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Category Archives: Books

Adventures with a bit of rope…

By | Books, Creativity, History of Art | 5 Comments

Sometimes our creative instincts can catch us by surprise. A friend showed me her copy of this book, The Ashley Book of Knots, by Clifford W. Ashley, and I was enchanted!

But let’s back up a little. It is good to know that Clifford Ashley was a very skilled and famous maritime painter. Here is his work, A Whaleship on the Marine Railway at Fairhaven (ca. 1916):

Wow. I would be able to look at this painting for a long, long time, and still find things to discover. Many of his works were less impressionistic, but full of detail and accuracy, like this illustration from one of his books on the whaling ships at the end of the 19th century:

The carving at the bow of the ship, the basket holding the drill, the chain and ax – all are very precisely rendered. Ashley, born in New Bedford, MA in 1881, went off to sea for several years on a whaling ship, and then came home to study art in Boston. What a change of careers! But actually he used his knowledge and love of the sea throughout his artistic life.

Here is another painting of his, A Clipper Ship at Full Sail, which I thought any rughooker who has done a sailing ship design would appreciate:

That sky! And look at how the colors of his sky are reflected on the sails!

Ashley also spent years learning and collecting the details of knots, along with their uses and detailed instructions, culminating in his book of knots:

This definitive book on knots features his precise illustrations of over 3,600 knots and instructions for making them, with a history of when they appeared, and what functions they serve. And each chapter heading has funny, charming illustrations about each category of knots:

And he did not limit himself to the knots of seamanship. He studied knots used by butchers, steeplejacks, cobblers, electric linesmen, poachers, surgeons, and “elderly ladies who knit”… He includes decorative knots and rope buttons:

…and even the mats that a ship’s cat might curl up on:

I must say that his instructions are a lot more understandable when reading the descriptions that accompany his illustrations. Some knots are beyond confusing, and a few brought back memories of the macrame I did years ago:

And yes, the string game of ”cat’s cradle” we played as kids was included, along with how to tie a tie! And some of the knots are simply beautiful:

Does this have anything to do with rughooking? No, it doesn’t! But I just found this man, his paintings and his big book of knots fascinating, so I thought you might, too.

Hook on!

National Kitten Day

By | Antique rugs, Books | No Comments

image Austin Miller

I hadn’t checked my friend Austin Miller’s website lately, at Austin T. Miller American Antiques in Columbus, Ohio. When I did, I found three great and quite old hooked rugs of kittens, so I am declaring it National Kitten Day – at least here.

First, is this lovely rug, above. Austin describes is as:
Kitten Hooked Rug, American, circa 1900-1920. Made of mixed fabrics, 27 x 35 inches.

A charming hooked rug of two playful kittens centered in an oval spandrel representing a floor mat. Interesting and fun interpretation considering this rug is a floor mat. Superb condition and mounted for hanging.

I love those kittens with their little stripey tails, but the inner oval border is really terrific. And the echoing outer white stripes are nicely unsymmetrical – just like the stripes of a cat. I had to look up the word “spandrel”, since I always like learning new words about design. A spandrel is the space between two arches or between an arch and a rectangular enclosure, often almost-triangular.

Now this next antique rug might be familiar to you, but worth another look:

image Austin Miller

Hooked Rug with Kittens – Sold
Titled “Old Friends”, American, circa 1910-1920, Cottons hooked on Burlap, 28.5 x 39 inches

An icon in American hooked rugs; this rug is established as one of the most compelling folk art images and phrases in this medium. As the Kopps, authors of American Hooked and Sewn Rugs once stated, “The name of your rug says it all.”

This rug appears in the Joel and Kate Kopp book, American Hooked and Sewn Rugs: Folk Art Underfoot (1995), which is the best go-to book on American antique hooked rugs that I know of. Austin also mentions that the provenance of this rug is via the late Judy Lenett, of Woodstock, VT, and Kathy Schoemer, of Acworth, NH.

It’s so simple, and completely charming. It must have been a great pleasure for Austin to have it in his collection for a while. Here’s a close-up:

image Austin Miller

And one last rug in celebration of National Kitten Day:

image Austin Miller

This is Austin’s description: “Hooked Rug of a Kitten”, -SOLD
American, early 20th century, Mixed fabrics on burlap, 26 x 43 inches.

This charming hooked rug features a very appealing, naively executed kitten at the center, surrounded by a square, log-cabin type border. This rug is a very strong folk art image and retains its vibrant colors..

I think this is my favorite of the three – that wonderful border, the colors, especially the red outline of the kitten – and the fact that the cat is not hooked straight within the frame, but… uh, well, kitty-corner!

Many thanks to Austin Miller for letting me share these treasures of our craft with you here. The photos are his, and copyrighted – therefore protected, and used here with his kind permission. You can always find great things on his website at www.usfolkart.com. And the Kopp book is still readily available in rughooking stores and online here.

Books and Hooks

By | Books, Making rugs | No Comments

Treasure Island Librivox

Many of us hook our rugs as we listen to TV, music or the radio. And I mentioned a while ago that when you are doodling, it helps to be doing something else too, that engages your brain so your hand can just do its own thing.

I love audiobooks. And I just found a great, free source of thousands of them. Librivox is a source of copyright-free books which have been recorded by volunteers, and archived. From Treasure Island and Jane Eyre to Mark Twain and P.G. Wodehouse, there are many, many wonderful books here.

You can download a book, or just listen to it immediately online. You can search by category, author or title. Humor, history, mystery, adventure, science fiction, romance, biography – and virtually all of the classics, from Moby Dick to Sherlock Holmes.

So the next time you are settling down to hook, check to see if yours is an Anne of Green Gables sort of rug… and start listening as you work. Here is the link: