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Category Archives: Rug Community

Upside down, right-side up

By | Contemporary rugmakers, Design, Rug Community | 7 Comments

I was lucky enough to spend four days at Jackye Hansen’s rug camp in Kennebunk, Maine last week. This is, I think, my favorite camp – a fairly small and very talented group, and a great setting. And the timing, just after the holidays are over, in the middle of winter, makes me really look forward to it, and relish every moment.

Have you ever noticed that at a hook-in or camp, there is usually one rug that people gather around to study and marvel over?

There were many gorgeous rugs being worked on, but on this particular day, at this camp, a large rug by Kathy Hutchins, of Cambridge, VT, was what everyone was gathered around to examine.

Kathy is designing it as she goes, and it will be for her living room:

Because it will be in the center of the room, she is putting a lot of thought into making some elements facing one way, and some facing the other way, so it will never be “upside down”. So the central figures, the bear and the wild turkey, are both oriented with their heads toward the center of the rug. This is a very tricky undertaking, and right now she is planning to have what is the sky, looking from one side, turn into the water of a river, looking from the other side. Amazing design problem that she is solving!

And in the details of each animal, her drawing skills shine:

The rug will be chock-full of creatures and plants, and even the smaller ones, like the fox, turtle, irises and jack-in-the-pulpits shown here, are delightful.

Take a look at the detail in these ferns, half-unfurled, and the deep red trillium to the right:

Ah, I wish I could draw like Kathy! I would love to see this rug when every inch of it is finished. But it is one of those rugs that I know you will have to see in person, and in this case, walk all the way around, to appreciate.

Kathy, keep going! Your rug will be a one of a kind treasure! Thanks for letting me share your progress here.

In the “return to the real world”, coming home at the end of camp, I lost my notes about the other beautiful and challenging rugs that were being worked on. How typical of me, to leave for camp with everything neat and organized, and return home with everything in a jumble! But it was a treat to spend some days with many talented rughookers. Rose, Theresa, Jane, Kris, Linda, and everyone there were producing beautiful pieces in a wide range of styles that were truly inspiring!

And a tip of the hat to Nancy Taylor, who did so much to help Jackye organize another wonderful rug retreat!

Last Call for a Great Rug Exhibit

By | Contemporary rugmakers, Creativity, Rug Community | 6 Comments

This weekend I finally got to go to the hooked rug exhibit at the Pompanoosuc Mills showroom in East Thetford, VT, and I sure was glad I did not miss it. If you want to see it, the end date is coming up fast – the show will be up through Mon., November 27th. The showroom is open all days except Thanksgiving, even Sunday (11-5).

The wonderful rug shown above is River Dream, by Ed O’Keeffe. Just so you can see the great color and amazing detail, here is a close-up:

I was surprised at how large an exhibit it was. Just one stunning rug after another, and with a great variety of styles. Here is Jennifer Davey’s Guardian:

Kris McDermet had her (braided and hooked) rug Women of Hope on display:

And I especially liked Kathi Barbour’s pictorial, Megan, Emily and Matthew on the Gile Brook Trail:

Kathi Barbour’s beautiful rug Valley of Mexico was there, too, and I apologize for not getting a close-up of the delicate detail in her work, but it is a magnificent rug:

Sue Gault had two of these charming 3-D cats, called Brothers, to add a whimsical note to the show:

…and Judith Kushner had First Rug – Joey on display:

Could that have really been Judith’s first rug? Yikes! As someone who tried to hook my long-haired cat many times, I am impressed, whether it was her first rug or her hundredth!

And Liz Guth had this stunning hooked composition, Long Island City, on display:

I had to stop and just look at this rug for a long time, just trying to understand its quiet yet vibrant look. And let’s end with one more from Liz Guth, this one called Untitled 1:

Here is a close-up of the detail in the layer-on-layer borders:

So congratulations to Pompanoosuc Mills for opening their furniture showroom to such a wonderful and large exhibit. And congratulations to all the rughookers represented in the show – many more than I have shown here – and to the organizers, too. It is a terrific display of rughooking talent.

