I seem to have no shortcomings in the word department. If I was getting paid by the vowel and consonant I could close shop and retire! When I sit at the keyboard words pile up like an accident on the freeway. It could be that I type as fast as I think and probably the reason why I write like I speak. My head forms sentences as if I’m making conversation and then I lay it down on the screen so I guess that means I’m talking to myself!
When I sit I have no idea where the story may go, I just start with something and build as thoughts race around in my head. My brain runs at full throttle all the time. It always has and probably always will. I’m told its anxiety which made me laugh because I always thought it was creative genius but what do I know? At the suggestion of a psychologist, I practiced breathing exercises in an attempt to calm the raging storm within, especially at bed time when the need to sleep almost drove me around the bend. It's hard to drift off when I’m designing patterns, searching my brain for innovative ideas or going through every thought, meeting and conversation of the day.
But there were side effects with deep breathing. Nothing like nausea, suicidal thoughts, anal leakage, heart attack or erectile dysfunction. No, it was worse. I stopped dreaming. Cold turkey, night after night void and black as pitch. Some might say, that's no biggy, but my dreams have been as much a part of me as my right arm. I mourned the loss of all those fantastic late night adventures. True I was sleeping better, longer and it was faster to drift off when my head hit the pillow but at what cost? So I weighed the pros and the cons and decided I’d take the short life span of the stress riddled and keep the creative thoughts flowing like a raging river as long as I can. Considering who I am and what I do for a living, maybe stress is my friend, maybe I need wild dreams to get the juices flowing.
I’ve been a nighttime and daytime dreamer my whole life. My pretend years were rich and exciting, imagining fairies, princesses and all that happy ever after stuff and I still, on occasion drift off to a place, far far away to think make believe thoughts. We all do it, win the lottery sort of daydreams, pretend you are the lead singer of some band, fantasize about another poodle. Right?
I dream every night and in full colour. I fly like a bird, visit faraway lands, I love to wake in the morning fresh from espionage, murder, riding a horse, hooking a rug, conversing with my departed parents. You cannot image how I feel getting to talk to my mother in a dream, or joke with my dad, see them, reach out and touch them. People would kill for these moments so it would be a crime to discard them. My senses are honed and so real; I run a gamut of emotions, it’s all there as if I've been transported to another place, another time . So tell me, isn’t this worth a bit of stress and anxiety? It's made me who I am. If I didn’t have this kind of thrilling imagination, I'd probably be somewhere adding numbers for a living. (Not that accountants are boring……)
And even though not all dreams are happy I still wouldn’t trade them in for nothingness. I’ve awakened the odd time in a lather of sweat trying to escape the talons of a dragon, a Velociraptor, (thanks Jurassic Park), and more recently a big black bear. So I’ve had the crap scared out of me, sometime literally, but I still wouldn’t trade my brain firing in all directions just to sleep peacefully in blackness.
I also have a very unique gift of waking from a dream, even getting up for a glass of water or a pee and then returning to bed to finish the dream. No, I'm not sleep walking, I'm turning on the lights, I feel the cold floor under my bare feet, sometimes speak to hubby, go downstairs to stock the fire, kiss the pups and then crawl back into bed to resume where I left off. I also have several repeat dreams that have played the midnight show for years. The exact same plot from start to finish. I’ve read of others experiencing the same thing so I’m not a freak of nature or anything, but I do think my nighttime adventures are special and I wouldn’t trade them in for anything. I feel sorry for people who don't dream, well actually you all do, you just don't remember them. I was willing to part with fertile ovaries and my lovely, youthful skin, but I couldn't imagine a life devoid of nighttime reveries.
I’ve also died in my dreams. Many times. Falling off a cliff or being chased down by a predator and eaten alive, killed by murder most foul, Hitler once tied me up, tortured and killed me after I read the Nuremberg Trials, pretty scary stuff. These of course would be filed in the nightmare drawer but I still wouldn't want them to stop. I've read or been told that if you die in a dream you’ll perish for real. Not true! I'm living proof! And if the truth be told, sometimes when I wake from a terrifying dream I will try to go back to sleep to finish it. Just because it’s interesting. I know I'm in no real danger and I've never been able to walk out on a movie half finished....I need to know the ending!
Sometimes when I wake from a dream I’m in a state of transference. I need to shift my brain from the dream to the reality of here and now. It can take a short period to crawl out of the mood, either good or bad. I am so involved in whatever the dream was about my emotions stay there. I’ve heard people say they awaken from a dream of their spouse cheating and are angry at the person lying beside them. I fully understand what they mean, dreams can be that real!
So my brain is quick and so is my inner pulse. I hate to use the word hyper but maybe it applies. I talk a bit fast as well, although I’ve been trying to reign that in. I never noticed until hubby took a video of me and this person, supposedly me, sounded like a motor mouth. It put me in a state of shock. Is that what you’ve all been putting up with? But, after I took it all in I had to laugh. It reminded me of a motor mouthed boyfriend from my distant past that I found quite intolerable. If I compared myself to him my quick talking didn't seem that bad but it does lead to a funny story, well at least I think it is...you be the judge.
My dad was a humorous guy and as small town as they come. He was burdened with worrisome thoughts about the world beyond the town limits, a foreign place filled with foreboding. So venturing outside the boundary was pretty much a death sentence, not only for him but for us. If he got wind I was heading to the big ole nasty city, he’d be burning up the phone lines to warn me about some accident that happened the day, week, month before, usually something about a woman crashing and burning, you know, the fairer, weaker sex; a person who should spend more time staying at home looking after a man instead of being out inviting trouble.... I’d ask him what his point was and he’d say, no point just thought you should know. Well thanks dad, have a nice day!
