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Category Archives: Color

Sue’s Tree of Life

By | Color, Contemporary rugmakers, Making rugs | 7 Comments

On the left is the rug that my good rughooking friend Sue Hammond, of New London, NH, designed and hooked. As soon as I saw her design, I loved it. It’s not a hit or miss rug, but the multi-color leaves, and the birds perched on the tree dazzled me. And so I asked if she would draw out the same design for me.

It’s not every rug designer that would agree to a request to copy out a rug they have just started making. So I felt completely honored that she agreed to draw out the same design onto linen for me to make. My version is on the right.

The designs are slightly different – she did not trace this design, she just re-drew it for me from scratch. She made the birds on “my” version slightly bigger, and placed one bird right at the center top of the tree. In the version she drew for me, the tree is slightly larger, and I made a few of the branches a bit thicker. And while she really liked her leaves to be not actually touching the branches, I hooked my leaves to be touching their branches.

Sue is one of the founders of the Green Mountain Rughooking Guild, and one of its past presidents. She is the emotional anchor of our local Tuesday Morning Rug Group. So I mean it when I say it was an honor to do a version of her rug.

And we both took great pleasure in seeing each of our rugs take shape, week to week – hers with her light background, mine with its dark background. We both edited the colors of the wool we chose for the leaves against our backgrounds – her leaves could not be too light, mine could not be too dark.

Yesterday, for the first time, we looked at both rugs, finished, side by side.

I will be putting my rug into the Green Mountain Guild’s next Hooked In The Mountains show, and the title of my rug will be Sue’s Tree of Life.

So here is a salute to Sue, to good rughooking friends everywhere, and to all those people like Sue who are relaxed in manner, creative in energy, and generous in spirit. They light up our lives…

Serendipity and a new friend…

By | Art, Color, Composition | 10 Comments

Let’s just call it serendipity. I have still been struggling to put creative words to paper (ok, to blog post) with recent current events having a jarring and debilitating effect. But yesterday I thought I could try to find another in my series of paintings showing women absorbed in some kind of needlework. It’s been a while since I posted one. So I started searching around for something new – just to send greetings and something interesting to you all…

Through the marvels of the internet, and one link leading to another, I somehow came across this painting, above, by Ugo de Cesare. What a wonderful work of art!

Look how the hard, square lines of the piano, the music sheet and the back of the little girl’s chair set off all the rest – everything else is curved, soft, and rounded.

Look at how the two girls (surely sisters?) are arranged to form a rough triangle on the canvas. And the focus of both girls’s attention is so interesting. The older girl is so concentrated on her needlework, while the younger one is so focussed on her big sister. Having three older sisters myself, I remember well looking on at their accomplishments, watching the things they could do well that I was still a beginner at. So as well as admiring the painting, I found something quite true in the relationship between these two girls. Lovely! It is oil on canvas, and titled Music and Embroidery.

So I looked up Ugo de Cesare, and was expecting to find something like “Italian painter, 1835-1900”. Well, I was right about the “Italian painter”, but he was born in the same year I was, 1950. He is our contemporary, and lives close to Naples, Italy.

An online bio for de Cesare says “Ugo de Cesare, Italian painter, was born in a small village near Florence. He studied at the Academy of Naples and Florence, and originally wanted to become an art teacher. To get his degree, he had to create an oil painting, which created such a sensation that he was awarded his degree with distinction.“

There is something so classicly beautiful about his work, and for me, there is an emotionality that shines through. Here is another oil painting by de Cesare that I liked just as much as the first one, titled In The Garden.

Are these the same two girls? I wonder if Ugo has sisters? Look at the embroiderer’s blouse, and all the subtle color shading that have gone into painting this “white blouse”. And if you look at the girl’s hat, and how it shades her face, you can determine just where the light is coming from. And that foliage background! Wouldn’t you be pleased to get that effect in a background?

And the nicest part of coming across this wonderful artwork? Ugo is on Facebook! I contacted him (in English) asking for permission to show his work, and he wrote back quite promptly – in Italian. Thank goodness for Google Translate, but even I could understand his “thumbs up” icon! And later in the day, he even sent several “likes” for my rugs that have shown up on my own facebook page!