So if you want to go for a ride, pre- or post-turkey, head up to East Thetford, VT. It’s a pretty ride, and you will be well rewarded in sheer talent. Hours and directions can be found online at www.pompy.com.

All rugs shown are copyrighted and so protected, and used here with the very kind permission of their makers.

A great photo, good friends, and a piece of ugly wool…

By | Creativity, Making rugs, Rug Community | 3 Comments

Look at this great photo, taken by my friend Karen Cooper, of three members of my Tues. morning rug group consulting about a rug. I love this photo! To me, it captures the best part of being in a rug group. Marion, Sue and Mary are deep in conversation, considering Mary’s current rug project. The pattern is Lilac Time, designed by Jane McGown Flynn. The focus of the rug is a bouquet of tulips and lilacs, in a glass vase.

Mary first saw this design at the Hooked Rug Museum of North America, and fell in love with it. She worked on all that fine shading of the flowers with no problem, with guidance from teacher Betty McClentic at rug camp. Here is a close-up of Mary’s project, with just the rest of the maroon background left to hook:

What Mary had problems with was the glass vase. The vase is not the focus of the rug, but it did have to look right. She got the darker maroon of the vase interior, and the flower stems just fine. But that one row of loops, defining the edges of the vase, and the bottom base of the vase… well, let’s say there was more than one consultation with rughooking friends, as in Karen’s photo, above.

Mary tried a number of different wools to hook that base, and the one row of the outside edges of the vase. She tried a light blue, and that stood out too much. She tried light brown. Nope, tear it out and start again. She tried a pale gray and that was better, but…it still did not look quite right.

At one point, she was ready to entirely sacrifice the “glass-ness” of the vase, and the view of the stems inside it, and almost decided to tear it all out and just make the vase a solid color. But with the encouragement of our group members and with her own persistence, she stuck with it.

Fast-forward several weeks and many consultations. One day after rug group, I went into my wool room, and looked around just in case I could see anything to suggest. And there was that one piece of wool I had dyed several years ago, which I thought of as the ugliest piece of hand-dyed wool ever. Every time I saw it on my shelf, its ugliness would make me sigh:

Ugly, yes, but there it still sat on my shelf. It was halfway between a dirty beige and gray, with darker blue/gray blobs. Well, you never know. I brought it down to Mary to try.

The first thing she said was “Oh, it looks like my husband’s dirty oil rag, out in the garage!”. I had to agree – a very good description! But here’s the thing – Mary gave it a try, and it worked! The one-line edge of the vase is defined, without being too dominant, and the base of the vase fits in, and seems to even reflect the colors in the table below it and the flowers above.

The moral of the story: You never know!

That one piece of ugly wool, at least in this case, was just the thing to solve a tricky problem. And, more important, it’s wonderful to have rughooking friends to help you step back, look at your work, listen to what you like and don’t like, make a suggestion, and encourage you to not give up on what you want for your rug. And the rest of us, who watch and listen, week by week, as each rughooking problem is encountered, grappled with and finally is solved, all learn together.

Many thanks to Karen Cooper for the lovely photo, and to Mary Miller, for permission to share her work here.

Stopped by for a good visit

By | Contemporary rugmakers, Rug Community | One Comment


The other day I was up in Vermont, and decided to drive a few miles more to see if there was anyone home at Lucille Festa’s Lollipop Farm, in East Rupert, VT. I was lucky – the studio was dark, but when I knocked on the house door, Lucille came out and said she’d be happy to open it up and let me look at her wool! Happy me!

She showed me all around the home of American Country Rugs, including her most recent rug, shown above. The studio was warm from the stove on a chilly day:

and there was plenty of Lucille’s hand-dyed wool to look at, touch, consider and, basically, revel in:

It was wonderful to meet Lucille after seeing photos of her rugs for many years, and we talked about rughooking, making patterns, websites and blogging. The studio, she said, was pretty tidy because the following day (yesterday), she was holding an open house there, and today, was hosting a big hook-in in nearby Manchester, VT. So my timing could have been better if I had known, but I was happy to wander the studio by myself, and have a nice visit. Lucille showed me all around, and I loved seeing the many rugs and patterns she sells, hearing of how she cleans the baskets hanging from the beams, and, of course, finally deciding on and buying some wool.

