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Category Archives: Color

A weekend treat

By | Antique rugs, Color | No Comments

image Austin Miller

It is insufferably hot here today and it’s a holiday weekend, so I was thinking about putting off doing a blog entry… until my friend Austin sent me a photo of this wonderful rug. It’s now in his collection at Austin T. Miller American Antiques, and is up for sale. So take a good look at this beautiful and lively example of our rughooking heritage. It made me want to show it to you right away, and then sit down and start hooking, no matter how hot it is…

Here’s the description:
A Dynamic Pennsylvania Horse Hooked Rug

The prancing black horse is spotlighted by a complex multi-colored striated background creating the feeling of movement. This hooked rug is a spectacular example of Pennsylvania rug hooking dating to the later part of the 19th century and survives in mint condition.
Rug 60 x 40 1/2 inches, professionally mounted.

What a weekend treat to find in my inbox! Austin’s collection of all sorts of American antiques and folk art is online at www.usfolkart.com and it is always worth browsing through the textile collection…and non-textiles to see fine weathervanes, whirlygigs, furniture, paintings, folk art and Americana.

Once again, this photograph is copyrighted, and used here with permission – and should not be copied, pasted, posted, pinned or shared unless you write to Austin for permission. Thanks for sending it to us, Austin!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

Another lovely, cloudy day…

By | Color, Design, Making rugs | 4 Comments

image John Flournoy

After my last post about clouds, I looked around for a rug or two that had really nice clouds in a hooked sky, and came across the rugs of John Flournoy, of Lewes, Delaware. Above is his rug, Along Breakwater Trail, which I think is a very, very lovely landscape – he really created a sense of the scene’s depth, with good, subtle clouds!

So I talked with John, and he gave me these hints for how he handles clouds. John wrote,”I always find that hooking a cloud is the most difficult object to portray in a hooking. I could never get the billowy cotton-like clouds to look realistic so I started hooking groups of white lines to portray my clouds and then fingering in blue and white around them. So they kind of look like someone drug a comb through the billowy clouds. And in my mind the horizon always looks less intense and lighter, so I continue that thought to the bottom using lighter shades of blue and white.

Let’s look at another of John’s rugs – hooked in a #3 cut. This is his Sénanque Abbey:

image John Flournoy

John said this rug came about from a trip he took to southern France. “Located north of Gordes, the monastery was founded in 1148. The stone of Sénanque Abbey is weathered to a gentle heather-gray that seems to blend effortlessly with the natural landscape, especially in July and August when the sea of lavender surrounding the abbey is in full bloom.”

It must have been a beautiful sight, and it certainly made a beautiful rug. Out of all the many lovely views there must have been of this abbey, John did an amazing job on his design. John’s sky, with the low-lying clouds, sets a tone without dominating, and his shading and color usage is very effective.

I’m really impressed by John’s rugs. Here is Pennsylvania Barns, also hooked in a #3 cut:

image John Flournoy

John’s been hooking for about 20 years, and gives credit to the beautiful wool he uses, hand-dyed by Marie Azzaro. There is something very straightforward about John’s rugs, and yet they have skilled perspective and a strong atmosphere.

OK, here is one more rug of John’s (with more nice clouds) called Saint Agnes By The Sea:

image John Flournoy

John wrote “This is an adaptation from an old postcard of Saint Agnes as it stood facing the sea on what is now the Rehoboth Beach, Delaware boardwalk… verbiage and postmark were my idea…

John posts many of his rugs on rughookingdaily, and has an etsy shop named Garden Gate Design here.

John’s rug designs and these photos of them are his, protected by copyright, and used here with his very kind permission. Thanks so much, John, both for your tips on hooking clouds, and for sharing your rugs with us.

And finally, to make good clouds in your rugs, look at clouds in the sky. Here is a photo from my back window yesterday afternoon:

Clouds In The Sky

By | Art, Color, Composition | One Comment

image clouds1

When you are hooking a sky, adding in a cloud formation or two will add depth, movement and interest. I took the photo above yesterday, and thought it would be interesting to run the photo through waterlogue, an app that simplifies both line and shading. Here is how it came out:

image clouds2

It’s not that much different, but it does make me think that three shades – white for the bright highlights and a choice of much paler blues than the surrounding sky (to suggest a cloud’s transparency) or pale gray to add volume – would make a cloud shape better.

Of course, the white is where the light is hitting the cloud most directly, and the shades of color or gray would go opposite the position of the sun, even if the sun is not actually in your design frame.

In the first skies I hooked, I would just add a nice little blob of white in a blue sky:


Well, that’s ok, but clouds can offer more opportunity than that. I think I can do better than that.

