Loopgram: How to pebble a background

I started hooking the background of Sol Invictus by hooking in curved lines and filling around them as we normally do, using four textures I overdyed with Fincastle Brown 141, the same color I'm using in the eyes and around the rays.

But the linear background competed with the sun face. So I ripped it out and began to play around with non-linear hooking and came up with a technique I'm calling 'pebbling' because the way the loops are arranged remind me of pebbles on the bottom of a riverbed. It is very simple, based on the concept of the 'random walk' or 'drunken walk'.

The loops are hooked non-linearly and randomly, although not jumping around or crossing over like in waffling or pearling where spaces are left between the loops and filled in with another color. With pebbling, each loop touches the previous one, but is not hooked in a line (or a circle or a curve which are hooked linearly too). There are no crossovers on the back.

So here are pictures of how I pebbled the background, hooking with loops staggering next to each other. I worked small random areas and kept filling in with the pebbling technique until the area was complete. I absolutely LOVE the look and think that this may become my favored technique for hooking backgrounds. I might have to experiment with using this technique in motifs as well.

After I saw how beautiful the effect is, I began to wonder why we are always looking linearly, why we are taught to do this. I imagine that it has to do with rug hooking's history as a craft imitating rugs that are created on looms or machines where lines are the only way to create tapestries. But we don't have to be restricted by lines! Hook randomly today!

'Seeding' leaves

I'm back finishing my rug "Got Wool?" It is made of all alternative fabrics except a section of the outside border where I meld into wool alone. One of the problems I face is trying to achieve a look of continuity since the alternative fabrics like commercial polar fleece and velvets I choose have really created leaves full of color and depth that not even a spot dyed wool can handle. The commercial fabrics are all about vibrant color and lots of distinct patterns that hook up with a very colorful pixelated look like this:

The solution? I developed a 'seeding' technique. First I hooked my leaves as I would normally do, with a number of values and dapple dyed wools, so that the leaves look like this:

Then I went in and over-hooked little seeds of bright and dark colors, squeezing them in between the rows and loops at random (like seeding the troughs in a plowed field). You have to be careful to move the loops aside before plunging into the rows, because it is easy to puncture the wool already hooked. Also, since you are overhooking, you are creating a back that will be layered in the places you have over-hooked, a real 'no-no' according to the rug hooking experts. But again I find myself more than willing to sacrifice standard 'good girl' technique to achieve the look I want.

Here is the result of seeding, so that the leaves fit in to the piece now:

Exposing the back

Gayle asked me to post a picture of the back of the areas I had pearled and waffled to show better how I did this. In both cases, I hook all the white (or light) wool. Then I go back in with deeper and deeper values, hooking between the white. As you will see from these pictures, I would never pass the grade on my back because these areas are not smooth and flat. But the only way to achieve the pointillism effect on the front is to sacrifice the rules for the back.

The pearled area is the nose. It has many more crossovers because I am jumping around more only laying the wool in one or two holes adjacent to each other. I stagger a lot. I work in the direction I would normally hook the area (contour of face, around the ear, linearly, etc.).

The waffled area is the beard. It has less crossovers because I am working by filling a greater number of holes adjacent to each other, although still jumping around. I still stagger, but less frequently.

Loopgram: Waffling

I haven't posted on White Tiger Beauty for a while - not because I haven't been working on him - I have! But as usual, I have spent some time reverse hooking. I posted previously on developing a technique to achieve a pointillism effect in the ears and on the nose, a technique which I have decided to call "pearling" , dots of color randomly hooked on the linen to look like beads of wool. I've come up with a similar technique I'm calling "waffling".

When I moved down the sides of the piece and began hooking the long hair extending from the face, I initially did so in straight lines as we have been taught to do, with no crossovers on the back of the linen. Good girl technique, like this:

Then a few nights ago I got into the bad girl mode and started to rug hook randomly-shaped lines with quite a bit of jumping around. As I did this, I discovered that it looked great (but it does have crossovers on the back). It is a very different effect and one that I really prefer to all those straight lines. In fact, it is feeling a bit "abstract" to me. I am calling the technique "waffling" because you hook in random lines and fill between the lines as you go.

So I went back to the white chin hair that I had hooked straight, and I waffled the area. I went in with white in random rows, jumping around so the rows aren't straight. Then I went back in with other #1 values and hooked more random rows in between the white.

The result is impressionistic and quite vibrant. There is so much more life and movement than there was with the straight row hooking.

Now I have to go back to the left side of the piece and reverse hook and then waffle the area. So it will be a week or so before I am finished with White Tiger Beauty.

Loopgram: Basics of Needle felting

Carrie Martin taught me the basics of needle felting last weekend. It is how I created the Bon Bons Valentine 10 by 10. I needlefelted five hearts, which I then attached to the linen foundation and hooked around. I was surprised how simple needlefelting is, and how much I enjoyed the process. Wool is cool whatever shape or form it takes. It is the superior fabric.