Lucille’s website is at americancountryrugs.com, and if I had checked it before I went, maybe I’d have been able to go to the hook-in. But if you around the Manchester/Dorset VT area, check the website and stop by the studio, or go there on purpose to take a class. You will find it feels like a wonderful rughooking home.

Thanks for letting me make an impromptu visit, Lucille, and I am sure everyone there is having a great time today at your hook-in!

The rug designs shown are Lucille’s own, and so protected. Check out her website for many great primitive and country patterns.

Glimpses of Star Island creativity

By | Contemporary rugmakers, Rug Community | 6 Comments

image Primco pattern

My friend Mary says that sometimes when I am hooking, I go into a little world of my own and just get very absorbed in my hooking. I don’t see this, and feel like I spend a lot of time just visiting, looking around, and enjoying the moments. Pam encouraged us to disconnect from phones, facebook, the news, and the stresses of daily life, and really make a creative retreat of our time on Star Island. So I really didn’t give a thought to my blog until the last morning we were on Star Island. Some people (and their lovely rugs) had already left the island. Some people were off wandering the island, so I was unable to ask them permission to photograph their rugs.

So here is a very partial round-up of what people were working on, in our nice Marchman Cottage workspace. Above, “A Wooly Welcome” was being hooked by Bonnie Roycewicz, of Fort Ann, NY. It is a Primco pattern that Bonnie is turning into a really charming rug.

Deb Palmer, of Hadley, MA, was just getting started on this wide-cut (#8 cut) floral basket for her front hallway. She designed it herself, but says I really need to mention that she used Susan Feller’s fraktur design kit to create it, and the kit of templates was a great help:

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Teddi Pearson, of Hillsborough, NJ, was well on her way to finishing “The Road Between Friends”, pattern by Cammie Bruce. With the colors Teddi chose, this is such a happy rug:

image Cammie Bruce pattern

Sandy Haller, of Underhill Center, VT, had just finished a beautiful job making “Dream Stream”, pattern by Going Gray:

image Going Gray pattern

Cathy Dupuis, of Holderness, NH, was making this rug for her husband, to mark their 41st anniversary. It was based on a design by Cathy Greschner, but is personalized, as you see, with their own initials carved into the tree. Happy Anniversary, Cathy, and I think your husband will love this:

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Sarah Jansen was getting back to work on a large rug for her daughter, who told Sarah she wanted a “rug with farm animals in it”! Sarah designed this piece made up of smaller tableaus of animals, unified with a flowered vine design:

image Sarah Jansen

and here is a close-up of the sweet little pigs and chickens Sarah has already hooked:
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And finally, Pam Bartlett (the owner of The Woolen Pear in Loudon, NH, and inspired organizer of our Star Island retreat) was starting a new design adapting a photo that she took of our first Star Island sunset. It’s something we all could relate to, and enjoyed watching take shape:

image Pam Bartlett

There were so many projects that I didn’t take photos of! Kris McDermott was just starting a lovely hooked-and-braided rug, Jennifer Davey was creating a beautiful piece combining felting and hooking in a landscape, and Beth McDermott was well on her way to a gorgeous rug depicting the four seasons on a farm. What a beautiful rug that is going to be! Maybe they and our other Star creatives will send photos of their rugs when done.

But this gives you at least the flavor of the varied and wonderful pieces being created during these few days. I continue to be amazed at the variety of hooked rug projects, and what can be done with this craft of ours. This was our little island home, Marchman Cottage, outside and inside:

image Marchman, Star Island

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I felt very lucky to have shared these few days with other rughookers, and to see them at work, in such an inspiring setting. But you don’t have to be on a retreat to make beautiful rugs. Maybe just turn off the phone for a while, go a day or two without facebook and blogs, breathe deep, and as Pam encouraged us to do, try to be mindful of wherever you are.

