Featured Hooker of the Month

May 2017
Meet Featured Member – Anne Penkal

Anne Penkal was born with a rug hook in her hand! Well, that is almost true. She was born into a rug hooking family. Anne’s grandmother, Mary Gilbert, and her mother, Marjorie Anderson, were McGown certified instructors. She recalls “having a hook in my hand at age four or five and hooking with my grandmother when we summered in Woodstock, Vermont.” Her mother held classes in her home so she was exposed to rug hooking her entire life. She also helped when her mother exhibited at rugs shows.

A foot stool completed when Anne was 18 was her first real project. It was not until she was in her early 30s that Anne started hooking in a serious way. However, her work and family responsibilities kept her from hooking on a consistent basis until about three years ago when she lost her job in a downsizing. About that time Guild member Jane Anderson, Anne’s sister-in-law, retired and now they both had more time to hook which they did at family get-togethers.

When growing up with family and friends who were McGown instructors, it was natural for the idea of becoming certified to come up but Anne had no interest in teaching rug hooking. While she learned to hook with narrow cuts, Anne prefers to hook with #7 and #8 cuts. Anne notes “there is a tendency to identify those who hook with wider cuts as ‘primitive’ rug hookers. To many that means country and folksy patterns. That is not what I like to do. Many of my rugs have floral designs.”

There was no need for Anne to take formal lessons or attend workshops since she grew up in a family of rug hooking teachers, so it was a new experience for her when she attended her first rug school last summer. Her mother encouraged her to sign up for Nancy Jewett’s workshop and come to the HCRAG Rug School along with Jane Anderson. “Rug hooking is so different today. There are no rules anymore and all sorts of materials and embellishments are used.”

There are certainly a lot of advantages to having a hooking expert as a mother but as Anne notes “there are some disadvantages too. My mother color planned most of my rugs and often provided the wool. I am now trying to design and plan more of my patterns.” When it comes to dying her wool, Anne says that she “was spoiled but is slowing learning.” Her mother has all the colors and is a great instructor. “She is very particular with her colors!” Some of Anne’s rug patterns are ones she has designed. The balance are commercially available or from her mother.

Anne describes herself as “a burst hooker.” There are times when she is excited about her current project and works on it every day. That can be followed by “a slump” and she may not hook for a month. A big motivator for her is driving to Bethlehem on Tuesdays to hook with her mother’s group of six or seven rug hooking friends. She also gains inspiration from HCRAG meetings.

Rug hooking (right side of her brain) complements Anne’s professional training as a chemical engineer (left side of her brain). She graduated from Lehigh University and had a career in the field of water treatment both industrial and municipal. Her husband, Paul, who she met at Lehigh, is an electrical engineer specializing in microelectronics. Anne and Paul have two children – Paul and Julia. Both of them are engineers too! Paul lives in Pensacola, Florida and recently joined the Navy. Their daughter Julia is a chemical engineer who lives in Chicago. Anne and Paul Sr. live in Harleysville, PA.

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