Wool consists of fibers, so when friction is applied and the fibers rub back and forth against each other the fibers begin to "tack" or stick together. So if we add water and detergent and motion to wool, we end up with felt. Or consider spinning, the heat of our hands and the twirling of the fibers causes the wool fibers to cohere and yarn is created.

With needle felting, the cohesion of the fibers is created by the up and down motion of a barbed needle held between the thumb and the index finger. Jumping the needle up and down through the fibers causes them to felt.

What do you need to try this? A needlefelting needle, a block of foam, bits of roving, and yarn for embellishments.

1. Start with a bit of roving. Lay it on the foam in a rough shape of the object you intend to felt. In this case I want to felt a rug hook. With the needle between your thumb and index finger plunge it up and down over the roving. Keep going back and forth over the roving until it begins to felt. Rest the side of your hand on the foam to steady the needle and to keep your fingers out of the way of the needle. You want to avoid stabbing yourself! So keep your free hand well out of the range of the plunging needle.

2. Add bits of roving here and there to develop the shape and dimension you want. Here I am adding a lighter color roving on the top to begin to create a light-shadow dimension on the handle. Then I am adding a yellow on the top to create the shank. Plunge the needle up and down as you add new pieces of roving. Go right through all the layers of the roving you are building.

3. Add bits of yarn for embellishments. Lay the yarn where you want the embellishment to start. Plunge the needle through the yarn and the roving underneath. Lay down the yarn and plunge as you go. Go back in and add more roving as desired, plunging the needle through the entire thickness.

4. Eventually you will be done and have an exquisite needle felted piece to add to your rug or to make into a pin or attach to a bag. If you want to attach the felt piece to your foundation and hook around it, cut a piece of scrap wool the shape of your felted piece. Hand sew the scrap wool on your foundation. Place the felted pieced over top of the scrap wool and needlefelt it onto the linen by plunging the needle down through the felt piece, scrap wool and linen foundation. Once it is attached, you are ready to hook around it. If you want to attach it to a wool bag, just needle felt the piece directly onto the wool, plunging the needle through the felt piece and the wool bag.

Carrie Martin and a needle felting lesson

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending a class that Carrie Martin conducted for the Stash Sisters here in Houston. She is a very creative person, and taught us how to make bags using needle felting and other embellishments. So I learned to needle felt, something I have been wanting to do since last year. I loved it! I will try to create a "basic how-to needle felt" post this week, but I wanted to share with you the little rug I finished from the class last night (I have not sewn the bag yet).

Carrie gave each of us a little starter kit which included some roving and ribbon and yarn embellishments. I choose a red kit, and had all the intentions to go "abstract" since this is the direction that Carrie teaches the class and I am part of the 2010 abstract challenge. But as soon as I got the little red roving out and started to needle felt all I could think of was hearts and Valentine's day and chocolates. So my piece went in the representational direction instead of abstract, and in the end I hooked "Bon Bons Valentine".

Pictorial hooking with Jane Halliwell Green

Jane Halliwell Green (who writes Jane's Green Art blog) has a new book on pictorial hooking that is coming out soon. She is working on developing a video to include with the book and she has put up a trial run on YouTube where she shows how to use prodding effectively in landscapes as grass and to give distinction scenery. I will add her video to my virtual classroom. Her book can be pre-ordered at Amazon for a substantial discount: Pictorial Hooked Rugs by Jane Halliwell Green. It looks like it is going to contain a bunch of new ideas and artistic tips for making pictorials pop!

Finished totes

Today I had the pleasure of enjoying a day of rug hooking with the Stash Sisters ATHA guild. Two sisters had finished their Fanciful Flower Sampler totes and several others made great progress. With their permission, I post here the fabulous results. I love to see how these designs came to life through others hearts and hands!

Sondra Ives and Sylvia Hale sport their fancy totes, beautifully hooked and finished.

Annie Ore shows her embellished sampler top ready to be sewn into a pack or tote. Marguerite Evans started to hook Mr. Toad's Garden and made good progress on the sunflower. Look at that color!

Martha Lowry and Janie Kennedy worked up fantastic examples of daisies, still working on prodding other areas of the sampler top.

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.

Fanciful Flower Sampler Workshop

Did we have fun!

The Stash Sisters are some of the most creative women I have ever had the pleasure of rug hooking with. None are afraid of color and experimenting with fabrics. Each came with the sampler top sewn and we first worked on the sunflower, talked about daisies and leaves, and in a couple of hours all had their sampler tops well underway.

I loved the way in which each person made the sampler top her own. Sondra and Sylvia put some blocks of linen in, so that they could hook some elements on their samplers.

Martha used black and white plaids for her sampler top which gave her a wonderful neutral but stunning canvas for prodding.

Louise, Janie and Annie combined bright wools for tops that show off with limes and plums and oranges.

P.D. worked on Mr. Toad's Garden and used an outstanding mottled wool for sunflower leaves.

I can't wait to see the progress on these pieces in a few weeks!