Featured Hooker of the Month

March 2017
Meet Featured Member – Lucy Walsh

Our Featured Member for this month provided us with a fascinating article on her journey as an accomplished rug hooking artisan.

Beginnings -- “It was a lucky thing that two situations early in my rug hooking career did not deter me from hooking ever again!

“The first time was when I was 17 or so and my mother fixed me up with a large piece of burlap, pinned to an inverted picture frame, and three hanks of wool, orange, beige and green. I vividly recall the pre-printed pattern of a dozen random maple leaves. I worked on it for a short time days before we drove to Miami Beach for a family vacation. A week later, there I was on the beach poking a piece of burlap with my hook while other teenagers ran past me having a good old time.

“A good number of years later I thought I would try hooking again. I purchased a rather large pattern, again on burlap, of a Grandma Moses type scene. I toiled along using a #6 cut on a pattern meant for a #3, and decided this wasn't going to work for me either.

“I flipped the backing over and created my first original design on this nice blank backing, a simple rectangle geometric using all the colors in my limited stash. How little I knew about rug hooking at that time but something nagged at me to try again. Surprisingly, I finished it and hooked the year 1990 into the rug, and I still have it to this day.

“Perhaps I would have saved myself a lot of time with do-overs if I took more classes and read more magazines about hooking during those early years. However, time and resources were limited and I didn't know if there was even a hooking community out there somewhere to learn and get support from your fellow artisans. I was determined to stay true to my early appreciation of developing my own style of hooking so I kept on without any formal training. All of my many rugs are either reflections of my experiences or things that I want to know more about. In my own way and in my own time I still sit down to develop a new rug in wool from an image in my mind. This is my preferred style, then and now.

“Recently when another hooker heard that I do not draw my designs on linen in advance, I thought I must be missing out on a better way to create an original design. So, I cut out five shapes for a new rug and transferred them to the linen. Let me tell you, I am a better artist in my head than I am on paper. The design on linen did not translate at all. I scrapped that idea and went to work in my usual way, hooking what I see in my mind's eye directly onto my backing.

“I love to do story rugs because they incorporate many small details that add interest to the total picture and cause you to linger over the subtle nuances. However, they may have too personal a meaning to me and may not be relatable. One of my favorites is called ‘Can You Hear Me.’ Two personal recollections are included: my sister and I trying to devise a string telephone as kids, and me learning to ride a bicycle by rolling down a hill. Even though both are my own experiences, many people who saw this rug at shows commented that they also recall doing such crazy things.

“In 1997 I hooked my interpretation of a Crayola crayon box. In a Warhol-like moment I decided to hook it. Now 20 years later it hangs in the bedroom of my little grandson. I image that with the coming of a second grandson recently that there will be another rug soon suitable for him, too.

“I am fortunate to have two hooking accomplices, my sister and sister-in-law. Since 2009 we have challenged each other to hook a rug from a theme selected by one of us in turn. We are on our 12th Challenge, and this is in addition to our own other projects. We do not share our design ideas until we reveal the finished work to each other some months later. ‘Mystery’ was a theme a few years ago and my entry was ‘Amelia Earhart – Everyone Has Oceans to Fly.’

Tools I Use -- “In addition to the usual hook, cutter and frame, there are two other valuable tools I use often. A simple 12-inch wooden school ruler is used to tap along the length of a finished straight row to get the little soldiers to stand up evenly. The short end of the ruler is good to tap around the curved lines. Loops line up in well-defined rows, allowing the next row to be hooked right up close.

“The other tool that is really helpful is a wooden skewer. I use this often after a row is completed to lift a loop sitting just lower than its neighbor. The nice pointy end is finer than my hook and allows me to slip in the loop to give it a nice tug to even out the row.

Dyeing -- “I never got heavily into dyeing wool, although I've tried microwave spot dyeing and marrying recycled wool on the stovetop with moderate success. The richly colored mottled wools that I see in craft shows and hook-ins are just too hard to resist and that's when I pick up some unusual color combinations with no particular project in mind. I know I'll use them somewhere.

“However, there was a dyeing project that happened quite by accident. I had an accumulation of solid camel-colored wool, pretty to look at but very dull and not at all lively in a rug. I got my mad scientist face on and mixed a little of this, a little of that, and a combination I call ‘Dirty Dog’ was born. Don't ask me for the recipe, it was a one and done. But it does live on in several of my recent rugs. Love it!

Rug Hooking Has Its Funny Moments -- “While there is value in following a pattern and color planning a project, in my free-range hooking I'm empowered to make changes as I hook original designs. Once, while hooking a galloping horse design, I thought I would add circular hooking below his feet to show motion and perhaps rising dust. When I finished I realized that it looked as though he was pedaling a bicycle. I like quirkiness in a design but this came off a little weird. I had to do my least favorite thing in hooking and that’s 'taking out.' Brrrrpppp.

“Depending on the season, natural light and the weather, I move my hooking chair from room to room, front porch to back porch. As a result wool worms could be found anywhere, and they are. They show up clinging to my slippers and t'shirts, even in the refrigerator and bathroom. Don't ask me how that happens but it always makes me laugh when I find one in an unexpected place. I even found a 'worm' woven into a bird nest near my seat on the back porch. On my website I have cartoons of the ‘Wayward Worm’ which only another hooker can appreciate.

Display Ideas -- “Preparing for a recent exhibit, I was challenged to hang a number of small rugs. The display room was in a fine 18th-century building with wonderful deep set windows. Curtain tension rods were passed through the pockets in the back of the rugs and securely set within the window walls. Nifty.

“I've also got terrific results using a tri-fold poster board, using T-pins to easily poke through the rugs and into the poster board. It stands up well and is a nice way to display rugs vertically.

“Oh yes, by the way. That maple leaf design on burlap never did get completed. I think I gave up on it soon after we returned home from Florida. During the next 20 years, I began to appreciate folk art, antiques, quilts and other early art forms as I decorated my newlywed home and actually purchased two vintage hooked rugs. It would be another 10 years before I actually picked up a hook again, dedicating myself to this passion that I was pursuing for so many years.

“The best advice I ever received when I had a hooking block or was contemplating changing a color choice, was to 'keep going.' My best advice is, always to end the day's hooking on the upbeat, with the next loop ready to be pulled through the very next time you sit down to hook. Sometimes I even leave my hook right in the next loop, ready to pull through.

“I can't stop hooking!”

back to top 

Copyright 2017 Hunterdon County Rug Artisans Guild. All rights reserved. Web design by LolaDesign.net