Here is one more of Ugo’s works for you, again oil on canvas, titled Friends. Just look at the sunlight and shadows:

So beyond feeling inspired by his wonderful paintings, and being able to thank this living, breathing, talented painter personally for his lovely artwork, tonight the world seems a little smaller, a little less harsh, and a little more friendly.

All images are used with the permission of the artist – “Ciao Maria. Grazie per gli apprezzamenti per la mia arte. Ti dico già che puoi disporre delle foto di ogni mio.dipinto che ti piace. Buona giornata.”

A little fine tuning…

By | Color, Food for thought, Making rugs | 6 Comments

I was at rug camp, and figured on the first day I would work on doing a “New Hampshire Postcard” for our guild’s challenge. The “Postcard” could be any image that resonates NH to us, but had to be either 6”x8” or 8”x6”. It’s for an exhibit we are planning. I chose a mental image of my sister and I, rowing around in our little dinghy up at the lake. I decided on this image partially because it resonated deeply as symbolic of our growing up in NH, and I thought that after the exhibit, it would be a little piece I could give to my sister, who I know will love it.

I really did get it done in one day – because I worked on it in a class, where we were all hooking all day long – and because it was a tiny 8”x6” piece!

I was pleased with it – everyone could tell it was two people in a rowboat. But I took a picture of it, and looked quite a while at that. And then the next morning, looked again at my little “finished” piece. It needed a little fine tuning.

The dinghy was too wide, it looked more like a tub. And the faces, small as they were (only 4 or 5 loops each), could be better. Should I leave it be, or start in on it again? As much as I hated to start messing with it (afraid, of course, that I would be messing it up, not fixing it), I started in on replacing maybe 50 or 60 loops in all. And those final loops made it much, much better.

First thing next morning, I took out one row of loops on the top far edge of the boat, replaced it with blue “water” loops, making the boat one row of loops narrower. And replaced the first row of gray “boat edge” loops with a slightly darker gray, to give it more of a defined top edge.

Then I just manipulated the face of the girl at the back of the boat – just by adding a tail of wool in two places. Both boat and girl did look better:

I was pleased at the improvement. OK, now I was done! I worked on another project for the rest of the day.

Then I looked at this little piece again, especially at the far shore. I wanted there to be two points of land to the left and right, and a much more distant shore in the middle. It was ok the way it was, but I decided to live brave, and try to get that middle shore looking like it was further away. I replaced the trees in the distant middle shore with greens much lighter than I had originally used. Better. And then, thinking about how the lake looks darker blue at a distance, I changed the wool I had used just in front of that middle “far shore” to a darker blue for the more distant water.

So here is a close-up of the “far shore” now, and I think it does now look more at a distance than before:

So now I am really finished. The moral of this story is that when you think you are all done with a piece, set it aside for a little bit, and look at it one more time. You know I am not a big believer in “reverse hooking”, or tearing loops out on a whim.

But as you finish a rug, look for any small details that could be sharpened up or improved, with just the right, very small change here or there. Before you go to the rug finish-line, check if there are 20 or 50 loops that would improve your final piece.

I call it Hooking Brave.

Style… in a while.

By | Color, Design, Making rugs | 5 Comments

A rughooking friend wrote this to me recently:

One more question, with sooo many different ways/methods/techniques of hooking, how does a hooker go about honing in on what their style is? I guess I am feeling kind of unfocused and just hook whatever, but it seems like everything I read about, the artist/craftsman has a “specialty” they do–kind of their signature look for lack of a better description. Thoughts?

Hmmm. I can only speak for myself. First thought is that I don’t want to have one style. If I’ve just done a pictorial or one of my “fussy rugs”, like this one above, I am likely to want to work on a geometric or hit or miss next – something that doesn’t need you to make a decision for practically every loop, like pictorials often require. I want my next project to be “something different”!