Let’s look at another cloud formation – this one a painting by England’s renowned landscape artist John Constable (1776-1837):

image John Constable

A “Cloudscape”, like this Cloud Study by Constable, is a painting or rendition where the clouds are center stage. But any time you hook a sky, you can add mood. Bright sunny day, or storm on the horizon? In our real lives, we look up at the sky countless times to see what the weather is bringing us. That is part of what adding a cloud to your hooked design will add to your work.

There are beautiful rugs of sunsets I’ve seen, and sometimes, like with this Judith Dallegret design hooked by Debby Palmer of Hadley, MA, where the clouds are hooked in a more stylistic than realistic way, as part of the design:

image Deb Palmer Storms at Sea

Deb was the person who told me about the “Cloud Appreciation Society”, (online at https://cloudappreciationsociety.org) where you can look at hundreds of photos of clouds from around the world. Clouds are amazing things to pay attention to, whether in a hooked piece or just up above your head in the sky.

And if you’d like to get a better sense of how to go about drawing a more realistic cloud formation, there are good “how-to” sites online, like this one from naturalist and artist John Muir Laws:

I just heard thunder and looked up – yup, there’s a wall of dark gray clouds headed our way…

The photo of Deb’s rug is hers and hers alone, and used here with her kind permission. And this and other Judith Dallegret’s rug designs can be found online at www.gohookit.com.

More old rugs, good to see

By | Antique rugs, Color | One Comment

image Kaminski Auctions1

Here are some nice old rugs that were in a collection in Florida, that will be auctioned in a sale by Kaminski Auctions in Beverly, MA on May 22 (10 am). Above, you see Lot #3280:
Estimate: $300 – $500
Description: Early 20th century American hooked rug, with strawberry and blueberry design, 42″ x 28″. Provenance: From a Delray Beach, FL estate.

I’ve never seen a background quite like that, with the scalloped effect. Very nice! Now here is Lot # 3281:
image Kaminski Auctions2

Estimate: $200 – $400
Description: Early 20th century American hooked rug, with orange flower on black background design, 34″ x 23 1/2″. Provenance: From a Delray Beach, FL estate.

This is a lovely, bright rug, but I am not sure about this photo. It looks like there are a lot of visible “holidays” in the rug – places where you can see backing through the hooked wool… is it possible they took a photo of the back side of the rug? I really think so. In any case, it does make me think about how a dark background really works with primary colors.

And now here is Lot # 3376:
image Kaminski Auctions 3

Whoa! That is one intricate rug! I’d love to see it close up, and have to guess that it was done in quite a fine cut for those details! Here is the description:
Estimate: $200 – $400
Description: American hooked rug, 5′ 5″ x 4′ 4″. Provenance: From a Delray Beach, FL estate.

And finally, here is a beauty and what has to be the complete opposite of the last one. This is Lot # 3278, titled “Arts and Crafts Period Framed Rug”:

image Kaminski Auctions4

Estimate: $300 – $500
Description: Early 20th century Arts and Crafts period, framed and hooked rug, with broken glass pattern and red border, 60″ h x 37″ w. Provenance: From a Delray Beach, FL estate.

I have never heard the term “broken glass pattern” before, but it does catch the flavor of the pattern. What an amazing variety of rugs, all in the same rughooking tradition! Anything goes, and when you see these older rugs, you realize this has always been true.

Which one would you bid on? For me, I think it would be the very first one. And if you actually want to bid, Kaminski Auctions is online at kaminskiauctions.com and all photos and descriptions are owned by and courtesy of them.

My first try at Plein Air Hooking

By | Color, Composition, Contemporary rugmakers, Design | 3 Comments


On April 1st, I told you about the Plein Air Rughooking Artists, and thought their idea – of practicing the study of light, color and nature by hooking on location – was great. So recently I spent a few days hooking at an inn on the Connecticut River, and tried my hand at it. Above, you see my piece, just finished and steamed this morning.

And here is one angle of what I decided to draw – the foreground green grass, the straw-like tan of the two river banks, the river, three of the huge pine trees, with the hills opposite showing through them:


It was one of the freezing cold days we’ve had so many of this spring, so I went out on the inn’s screened porch to work. The idea of making a sketch directly from nature was the hard part, but I decided to trust that if I got a few simple lines of the landscape down on my linen, I could do the rest with my wool.


It was so cold outside, I did not want to spend too long drawing out the scene. And now I think this worked in my favor. I tried hard to get the basic shapes of the landscape, took most of the time getting the shapes of the tree branches right, and because I was cold, I did not get into the fussy attempts to get in every detail that usually makes my drawings go wrong. So here is the sketch I came up with:


Once I got the sketch down, I spent quite a bit of time matching the colors of what I was seeing to the wool I had brought along. And this, for me, was the most interesting part. My brain said tree trunks are brown, but in fact these trunks were mostly shades of gray. And I did use a brighter green for the lawn than I probably would have otherwise. Here’s a photo of the piece of wool I chose for the grass:


I went back inside the house after hooking some of the main lines of the landscape. Maybe that was cheating, but I really wanted to try this plein air hooking despite the cold day. And I am looking forward to trying this “hooking from life” again, on a finer day.