He was even more concerned about me dating strangers. To quantify, a stranger was someone who lived outside of Lunenburg County, only the lucky and the pure got to live in these parts, the rest were all fornicators and sinners, possibly even rapists. He never said those exact words but really it wasn’t too hard to fill in the blanks. I made a trip to Boston once for an estate I was handling and he pretty much had me raped, sliced up and found dead in an alley. And apparently pimps hung around airports waiting for fair skinned, naïve looking girls to kidnap and force into a life of drug addiction and prostitution, a fate according to dad, was worse than the trip to the alley.
When I disembarked from the plane I put on the most sophisticated air, with nose up, acting disinterested in those around me. No one would think me naïve. Having never traveled on my own before I was a little concerned and kept a tight grip on my luggage. I actually got lost walking to the Greyhound Bus depot and ended up on Waterstreet, weaving in and out of hookers and I don't mean the rugs related kind. Miraculously I survived and arrived back home thinking maybe dad was a little too over the top. It doesn't hurt to be aware of your surroundings but you can't live your life in a gated community to feel safe. There's always that chance a plane could fall out of the sky...
So I found myself between husbands and a few men looked my way. My father's words, tattooed on my brain surfaced and I turned down advances from suitors who were probably very nice if not for their geographical position. Not that there were that many, you could probably count them on your fingers, well maybe just the left hand and then maybe just two? So when a local guy, someone I had gone to school with, asked me out I figured, what could possibly go wrong?
We dated casually but the pressure was on to meet my folks and get me down the aisle. Now that I know what I know, I think he was blindsiding me, rushing into nuptials because he didn't want me to see all the warts laying in weight...another kissing toad story for later. So we dropped in on my parents for a little get to know you. There was something about him that annoyed me...he was a fast talker, not the smooth, suave kind, I mean fast by way of speed. It took me about two weeks to decipher what he was saying so I should have warned my parents. He buzzed through words like lumber at a mill and if you didn’t pay sharp attention you couldn’t keep up. It was almost like listening to a thick Scottish or Irish accent for the first time…it took a little getting used to although those accents have a bit of musicality to them and a heavy dose of sexy. This guy was just annoying and I told him "slow down!" so many times, but he never listened so I just gave up and let him pollute the air with nonsensical words and wished to God I could invent a better ear plug than a balls of toilet paper shoved down both canals.
So we’re sitting in my parents kitchen and dad was talking a blue streak making connections with people we all had in common. My boyfriend… let’s call him Jake, for the sake of avoiding the term boyfriend, was nervous so he yapped faster than normal if that was even possible, so much so I couldn’t even follow him. I just keep wondering how the human tongue could move around that quickly without being accidentally bitten off. I got the distinct feeling dad wasn’t overly thrilled with this so called safe, local guy, so the visit was short.
I dropped by the following day for the skinny and I asked point blank what they thought. I was still on the fence about him myself and their opinion would have pushed me either way. We weren’t really a good fit in that he wasn’t the brain power I normally sought. Smart is my turn on. I like to learn new things, explore concepts, solve mental puzzles and study the planet we live on and there was none of that in this relationship. I need to be stimulated, so feed me mentally or I’ll move on to greener pastures.
The only conversation Jake was capable of was telling me he loved me, upwards of 50 times per day, and double that on the weekends, being special times and all. For all the women out there who wish their guy would be a bit more forthcoming with those three little words, be careful what you wish for! He almost made my flesh turn inside out every time he said it and I fought the urge to pull his tongue out and grab the scissors. Not exactly the little cosy nest I was hoping for. His voice was like a grain of sand under my eyelid, and I'm not proud of it but he drove me round the bend. I told him once, “If you say you love me one more time I'll beat you within an inch of your life with this spatula”, I was wielding a potential weapon but apparently it didn’t strike the fear or evoke the change I hoped for. I tell no lie, he looked at me, pinched my cheek and said “Oh…you’re so cute when you’re mad, I just love you!”
So the vote was in. Dad looked me straight in the eye and said matter of factly…” Geez Chrissy, someday there gonna find you cut up in the deep freeze!”
Well that was definitely not the response I expected…but I had sensed it might not be favourable. I looked to mom for guidance but apparently she had none to give. Instead she burst out laughing. It started with a twitching of her eye and then the corner of her mouth was pushing a slight curl upwards and you could see she was trying to force her facial muscles to cooperate but there was no holding back. She laughed like I had never heard her laugh before. Her stomach was aching as she braced her arm in front of it while simultaneously wiped tears with a Kleenex. Whatever was going on it was contagious and we all joined in although I was still in the dark over the punch line.
Finally, having had enough, mom slowly returned to normal and responded to my questioning eyes and said “I didn’t understand a word that came out of his mouth!” And that just opened up another flood gate of side splitting laughter. Apparently she had sat there nodding, offering little pleasantries like “sure”, “yes”, “really?” and all the while it was if he was speaking a foreign dialect. You might have had to be there to appreciate the humour but it still puts me in stitches.
