What is Zonalism?

Zonalism is a technique that I developed to hook consistently beautiful impressionist mats using photographs as visuals for the pattern.  The technique focuses on hooking the different value zones of the snapshot (see Value Scale below), instead of reproducing exact colors or trying to shade as Pearl McGown taught.  Every color can be dyed in different values.  The value is the lightest or darkness of the color.  So zonalism juxtaposes light and dark values, intense and dull hues, and warm and cool colors to create impressionistic hooked mats. 

Value Scale from lightest (#1) to darkest (#8)

Value Scale from lightest (#1) to darkest (#8)

Part of the zonal technique is using a different kind of hooked stitch.  A cockeyed stitch is employed in order to control the blending of the values and colors in the same zone.  The hooking is not done in rows, which leave lines and sharp contrast when a new color is added.  Rather the hooked stitch is done in a cockeyed or oblique pattern.  When one loop is pulled up, the next loop has to touch the previous loop but cannot be in a straight ditch or row.  In zonalism, there are no hooked rows, but rather hooked areas with random edges where new color can be seeded in the crevices.  See the example below.  The entire piece uses the cockeyed stitch.

Lady Red Jack 2012, detail

Lady Red Jack 2012, detail


Getting Starting with Zonalism


Step 1

On black and white enlargement of the image you wish to hook, mark all the lightest areas with the yellow highlighter; mark all of the darkest areas with the green highlighter.

Step 2

Study the areas that are unmarked.  There should be areas that are a little darker (usually areas immediately adjacent to the green highlighted areas) and areas that are a little lighter (usually areas adjacent to the yellow highlighted areas.  Mark the dark-mediums with an orange highlighter; mark the light-mediums with a pink highlighter.

Step 3

Hook into the yellow highlighted areas the lightest two values of the colors you desire.

Step 4

Hook into the green highlighted areas the darkest two values of the colors you desire.

Step 5

Hook into the orange highlighted areas the dark-medium values of the colors you desire.

Step 6

Hook into the pink highlighted areas the light-medium values of the colors you desire.

Step 7

Finish out background with a value that contrasts with the motif.