I can look back on rugs I’ve done, and see threads of what might be a style – my doodle rugs are a category of rugs I like working on, and variations of hit or miss rugs will always be a favorite sort of rug for me. And I like to experiment. One morning, I woke up wondering if you could do “a hit or miss landscape”, and ended up with this:

There is a drawing style.
Part of one’s “style” is how you draw, with whatever drawing abilities you may or may not possess. Anything I design with a cat, a dog, a house – you’ll be able to tell it’s one of Mary Jane’s, because I only know one way to draw a cat or dog, like in this rug:

I think I love rughooking because its primitive tradition allows room for people like me, who still draw stuff like they did in fourth grade. And there are people who can really draw, whether it is architecture or faces, or a field of corn – and their way of drawing leads them to have rugs with a distinctive style.

There is a color style.
Even people who don’t design their own rugs have their own sense of color, or a palette of colors they gravitate to regularly. I like most colors but you’ll probably never see a rug of mine with a lot of olive green, or pink in it. And I have to swallow hard to make myself use much aqua.

But I think to develop a style, you need to draw out your own rugs. Even if they are simple. Keep your projects a nice challenge, a little bit of a stretch! If you find a new technique, whether waldoboro, fine shading, a bit of proddy or using fancy stitches, find a way to work them into a project as your next interesting experiment. You’ll be adding a new tool to your rughooking toolbox.

And wait a minute. I don’t want all my rugs to look the same, do I?

Maybe when thinking about “your style”, it’s worth it to think about music as a model. If you love jazz, you can also love opera. If you like symphonies, you can also truly enjoy good country and western.

So in the end, my answer is: don’t worry about it. Just keep doing what attracts you and interests you. After a while, if you do this, your own taste – attraction – to certain projects may create a “style thread” that you can see in retrospect. But I think the more you “try for a style”, the more elusive it will be. You just have to go the long way around on this one.

If you ask other hookers, you might get different answers, but to me, your “style” as a hooker is something you can find when you look back on your completed works. Don’t worry about whether you have a style or not. Hook what projects interest you, and challenge you, or that you most enjoy working on.

More of Amsterdam

By | Art, Color, Museums | 4 Comments


This is the best picture I have taken here in Amsterdam. I had just come out of the Rembrandt House Museum, and crossed the street to take a photo of the canal and row of houses. I noticed the sky was getting very dark, but all of a sudden, the sun came out. And I spotted a bird flying over the canal: click!

Here is Rembrandt’s house:


It was quite a palatial home in the mid-1600s, since Rembrandt was already well recognized by the time he bought it, at age 33. The kitchen:

And the living room, or “salon” where he would welcome patrons and visitors:

By chance, I went on a good day, since there was a woman doing an etching demonstration in Rembrandt’s printing room:

And there was a man in Rembrand’s studio demonstrating how his paintbrushes were made, how canvas was prepared, and how, in the 1600s, paint was made from linseed oil and pigment:

Some pigments were so expensive that the painter would first paint a dress, for example, in paint made from less expensive pigment like red ochre, and then just lightly brush the more expensive paint made with vermillion pigment for the highlights. It gave an optical illusion that the entire dress was painted in vermillion. And Rembrandt and his students would be working on several paintings at once, and mix up a very small batch of the most expensive pigment, lapis lazuli blue, and apply it to all the paintings that needed it at once.

I walked through the city on the way home, and came across a fabric store, with a rainbow of buttons on display, that made me realize how much we take for granted the almost unlimited selection of colors available to us:

and a very limited selection of wool, most either in black and gray for making suits, or much too thick for most hooking:

Still, it was fun to find this store, and it was a good day.

Old rugs and new wool

By | Antique rugs, Color, Dyeing | One Comment

Any moment now, this charming old rug will be auctioned off. It’s in today’s sale (10 am) at Eldred’s, in East Dennis, MA. The estimate is $450-$650, and since it is Lot 440, you may still have time to bid on it.

I liked the nice bright, random colors of the autumn leaves in the outer border, and the bright yellow and orange lines of the oval inner border – the colors frame the pale horse well, and let’s face it, that just looks like a happy horse that someone loved!

