaned to remove moth larva in a sealed plastic bag? The responses were a consistent “No!” Two replies say it well.
• From Cheryl Halliday – “I have an answer to the question from Alma Coia, a McGown teacher for many years. Alma says you need to place the rug in a cover that can breathe. Wrap the rug in either a cotton sheet or a pillow case and place lavender in with the rug. Never close the rug into an airtight container.”
• From Nina Seaman – “The answer is no, wool is organic and needs to breathe. Put in a plastic bag it would generate moisture and become mildewed. The best storage is in an old pillow case. This is the conventional wisdom from the Nova Scotia hookers.”
June 2014 - Dryer Sheets Betsy Reed’s teaching sessions at our Spring Fling are the gift that keeps giving! Heloise learned that Betsy advises not to use dryer sheets when drying wool in the clothes dryer. Glycerin from the sheets comes off and coats the surface of the wool which in turn can dull your cutter blades. Instead, Betsy puts a damp towel in the dryer.
May 2014 - Stuffing Hooked Pillows – Heloise eavesdropped on several of Betsy Reed’s (Heavens to Betsy) instructional sessions at our recent Spring Fling and found her to have a wealth of practical rug hooking advice.
One of her tips was to use inexpensive bed pillows from Walmart that she buys for around $2.50 on sale for the inside of hooked pillows. Betsy has found that this is less expensive than buying Poly-Fill at craft stores. She cuts the pillows open and pulls out some of the stuffing then sews it in half making two pillows.
Betsy saves rug backing scraps left over or cut off as our rugs are finished and wool snips-its and left over strips. She stuffs these into the corners of the pillow using a ½” wide artists brush with half of the bristles cut off leaving just the stubble. This tool allows you to really stuff the scraps into the corners of the pillow. This process gives the pillow weight and makes it firm.
Watch for other tips from Betsy’s workshop in later issues of The Loop.
April 2014 - Hooking at Corners - Wool Rug Hooking by Tara Darr is one of Heloise’s favorite books with lots of practical advice. When it comes to hooking corners, Tara advises to never start or stop hooking in a corner. You always want to begin or end your wool strips away from any corners. Corners of hooked rugs are stress points and starting or stopping in those areas will only result in a rug in need of repair over time.
Wool Rug Hooking is available for loan from the HCRAG Library.
March 2014 - Why Bother Hooking Letters - Helen Woffel, who is now retired from the rug hooking camp circuit, was a longtime favorite HCRAG camp instructor. Heloise recalls an important lesson learned from Helen on hooking letters.
Helen’s view was that it was important for the letters to stand out so that they could be easily read. She used to say, “If you cannot read the wording, why bother?” Have you ever seen a beautifully hooked rug with wording that gets lost in the background or can barely be read? Some of Helen’s tips to avoid that problem included:
(1) selecting wool for the letters that is in strong contrast with the background
(2) hook the letters in a sufficiently wide cut so that they stand out (#8, 8.5 or even two #6 strips).
(3) outline each letter with a contrasting strip in a more narrow cut, and
(4) hook the letters a bit higher than the background.
Do you have others suggestions? If so, share them with Heloise.
February 2014 - Preserving Your Wool Stash
An article entitled “Preserving Your Textile Treasures” has been brought to Heloise’s attention. The article appears in the February 2014 issue of Early American Life and provides advice from museum textile curators. One segment of the article deals with insects and their eggs. Heloise has previously commented on the importance of protecting our wool stash from moths. However, we are reproducing below the professional advice provided by textile curator Linda Eaton of Winterthur Museum because of her expertise on the subject.
Eaton recommends “Take your interlopers on a little vacation to the North Pole. Eaton’s artic treatment starts with putting your fabric in a plastic bag and sealing it with tape to lock in the critters. Then plunge the bag into your freezer – a domestic freezer is fine as long as it is not over filled…..Most important is getting the temperature as low as possible – the target is minus 20 degrees – as fast as possible so that the insects don’t have time to adapt to the cold.
