Prouder than a peacock

I am beaming with pride.  My two boys have finished their rugs, and they are gorgeous. 

SuzyV in NY. 2013. Designed and hooked by Wade Greiner.  18" by 14".

Wade finished his first rug, inspired by a photo he took of Suzanne Vega at a concert in 2002 that we attended in New York.  He started this rug over three years ago, then set it aside because he got busy with life.  But he picked up again a few weeks ago.  Why?  Because he was inspired by Alexander.

What had happened?  We had gone to Deanne Fitzpatrick's studio, and then stopped by Heidi Wulfraat's studio on our vacation.  Alexander was stunned by the beauty of the rugs that these artists hook with gorgeous wool yarns.  When we were in Heidi's studio, he came up to me with two skeins of yarn and asked if he could buy them for his rug hooking.  He had an idea that he wanted to try.   

Thalassa. 2013.  Designed and hooked by Alexander DeGreiner.  Hand-dyed wool yarn.  14" by 16".

When we got home, he took out a rug of an owl he had been working on with cut wool.  He went to work and finished it off with some of the yarn he had purchased.  But that was not all.  He wanted to hook an abstract.  So I gave him a big piece of white paper and in about 3 seconds he had drawn a simple Picasso-like face of someone he called the Lady of the Sea.  He sat down and went to work with his yarns.  And the result is stunning.  These yarns have a luminosity that the cut wool does not have.  What he has created is outstanding.  He calls her Thalassa, the name of the primal goddess of the ocean.

When Wade saw what was happening, he felt impelled to get his rug done.  So he worked and worked, and even learned how to bind!  His rug is equally compelling, capturing the performance which was cast with red lights that night.

I am prouder than a peacock. 

As for my rug, well, I don't know if I am going to get my rug done in time for Sauder Village.  But I will give it a good try.


Thinking about creativity

The semester has been busy for me, and so rug hooking got the short end of the stick.  As did my blog.  So this is a check up post.

Alexander and I have been growing things this spring.  He has helped me plant flowers and some vegetables on the patio, and tend them with water.  We choose a couple of cherry tomato plants.  So Alexander is showing off the few we picked yesterday and I ate.  Alexander wouldn't try one.  Oh well.  I thought growing them might prick his interest in eating tomatoes.  Guess I was wrong.

I bought a bunch of ranunculus.  They are so beautiful in a cottage-garden way, that I have to post a picture.  The crisp circular forms are so profuse and bundled.  Love them.

Alexander and I went to an orchid show yesterday.  I have always loved orchids.  Yesterday as we studied their lips and flares, stunned by their elogence, I asked myself why I have neither bought an orchid before.  And at that minute, I carried an orchid to the cashier and now it sits in my window.  We named it Venus.

Also this week I had to attend a three-day workshop on creativitiy in leadership for my workplace.  While I'm not sure I learned a whole lot about being a creative leader, I did decide that the time has come to build a creativity center in our home.  It will have to be a small niche in our dining room, but it will be a place where all the art supplies are out and available for anyone to sit down and get creative. So more on this as we build the space up over the next week or so.

Part of our workshop involved going over to the Menil Museum and sitting with one painting for 30 minutes.  Then we had to record our interaction with the painting in our art journals.  I had so much fun seeing how much I normally don't see because I am in too much of a hurry, that I think I may go and sit in front of a painting once a month and slow down. 

The workshop also convinced me that I need to be keeping an art journal in addition to my rug journal.  So I am going to try to do that and see what comes of it.  It was fun to scribble without purpose.  My rug journal is too purposed and so I need another place to splatter and scribble and slow down.

Gone are the Christmas decorations

As the holidays come to an end today, I have gathered up the Christmas decorations and repacked them in their boxes.  I reorganized my mantel which I decorate all year long as the seasons change.  It is covered now in icy branches and cones. 

I was at a lost for what rug to put in my shadow box since I have nothing yet hooked for January.  I went upstairs and rummaged through my box of old hooked rugs and came upon a little rug that is perfect. 

It is the only rug that my mom hooked for me.  She and my sister started hooking two years after I began the craft.  At the time, I was living in another state, so I never really got to hook with my mom before she died in '99.  The last year of her life, she designed and hooked Fawn for me and gave it to me for Christmas in '98. 

When I look at Fawn, I am drawn to the sweetness of the animal and the boldness of the flora she encounters.  I am also struck by the  the fawn as she stands alone, her mother nowhere in the setting.  The metaphor is not lost on me.  Only a few months after receiving this mat, I stood alone, my mother gone from this life. 