The sale description was: “ HOOKED RUG: DEPICTING A PONY (25″ x 30″), 19th Century. Affixed to a modern painting stretcher.”

Now here is an antique rug that will be in another Eldred’s sale, on Nov. 17th (also 10 am). It will be Lot 994, described as “Lot 994: EARLY 20TH CENTURY HOOKED RUG 5’9″ x 7’2″ Multicolor geometric design.”

The odd thing about this rug (especially as it is a hit or miss) is that I actually don’t like it much. That seldom happens to me! So I stopped to think about why I don’t like it. I think the geometric border is great, and you know I love hit or miss, but for me, the two just do not go together well. It feels like the precision of the border is almost the complete opposite, in style, of the hit or miss center. If the outer border was done in slightly less precise squares, maybe I’d like it more. Or if the color palette were brighter…But as it is, it actually made me feel a little tense to look at it. Well, sometimes you can learn from thinking about what you don’t like, as well as from what you like and admire.

So on to the “new wool” part of this post. I had a “Jumbo Size” Hefty bag, full of multicolored snippets from the last many months of hooking. When I work on a rug, my snippets go into a little tin next to me, and when the tin is full, I go dump the wool snippets into the plastic bag.

So the bag was full, and it was getting in my way. I was still pretty down-and-out with my cold, so thought I would do some spontaneous and unpredictable dyeing, mostly to get rid of that full bag, and of course to see what would happen. And while feeling punky, it would make me feel like I got something done.

So all the snippets got emptied into my biggest dye pot. I soaked three small pieces of white wool (each about a foot long and 6” wide) in synthrapol for a few minutes, and then rumpled them up and shoved each of them into a different part of the pot. Then I just left it to cook for about an hour, not stirring it at all. And I poured in a “glug, glug” of white vinegar for the last 15 minutes.

Somehow, I thought I would get three completely different colors of wool, or maybe something with many multicolor flecks of color. I was amazed that each of the three pieces basically came out the same color! A nice bright but light green, with highlights only here and there of other colors. In person, they are more green than this photo shows:

The snippets I started with really were every color of the rainbow, collected during the time I hooked at least four different rugs, each with a wide variety of colors. Were there a lot of greens, plus a lot of blues and yellows to make more green? Who knows?

But I was greatly pleased with the experiment, and will definitely find these three new pieces of wool useable. My conclusion: dyeing is magic. So if you have snippets and are willing to give up a few small pieces of white wool to fate, try it yourself with your own snippets and see what sort of a surprise you get!

The photos of the antique rugs are courtesy of Eldred’s Auctions, online at www.eldreds.com.

Tweaking…

By | Color, Making rugs | 3 Comments


I have been down and out with a bad cold for the past week, and the very first sign I had that I might be feeling better was that yesterday I did a little hooking on my flag rug. I didn’t do a lot, but was at a stage I like – looking at what I had done so far, and giving a few tweaks here and there that I thought would improve it or clarify what the viewer was seeing.

The biggest problem was the bits of blue sky filtering through the leaves above the porch roof, shown above. The more I looked at it, the bits of sky looked too random. I started focussing on the greenery around the sky-bits, and decided they just did not look like probable formations of branches. So I pulled out a few of the blue bits, and concentrated on making the groups of leaves seem more realistic. I may tweak them some more, but, being sick and not focussing all that well, a little improvement cheered me up:

You can see how I also got some of the “through the porch screens” leaves and sky done. I used only darker shades of green for the leaves in this section, and a much grayer shade of blue for the sky, to account for the view being seen here through the screening.

More tweaking: I added two loops to the cat’s tail, which, on looking at it, seemed a bit too short. And I pulled out the almost-charcoal color I’d used for the big rock, and re-hooked it in a lighter gray tweed. Looks much more like the rocks outside my house now, and more like a rock than a big dark blob. I added a smaller rock nearby, too:

And then I thought two of the pot plants in front looked too merged together. I had purposely used two different greens for their separate leaves, but they still just ran into each other. So I added just a few loops of a much lighter green between the two, just to define each of them better:

Sooner or later, I will stop feeling sick, and maybe have more creative thoughts to write about here, but for now, I have reason to particularly appreciate this “tweaking” stage of hooking a rug, particularly a pictorial – where one starts to see the weak spots and the ill-defined bits, and just giving them a nudge towards “that’s better”.