Let’s face it, the relationship was in the toilet, it just needed that last flush. I could never live with a motor mouth not even a famous one. There’s a guy in the Guinness World Book of Records that could articulate 586 works per minute, but I think Jake could have whipped him with his tongue tired behind his back! That local, safe guy would have grated on my very last nerve and just maybe, he would have been the one cut up and put in the deep freeze… And just so I don't come off as a total meanie, this guy was also insanely jealous and made my life hell before I finally got him out of it...... So I started looking farther afield for a date and ended up with a guy from Calgary. Whom I might add is not a rapist, murderer, fornicator or sinner of any kind.
Anyway, just thought this little excerpt of my past was funny. Every time I think of that day I burst out laughing. Seeing my ladylike, reserved mother drop her guard and let it all hang out was heartwarming. I think that was the first and last time I ever saw her cut loose and that line of dad’s was classic Earl. I’ve used it plenty over the years.
"We love the beauty around us and welcome you to share it!"
Designed by Christine Little, hooked by Jean Wentzell
This design was drawn to scale so it's a realistic portrayal of Mahone Bay's most iconic scene. The gazebo placement was artistic license and added by request of Jean Morse who wished to present this rug to a dear friend who had helped organize Jean's husband's funeral.
The receiver loved the three churches and was also a musician so Jean requested that the bandstand be worked into the design even though they don't all show from this angle. It is too bad life can't imitate art because these structures play off one another beautifully.
Unfortunately for you, the detail in the tree foliage is not clear enough to study closely because it was spectacular! I remember the amazing way she hooked the various greens to show shadows and separations from one tree to the next, making them as lifelike as one can do with wool. Her red maples were exquisite. We custom dyed a spot formula for this piece and called it Red Maple. She manipulated the darks and lights of the wool to make it highly effectual, placing each strip strategically to make the trees so lifelike it was stunning. She placed the red maples in a triangle which also broke up the large expanse of greenery.
Rosa Rugosa surrounds the gazebo and there are hits of pink for the flowers in bloom. The rocks along the shore were done in various plaids but first outlined in a very thin darker line. She kept the sky simple to further enhance the details in the remaining parts of the rug, drawing your eye to the center and bottom thirds to where the dense foliage, gazebo and stately buildings reside. This rug was a spectacular gift to receive and is now a memory from a dear departed friend.
The above two examples of Mahone Bay's finest are more primitive, simplified drawings of the three churches. Designed by Mary Doig, this little mat has been hooked and sold many times, enough that we could say it's her signature piece. She's hooked it mostly with a fall colour palette but she also has done it with various greens representing spring. Every time Mary hooks this piece and hangs it in the shop it sells, finding homes all across North America and as far away as England. I also make both of these pieces into kits and tourists love the simplicity, happily taking away a piece of Mahone Bay to commemorate their stay here.
This project can be hooked with wider cuts needing only a thin strip to outline the churches. A lot of beginners have cut their teeth on this little mat. The pattern adapted nicely into the tea cosy which Mary happily hooked up and loaned to the shop for display.
Designed and hooked by Charlene Scott
This whimsical version of our churches was designed and hooked by Charlene Scott. People love the fact that the churches, even though they are clearly the focal point, do not command the entire stage. There is something interesting happening in every third. Boats are tacking back and forth in the harbour with a bit of white cap action to show movement The churches, depicted with non traditional placement give the design a more folky aspect that many admire.
The hills behind the church end with a row of pines that are silhouetted against a very whimsical, streaked sky of pinks, oranges and a blend of blues. All in all this piece is the more artsy of the three designs, appealing to an audience who love the churches but want to separate slightly from the strong religious connotation.
Chris choose Mary's pattern for her first attempt at rug hooking!
I was in Mahone Bay on vacation a few years ago and I bought a pattern from you. I'm a knitter, spinner and weaver so I taught myself to hook with yarn. I started it and put it aside to work on other projects. This month, I took it down and finished it (picture attached). I love it and think it is a fine first attempt. We are going to put in on the wall of our bedroom to remind us of the lovely time we had visiting your town.
...from Philadelphia, a heartfelt thanks for getting me interested in your craft.
Colour planned and hooked by Christine Walker Bird.
One afternoon a well-dressed customer came through the door wearing a brooch that caught my eye. It was a fish within a fish, within a fish. That sparked an idea for a pattern so I grabbed my pencil and started sketching. Whenever a light bulb moment happens you need to act immediately. Don’t wait or you might forget. I’ve learned the hard way, make notes and sketches or risk letting a fine idea slip by the wayside. As good as you think your memory is, there will be too much coming down the pike to push the past aside, and the brain is a big place for things to get lost. Buy yourself a hard covered writing book, and make it a "Mood board". A place to glue inspirational pictures and make notes so the idea will stay fresh in your thoughts for when you go back to recapture the moment. She who hesitates is lost, a great rule of thumb to follow.
I have binders full of quick sketches and thoughts pertaining to something I’ve seen. Sometimes I’ve taken a picture or found a neat item on the internet or in a magazine that I’ve stashed away for a time when I can give it serious thought. There is so much inspiration in the world one only needs to open your eyes and look around. I don't know who said this but it stuck in my crop. It might have been part of a lecture at a life drawing class in NASCAD. "There are no new ideas, just modifications of what is already there."
Time is the biggest problem. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to bring all the ideas to the pattern stage, but at least the option will be there waiting for you to either expand on it or cut and drop it on the design room floor. I’m working on it though, one idea at a time and I’m still young enough to fill another couple of filing cabinets. That's how I'll judge my success, on how many drawers I can fill!