Yet the mat leaves me not with feelings of loneliness or abandonment as you might imagine, but feelings of strength and direction.  Like the fawn standing proudly on the bank, I can journey confidently in this world on my own.  This confidence was shaped in me when I was a child by my mother who loved me deeply.  So I am comforted by the mat, with the traces of my mother's hand that cut and hooked each strip of wool and worked her initials into the corner.  In this mat, she is still here and she has left me with a powerful message whether she intended to or not.

In this New Year, if there is a mat that needs to be hooked for someone, hook it and give it.  Our time with each other is shorter than we imagine.

Merry Christmas from my house to yours!

It has been a very busy holiday here.  My sister's family and my inlaws are staying with us and we have been traveling around Houston, San Antonio and Austin.  Today we go down to Galveston Island for a nice dinner on the pier. 

Santa was good to all of us, but me especially.  Wade and Alexander gave me a Snap Dragon frame for my stand.  I declare it to be the Cadillac of frames now that I have been using it the last couple of days.  Here is a picture of me hooking my Palette Constellation Rug on the Snap Dragon frame.  It is getting BIG and finally I have a frame that can handle it!  My goal is to finish this rug by the end of February.

Pretty cool greens

It is warming up here in Houston.  This has been a lovely winter and spring...very long and lingering.  The azaleas are just blooming, and the bluebonnets are peeking out.  We went on our annual family excursion in the bluebonnet meadows last weekend.  And we visited the sea down on the island of Galveston.




The colors of green are so vivid here, in the fields, in the foliage, in the sea. 

I'm posting a picture of a clutch of Caspian Green 108 that I dyed recently since it reminds me of ocean waves: a bunch of 8-values and textures.  Wouldn't they be great to hook into elements in any of these pictures?  The sea line, the porch boards, the old wood.


Working on All in the Family

I like to have at least one picture showing my rug in the process of being hooked.  I print one of them on the label for each rug I finish, so my son (who I assume will have my rugs one day) will have a memory of me working on each piece.

My friend Lurie took this snapshot of me hooking on my big rug, All in the Family, at the Hankamer Hook In the first weekend of March.  Wanted to get this posted earlier, but last week was crazy- busy with Alexander (who had strep).

Is my rug getting smaller?

Or is Alexander getting bigger?!  My gosh it looks like he has grown inches since my last picture with this rug, only one row ago!

Progress report: finished the fifth row today, so I am now 5/12ths done, one row away from 1/2!  I am truly excited about the fifth row, because #5 is my yellow dye and the family it creates when mixed with all the other dyes on the color wheel. 

So this is the family where the greens really start to show because of the yellow blends with dyes containing blue, and the rug takes on a new dimension.  This drastic change will happen again when we get to my 9th row which is blue and its family.  This third primary will cause the rug to shift into purple tones because of the blue and red blends that will start happening at that point in the chart.

On to row 6, Yellow-Green.  I started this rug on January 5th, so I am two months into the project.  I need to pick up some speed to get this done by my projected date, June 1.

Loopgram: tips for hooking a BIG rug

All in the Family is 3'7" by 9'.  It is a BIG rug.  It is heavy and cumbersome already, and I am just over 1/3 complete.  What have I learned so far? 

1. If you want to hook a BIG rug, just go for it.  Don't let the size overwhelm you.  It is just a rug, and you will hook it in stages, and give yourself a break to work on another project when you need to.

2. Select the widest cut size your design will allow.  This will result in faster hooking so when you work on it, you will see measurable and reassuring progress every time you hook.  I am using #9 and I always feel that progress is being made.

3. Start in a corner and hook in 8-inch swathes. Do not start in the center.  Do not hook all your motifs and then your background.  If you do either of these things, you will never be able to handle the weight and the bulk of the rug.  So figure out the direction you hook.  I hook left to right (like I read or write) and from top to bottom (downwards).  So I have started in the upper left corner of the rug, and I hook 8-inches across, working from the top of the rug all the way to the bottom.  When I get to the bottom, I have a full 8-inch swath hooked on the left side of my rug.  Then I move my rug to the top again and hook down the next 8-inch swath.  As the rug develops, it falls to my left.  I prop it on a big basket or a chair to balance the weight so it isn't pulling down my stand.  I can get under the rug to hook it because I don't have anything in my lap except unhooked foundation.  If you hook right to left (as most ruggers do) you will want to start in the upper right hand corner and hook down, and move the rug to the right as you progress.