Photos of these rugs are used with the kind permission of their makers. And thanks to Laurie Troutman for the photo inside Marchman Cottage!

A Spirit Rug

By | Contemporary rugmakers, Creativity, Rug Community | 8 Comments

image Karen Cooper

I know I am very lucky to have a great weekly rug group close to home. And one of the best parts about being in a group that meets regularly is that we get to watch the week-by-week progress that members make on their projects.

I don’t know when I have enjoyed watching a rug develop as much as the one pictured above, titled All Things Bright and Beautiful. Karen Cooper, of New London, NH, designed and made it. She started it for one of our group’s challenges – to design a rug – any design, any size – that contained some “Words of Wisdom”.

The musical notes in the rug really are the notes of the first line of that beautiful hymn, All Things Bright and Beautiful. And the “words of wisdom” on the rug are from the 1955 poem, The Magic of Sound, by Reginald Vincent Holmes.

So I got to watch Karen start on the rug – the black notes, musical staff and lettering were her first steps. I couldn’t figure out how on earth she would work the background in around all those details. And then, when I realized what sort of rainbow background Karen was planning! Oh my!

Karen had Cyndy Duade help her paint long, long strips of wool in rainbow colors. And it took a while for Karen to figure out how to make the rainbow colors come out the way she wanted them – a gradual sunburst sort of change, rather than a fixed bullseye. One week she would be trying to hook the colored background in straight or diagonal rows, then the next week she would have torn that part out and be hooking them in a less linear pattern. And always, she was manipulating the long rainbow strips of wool to place the color exactly where she wanted it. She had the most colorful pile of snippets I’ve ever seen!

You can learn so much from watching someone encounter problems on a rug, and how they solve them, when you get to see a rug’s progress regularly. This rug came out so beautifully, and only those of us who got to watch Karen working on it will really understand the intensity of effort it took, guided by Karen’s clear creative vision of what she wanted.

And on the back of the rug (hurrah!) is a lovely big label:

image Karen Cooper

The label contains all the basic infomation about Karen, credit to her husband and her dyeing guide Cyndy, all the details of our group’s Words of Wisdom challenge, about the musical notes pictured, and the wonderful poem from whence the wording on the rug came.

The Magic of Sound
by Reginald Vincent Holmes

I’ve heard the soft whisper of wind in the pine trees,
The silvery ripple of brooklets at play;
I’ve heard the low voice of a sweet singing mother
As she sang to her child at the end of the day.

I’ve heard the faint rustle of sails in the sunset
And blue waves caressing the wild rockbound shore;
The whistle of trains as they cross the green prairie
And mountains re-echo the cataract’s roar.

The notes of the organs in ancient cathedrals,
Where hearts of the faithful are lifted in song;
I’ve heard the gay laughter as children were playing,
The chatter and buzz of a large, happy throng.

The earth has its music for those who will listen;
Its bright variations forever abound.
With all of the wonders that God has bequeathed us,
There’s nothing that thrills like the magic of sound.

Music is an important part of Karen’s life, and the concept of this piece was a challenge in itself – really, how to capture the beauty of sound in a rug. I watched Karen at points when she was frustrated with it, and moments of breakthrough. Watching her, I’ve come up with a new term for certain rughooking pieces, the ones where the concept, technical mastery and fruition of an idea, dear to one’s heart, come together. I will call them “spirit rugs”. Karen’s spirit comes through in every loop of this rug.

A great small town hooking day

By | Contemporary rugmakers, Design, Rug Community | 2 Comments

image springfield

Yesterday Caye Currier and Cyndy Duade hosted their annual Springfield, NH hook-in. It was held at their town library, and all the funds raised – from the small entry fee, silent auction and a live auction (patterns, and some great frames) – went to benefit the library. At the end of the day, it came to over $900 raised, as well as a good supply of food gathered for the local food pantry.