If you’d like to learn more, you can go back to my April 1st post, or just go to the website for the Plein Air Rug Hooking Artists at www.pleinairhooking.com.

A Happy Rug For A Happy Mother’s Day

By | Antique rugs, Color | No Comments

image Austen Miller rug

Austin Miller, an experienced American antique folk art dealer friend from Columbus, Ohio, sent me this photo of a rug, new to his collection. It’s a beauty, described as “Rare Waldoboro Type hooked rug of a Parrot on a Branch with Rose Flower Border. Waldoboro, Maine area, late 19th Century. Mixed fabrics hooked on burlap with a braided border, 24 x 36 inches.”

The design is simple, well-balanced and lovely. And the colors are great, especially for an antique rug. I like the variety of greens used for the leaves, and especially, how the red area of the parrot was outlined in gold – a nice detail!

It is frustrating to see this rug in a two-dimensional photo, since the raised (“hoved”) sculptural effect of the Waldoboro technique can’t really be seen. But Austin did tell me that the bird and all the floral pattern is in the Waldoboro raised style.

And I haven’t come across that many old rugs that have a braided border – somehow I thought this was a more modern method. Wrong again, Mary Jane!

Austin added one more detail from his antiques dealer perspective that was also new to me. He writes, “For your edification, which I am sure you already know, the so called absolute Waldoboro hooked rugs are hooked on linen. The Waldoboro type such as this one is on burlap. The linen is a distinct characteristic as is the raised decorations.”

Does everyone know that for “Waldoboro rugs”, for each leaf, flower petal or other design element, you use a fine cut, pack the loops incredibly tightly in ever-longer loops, and then carefully cut the loops into a raised, sculpted shape? If not, check out Jacqueline Hansen’s book Scuptured Rugs In Waldoboro Style, easily available online.

I am so glad I took a class in Waldoboro hooking with Jacqui – I haven’t used it that much after making my initial fruit-and-flowers rug, but it definitely allows me to appreciate the detailed work that goes in to creating this distinct style of hooked rugs.

Thanks for sending this, Austin, so I could show it to my rughooking friends here! The photo is copyrighted by Austin T. Miller Antiques, Columbus, Ohio, and used here with permission. For an always impressive interlude of looking at lovely American folk art, both textile and not, explore Austin’s website at www.usfolkart.com.

And Happy Mother’s Day, everyone!

28 minutes

By | Art, Color, History of Art | One Comment

image Childe Hassam

This wonderful painting is Celia Thaxter’s Garden, painted in 1890, by Childe Hassam. That’s pronounced “Child HASSam”, for those of you (like me) who want to know how to say it right.

And of course, Celia’s garden was on the New Hampshire island of Appledore, one of the Isles of Shoals. Hassam spent more than 30 summers travelling out to the Isles of Shoals to paint, and Appledore became quite a famous artists’ colony. And I just signed up for a rughooking retreat this coming Sept. on Star Island, another of NH’s beloved Isles, six miles off the NH coast! Whee!

This is a good painting to look at while letting the right side of your brain interrogate the left side. Do you like it? How do the main lines (“the bones”) balance each other? Where are the darkest and lightest areas, and the most colorful? Remember the “rule of thirds”, using a tic tac toe grid to consider compositions? Where do the “thirds” fall on this painting? And intuitively, what emotions come to you from this painting?

But the real point of this entry is to send you all a link to a film made by the North Carolina PBS station about Childe Hassam and the Isles of Shoals. It’s 28 minutes long and I’m posting it at the beginning of a weekend, hoping you will have time to enjoy it soon. It’s about this great American painter, about impressionism, marine biology, American art history, putting together an art exhibit, about sunrises and moonrises, and yes, about the Isles of Shoals.

So maybe while I am out walking my dog you can settle down with another cup of coffee and watch it – it is well worth your time. Here is the link:

And many thanks to my friend Dev for sending it to me. The painting above is in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City (www.metmuseum.org) and if you want to know more about the hooking retreat on Star Island in September, go to www.starisland.org or contact Pam Bartlett at The Woolen Pear, online at www.redhorserugs.com.

And enjoy this beautiful spring weekend!

A new rug and a great article

By | Color, History of Art, Making rugs | 3 Comments


Two quick things to show you today. First, this is the rug I just finished. It was designed as a teaching piece by Cyndy Duade, of Springfield, NH, for the class in wide-cut crewel hooking for our NH ATHA group, White Mountain Woolen Magic. I used a #6 cut, but others used #8 cuts. Cyndy dyed a lot of wool for all the people who signed up for the class, and the design was lovely to work on.

