...personal connection is key. Work on subject matter that is near to your heart. Express a personal belief. Use materials that are meaningful to you.
These were my thoughts when Judy Taylor of Little House Rugs asked me to speak about the process of rug hooking:
"Love on the Run was the first rug I hooked. While visiting the state of New Hampshire I became enchanted with rug hooking as a form of story telling and decided that I would like to give it a try.
My dog named Farmer seemed a natural choice of subject as animals have always been central for me. At the time of hooking this piece I had neither any rug hooking classes under my belt, nor any particular exposure to the technical aspects of rug hooking. The unintentional result was that I allowed myself to focus only on Farmer, her joyfulness and companionship. What I learned was that producing a piece of work that is personal and heartfelt will always outweigh “the rules”. If you’re worried about your rug hooking technique, set your reservations aside, put a piece of yourself on the canvas and all else will become peripheral.
Does this mean that sloppy work is OK? Not at all, I believe that when you are creating an image that is truly unique, in your own voice, and in your own style, you will be so connected to and respectful of your subject matter that you will want to present it with the best possible technique. Good craftsmanship will come with your level of interest.
Designing Love on the Run involved my being surrounded with photos of Farmer. I drew her figure directly onto the canvas using a heavy marker. If you find drawing free-hand a little daunting there are several methods of transferring an outline from photo to canvas. I would urge you to use photos that you have taken yourself so that, again, you will have a personal connection. Be fearless in marking your canvas. You have nothing to lose! Your marks will disappear as you hook. I usually draw my pattern using a green sharpie marker, make corrections with a red sharpie and finally make my final decisions using a black marker. There is lots of leeway for rethinking things and making changes throughout the entire process.
I'm a hand spinner at heart. It is natural for me to reach for yarn when hooking. In fact, I hook with yarns of all weights and textures and with unspun fibres as well. I use premium linen backing which will accommodate tight packing of very fine yarns and will open nicely for my bulky hand spun singles. I choose my materials according to colour and when the colour that I'm hoping for is not within reach I head to the dye pots!
I am currently hooking in an abstracted format, again from a very personal perspective. This series of fractured images embrace my less than stellar eyesight and speaks of an alternative way of seeing things. My way of seeing things! Along the way I decided that this work should be hooked in hand spun yarn. I came to realize that by spinning and dyeing for these rugs, the conception of each image became very clear to me. After this additional time spent in thought and preparation I found the hooking itself to be very straight forward and well planned. Alternatively, one might spend additional preparation time working in a sketchbook, in collage, or on a photo expedition.
For me, personal connection is the key. Work on subject matter that is near to your heart. Express a personal belief. Use materials that are meaningful to you; yarn that you have recovered from your child’s first sweater, flannel taken from your husband’s favourite work shirt that has finally been retired, hand spun and spun yarn that you have made yourself or that has been gifted to you by a dear friend. These are the ingredients that will set you free to hook in your own style with exciting and satisfying results.
For the past 20 years I have managed a small flock of sheep. Our farm has a no-kill, no-sell policy so these girls have been around for a good period of time, providing me with fleece all the while. I am connected to these animals. I know all of their names. I am deeply connected to the fleece that I wash and card, the yarn that I spin and then hook. Connection is a powerful thing. It allows you to forge ahead with less hesitation. It just feels right. What are your connections? Your stories are unique. They will empower you and inform your work. Be yourself and hook with abandon.
We continue to received a wealth of really great questions regarding Ashford Rigid Heddle and Knitters looms. Today's post highlights a number of FAQ's regarding the purchase of a new loom.
My personal answers are attached. They reflect my own experience as a Rigid Heddle mega-fan and an Ashford retailer over the past 20 years. The opinions of others may vary.
Where do I start in choosing a loom size?
In terms of choosing a loom width, the smallest looms 10"-12” are perfect for scarves, small accessories and sampling, 16” will also provide enough width for tableware.
A 20” loom is wide enough for most shawls, 24” provides the cloth width required for most sewing patterns 32” will, of course do all of this as well as small blankets and floor mats.
Rigid or folding (knitters loom)?
In my opinion the rigid looms are a little sturdier.
The folding looms are excellent and super-portable but of course there is a (small) compromise in that they have a little give or movement as you work.
This does not affect your weaving project and doesn’t bother me at all when I use these looms though I think perhaps weavers who have lots of experience on large looms may find this a little distracting.
In terms of space requirement the rigid looms will store under a bed or hanging on bicycle hooks although they are not quite as space efficient as knitters looms.
All of the stands (for rigid and folding looms) can be taken apart simply by turning a set of knobs. They do not require a tool set after the initial assembly.
Trying to decide between a 28” knitters loom and a 32” rigid heddle loom
The only difference between these two is their size and folding capability.
In terms of function they are equal. The stand set-up for the rigid Heddle vs Knitters loom is more substantial but not as travel friendly.
Is a 32” rigid heddle too large for me?
Our most popular sizes sold are the 20-24” models as both lend a good width for shawls.
If you are feeling uncomfortable about not having the extra length, the 32” is not significantly more expensive. In terms of working on a 32” it is as simple to operate as the smaller models. The only thing that I would mention to you is that the 32” rigid heddle is a bit too large to work on without a frame. The idea is that smaller looms, say 16” or less can be worked against a table supported in your lap. At 20” some people prefer to use a stand and others weave without one. I would definitely suggest that looms 24” and up require a stand.
Which additional reeds do you recommend?
The heddle that comes with all Ashford rigid heddle and knitters looms is a 7.5 dpi, suitable for a standard worsted weight yarn (such as Briggs and Little).
For lace weight shawls you may want a 15dpi heddle. A common cloth weight for dish towels etc used are 10 and 12.5 dpi heddles (sett with either a single or double strand).
A super-bulky textured scarf will use a 5dpi heddle.
What is a vari-dent reed?
A vari-dent reed offers the ability to accommodate different sized yarns in small segments across the width of your reed. This allows you to dress the loom with a custom warp, meaning endless possibilities for cloth of your own design!
Would a Rigid heddle loom make a good gift for my daughter?
I absolutely love rigid heddle looms. I use them in the shop and have one at home as well. I think it’s a fantastic gift for anyone who like to work with fibre!
Attention please. My inner voice tells me I could use some.
Because aren't we all a little overrun by distraction?
There are fires to put out
I seem to have a steady run of fires to put out which doesn't exactly coddle my creativity.
Maybe I need to step back and get a better perspective.
Maybe the fires are actually just little puffs of smoke.
My mother always tells me, just think of Scarlett O'Hara, "tomorrow is another day".
Then there's the computer
I'm trying to manage my time more effectively,
picking and choosing only the inter-places that I love.
The best time of day
My rug hooking friend Val says that she gets her best creative work done in the morning. Good point.
We all have our sweet spot during the day and mine will be reserved for creative thoughts and endeavours rather than passive time-spending.
I might have to snap an elastic around my wrist as a reminder for this one but nevertheless I'm committed.
Note to self. I should also remember that not everything needs to be accomplished at warp speed.
The thing that I like most about eating a grapefruit is that it takes time. I take great pains peeling away to the fruit so that I can fully enjoy it's colour, texture, scent and taste.
I need more grapefruit in my life.