So back to my story. Inspired by the fish brooch, I thought I’d take it further. Maybe use six fish with all with different designs, like triangles, stripes, swirls and geometric shapes to separate and showcase their individual bodies. And then of course there had to be some wave action to pull in the ocean. Fish out of water would be a whole other meaning for something fishy.....as in smell.
This particular design is perfectly conducive to being made into a pillow. Because of the smaller size and shape it really doesn’t suit as a rug for the floor so Christine Walker Bird made the right choice when she sewed on a backing and made it into a cushion. This rug is a striking statement for any sofa or chair. I really like the colours she used, the nautical theme is always a winner with me. Blue has to be in everything I do, red second and gold last as an accent. You can’t go wrong with the primary colours and considering every visual feast in the world is made up of them, you'll never be out of fashion.
Tip: As you can see, the rug hooker outlined most of the fish in a darker wool to help separate them. It makes it easier for planning the colours because without that thin line you would have to use much higher contrasting wools to separate each fish to allow their individual personalities to shine. Outlining will make the rug feel crisp, as low contrasting colours can muddy separation of one motif from another. You shouldn't have to examine a rug closely to determine the design or try to figure out where one object ends and another one begins.
Outlining also makes for easier selection of less contrasting colours and it also defines the space perfectly to hook up against. Once that shape is defined properly you can do pretty much any kind of hooking inside and it will keep the shape, although continuing to follow the motif lines is always best to create a feeling of realism. I tell my students to always follow the lines of nature. If you want a plump bird breast, follow the contours, don't hook in straight lines up and down or horizontally.
You don't have to go looking for outlines as the eye accepts them readily. Maybe that stems back to colouring book days, we are used to seeing the lines and then we fill in colour around them. As long they aren't too wide because then they start stealing the show when the main focus should always be on the motif as a whole. Grids or outlines that are too wide can sometimes attract all the attention. In a well balanced hooked rug, nothing should jump out when you view it. So if you are hooking in a #8, a good grid thickness would be a #5 and no larger than #6. Let your pattern dictate what size grid the rug will handle. Sometimes there is so little room on a smaller motif that too wide of a grid will leave little room to add the colour, which is the most import aspect of any pattern.
What is it about a big green frog that makes you want to pucker up or at least give it some serious consideration? Are we all so desperately looking for that prince that we'd be willing to risk a wart on the mouth? Now I know that's a myth but really, how lonely does one have to be to plant one on a slimy amphibian? I may not have been desperate at five, but I actually kissed a few. We lived next to a pond and I spent a great deal of time catching frogs and living in fairy tale land. I did have a childhood wart though....hmmm....
Hey, I read the same stories you did, but being gullible I believed them. I was also a bit bummed when I read Jack In The Beanstalk, considering I swallowed the odd apple seed. Dad, being a bit of a leg puller didn't help the cause when he said tufts would grow out of my ears. I can't tell you how much time I spent obsessing in the mirror waiting for head foliage to appear. And don't get me started on Chicken Little, I found a odd looking piece of something in my hair once.
Oh, I should tell you, if by some chance you're willing to kiss a frog, be aware there can be a delay factor, it took thirty plus years before my prince materialized, but hey, I'm not about to look a gift frog in the mouth.
I've been going through emails and picture files to find items of interest to write about. This rug doesn't need much in the way of words to describe its bold presence, just enjoy this rug as a feast for the eye! From the rouge lips to the striking pink sky this rug is clearly a winner. I never received an update of how it showed at the fall fair but, if for some unbelievable reason it didn't win a ribbon, I'll bet it turned every head passing by. I believe this work of art warranted Judge's Choice or Best In Show. I've attached the email from Madeleine that I received with the picture. I'm sure she won't mind if I share it with you. This is a piece to be proud of! Pucker up ladies!
Hello from Cobourg Ontario! This is Madeleine Thibault Smith. I was in Mahone Bay for the first time last summer (2010) and loved my visit to your beautiful "shop of wonders"! I HAD to stop in because I had been working on "Kiss me Quick" which I bought in 2008 and had in waiting for the mood to move me....2009. It is the biggest project I've done so far...also of interest because I have amassed a collection of frogs of all sorts over the years. A hooked frog with such character was a good fit.
So here it is finished, ready to be entered in a local fall fair. It is a charming design that always makes people smile and it was fun (and a lot of work!!) to do. Some of the wool was purchased and some was dyed for my "vision" by a member of our hooking group. It looks totally different from the piece on your website and I hope you like my interpretation of this whimsical design. As is always the case with hooking, I have learned more about colour and texture...
The second picture shows my cat Slater approving of the comfort it provided for his afternoon nap when I left the rug on the guest bed one day.
My husband and I LOVED our exploration of the Maritimes and plan to return before too long. A visit to see you again in Mahone Bay is a must.
Regrets, I've had a few and there’s one I’d like to mention. I could kick myself all the way from one end of Mahone Bay to the other for selling this rug!
So why did I do it? Well for one thing, it didn't belong to me, although that was a mere technicality. All I had to do was fork over the dough for it. Stupidly, the thought never occurred to me and besides, my company was a newborn that I could barely afford to diaper, let alone scrape together cash register fumes to buy a rug.
The pattern came about after a client brought in a picture of a rug hooking with a woman in a bathtub and a framed picture of a woman in a bathtub on the wall behind her. She wanted me to copy the exact design and put it on burlap I told her that was someone’s artwork and copyrighted, so I couldn''t touch it with a ten foot pole. She was very disappointed so I said leave it to me tol come up with something along that theme. So I started sketching and one thing lead to another and using the tub as a jumping off point I surrounded it with a nautical theme and a rich underwater sea life, using the basic concept of the bath but making everything else original.