“Leave the fabric in the cold for three to five days, then slowly bring it back to room temperature. Then put it back for a fast freeze for another three to five days. Again, slowly warm the fabric to room temperature.”
January 2014 - Thinner Strips
There are times when you need a narrow strip of wool and a #4 cut is a bit too wide. Heloise overheard Cynthia Norwood share a tip with her HCRAG Camp class last August that can be used to solve this dilemma – simply pull one thread from the #4 strip of wool! When doing this, it is important that the strip has been cut very straight.
December 2013 - Hooking Shrubs
Gail Ferdinando shared with Heloise a tip for hooking shrubs that she learned at the HCRAG camp last August when she worked with teacher Sarah Guiliani. You hook with three different greens at the same time. Sarah demonstrated hooking with three strips of #4 cut at the same time. One of the strips can even be a flower color. This technique fills the area quickly and looks good too! Thank you Gail and Sarah!
November 2013 - Seeing Your Rug
When working on a rug, it is recommended to occasionally step back as far as you can from the rug. The distance gives you a perspective missing when you are hooking and close to the rug. For pictorial patterns and scenes, you can see how the details are working. You can also get another look at the contrast in the color values used.
Using a reducing glass, which is the opposite of a magnifying glass, allows you to get that distant look without standing far from your rug. Reducing glasses can be purchased from most suppliers of rug hooking equipment for a cost ranging from $15 to $25 but there is a less expensive approach.
Cynthia Norwood shared her cost saving tip with Heloise at our camp last August. Instead of buying an expensive reducing glass, purchase a “peeping glass” that is sold at hardware stores for your front door. It does the same thing as a reducing glass for a fraction of the cost.
October 2013 - Thrift Shop Wool
Many Guild members hook with recycled wool and know that wool obtained at flea markets, thrift stores and rummage sales needs to be washed before adding to your stash. However, we may not have the time to immediately wash the wool. Donna Kolznak has shared with Heloise a tip for those instances.
Her simple solution is to wrap the wool in a plastic bag and put it in your freezer for a day or two. Remove for a day and freeze again. This will kill any critters and eggs that may be in the fabric.
September 2013 - Eyes First
Heloise was eavesdropping on Judy Carter’s workshop at Camp and learned the following tip. When hooking animal faces Judy says, “Hook what you see.” In portraits, start with the eyes. The gleam of the highlight is what makes the eyes come alive. The seeing begins with taking note and hooking the dark and light spots. From there fill in becomes self-evident. The use of many textures gives the nuance to the fur.
June 2013 - Rolling Rugs New rug hookers may not realize that there is a right and wrong way to roll up a hooked rug. The right way is to roll it right side out. This will prevent putting unnecessary strain on the backing.
May 2013 - Waste Not The old saying “Waste not, want not” came to mind after Jan Cole shared with those at the Guild’s hook-in a simple economical source of dye. Heloise wants to share the tip with those not at the hook-in.
Jan cleans her dye spoons in a dish of salt. Stirring the spoon in the salt crystals removes the specks of dye powder remaining on the spoon. This cleansing method is superior to cleaning spoons with water which is almost impossible to completely dry in the midst of a dyeing session.
In time the salt dish becomes “dirty” with the dye powder removed from the spoons. Rather than throwing the dirty salt away, Jan uses it as a source of dye in following process:
The process will produce a one of a kind piece of dyed wool with small specks of color appearing on the dominant background color. As Jan notes “You will never be able to reproduce the results. Each piece will be different.”
April 2013 - Holiday Loops - When hooking a rug has been completed, the next step is normally to look at the back of the rug to find small spots (often referred to as “holidays”) where loops have been missed. These spots are often frustratingly difficult to find from the front. Guild member Jacqueline Lee recently shared with Heloise a trick she learned in how to find “holidays” from the front of the rug. She inserts a tooth pick from the back which is then easily seen from the front. The needed loops are then pulled. Thank you Jackie!