4. Use a stand.  I can't imagine trying to do this using a quilting hoop or a lap frame or a table top.

5. Think about marking your progress in stages.  I take a picture after each row I hook and put it up on my blog.  I also have broken it down into thirds, so I can measure how much more I have to go, and how much I have already done.

6. Set a goal to finish.  I did this by seeing how long it took to hook the first few swathes.  My goal is to have it hooked, bound and mounted by June 1.

Progress report 2: All in the Family

I have been working on my big color rug, All in the Family.  I am one-third finished, with four rows of my twelve completed.  The colors are arranged according to the twelve colors on the color wheel and how I mixed them with each other.  Alexander (with his missing top front tooth!) is showing off my progress.  The rug will be nine feet long when finished.

I start row 5 tomorrow - yellow, the fifth color on the color wheel.  I will be hooking down in the column all the colors that are created when I mix yellow with each color on the color wheel.

Winter storm that brought Houston to a halt

HISD schools and Rice University were cancelled today.  Actually they were closed last night due to the forecast that threatened us with ice and snow.  It is a very rare thing to have snow, even a flake, in Houston.  So there is really no equipment for salting down the roads or dealing with winter weather.  This week has been so cold that the power company put us all on rotation, shutting off our power for 30-minutes blocks, in order to conserve. 

So we were prepared for winter this morning.  But when we woke up and Alexander looked out the window, he cried for 10 minutes.  This is the winter storm that brought Houston to a stand still today.  A bit of ice on the cars and trees, and the fountains are frozen.  But no snow. 

But hey, I'm not complaining.   We got a snowday out of it.  So I've been dyeing up some reds and oranges in the garage.  And Wade has made a pot of chili for dinner and played chess with Alexander most of the day.

Progress with All in the Family

I worked on All in the Family at Kirby Hooking Circle yesterday, and will pick it up again tonight.  I had to dye another color (Milkweed 115) in order to proceed.  The women at KHC were shocked at the size of the rug.  They said it didn't show up that big on the blog.  So Alexander laid down next to it this afternoon and I shot a picture.  It is almost 50" high and will be over 9 feet long.


Been dyeing

So work has been intense lately, with starting the new semester and writing and getting my seminar on death underway.  But while I was home cooking this weekend, I did manage to dye up two batches of wool so I can continue hooking All in the Family

I am on the third column which is the Orange color family.  In this column, I will be hooking the twelve colors on the wheel mixed with my orange dye (Jacky Lantern 103).  The first in the column will be Finnigan Flame 102, followed by Bittersweet Red 162, Jacky Lantern 103, Peter Pumpkin 163, Somerset Sunset 104, etc.  The dyed wools pictured here are Bittersweet Red 162 (top) and Somerset Sunset 104 (bottom).  I can't wait to get this column started after school today.

All in the Family: Progress Report 1

I have been going to town on All in the Family.  I have about 10th of it completed at this point.  I have been dyeing a few colors that I need to work down the first two family rows (red-left column; red-orange-right column).  I am hooking this in a 9 which is the widest I have ever hooked before.

I thought that hooking linear rows was going to bore me to death because I have always found it tough to hook geometrics, the same pattern over and over.  But this hasn't turned out to be the case.  Hooking this mat has been wonderful so far.  I get excited each time I open a new pack of wool and hook in the new color.  I am now able to see a color progression which I surmised was there because of the way in which I have developed my dye process.  But now I can see it!

I have made two alterations to my design so far.  First, I couldn't figure out how to hook the pattern with curved lines.  I started out with curved lines and it just became a mess very fast.  So I went to straight rows, and I think it achieves what I want in a very powerful way.

Second, I quickly saw that I needed some kind of menu for the rug, something that told the story about what was happening with the color progression.  So I decided to hook a color wheel around the border.  The color in the top border shows the dye used to create all the colors in that column.  The color in the side border shows the color that was used to create all the colors in that row.  In other words, I am hooking a color chart.  If you take the color at the top of the column and mix it with the color in the side of the row, you get the color at that intersection.

Today as I hook it is cold and rainy.  I have a fire in the fireplace.  Wade is grading papers.  Alexander is playing.  And I have three pots of wool dyeing in the garage.  Couldn't be better!