The mermaid idea was born. She would be washing herself in the tub with portholes and sea life all around her. The housecoat in the shape of the mermaid tail was a bit of fun and then I thought King Neptune could be peeking at her through one of the port holes, and thence the name "Peeping Neptune". The client loved the drawing and gave me the go ahead to put it on a backing. She was taking a class in Chester and all of the students were working on a copy of a floral design that didn't inspire her.
She was very excited about the project and eager to get started. I hoped she would come back to show me the finished rug but I never saw her again, until on day when I opened the newspaper and there it was looking at me, Peeping Neptune in all its splendor. The excitement was short lived because she told the interviewer that she had come up with the idea. She said she wanted something different than the fine shaded floral the other students worked on so she created the design. What could have been an excellent plug for my shop, and a bit of a shining moment for me as an artist was just another missed opportunity in what would be a long line of disappointments. For some reason people seem to think if I design them a pattern they own it lock stock and barrel, but I'll rant about that another day.
I called the paper but they didn't care to publish a correction. After all, it's only a craft so I moaned and licked my wounds and complained to Susan about losing out on some free press and she said she would hook the rug to cheer me up. She left mumbling something about giving the mermaid long flowing red hair and I couldn't wait to see what she's come up with.
The rug turned out better than I imagined. I loved her colour palette and the way she brought all the characters to life. Susan enjoyed hooking it but offered it as a consignment piece for the shop. She was always more interested in the journey than the destination, and received a lot of pleasure knowing her rugs went to appreciative homes and the money she made afforded her globe trotting. While I had it in my shop it was the poster child of my business and on my brochure. If only a person could go back and make itsy bitsy changes to the past. There are a few things I would do differently and I would never have let this rug slip through my fingers!
I was only in business a bit over a year, set up in one small room at 14 Pleasant Street. The shop was so tiny, every time I bent over my butt knocked something off a shelf or a table. Really! I had lofty ideas to expand but in the meantime I had crammed that small space with as many supplies as I could afford and the walls dripped hooked rugs for sale.
So one hot, sticky summer’s day this guy from Chester pops in. My tiny space was so small you had to go outside to change your mind so he’s standing in the middle of the room turning 360* while eyeballing the rugs for sale. He raised his arm like the reaper in the Salmon Mouse, Monty Python skit and points his boney finger to a compass rose design and says matter of factly, “I want to buy that rug". And then he turned and pointed to another piece and said, "I want that one as well". He didn’t even ask if they were for sale, for prices or who hooked them, just mumbled he
Now I was pretty much crapping my pants from the anticipation of a fat sale. Dollar signs were flashing like neon in Vegas, and I felt a bit dizzy. I hadn't had lunch yet and low blood sugar was causing my upper lip to perspire. Also, when I get off the wall excited, I sometimes get the trots. The entire last month’s sales didn’t add up to what these rugs would yield so there was a bit of hyper ventilating as I wrote up the slip.
And then, Heavens to Murgatroyd, he turned straight towards me, his hand came up and that finger unfolded and he pointed to the wall behind my head where my precious Peeping Neptune was hanging and then I heard those dreaded words.…"I want that one too."
I hadn't sold three rugs since I opened let alone all in one day. And knowing how I felt about this particular rug, this was the time to pipe up and say it wasn’t for sale. But something had come over me, a greediness that overpowered and clouded my thinking. At that very moment I was prepared to sell my underwear if he asked. Cha Ching sounded in my ears and my pupils formed the shape of dollar signs.
Once after my father died, we cleaned out his house and held a big yard sale. I got so caught in selling stuff I kept driving home at top speed to search my house for more items. I’d never even considered selling those items but the rush I got from the yard sale fever created a monster. I didn’t experience that feeling again until that day in the shop facing the man and his Visa.
By now my stomach was in knots and the gurgling noises almost drowned out the sound of the cash register. I knew I'd have to get to a bathroom PDQ, but I managed to ring up the sale, pack up the rugs and bid them a sad farewell. The second he walked out the door I was in the washroom and even before I emerged the money high was gone, leaving nothing but a sickening feeling of loss. To the buyer it was just a lovely little rug, but to me it was sentimental, I’d bonded with that mat if it was possible to forge an attachment with a bunch of loops. I loved the humour of it, King Neptune peeking through a port hole to watch the object of his desire at her bath. It was one of the very first designs I’d created for a client. I felt sick letting it go, ashamed that I’d prostituted art for money. And if I had known that in only a few short years Susan Leslie would be gone that rug would have never left the shop and it would only have been pried out of my cold dead hands.
I should have raced down the road after the buyer or tried to trace him from the credit card slip to beg for it back. I did look up his name in the phone book but I knew it was useless, I remember him telling me he was only a seasonal visitor.
Lack of funds was no excuse….I could have hooked….you know, the world’s oldest profession, stood under the lamp post on the corner until I had the money to buy it. Let’s see, at two bucks a pop…..well, I’d have been there a long time but it would have been so worth it! I could have borrowed the money or maybe worked out a payment plan with Susan, maybe bartered for wool and supplies…anything would have been better than just watching it walk out of my life.
