In this course I hope to introduce you to a style of rug hooking, the way I hook. I hope to be as honest as I can about how I do things.That does not mean I think that you should do things the way I do. In all honesty, I do not think that.
I think that you should do things the way you do things. For me that is what rug hooking has always been about. It is about being myself, telling my story, creating a lifestyle around art and creativity.
In this course I will demonstrate how I do it but if that does not feel natural to you then you should hook in a way that feels natural to you. This course will show you how I hook but it’s real goal is to enhance the way you already hook. The real idea here is to get you to hook like you.
Through out the course I am going to suggest activities that you can do, ones ?that I have done myself , or do on a regular basis. These activities are an important part of the learning process of the course. If you were here for a live workshop, it is in doing these activities that you would learn a great deal. As with all my workshops, it is up to you whether you do them or not. I can tell you though, having participated in alot of ?different classes over the years, the amount you learn is in direct correlation with the amount you put into it.
I was in my third year of a political science degree and I did not know where the middle east was when I met my husband whose family was of Lebanese descent. He couldn’t ?believe I had got that far into a poli sci degree with out knowing something so simple. I told him I wasn’t studying geography, but I think it drove home the message that I was learning much I was just going through a series of hoops. After that I engaged myself in my learning, and it made a huge difference. I love to learn, it is a joy. I read voraciously. I love to meet with other artists or business people and share ideas. I love learning on my computer. So I hope you will get engaged in this course and do the activities, read the articles, watch the videos and listen to the audio.
When I learned to hook
There is something about rug hooking that captured me when I was twenty four years old. From that age on I have hooked a mat nearly every week. Sometimes I say , that if it had captured my attention about eight years earlier, it would have kept me out of lots of trouble.
Ah but then I wouldn’t have those in between years to compare these years to. I wouldn’t know how lucky I was to find something so beautiful to capture my mind, my spirit, my hands.
Focus, keeping your mind on something you enjoy makes life more beautiful.
Rug Hooking, as you know, is more than a craft, or a hobby. Through it we have built a community, a way of becoming expressive and artistic, and a way of getting in touch with ourselves. This is nothing new. Women have done it for generations. What was first a means of warming cold floors quickly became a means of telling stories, sharing joy, and decorating the home.
My grandmother, living in an outport in Newfoundland in the nineteen thirties would use her hands to draw patterns for her neighbors. She would sketch out their home and their boat on a piece of brin (burlap) and give it to them to hook. She did this for many neighbors according to my father. As he said, “sometimes she’d draw a path going up to the door, sometimes their boat, or a schooner.” She drew what was around her, recorded her life in her time and place.
The same as we do today.
Over the years, though we have gotten away from our rich, home spun tradition, of mat making out of necessity, with the bits of leftovers of our lives. We still gather what we can , use what is leftover, but as wool has become dearer, and few people wear it, there is not alot to pick from. Instead we turn to wool off the bolt, fancy yarns, and any interesting materials that are available to us. Rug Hooking has always been about using what is available.
This week I would like to get some basic ideas about the way that I hook across.
Getting Groovy with the Hook
When I first started hooking, I remember going to a rug hooking group and seeing that the way I did it was different. I was using feed bags that I got from a Lebanese grocery store for backing. I was only using recycled wool cloth. The group was using Scottish burlap that was woven tightly and evenly. They were hooking with new wool, or recycled skirt weight wool. so that all the wool in their pieces were the same texture.
Essentially the only thing that was the same was the technique, the way we pulled our loops. I remember working on a field of flowers and one group member looking at it and saying, “that’s interesting.” They did not get what I was doing but they welcomed me none the less. From the time I started hooking, I saw my own way of doing things. I never looked far beyond that.
Mind you, I looked around at what others were doing for inspiration, ideas, tips, and materials. As always , in the rug hooking world, I found most people kind and generous. I was considered a renegade of sorts in the rug hooking world, but I guess I was a tolerable one, or at least one who would not go away. I felt welcomed with other rug hookers.
There were times when I would think about conforming but it was just impossible for me. I hooked the way I did because that was who I was. My hooking was just a reflection of myself. At that time, I was twenty four. I had done a masters in counseling, had been working in a women’s shelter for four years. I thought I knew something, maybe I did. I love Margaret Lawrence’s quote, “You’re young, you know things now you won’t know when you are older.” I believe it, because the light heartedness of youth makes so many things easier. Once we have children, lose our parents, watch the aches of aging, feel some of them, our outlook can change. It is hard to hang on to freshness, we have to work at it.
At twenty four, that is all I had, freshness. I had no money of my own. My mother lent me $2000 to start my business. My husband, God bless him paid the bills for the old farm house.?That freshness and the belief that the way I hooked was the way I hooked, and it was good enough, was enough to keep me at it. It was not about anything other than being myself and making rugs. I really encourage you to hook the way you hook, hold the hook the way that feels right in your hand. Pursue the style that most appeals to you. Never mind what the woman sitting next to you at your hooking group is doing. What is important is what you want to do.
I want you to start a journal for this workshop that you will turn to again and again. It should have blank pages like a sketch book. It does not have to be new, you can start on page twenty of an old sketch book if you want to.
Write down these two questions and the top of two blank pages. Over the next week , go back to the questions three or four times and ?jot down some ideas, paste in some pictures from magazines, or draw your answers. The questions seem similar but there are certainly differences between what you like, and what inspires you. Think about these questions as you go about your week and come back to them several times.
What do I like?
What inspires me?
Technique and Hooking
Here are the things that I think are important when I hook:
- I hold my hook like I would a pencil. This position is both comfortable and familiar to me.
- I use a pencil grab on, a little rubber cushion from an office supply store that I split and glue to my hook so that it is comfortable and soft to hold.
- I try not to squeeze my hand around the hook but to hold it gently like I would a baby’s hand.
- When I put the hook into the burlap I make sure it does not catch on a string of burlap. This simple mistake really gets in the way of hooking.
- I sometimes tug the hook towards me a little to open up the hole a little making it larger and easier to slip through.
- I make sure that the backing is an open weave so that I can pull up thick wools and wide cuts. It is really easy to damage your wrist if you struggle with wool that is too thick for a a closely woven backing. Do not do this.
Hooking stars video
History of Rug Hooking?
Here is an audio clip that you can read as you gather together your rugs. I keep my computer near where I hook my rugs and use it as my radio and music player. Maybe you can do that too.
Listen to this while you work if you like :A Little History about Rug Hooking
Over the years I have seen people get bogged down in huge projects that distracted them from rug hooking. Other times I have seen people get so over come with the idea of rugs as art that they felt that everything they did had to be important.
This week I want you to get back to the basics of rug hooking. I want you to hook stars like the ones in the video, just for the pure pleasure of hooking rugs. Take the time to hook ?five or more stars. Have fun while you do it.
- Hook some with your eyes closed
- Hook some with a palette of only four colours
- Hook some choosing the colours randomly.
Hook them for the pleasure of hooking with no goal in mind.
Extra Assignment if you want:
Once you have finished the stars, try another motif in a size smaller than 4 by 4 inches. I played with owls, houses, flowers, birds. Whatever you choose. Have fun.