Old rug, new rug

By | Color, Contemporary rugmakers, Making rugs | 4 Comments

This is the first proddy rug I ever made. I was living in the northwest of England, and saw a notice for a one-day class in making rag rugs in the parish newsletter, signed up, went, and had a wonderful time, and met some very nice women in the nearby market town of Kirkby Lonsdale in the process.

I’ve never liked the design very much – concentric circles are just not that interesting, but have always been fond of it anyhow, and it has laid in front of our stove for years. It’s a bit grimy and flattened from so many feet finding cushion and comfort from standing on it for hours and hours while cooking.

But this summer, I (finally!) got a new kitchen counter, and as I approach the end of my “Flag on the Porch” rug, I have decided to make a new proddy to go in front of our stove. Here is a close-up of our new counter:

It is so beautiful! Especially since I’ve lived with a black, 1970s leather-look (ie, uneven and hard to clean) counter for many years! It’s called Blue Sahara, by Silestone, by the way…

So this morning, after a very stressful week (5 hr. trip to the ER with my husband, doing credit freezes and changing passwords, nuclear war seeming imminent, minor but upsetting dog fight, and so on) I finally had enough creative juices running in my veins to go into my wool room and started pulling wool for my next project:

Making a proddy rug takes a lot of wool. How much? Way more than you anticipate. For me, this is good – my wool is overflowing it’s shelves. I still want to look through again to add more rust-colored wool. And maybe a piece or two of gray.

I am planning to make a “confetti” rug – where all the colors are mixed together somewhat randomly, like in this proddy I made for my bathroom:

English rugmakers also call confetti rugs “mizzy-mazzy” rugs – don’t even bother to ask me why, but it is a great name, isn’t it? The secret of having enough wool in different colors for a confetti rug is to use a lot of different blues, for example, so that as you run out of one blue plaid or solid, you can just add another one in. Some people cut a lot of wool and divide up each color into four piles or bags, so that most of the colors are evenly distributed for each quarter of the rug.

And proddy means a lot of cutting. I will start now, first cutting long 1″-wide strips, and then taking two or three long strips and cutting them into small 2 1/2″ or 3″ pieces. A good task while watching a movie or four… I can usually cut two or three thicknesses of wool at once into long strips, which helps. At least for proddy, your cutting does not have to be all that precise. If one long strip is slightly wider at one point, and thinner at another, it really does not matter, it will still be fine.

And during stressful days, “It will still be fine” sounds like just the kind of feeling I need.

Taking a closer look…

By | Art, Color, Composition | 6 Comments

I just came across this lovely painting, for the first time. It is The Homestead, by John Whorf (American, 1903-1959) and it is a watercolor done in about 1945.

Let’s look at it together, and see what we can see. After my very first glance (“what a beautiful old cape! Oh dear, abandoned…“) I notice that almost half of the painting, in the foreground, is taken up by the soft diagonal of the field. The black of the wellpump stands out from the tans and browns of the grasses. The pump draws my eye right to the house itself. In terms of color, the field has a bit of green and even some yellow in with the tans and browns.

Where does your eye travel when viewing the painting? I looked at the brighter colors of the field first, then the black pump led me to the green back door of the house’s ell, and the roofline. And then my eye goes to the hard shadow line across the house, and to the far door… My eye travelled back to the patch of black in the window just to the left of the white door – a broken window, I think, that adds to the abandoned feel of the house. And from the far door, I took in the boarded-up window on the far right.

It was only on the second looking that I really took in the angles of the roof, the two chimneys, and how the house is framed and softened at the top by the unseen tree’s branches.

Look at how the angle of the shadow falling across the house is as hard a line as the house itself. Look at the shadows from the tree on the top roof and far side of the house. Where is the sun coming from?