So the rug was gone with only a bare space on the wall and a dust bunny to hint that it had ever been there. I fumed for weeks over the loss. The shop’s cut of the sale did little to appease the emptiness but Susan was happy, two of the three consignment rugs were hers. She didn’t hold any sentiment for the rug and said she would be happy to hook another one, but it didn’t seem the same. I like first editions; the first of anything is always the best, except for husbands! But in
retrospect, I should have jumped on it. Susan was prolific; she could have easily fit it in between her latest projects, but I didn’t have the heart to push it. If you read the blog about my one and only commission you would know how I feel about hooking the same rug twice, right up there with a pin in the eye or root canal, so I couldn’t ask it of her. Every now and then I threaten to hook it myself and Sue Cunningham said if I made the kit she’d hook it as well. I really like the colour choices Susan made, but if I ever tackle it I’d probably make it match one of my bathrooms, if I’m putting in the time, it’s got to rhyme. One of these days I’ll get around to it but in the meantime I have a story to tell of the one that got away….…
Damn I was cute...somewhere between 4 and 5.
Sunday is a personal day. Rug hooking doesn’t need to be thought of, worked on or looked at unless I make it so. I don’t just own a business, I operate a passion and I can’t turn it off like the light switch as I lock the door to head home. Rug hooking is as much a part of my life as breathing, eating and sleeping. But there does have to be time to decompress from the 10-12 hour days and that’s where Sunday comes in. It’s a time to catch up on much needed sleep, possibly do a bit of cleaning and hang with the pups. No pressure to be anywhere at a specific time and I usually just lounge in my pajamas.
But now it seems I'm in the habit of writing and I was more interested to turn the computer on than boil eggs for breakfast. Writing before food…..hmmmm…there seems to be a definite shifting of my interests. I’m really enjoying these sessions with the keyboard, flexing my mental muscles, and watchingg words grow on the screen. If I’m not writing I’m thinking about things to write about. I worried at first that I would run out of things to say but everyday provides inspiration and if there’s ever a slack, I can fill it with a bit of ranting. If I didn’t rant occasionally, I’d explode!
I don’t know if it’s the onset of spring and the change it represents, but I’ve been very nostalgic lately. Maybe it’s the result of rummaging through old photographs again this morning and that one I posted a few days ago of me with my first guitar. Maybe it was all that talk about the building we renovated and thinking about that first kiss. Or maybe it’s because I found a couple of old friends on Facebook, from my old neighbourhood, but whatever the reason I’ve been digging around in my memories, unearthing more of the special people from the past.
When I think back to school days, two girls stand out. One was Debra Spidle and the other was Cheryl Benedict. There was a boy named George I had a secret, ginormous crush on but that’s one that doesn’t need revisiting and I’m sure he and his wife would appreciate being left alone.
I've known Debra since grade primary and had her up on a pedestal for her artistic talents. I'm sure she wasn't aware but I studied the way she drew. Her talent was so natural and if the teacher called her to the board to draw a tree, it came out the piece of chalk so fluidedly and with such character that my jaw would drop. (That might be the reason for my big chin, taking all those beatings on the desk!) Then I would memorize and practice drawing her tree until I could do it too. I learned to hone my drawing skill through mimicking her. Deb didn't realize she was blazing my trail but she was instrumental in expanding my drawing ability.
Deb being such a gifted artist it was only natural for her to become a graphic designer with a successful business before gallivanting off, or maybe that would be galloping off, for love and horses in Colorado. I see her every now and then when she visits Mahone Bay and she hasn't changed a bit, still the same smile, and soft spoken charm.
But, I haven’t heard of Cheryl for many years. We were pretty tight for a bit, playing guitar and writing songs. We played detectives and conjuered up mysteries to solve, it was always fun hanging out and stretching our imaginations to new heights. I seriously don’t remember the last time we spoke or if she moved away…I just know the friendship fizzled out. There are patches of my memory that have been lost so things are a bit confusing. I left school in Grade 10 to marry (that’s a whole other story) and lost touch with all my peers. I don’t know what I expect from exploring the past, so I'll just have to wait and see what shakes out.
Lately, I’ve been doing a bit of catchup with Deb on FB. From her home in Greeley, Colorado she is living the dream on a ranch with beautiful curly haired horses, a daughter and husband. A life with horses used to be one of my dreams as well, and I spent most of my youth begging for one but had to settle for drawing them instead. My mother was wise, she saw the lack of care I gave the cat, an indication that a horse would have been a tangled mess and a bag of bones and one more thing for her to attend too so, paper ones stood a better chance of survival. There was a boy in school that would pay five cents or a dime for my equestrian artwork. I found out much later he had a crush on me; the reason he so readily handed over his canteen money.
As an adult I took English riding lessons for five years with various instructors and even prepared a stable's worth of equipment for when I had my own horse. Before we bought the house we are in now, my only question was, does the zoning allow a horse? All I needed was the barn, saddle and of course the animal and we were ready to go. But I ended up injuring my back gardening and that put a bullet through my dreams. A horse needs to be ridden and cared for and is a lifelong commitment. It just didn’t seem fair and it would have been a lot of work just to keep them as lawn ornaments. So my dream shifted and I opted to fill it with the love of dogs. You can’t ride them but they’re easy care and fit in the bed and the car much better.
But if things had been different I know I would have been a natural; there’s something about the smell of a barn that make me feel at home. I so love the combined fragrance of the horse, the barnyard, the hay and even the poop. To me the package was sweet, like perfume, a smell that worked more endorphins that Ralph Lauren’s Polo. When I was a young filly, a little dab of that sweet aroma behind my ears might have attracted me a real honest to goodness cowboy! Yee ha! Like a saddle, it would have been an easy life to slide into, it just wasn’t meant to be.