March 2013 - Heloise recently had the opportunity to visit the studio of hooked rug restorer Cindy Comly and to observe her instructing a student on the initial steps to be taken when restoring a hooked rug. Here are the basic steps.
You are now ready to begin filling in the holes by hooking with replacement wool.
February 2013 - At the past hooking retreat Heloise had an opportunity to visit with Jacqueline Lee who shared an idea she learned from her hooking guild back home on Cape Cod. If you want your lettering to really stand out, Jackie’s tip is to first hook the letters with a strip of wool that is the same width as the surrounding background. After the background has been hooked, pull out the letters and re-hook them with a wider cut. For added emphasis, re-hook the letters a little higher than the background. They will really stand out!
January 2013 - Jane Olson - On a cold evening Heloise enjoys sitting by the fireplace with a stack of favorite rug hooking books. The Rug Hooker’s Bible based on Jane Olson’s Rugger’s Roundtable is an important resource that always provides helpful hints for new and experienced rug hookers. “Where should I begin to hook?” is a question that new hookers often ask. Heloise found answers in her last evening by the fireplace.
Jane Olson recommended “Start in the center and work out. This allows the backing to move out with you as you hook. If you start on the outside and work in, the backing has no place to go once encircled and will cause the rug to bubble when hooked. Starting in the center and working out also helps if you run out of background wool. Since it is often difficult to match a color exactly, we can find ourselves in a bind when we run out of wool half way through a project. When this happens, you can replace your background wool at that point with a new shade of your color. Finger it in with the original wool and it will look like you planned it that way.”
December 2012 - About Wormwood
Heloise recently had an opportunity to discuss the use of Wormwood as a moth repellant with hooked rug restorer Cindy Comly (see page 6 of the November 2012 issue of The Loop).
According to Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs, “Wormwood (Artemisia Absinthium) is an ancient herb and may be best known as an active ingredient in the alcoholic drink absinthe. It is among the most bitter of all herbs and not used much in cooking for obvious reasons, but is useful in many other ways. For centuries Wormwood was used as a worming medicine for men and animals. It was also used as an antiseptic, antispasmodic, sedative, tonic and stimulant. It has been given to those suffering from poor circulation, rheumatism, fever, colds, and jaundice, and to women in labor.”
Fortunately for rug hookers, Wormwood is also an effective natural insect repellant and can be used to keep moths away. Cindy Comly discovered that it is a natural deodorizer too. She had an old quilt that had a musty smell. Cindy placed fresh springs of Wormwood on the quilt, rolled up the quilt, wrapped it with a sheet and let sit for two weeks after which the musty odor was gone. Cindy hangs springs of fresh Wormwood around her wool to repel moths. After the Wormwood dries, like most herbs, it begins crumble. Cindy then wraps the dried herb into hankies forming a sachet and then places them in her wool stash.
Heloise is grateful to Cindy for sharing these tips with us.
If you try this simple dyeing technique, bring the wool to a meeting so that members can see the results.
September 2012 - Neoprene Gloves In a meeting earlier in the year Weezie Huntington gave a presentation on wool dyeing. There was considerable interest in the gloves she used to remove hot wool from the dye pot. Information on the gloves was shared in a subsequent email message. Not everyone received the message so Heloise is sharing the information again.
Weezie found the gloves on line at www.QCsupply.com. They are neoprene work gloves and come in two lengths - 12" for $9.04 and shorter ones with cuffs for $7.02. Weezie bought the shorter gloves, but recommends the longer ones.
June 2012 - Message in the Back Eleanor Dunker recently brought to Heloise’s attention a special hooking technique developed by Bev Conway whereby words or a message is hooked but can not be seen or detected from the front of the rug. When you look at the back of the rug, you can easily read an extensive message. You can make the message short, long or just add your signature.