Last day before the semester starts

I decided to stay home and enjoy my last day before the onslaught of the semester.  I brought home some reading which I am doing to prepare for my opening class tomorrow. And I am doing it while dyeing two batches of wool that I need to continue hooking All in the Family.  I have made some good progress on this rug, but as I work down the first and second columns (the Red Family and the Red-Orange Family), I have run out of some of my colors.  So I am cooking up Pink Iris 134 (right in photo) and Ellendale Orange 126 (left in photo). Each jar contains one strip of wool, one of the eight values of the colors.

I thought the dyes in the jars looked so pretty, almost citric and wintry, that I had to snap a picture.  The colors are making me think of oranges and grapefruit growing on the trees here in Texas.

Starting All in the Family

This week, I have been planning my big abstract.  It looks like it will be about 100" by 50".  What I am planning is twelve columns of twelve colors, arranged according to their familial dye relationship.  Imagine the twelve columns to represent each of the twelve colors on the color wheel.  Each of the columns contains twelve dyes created by mixing together the twelve colors on the color wheel (I show the start of the first two columns in the picture).  In the first column I show my red dye, as it is mixed pure (first red color square hooked in the lefthand corner of the picture ), below this is a square that was created by mixing the red dye with orange-red (the hooked square right below the first).  Below this will be my red dye mixed with my orange dye.  Then my red dye mixed with my orange-yellow dye.  And so on around the color wheel.  The second column is my orange-red dye similarly mixed with all 12 colors on the wheel.  The rug column's will advance accordingly.

I am hooking the piece with a #9 (my new Bee-Townsend cutter head which I LOVE), the biggest cut I have ever used.  I am thankful that I bought a 9mm Hartman hook because I could not hook this rug without it.  Wow does it make the job easy.  It took me a while to figure out the spacing so that I didn't end up with squashed or bent loops.  I am hooking loops in every two holes like I do for any other cut, but when I advance to the next line, I am skipping five (!) linen strands.  I tried four, but some of the loops were bent.  Five seems to do the trick, but it feels like I am leaving a very wide ditch between rows.

I'll update as I hook this rug.  I am going to need encouragement.  It is big, and it is repetitive since it mainly consists of hooking straight lines.  I tried curved lines at first, but was soon pulling out my hair, and decided that for this rug, straight lines would work fine!

Home for the holidays

We have had a busy and fun filled holiday.  My family (see photo on right) came down from Michigan and Wade's folks from Illinois.  So we had a GREAT Christmas.  We visited San Antonio, Fredricksburg, Galveston, and Brenham, and had Christmas in Houston at our home. 

From Wade, I received a 9-cut Townsend cutter head produced by Beeline, and I couldn't be happier.  It is exactly the same product as the Townsend line, except that it has a "B" etched on the under side of the cutter head.  So now, on to designing and hooking my big widecut abstract that I am calling "All in the Family".  It will consist of my 12 color families, and show every value of every color in each of the families.

Visiting Santa

We had a wonderful time over Thanksgiving.  We finally (sigh!) finished getting our house in order following the construction, following the flood.  We celebrated Saturday by going down to Galveston Island and visiting Santa on the Strand.  We also had a nice meal on the Pier, watched the Carvinal cruise ship sail away into the sunset, and walked around Post Office Street where the artwalk was happening. 

Now that my chair is back in place and I can find my rug hooking stuff, I have been rug hooking, but it is something secret yet.  A hint: it's not a rug.  Will post a picture when I am finished, which should be by the weekend.

The garage reorganization is planned for this weekend.

No rug hooking, but kitchen cabinets are done

So my house is still too much a construction zone for me to get out my hooking.  Today all three toilets were removed.  As I type this, the downstairs bath has had its toilet put back in, but the two in the upstairs bathrooms await more tile.

I have been tearing apart my kitchen cabinets - 24 doors and 12 drawers - removing the old hardware, sanding, repainting with oil-based paint which I hate to use but I had no choice since that is what they were originally painted with, and remounting.  It took me over a week to do this.  My recommendation if you are thinking about doing this in your home.  Keep your hinges.  Clean them or repaint them.  Don't try to replace them because if you do you will have a mess on your hands.  Guard the little screws with your life.  New hinges are junk and expensive - 2 per door - and they don't fit old doors because the depth of new door wood is thinner to keep cabinets cheaper.

I did find great new handles though - in bulk on ebay at a great price.

Celebrate with me - at least my cabinet doors are done, mainly because I did them myself (smile!) - the rest of the house is still in progress.