But for all of us it was just a wonderful day of hooking, with rughookers from the surrounding towns, and friends from further afield. As you see in the photo above, there were beautiful rugs on display. And there were plenty of home-made snacks, too. And of course, Cyndy brought a good supply of her hand dyed wool to admire and browse through:

image springfield

In addition to many door prizes of wool, (including many “Dorr prizes” – thank you, Dorr Mill Store!) one of the attendees donated many of these cute little wool wreath ornaments she had made:

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And between them, Cyndy and Caye managed to make one of these wonderful wool rose pins for each rughooker in attendance:

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Here are a few of the rugs on display I really admired. First, by Sandy Ducharme, of Cabot, VT, these incredible Christmas stockings:

image springfield

What beautiful work, Sandy! And here is a lovely cat’s paw design from Sandy Watkins, of Southwick, MA:

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And finally, here is a charming rug done by Helen Johnson, of Williamstown, VT:

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I know Caye and Cyndy work really hard to get everything organized for this Springfield hook-in each year, and it is usually the first hooking event around here after a long winter, since it is always held in March – on the cusp of winter and spring. And I just hope they both know how much we all look forward to it all winter, and how much we enjoy it on the day!

Photos of rugs used with permission…thanks Sandy, Sandy and Helen!

Busy at rug camp!

By | Contemporary rugmakers, Making rugs, Rug Community | 3 Comments

image rug camp

Well I was having too much fun and doing too much hooking to spend much time even thinking about the blog for the past few days. I was at Jackye Hansen’s rug workshop up in Kennebunk Maine, with about 32 other devoted rughookers.

I took a few shots of rugs that were finished while at camp. This is Debby Palmer’s Moby Dick rug, done:

image Deb Palmer

and after I finished my “Thy Friends” rug I showed you the other day, I completed my Nova Scotia lighthouse rug – yes, the one I showed you the sketches of in my recent post about computer programs:

image MJ Lighthouse

I finished it in record time, but it helped that it was so small (12″x12″) and that we were at camp where you start hooking first thing in the morning, and… hook all day!

I was not organized enough to gather all the right names, home towns, pattern names of these next rugs – well really, I was just doing too much hooking! So consider these just a taste treat of the wonderful range of creative, colorful rugs that were emerging from the flying hooks at camp:

image rug camp rugs

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image rugs at rug camp

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So it was bugs in rugs, cat rugs and dog rugs, a little punchneedle, a dash of Waldoboro, a taste of orientals, a smidge of florals, a bit of primitive, and everywhere, color, color, color! What a treat to spend five days with such talented rughookers!

Thanks so much to the talented and friendly Jackye Hansen, who organizes and arranges the camp, gives help whenever asked and makes friends wherever she goes. I am so proud of Green Mountain Rug Hooking Guild for choosing Jackye as one of the Featured Artists at next October’s Hooked In The Mountains rug show!

image Jackye Hansen

Happy International Rughooking Day!

By | Creativity, Making rugs, Rug Community | 3 Comments

image  Fairfield Porter

I’m taking a coffee break from putting up our Christmas tree. And stopped to think about all the rughookers I have met, made friends with, and made rugs with. What a blessing this rug community is, for me and so many of us.

This 1963 painting is Mildred Lamar Hooking A Rug, by Fairfield Porter (American, 1907-1975). It’s acrylic on canvas, and categorized as “American Contemporary Realism”. It is part of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, online here.

This woman is so absorbed in her rughooking, but to me, there is an isolated, almost sad look to this scene. Maybe this comes from the muted furnishings, and a lack of the creative mess I associate with rughooking.

Yes, we all spend most of our hooking time at home, working by ourselves – if we didn’t, we’d never finish many rugs. But so much of the richness of our craft, and our ability to learn more about it, is tied to the companionship, mentoring, friendship and fun of getting together with other rughookers. I will never forget the first International Rughooking Day event I went to, at Allison’s museum-like house in Glasgow, Scotland. I walked in as a complete stranger that day, not knowing anyone who was there, and left as fast friends with everyone there.

I am so grateful to have a wonderful Tuesday morning rug group, close to home. I’ve learned so much from the wonderful classes I’ve taken with Pam Bartlett, Jen Lavoie, Ann Winterling, Jackye Hansen…and many others. And I adore the regional get-togethers that re-unite us with old friends, expose us to the work of others, and let us relax into rughooking for long periods.