The technique is accomplished by drawing your message backwards on the front of the design before you begin any other hooking. By reversing the message on the front, it reads correctly from the back of the rug. You must hook very low with a narrow cut. After you have completed hooking the message, continue with your usual style of hooking, being careful to hook higher than your message. The loops conceal the message from the front. You must pull back the loops to see where you concealed the message loops.
We congratulate Bev for her creativity and thank Eleanor for bringing this to our attention.
May 2012 -Removing Odor - Heloise took advantage of the beautiful weather and stopped by the Peter Wentz Farmstead last month to visit with our Guild members who were demonstrating traditional rug hooking at Sheep Shearing Day. One of the visitors raised a question about how to get odor out of a large hooked rug. The rug had been in a child’s room and had a smoky odor. The visitors thought that the backing to the rug was linen after being shown samples of burlap and linen backing. After consulting with Kay Leisey at Homespun, the following advice was provided:
(1) place a large piece of screening (wire or plastic) at the bottom of the bath tub,
(2) lay the rug on top of the screening,
(3) fill the tub with luke-warm water,
(4) add Oxi-Clean,
(5) add one cup of vinegar,
(6) lift the screening up and down creating gentle agitation in the tub,
(7) drain the tub, fill with clean warm water and repeat the agitation motion,
(9) place the rug on the deck or lawn to dry.
Kay emphasized the importance of not placing stress on the backing. Lifting the rug by the screening avoids damaging the backing.
The gentleman who raised the question was delighted with the help. He noted that he was thinking of placing the rug on the top of his car and running it through a car wash. Ouch!
Leave the mixture in an airtight jar for two weeks, then put in small cloth bags and tie with ribbon. Hang the bags where wool is stored.
March 2012 - Dying Linen At the Guild’s recent retreat, Heloise noticed that Lydia Lewis was hooking a pillow on a piece of blue dyed linen. The linen backing was not going to be covered with hooked loops but rather would be the background for the pillow.
Amy Korengut, who was also at the retreat, overheard that conversation and noted that she had worked with dyed linen once in the past and was not pleased with the results. She found that color planning her rug was much more difficult due to the fact that it is best done on a neutral vs. a colored surface. Perhaps the difference was that in Amy’s case she was hooking the entire surface and this was not the situation with Lydia’s pillow.
Lydia bought the dyed linen from a rug hooking shop several years ago while on vacation in Texas. Heloise wanted more information on the backing and attempted to contact the shop, but learned that it recently went out of business. Calls to local vendors failed to identify anyone who was familiar with dyed linen.
Gail Dufresne, our local wool dyeing expert, immediately thought about how to dye linen. She observed that “Acid dyes, I am pretty certain, will not dye linen (or cotton). You need a dye that is called direct dye for this....I think.....but now you have me wanting to try to dye linen with my acid dyes. I have direct dyes but have never used them.”
Has anyone else had experience with dyed linen? If so, please let Heloise know.
Febuary 2012 - Cleaning Hooked Rugs A perennial question for rug hookers is “How do you clean hooked rugs?” Within the rug hooking community there are professionals who restore (i.e., bringing back to a former condition which include cleaning, repairing and sometimes reconstruction) rugs. Several years ago HCRAG camp instructor, Jayne Hester, stunned her students when she mentioned that she routinely puts her rugs in the washing machine.
Heloise “reporter”, Annie Edwards, learned of a conservation / restoration firm that also washes hooked rugs. Ann Wright who was a guest at one of our meetings brought several Canadian antique rugs that she had restored by a firm whose client list includes the White House. She shared with Annie a “secret” - the firm washes hooked rugs in a shampoo for horses called Orvis Paste Shampoo because it retains the oils in the wool. Have others heard of washing hooked rugs? Let Heloise know.
January 2012 - Primitive Rugs
Today there is a discussion underway within rug hooking circles about what constitutes the primitive rug hooking style. During the last HCRAG Camp, Heloise had an opportunity to sit down with camp instructor Iris Simpson and get her thoughts on the matter. Here are Iris’ thoughts on some of the characteristics of primitive rugs.
