...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.