Halloween has arrived at my house

I finally sewed Scare-Jack on foam board this afternoon, and set him in front of my fireplace. I think he goes well with my other Halloween decorations. I feel like my home is becoming as decorated for Halloween as it is for Christmas! But Alexander loves all the spooky stuff. I have one more item to assemble and hang, but I can't show a picture of it until after October 3 when my guild, the Stash Sisters, meets to reveal our secret challenge mats.

Finishing technique

Some of you asked about how I finished Scare Jack. What I did to finish Scare Jack, following Jan's Peckenpaugh's instructions (although I'm not sure that I did it exactly as she had said because I forgot how she sewed the wool on the back):

1. Zig-zagged (stretch stitch) around my rug about 3/4" away from edge of rug. Clipped foundation to zig-zag edge.

1. Took wool that matched my background in 1 1/2 inch strips. Sewed them together so that I had a long enough strip to go all the way around the rug.

2. Hand sewed one edge to the edge of the rug, catching each loop as I do when I put on binding tape. This means I whip the wool on the edge by stitching through each loop to secure the outer edge and bring the wool binding snug to the edge.

3. I folded the wool in half toward the back so that the edges of the wool were even and the foundation between them.

4. I folded the wool in half again toward the back so that it looks like cording. I basted this all the way around.

5. I took embroidery thread and sewed a blanket stitch around the run on the backside, securing the wool edge to the back at the edge of my hooking.

It didn't take any longer than putting on binding tape, and it looks TONS better in my opinion. I have no idea how well this would wear on the floor, but everything I hook is hung, so it doesn't matter to me that my binding be such that it wouldn't wear well.

Scare Jack is finished

Finally Scare Jack is hooked and bound. I have yet to build the board to make him a stand-up, but that will soon follow. I will do my best to record with photographs how I build the board and attach him to it.

A note on binding. At the Kirby Hooking Circle, Jan Peckenpaugh showed me a new way to finish rugs, so I tried it on Scare Jack. It involves using wool strips instead of binding tape, folding the rug edge, and stitching the back using a blanket stitch. This is Jan's signature binding. I don't know if I have executed it exactly, but whatever I did gives the rug a very nice finished look.

Even good ideas often don't work

Unfortunately the button eyes did not work for Scare-Jack. When I put them on, they overpowered his face and the rug. They were all I noticed about the rug. So I took them off and reassessed.

Since I am trying for an embellished fun stand up piece here, I have now tried appliqued eyes. Do these work?

As for the shape, I had originally planned to run a line around the piece roughly shadowing the elements. But as I started to do this, I was not in love with it and kept wanting to put the rug away and not finish it.

Then my friend Lurie (and fellow TEN-MINUTE RUG HOOKER) gave me a fantastic idea for the final shape of the piece. At the last Stash Sisters guild meeting, she suggested a tombstone shape. What a great idea! Since I want it for a stand up, and to finish it like a pillow, a tombstone shape it is!

Button eyes

My plan from the start was to give Scare-Jack button eyes. As his face was hooked, I realized that he needed yellow triangular eyes. Finding buttons the right size, shape and color was going to be a problem no doubt.

So I decided to pull out my son's crayola clay and make them. I patted a ball of clay flat the width I wanted. Cut out two triangles. Stabbed two holes in the center with a chop stick. And voila, in two minutes I had two button eyes ready to dry and be painted another day.

Loopgram: Hooking with eyelash yarn

Scare-Jack has two crows flying to his shoulders. Since I want Scare-Jack to be an example of how we can embellish and hook with alternative materials, I decided to try to hook the crows with a fuzzy threaded yarn I picked up from Michael's. It was terrible to work with, very slippery, even doubled it wouldn't stay in place once hooked. What to do?

I hooked the birds with wool first, leaving small gaps between the rows. Then I went back in with the yarn, double-strands, and hooked loops a twice as high as I had hooked the wool in the tiny ditches between the wool strands. This secured the yarn so that it doesn't slip out of the foundation. I think the results are very stunning.

Scare-Jack hat and rug design

I have been continuing to work on Scare-Jack as I wait for the Dorr white wool to arrive so I can get dyeing and finishing Transfiguration. I have written the poem that will accompany Transfiguration and am considering creating some type of word rug to put the poem on, but more on that in another post at another time.

One of the reasons that I don't have a bunch of patterns loaded into my Pattern Mart (see my new menu bar above!) for sale is that I don't like to sell a pattern that I haven't hooked myself. The reason for this is that never, and I mean never, does the pattern I initially draw become the pattern that I execute in the rug. I am always needing to adjust the elements as I hook.

Why? Because drawing a successful rug pattern is just not the same as drawing a picture. A rug pattern usually has to be a VERY simplified picture. As far as hooking the element, unless I have a photo or some other visual, forget it. It just ends up looking flat or wrong.

Take Scare-Jack's hat. This is my initial drawing which I thought looked good and would be easily hooked. Right. I hooked it and hated it so much that I ripped it out before I could take a picture of it to show you. The prodded flower was too much, the color was all wrong. I tried to hook it with basket-like colors to achieve a straw hat which is what I wanted. But the rug didn't want that, at least how I had hooked it up to that point. It wanted a hat to match his pants and gloves which were hooked in blacks and other dark colors.

So I went to the computer and began searching for images of hats and I decided that I liked this famous hat in Vincent van Gogh's Self-Portrait. Could I hook something similar? This is the result which clinches Jack!

Today Alexander and I will try making the eyes...What will we come up with?

Loopgram: Proddy perspective

While my sister was visiting from Michigan, I didn't get too much done in terms of actual hooking. I did manage to prod one sunflower and hook one pant leg. Last night I hooked the another sunflower. Both flowers turned out well.