For me, the most interesting part was using the dip-dyed wool for the center of the top flower. I just had never used a dip-dyed wool before, and it was so cool to watch the color transition hook itself in!

And for the interesting article, this piece, titled The Harvard Library That Protects The World’s Rarest Colors appeared recently on fastcodesign.com, written by Diana Budds.


The article is about the rare colors in the vault of Harvard’s storied pigment library, which include beetle extracts, poisonous metals, and human mummies. A fascinating look into the history of color pigment history, and only about a five minute read:


Photo of glass pigment containers courtesy of Jenny Stenger, © President and Fellows of Harvard College

One Small Moment

By | Art, Color, Creativity, Design | No Comments


Today let’s look at an artist working in a different area of fiber. Emily Barletta is based in Brooklyn, NY. Her most recent work is in the medium of hand embroidery on paper. Her wonderful work, above, is called Untitled 131. And while she is working with needle and thread instead of a hook and wool, her sense of design and color would be right at home in rughooking. Here is another of Emily’s works, Untitled 53:

image Emily Barletta

Emily wrote that much of her work addresses the scars left behind from day-to-day living. “There is the constant push and pull of light and dark, the violence that exists in the natural world, and the uncontrollable effects on the psyche when faced with the necessity to survive. What I am trying to do is keep a record of these things. By hand sewing on paper, each stitch becomes a mark focusing in on one small moment.

Here is her piece Untitled 138, which I think is just lovely, and so balanced in both design and color:

image Emily Barletta

She writes, “I can create a tiny intersection that slows down time and records it. Whether it is only using blood red threads, or playing with landscape colors, the needle allows me to create a mental space slower than the rest of the day. A space in which I can put the needle into the paper, pull it through, taut, and start again, creating delicate worlds that are softer and kinder…

I also love some of the works, especially this one titled Horizon, that Emily has created from felt, thread and glue:

image Emily Barletta

Here is a close look at Horizon:

image Emily Barletta

Wonderful! One moment at a time, one stitch at a time, one loop at a time… I think we have a lot in common with Emily, as we put our creative and healing spirits into material form… and I thank her so much for letting me show some of her work here.

Emily Barletta has a BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art, 2003. She has received a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Crafts, and a Pollock-Krasner Grant. Her artwork has been regularly exhibited at galleries and museums across the country. You can see much more of her work on her website, at emilybarletta.com. But, for this moment, here is one more of Emily’s works, Pelt, made from crocheted yarn. First, a photo of the entire piece:


And now a close-up view of it:


Emily’s work and her photos of it are her own, and protected by copyright. Thanks again, Emily – your artwork is wonderful and your thoughts inspiring.

Fog and Mist

By | Art, Color | One Comment

image fog

This painting is Westminster, by Giuseppe de Nittis, painted in 1878. I picked it out to illustrate some thoughts on how to hook foggy scenes. I once had a very long conversation with Emmy Robertson about how one would hook fog, and ever since, it has interested me. We vowed that if either of us hooked a foggy scene, we would remember to send it to each other. I haven’t done one yet, but it is one of those projects on my “list”, maybe to do in a small size so I can feel free to experiment, without a huge commitment of time.

But this painting of a foggy London view of Westminster Bridge can point the way. In fog, the nearer the object, the more color and hard edges it has. And the further away an object, the more leeched of color and softer it becomes, until it seems to disappear into a gray silhouette, barely to be seen.

Here is another nice painting of a foggy scene, also in London (capital of fog). This one is by Rose Maynard Barton, from 1894, called Big Ben:

image Barton fog

Again we see the nearer objects having more contrast, and here it is really only the central horse that is quite dark. The row of trees and the line of carriages get increasingly blurry until they just fade away into smudges. Lights are reflected, on the wet street.

How different a shade of brown wool would you need to hook the buildings furthest in the distance, compared to the sky that is the background? Not too different, I think.

I know this is not exactly a mainstream hooking topic, more of a “theory of hooking” subject, or perhaps a theory of color issue, I suppose. But isn’t it interesting!

OK, here is one more foggy scene, from Claude Monet. He does not really go in for the browns and grays that others might use, of course, but in his Monet-way, it is still quite monotone. This is Monet’s Waterloo Bridge, Effect in Fog, painted in 1903:

image Monet

Well, if you have done a foggy scene, please let me know. And if you would like to watch an artist using watercolors to create a foggy scene, here is a link to an interesting video of painting fog, by Sterling Edwards. It’s about 12 min. long, but you can skip the first part, where he introduces the tools and brushes he uses – but it demonstrates the principles quite well:

And greetings to you all, on a sunny, clear and bright day in New Hampshire.