I'm very happy with the way my life has panned out, with so many blessings and the freedom to pursue the dream of owning and operating a business I'm passionate about. Someone said, if you find something you enjoy doing you will never work a day in your life. And although I am getting older it's not aging that's driving my curiousity of the past. I firmly believe this ole gal is like fine wine…..improving with age. I wouldn’t want to go back and start over for all the tea in china. Besides there are skeletons in my closet that are better left unrattled. Not anything bad, but I could have had a better start in the first quarter. I went to the school of hard knocks but I graduated a better person than if I would have entertained a more idyllic life. Sometimes I think a life education can trump a formal one, opening your eyes and developing a skillset that’s instinctual. I wouldn’t change a thing in my past or rewrite it to smoothen the edges. I am what I am through experience and I think I’m pretty together because of it, not in spite of it.
I was born in December so I'm either a big 2 or a small 3.
I found this photograph this morning. Look at that pudgy little flaxen haired cutey. Those rosy cheeks and button nose. I was adorable even if I say so myself. Definitely a daddy's girl. He and I have some sort of hair thing going on, him on the Lyle Lovett side and I'm fresh from a home perm. I won’t show you the pictures from after the first shampoo cause I had a fro so big and frizzy I had to turn sideways to pass through a doorway. It was one of those good intentions that went horribly wrong and was borderline child abuse as mother tried to force a comb through the rat’s nest on top of my head. And really, it couldn’t have been a picnic for her either, with all the bawling and screaming she was doing……
By nature, my hair is as straight as a board and I guess the perfect little girl had to have curly hair and dimples, the latter of which I had plenty of, some big enough to store a snack in, so it was only the hair that needed altering. Seriously, I wonder if that is why my mother tortured me with perms, trying to Shirley Templize me, to fit some ideal of the perfect girl child. Who knows but I think I recall other classmates getting the occasional frizzy fro, it might have been the thing to do back then but really, there is no acceptable circumstance where your hair should enter the room before you do.
And the smell.......my god it lasted for weeks. A sickening pungent odor, too big for a little girl to live under. The pillowcase reeked and every shampoo reactivated the stench. I'm sure you could smell me before you saw me, like a little blond skunk. Maybe it was a way for mom to keep track of me in the yard.....go to the door and sniff, yup she's somewhere close. It had to be toxic, all those chemicals seeping into my scalp.... it could explain a lot.....
Well, I guess I better get back to some household duties. I’m quickly reaching the state of mismatched socks again. I just might have to go out and buy a few more dozen pairs to extend the time between washings. I don’t seem to have much of a filter, but I promise to draw the line on my lack of clean underwear. I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a slave to domestic chores, I do the necessary and save going the extra mile for the things I love. No one will ever identify me with a spotless house on a consistent basis; I do it only when forced too. There are just too many things to do that give me pleasure than having to worry if my house is clean enough to eat off the floor. Actually, you’ve more apt to find something to eat off my floors!
So I think I should warn you. Never come to my home unannounced and expect to get in. If I don’t come to the door it's because I'm hiding upstairs, stifling the dogs and swallowing a lump of humiliation, praying that you don’t press your face up against the window to see the horror I’m wallowing in. I can write about it and have a good laugh, but my pride would kick in and if I let you in, I’d have to kill you.
But, and there’s always a but…when I decide to have people over I rev into the white tornado and clean this place until it sparkles, polishing silver, eradicating the dust bunnies and cobwebs, vacuuming and washing every surface. I’ve even gone so far as to scrub the bottoms of my copper pots so you can see your reflection if the need should arise. I guarantee you’ll leave my home convinced I’m a liar, maybe even nominate me for housekeeper of the year! So be warned….call ahead and give me at least five hours notice before dropping by so we can all keep our dignity.......
Reading about Boots & Saddles Theraputic Riding Center is what resurfaced memories of my love of horses.
Deb writes: Combining my two interests—working with horses and volunteering time with people of special needs—was not something I planned, but, rather, was inspired by the need for a Therapeutic Riding program in Greeley
Their mission statement : Promoting independence through equine assisted activities for the purpose of contributing positively to the cognitive, physical, and social well being of children and adults with disabilities.
I think this is a fantastic program! If you would like to read more, click the link below, and maybe give them a Like on Facebook to help spread the word of this worthy cause.
I was cleaning up my picture files and found this custom Azeri design I created for a customer. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, Azeri is a type of Oriental rug that usually tells a story; a chronicle of a person’s life which can begin with birth and feature all developments and highlights along the way. I looked up the word Azeri but couldn’t find any reference to rug hooking so my only knowledge is second hand and unverifiable so I asked for my friend Mary's help who is smarter than a set of encyclopedias, although better in the sense that she's upgradable, so I'll see what she comes up with before I post this. If anyone has more insight, please leave a comment.
This rug was designed for a young boy named Jordan, born August 6th, 1996. His grandmother approached me to create a story rug of her grandson’s life, and if memory serves me correctly it was to be presented as a gift for his birthday but don't quote me on that. I designed the pattern in 2006 so he would have been ten at the time. My, how time flies, that was seven years ago! The client presented a list of Jordan’s hobbies and a bit of family history and I hit the drawing table.