Did you notice that the diagonal of the hard shadow-line on the house is just the same as (parallel to) the diagonal of the left-most roofline? How do the different diagonals of the roof itself play off against the soft diagonal of the field?

The green bushes here and there in the field balance the greens of the branches overhead. And the field itself: it puts the house at a distance from us, doesn’t it?

Of course the shape of the house itself – the placement of the doors and windows, the rooflines and horizontal lines of the clapboards – is determined by the architecture of any good old cape. But the artist chose just that angle to view it from, with the sun and shadows falling at just that moment, when he contemplated his choices – his composition.

What is the focal point of the painting? I am not sure, and maybe it is different to different people. But I decided that for me, it was the white door – what I took to be the main door that would be used every day.

The whole abandoned look of the house brings to mind who lived there, why they left it, who went in and out of those doors a hundred times, a thousand times. And, at least for me, that is the emotional impact of the painting. I can so easily picture a woman coming out of that green door of the ell to pump water – for dyeing wool or yarn on the top of her old stove. Don’t you think there might have been a hooked rug in front of the stove?

Each art medium has its own look. Watercolor allows that very softness of color, and the wonderful almost blurry top edge of the field grasses, allowing you to feel you are looking right through the grass where it overlaps the house’s foundation. You could dye wool to get the different colors of the field, but it would be beyond me how to create that soft edge where field and house meet.

John Whorf’s The Homestead (August), c.1945 is being sold by Childs Gallery, Boston, MA for $8,500, and they are online at childsgallery.com.

The Gallery description of the painting reads “John Whorf was one of the most accomplished American watercolorists. In this watercolor he treats a Cape Cod house… with a style and technique reminiscent of two of his favorite artists, John Singer Sargent and Frank W. Benson.”

Whorf was born in Winthrop, MA, and died in Provincetown. I did not find much biographical information on him, but it is clear, after searching, that many galleries actively are interested in finding works by him. And a book has just been published about him, John Whorf Rediscovered, available from AFA Publishing. You can see a few more of his paintings here, all lovely.

Today, don’t look at the eclipse without special precautions, so you can continue to look, and then look again, at everything else.

Summer days…

By | Color, Design, Making rugs | 8 Comments

I confess, I went to a wonderful few days at Green Mountain Rughooking School, and I took no photos for the blog. If I take photos of other people’s rugs, I then have to wander around and find them to get permission to show them. Maybe the photos are all over facebook, but on the blog, that’s how I do things.
So I took a blog vacation in favor of sitting with friends and just hooking, hooking, (visiting, eating, telling stories, laughing, comparing projects and…) hooking.

Above, you see my current project, started in mid-May. I wanted a rug to do in a wider cut than I have tried before – an #8 cut – and was not feeling very creative, so I ordered this pattern, called Birds In The Border, by Lin Wells of Lin’s Primitive by Design.

I liked that it was sort of symmetrical, but not completely symmetrical. And in choosing my colors, I made sure that I continued this slight unsymmetricality. Is that a real word? Well, you know what I mean. I used the same group of colors for the small and large flowers, but changed the order and pattern of them.

And how did I do, using a #8 cut for the first time? Just fine! I expected to have to work harder to pull my loops, but really, it felt just like hooking with my usual #6 cut. I do use a hook with a fairly thick shank, even when working with a #5 or #6, so maybe that is why I had no difficulty. I just had to remember to space out my loops a little more than I usually do, since even with a #6, I tend to pack my loops in.

The other great thing about this design is that, once I finished all the design elements (birds, flowers, leaves, vine) there was not that much background to do!

One of my favorite parts of hooking is when you put that first row of background around all your design elements. That flower or this leaf looks so different when it is finally surrounded by the background color! And that first background row is what locks your loops into place, so that is the time to nudge a loop a little bit this way or that way to smooth out a curve or a straight line, or give final shape to a bird’s beak or tail.

And as you can see, I only have a bit left to do. As I approach the “home stretch” on a rug, I usually have to set it aside to finalize my next project. Then I can relax and finish up the current one. We would never want to find ourselves rug-less, would we??

Hoping you are enjoying the summertime, and that the rug on your frame is coming along, too!