Thank you Iris!
November 2011 - Skirt Linings for dyeing
During the ATHA Biennial in Lancaster, Heloise spoke with a rug hooker who used the linings from old skirts to dye wool. Heloise learned that there is dye in the linings that can be leached out. It is a simple process:
The wool will have an interesting mottled look. Sometimes the dyed wool will be a different color than the lining. In any event, using skirt linings is an inexpensive way to get beautiful dyed wool.
October 2011 - Shamwow for Blocking
A veteran rug hooker once shared with Heloise that generating as much steam as you can is the secret to effectively blocking our finished rugs. Most instructional books suggest using a damp towel when steaming the rug. A recent article in Rug Hooking Magazine suggested using “Shamwow!”, a German product sold in grocery stores for absorbing liquid spills. Heloise tried this product and found that it holds much more water than a bath towel and produces much more steam. Also, there is little dripping.
September 2011 - General Tips and Hints Burlap has fallen out of favor as the preferred backing for hooked rugs since it becomes brittle with age and develops dry rot. Today most rug hookers prefer to hook on linen or monk’s cloth because it is so much more durable.
Earlier this summer Heloise visited with Jeannine Happe (Two Old Crows) and Karen Worthington (The Blue Tulip) who were set up at the Lancaster Historical House and Craft Show. Karen shared that she recently discovered that the linen backing on one of her rugs disintegrated. The water bowl for her dog sat on the rug and apparently became damp from water splashed as her dog used the bowl. Over time the dampness caused the linen to fail. The lesson to be learned is that linen may not develop dry rot, but will rot from continued exposure to dampness.
General Guidelines for Hooking - One of the exercises in Iris Simpson’s camp workshop was to review a list of hooking guidelines that she has collected and to add additional tips to the list. The results of the exercise follow below.
REMEMBER – These are only hints and tips, not rules! Do you have any tips or guidelines to add?
We thank Barbra for sharing her expertise with us.
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May 2011 - Portrait Rugs - At our last meeting Therese Shick’s Show & Tell piece was a portrait rug of her niece. This was Therese’s first portrait rug, but it appeared to have been hooked by someone who had done many previous portraits. In a conversation with Heloise, Therese shared a technique she used while working on the rug.
She volunteered that she “blundered” her way through the face with help from Jeannine Happe and was happy with how the face came out. The shirt was another matter; it proved more difficult. About half way though hooking the shirt, Therese felt that it looked like a mass of color, not a shirt.
She remembered a technique whereby a grid is drawn on the image used for the pattern and again on the backing. After the grids were drawn, Therese looked at each grid and hooked what was in the grid ignoring what she thought the shirt should look like. She did not look at the shirt while hooking, just the grids. It was a challenge not to have preconceived ideas of what the shirt should look like.
The approach worked with the end result being a portrait rug that looked like it had been completed by someone who had hooked many portrait rugs.
April 2011 - Making Time for Hooking - Spring is arriving and we want to be outdoors in the garden, walking around the yard making decisions about new plantings or just sitting and enjoying the beginnings of warmer weather. But we also want to keep up with our hooking and all the projects. So, we need to find a balance and save time for hooking. Often, I am asked, "How long does it take to make a rug?" The only answer I can give is that attitude toward a rug will determine the amount of time it takes to complete it. So, the best guarantee of finishing a rug quickly is to have a strong, personal feeling about the design and the colors. Rugs are personal and that is why it is so difficult to part with our creations unless a rug is being made for someone else in the first place. So, save time everyday if you can to hook!
March 2011 - Color Planning - March is a green month for St Patrick's Day. Colors in a rug affect those in the room in which it is placed. If you are not sure where you are putting your rug it is best to select neutral colors. If a location has been decided upon, it is important to select the right colors for the desired area. It is not necessary to match color in a room to make a rug that harmonizes. It is more effective to have a rug with different value of the main color in a room, a dark green rug in a room with light green walls, for instance. Or you can use a color in a rug that is similar in hue to the predominant color in the room.