The top flower, I tried to get a perspective other than straight on. I did this by hooking the center as an oval and prodding smaller petals along the upperside than the lowerside of the flower. The center is hooked as a half, so that the hooking doesn't go in a full circle except for the center black which is a small round placed at the top edge of the big oval. For the petals, I used some yellow-green wool that I picked up from Stonehill while we were in the Hill Country.

I tried to create a raised fuzzy center for the bigger sunflower with green scraps I dug out of my bits-n-strips bag. The perspective is straight on, so the center is round and the petals are evenly sized and distributed.

I'm not too excited about Scare-Jack yet, just want to get him done. I am still waiting for my Dorr white wool to come in, when I can return to dyeing and hooking Transfiguration, a piece I started last August and want to finish up as quickly as I can so I can hang her above my fireplace mantel.

What a difference the color makes

I wasn't satisfied with the colors I hooked in the shirt of Scare-Jack, nor did I like the shape of his collar because it reminded me of a clown rather than a scarecrow. So out it came yesterday.

Since I am waiting on Dorr white wool to arrive, I had to make do with the wool in my rug closet. I really want Scare-Jack to be orange and purple and black, so I pulled what wool I had left from an old very purple coat. I put it in my dye pot with a bit of wetter-than-wet and let it sit until quite a bit of color was released. I then took some off-white remnant piece I had and a few other light colored textured wools and stewed them all together. Here is a picture of the results. What I needed was a light purple value which I didn't have that would blend with the bright purple coat wool. I got it!

Last night I reworked the style of the neckline, introducing a tied handkerchief in place of the clown collar, and brought in the purples I had created in the stew pot. Although I will probably continue to fiddle with a few of the strips, I am happy enough with the results to move on with hooking the next part of the piece.

Loopgram: What a difference value makes

As I am hooking my stand-up scarecrow - my Scare-Jack - I am taking pictures along the way. This first picture is after a night of hooking. I put him on the ground and looked at him and, even though I had used a number of different colors, I had not used different enough values of the colors. So the collar was not very distinguishable. Value is the intensity of color. What I needed was lighter shades to bring in contrast.

So last night I hooked in lighter shades and I achieved the contrast I am looking for. The collar stands out, as does the pocket housing the little mouse.

Just for the fun of it, I made BWs of the color pictures to really show the contrast that values make. If you are ever unsure about whether or not there is enough value contrast in the rug you are hooking, all you need to do is take a picture and use iphoto or photoshop to make it BW. If you can't see much difference across the strips, the values you are hooking with are too similar. Try pulling out a strip and going with a lighter or darker value to get the contrast you want.

Not sure about the color yet - really want more of a purple than cranberry. So I will probably be fiddling with that before proceeding.

Sunflowers galore

I never thought too much about sunflowers until about ten years ago when I was living in Illinois and riding my horse around Moraine View State Park. Some of the farmers in the area plant sunflowers, fields and fields of glowing yellow faces turned toward the sun, carpets of gold waving as far as the eye could see. Sunflowers galore. So sunflowers have memories of the musky sweat of my horse and cantering with the wind on my face. When I hook them, I remember those carefree days on the trails in the sun and shade.

As I get ready to start the stand-up scarecrow, I did an internet search for pictures of sunflowers and pasted them in my art journal. I want to study their centers and colors and see if I can duplicate some of them on this piece. I am also thinking about the Flower Pin Challenge (read about it HERE), that my flower will be a sunflower.

Starting the stand-up scarecrow while Transfiguration stalls

The good news is that I spent last evening drawing my stand-up scarecrow and transferring him to an old piece of white linen backing that I had on hand and need to use up.

The bad news is that the wool I dyed for the lower register background behind wind woman in Transfiguration is not hooking well. The color is fine, thankfully. It is the wool that is bad. I ran out of Dorr White and so I used another white I had picked up along the way, not giving it a second thought. After dyeing, the material turned out to be lighter weight and more rigid than its Dorr counterpart so when it is hooked, it doesn't soften and fill the holes properly. It looks too different from the Dorr wool to keep it in the rug. URG. So more reverse hooking and more redying. And to make matters worse, when I phoned Dorr this morning to inquire why white wool was not on their website, I discovered it is back ordered and the new shipment won't be in until next week. So Transfiguration is on hold for a couple more weeks.

In the meantime, I might as well work on the stand-up scarecrow. Wow, I might be early with my autumn decorations!

Alex has his own worries about this next project. He keeps asking me, "Where are his eyes?" I keep having to remind him, "They will be buttons."

Loopgram: Hooking Art Journal

For years I have collected images from newspapers, copies from books, photos, sketches. They have floated around my house, and been forgotten. A few months ago, when I joined The Welcome Mat, I also joined the Creation and Expansion group. There the women were talking about art journaling. I had never thought about creating a visual journal before - I am so word-oriented! - so this was a new idea for me. I started exploring the web for information about art journaling and found that one of the women in the group, Autumn Hathaway, teaches people how to journal visually and had a great website showing her beautiful use of collage and fabric. The art journal pages that all the women of this group have created have been very inspiring for me.

So I thought about adapting this idea to rug hooking, and set about gathering all the scraps that had been floating around my house, and pasting them into a journal, leaving space on the pages to add new scraps as I come across them in the future. I am finding the art journal to be a very helpful way to go because it not only is a storage device, but also a designing device because it begins the organization process visually on a page.

Since my next FUN hooking project will be inventing a stand up scarecrow for autumn, I thought it would be fun to show you my scarecrow page, and follow my creative process for this scarecrow step-by-step in future posts. So here is my journal page, where I start my design.