Near or far, it is wonderful to sit and hook with others who share a love of our craft. For me, it has been a passport to friendships as well as to creativity.

So Happy International Rughooking Day, and three cheers for all of us!

Archetypes and Images

By | Contemporary rugmakers, Design, History, Rug Community | No Comments

image Michelle Micarelli

This wonderful, detailed rug, XVI The Tower, was designed and hooked by Michele Micarelli, as part of a major group hooking project, Exploring the Tarot: 23 Artists Hook the Major Arcana. Presented and organized by Loretta Scena and Michele Micarelli, 23 very fine rughookers each chose one of the major tarot cards to interpret.

The tarot cards have existed since the 1400s (first in Northern Italy) as hand-painted pictogram cards used for card games. The pictures on them have been, through time, interpreted in many ways, but always with variations on the same basic symbols. During the 18th century, tarot started to be used for divination, probably because of the power of the cards’ symbolism.

And in March, 1933, the famous psychotherapist Carl Jung commented at length about the tarot cards, and the powerful achetypal images they present: “They are psychological images, symbols with which one plays, as the unconscious seems to play with its contents.”

Before we look at another of the hooked rugs, let’s think a little about archetypes. Corrine Kenner, writing in The Llewellyn Journal, writes, “An archetype is a primal pattern of thought — inborn, instinctive, and imprinted on every human’s subconscious mind. Carl Jung, the psychotherapist, was the first person to write on the theory of archetypes. He studied dreams, myths, and legends, and concluded that we’re all born with an innate ability to understand archetypes. In fact, he said, we’re all pre-programmed to look for archetypes in our everyday lives, because they serve as a framework for our understanding of the world. Jung’s descriptions of commonly recognized archetypes include the hero, the maiden, and the wise old man. Other archetypes include the mother, which typifies a nurturing, emotional parent; the father, a physical, protective parent; the trickster, or rebel; and the shadow, the hidden, antisocial dark side of human nature.”

So the tarot deck was a wonderful symbol-rich project for a group of talented rughookers to take on, and make their own. Here is III The Empress, designed and hooked by Loretta Scena:

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Loretta writes about her design of The Empress: “Once each hooker had their card number, the fun began…Choosing your design. I had a few other designs in mind before I settled on the one I hooked. The Empress is almost always depicted as a woman sitting on cushions with a large flowing dress, insinuating that she is very much pregnant. She is the mother of our earth and all that lives and grows on it. Rather than hook a pregnant woman, I chose to hook the empress as a baby ready to be born. I felt that we can all relate to the nurturing, abundance, and creativity which the empress represents. And as women and mothers, aren’t we all empresses? I think so.

I hope you get a chance to come and see the show. The rugs are truly wonderful as are the artists that hooked them. Some of the other participants include: Stephanie Krauss, Mariah Krauss, Wanda Kerr, Jen Lavoie, Liz Alpert Fay, Jule Marie Smith, Rae Harrell, Lisa Chaloner, Cyndy Duade and Linda Rae Coughlin.”

The exhibit will be on display from Dec. 5 through January 22. And this Saturday, there is a hook-in, in conjunction with the opening. Here are the details:
Exploring the Tarot 23 Artists Hook the Major Arcana.
Presented by Loretta Scena and Michele Micarelli.
All Souls Interfaith Gathering
291 Bostwick Farm Rd.
Shelburne, Vermont 05482

Opening Celebration 4:30-7 pm on December 4th 2015. This exhibit will run through January 22, 2016.

Hook-in. Saturday December 5, $10 admission, and bring a snack to share!
To Register for the hook-in, email Loretta – lorettascena@verizon.net.

Many thanks to Loretta and Michele, for sharing this preview of the exhibit here, and to all the rughookers who participated – it is going to be an amazing exhibit of hooked rugs! And I believe the exhibit will tour around to various places (I think I heard the Sauder Village show and Green Mountain Guild’s October show mentioned), so even if you can’t make it to northern Vermont, you may be able to see these rugs on their travels.