February 2011 - Color Balance - RED is the color for February as we celebrate Valentine's Day. Colors create a mood. Colors affect our feelings, they can stimulate us or sooth us. Colors seem to have a life of their own, as some stand out and demand attention while others are retiring and quiet. (just like personalities) Using color in our rugs effectively means choosing colors that go well together and selecting the right hues for contrast. Well balanced color is important in a rug. For good balance, you equalize the amount of one color with the intensity of another.
January 2011 - Happy New Year from Heloise! - Now we are into the year 2011 and inspired from an email I received I have a way to remember how to write the year. As we get older it seems harder to remember the change of year when writing checks especially. So...with humor...the 1's are noodles or worms relating to hooking and the 20 we are very used to by now so 20 and 2 worms. Bet you won't 4get that!
December 2010 - Holiday Hooking Projects - The holiday season is here! What a good time to hook a favorite remembrance of the season. It may be a Santa, a reindeer, some elves, holly, cookies or a Christmas tree. Designs of snow and snowmen , winter wonderlands, and woodland animals can be used longer then the traditional Santa themes. Small rugs, backings for jackets, ornaments, stockings, and hot mats can be hooked quickly. Heloise enjoys hooking round coaster size decorations and backs the finished item with glue and then cuts right up to the edge and attaches felt on the back. Adding a short worm for a handle makes the item into an ornament or looped under just use as a coaster. Merry Christmas, Happy Holiday - Enjoy the Season!
November 2010, Foundation - the word brings up many thoughts...but get your mind back on hooking. One definition from the dictionary for FOUNDATION “is a body or stock or ground material on which anything is built up”. Many hookers have used burlap (some still do), linen, monk's cloth, wool, and rug warp. The main concerns for backing materials are loose weave, strength and non-elasticity.
One must prepare the backing for use. Various methods can be used to prevent the edges from raveling. Masking tape or duct tape folded over the edges, zigzag stitching on a sewing machine, or painting a one inch band of diluted white glue along the edge is another option. (That one seems very messy to Heloise). Once you have your foundation prepared you are up and running and ready to draw your pattern and begin hooking!
Thinking about the upcoming holiday- Is the TURKEY (it is a body) a foundation since we prepare it with a stuffing (hence building it up)? Happy Thanksgiving!
October 2010 - Hooking Environments - After a long summer and many vacation days- Heloise wants to remind everyone that getting back to hooking will be relaxing and productive. There is something soothing about pulling loops through the backing and creating a picture with wool or many other fibers. You can watch TV, listen to music, think through the day, settle a tough problem in your mind, or have a conversation while working (either with a human being or an animal). Some people enjoy working in solitude and others enjoy working with friends- exchanging ideas, advice and praise. Many hookers receive benefits from both. The most important thing to remember is hooking is FUN!
June 2010 - Texture in Hooking - This time of year with all the flowers blooming we think of color. Color and design are so important when beginning a rug. Texture is also very important. A rug hooked with all the same weave and weight lacks the quality of texture and may be boring (Unless that is the look you want). Texture can be accomplished by using plaids, tweeds, checks, fuzzy materials, and loosely woven materials. When using different weights and weaves- the width of the strip used in hooking will have to be varied to be evenly hooked. This variation gives texture, which bring interest and diversity to your rug.
May 2010 - Sharing Ideas - Heloise is visiting a very good friend and realizes just how important it is to talk things over with an understanding friend. For example: We have mutual friends in Scotland who are going to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in August. We wanted to send a little something but couldn't figure out just what would be appropriate. So in discussion we came up with the following ideas. The rug hooker will create a small mat with a thistle and a 50 on it and the quilter is designing a table runner in lovely floral fabric. So, what seemed like a problem turned out to be a sharing of ideas and excitement over creating the gifts. Moral- use your hooking guild friends as a sounding board. - Good bye from Seattle
April 2010 - Organizing Rugs - Photos of our created rugs are a great idea not only for remembering what we have hooked but also for insurance purposes. When organizing the pictures remember to put the size of the rug, date, and any additional comments. It is fun to add the place you hooked the piece if traveling, vacationing or the event that triggered the rug. Such as the addition of a baby in the family, an anniversary or a job oriented rug. The designers name and pattern name should be indicated. It is important to do this for all the large pieces that sit around the house-displayed or stored, any donated piece or a piece that has been given as a gift.
March 2010 - Joining Rugs: Here is an opportunity to use your ingenuity and have fun putting together several small rugs to form a larger one. For example, Heloise has 4 stair raisers that are not being used and if put together they would make a cute small rug, or used as a border on a square rug. To combine completed rugs, join them by whipping the binding together. If the bindings are of different colors find a coordinating color. Plan the rug carefully, making sure that the squares are of matching size- or if used as borders - of correct size to fit perfectly in the final assembling.
February 2010 - Changes in Rug Hooking: February is the month of LOVE! Years ago making a hooked rug was a labor of love despite its discomfort. Great Grandmother had to use flour sacks, rags or burlap and a hook fashioned by hand which was rather rough, and a crude frame. The materials were recycled clothing perhaps those damaged by the sparks from the open fireplace. Her designs were probably those of nature- trees, flowers, animals, etc. Those living near the sea might have had ships and seafaring motifs. Today hooked rug making is a little easier with our materials, fancy hooks, good linens and delicious wools. Our frames are designed for comfort and flexibility. These modern conveniences have not changed the old time charm of our craft but they do help us sit longer and help us create with ease. We LOVE our craft, our creations and appreciate all our talents.
December 2009 - Signing Your Rug - Who Dun It?! Remember when a good book or movie kept you in suspense and it was difficult to figure out who “dun it”? Well, we as rug hookers do not want that to happen to our creations in the future. We need to put some identification on our hooked artwork - whether it is our initials, name or cute logo and the date. It is important to have the date spelled out....as 2010 rather then '10. If Heloise was doing a rug, she might make a huge H in a contrasting color or blend it in a little or even turn the H sideways. It depends on the background or border or where you are putting the ID. Also, we learned that the binding can be embroidered with all sorts of information for the future. Sewing machines can do miracles today. No matter how you ID your rug, just remember to do it.
November 2009 - Holiday Hooking - With all the busy days ahead- it is important to still find time to hook. I know I relax and find some quiet time to contemplate and reflect on my day when I hook in the evening. Even if it is just for a half hour or so- I feel better when I shake off the stress of the season- Hooking is so enjoyable that I just have to smile and relax! Sometimes, I reflect on a problem and I realize I have solved it. Answers seem to come when we least expect them. So if I hook I can solve how many cookie batches to bake this year, how will I find time to write Christmas and holiday cards, where will the hours be found to decorate both inside and outdoors, and most of all when will I see the grandkids, friends and family over the holidays. So with this in mind- just hook away- the rest will all get accomplished!
October 2009 - Care of Hooked Rugs - As the seasons change sometimes it is enjoyable to redecorate and perhaps some rugs might need storing in a safe place. If so- shake the rug free of any loose dirt before storing. Avoid a vacuum cleaner or carpet sweeper- just shake!! When in doubt, think how a homemaker of a hundred years ago might have cleaned a rug. Old methods are still best. It is really best to air the rug for a few hours outdoors on a lovely day. Be sure not to fold the rug but to roll it instead, backing side in, worked side out. Rolling with the pile out places less stress on the pile by not squeezing it together. Rugs may be stored in the back of a closet, under a bed, in a cabinet, or on a shelf. Put some material between the rug and the shelf. Rugs can be draped over a curtain rod or dowel and hung in a closet-for a short period of time. Do not use clothespins or pins, as the weight against the pins will pull the backing.