Jordan and his sister, Emma, were taking violin lessons so they are playing a duet at the bottom of the design. I made a mistake and had them holding the violins in the wrong hand so that had to be fixed. I was confused about the right hand...didn't know if it was holding the instrument or the bow. Jordan can obviously read sheet music so the reason behind the Treble Clef for a piece of attractive filler.
The building in the lower right hand corner is their family home; the standard poodle a family pet, as well as the curled sleeping cat in the center of the rug. Cats being the center of the universe and all, I thought it a fitting place.
His parents are lounging on Adirondack chairs, holding hands with a heart that says S&J, initials for Sherry and Jake. The top building is the school he attended, Mahone Bay Elementary. The Three Churches are iconic to our town so they had to have a mention. He played hockey so thence the skates, stick and puck. He was an avid swimmer so I drew him diving into the water and I tied the treble clef and water together for an interesting artsy approach. He played basketball at the Parish Church Hall so I placed a hoop on the roof and he's taking a 3 point, free throw jump shot .
The outside border is boyish and nautical as they live along the waterfront and what lad doesn’t like a sailboat? The inner border commemorates all the people he loves. His grandparents names, his parents wedding date, his birthday in the most prominent position, after all he is the star, and his sister’s birthday as well.
The six people that look like they're doing the Can-can are all grandparents. Somewhere along the line, Jordon picked up an extra set. In this day and age, we no longer fit the meaning of the nuclear family and any number of extensions can apply, added siblings, extra parents as well as grandparents.
I added a few paths and trees to set the stage for different levels and areas around the buildings. I didn’t want all the characters and buildings to be floating on a sea of a one coloured background so this approach grounded all the motifs and separated all the various areas into clusters that will allow them to stand out more as individual parts of the story.
The client brought the finished rug to the shop for a show and tell and for some reason I didn’t get a picture or if I did, it got deleted. Unfortunately, mental pictures don't download without a cable to hook in my ear, but I remember noting that it was hooked beautifully and colour planned with a well thought out palette. The rug was in perfect balance for the eye, with nothing jumping out or getting lost. Even though Jordan was still young, I’m sure this gift of his grandmother's heart was appreciated and an heirloom to accompany him on his life's journey. What a wonderful sentiment for the both of them.
Mary found this site and if you wish to read more about traditional Azeri woven rugs click the link for an education on the subject. Thanks Mary, now back to your blueberry pie! (the recipe will follow) Mary and Peter have recently become grandparents for the second time and the pie is is a delicious barter to exchange for snuggles with the new addition...and let me tell you, Mary's pie is worth getting pregnant for! Bettina....what a beautiful name for a beautiful new baby girl!
This is my mother-in-law Mabel Redden's blueberry pie, and she was an amazing baker. The recipe makes one very large pie, or two smaller ones. The small ones fit nicely into foil pieplates, which are perfect for gift-giving. As I discovered today, thinner lattice looks better on small pies, and it is necessary to pay attention when you are weaving your lattice or you forget which strip is over vs. under. But it will taste good anyway!
4 cups wild blueberries, frozen or fresh (1 x 600 g bag of Presidents Choice frozen works well )
1 Cup sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tsp lemon juice
Combine ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Allow to cool. Place cooled filling in pan lined with pie crust. Cut lattice strips and weave on top of filling.
Bake on second top rack at 425* for 10 minutes and reduce to 350* for 45 minutes
till golden brown and blueberries bubble through top.
This pattern is 40" x 63"
This rug should have been called "Catch Your Eye". These fish definately won't be thrown back, they're keepers!
Seeing this charming version of Catch Of The Day made it worth coming to work on Monday. Definitely a great way to start the week! I’ve said it before, nothing compares to seeing my designs hooked…talented hands and so much passion working loops through something I created is definitely a rush. Together my customers and I are a team, a marriage of sorts. I bring the foundation and they supply the materials to create the union and we live happily every after until wear, rot or destructive pets rip us apart.
Joan Sponagle dropped by the shop for a show and tell and I asked if she would mind if I did a short story on her masterpiece. She was delighted to share the rug that she refers to as a rainbow of colour. Now that she is retired she works two to three hours a day on her hooking and this project took about four months to complete. She said everyone that sees the rug wants it, but it's going to be hung on a wall in her home…no feet will be ever walk upon its glory!
The rug is all done with #6 strips. This pattern doesn’t have any small detail so it is perfect for the wider cut. She used all new wool with a blend of solid brights, three values, spots and then plaids and herringbone for texture, which she said all came from my shop! It’s like she shook a box of Smarties and the different colours exploded on each fish.
I see something different every time I look! The rusty orange fish with its zig zagged lines is amazing; the richness and the way she striped each colour is very clever. I personally can’t decide which fish I like the best but if I had a gun to my head it would be a toss-up between the one with the blue and yellow scales and the fish with the rich blue and red.....but then again that pink one on the end with the squares is pretty nice... oh, and that green striped one....and then look at that one will the long horizontal stripes......oh my! How can you have favourites when they all catch your eye!
With the rug being such a blast of colour, whipping it in the standard black would have been boring so she opted to do a black and white effect by alternating between the two, which in turn fused the relationship with the center fish. She admitted this was tedious but she was happy how well it turned out although she’s not sure if she would do this again.
Joan said she saw Catch of the Day on display at the Art Under Foot gallery show that the Main Street Hookers held last spring. It was the one I hooked in much darker, antiqued colours and she knew immediately she would be hooking it but would be using a palette of brighter, happier colours. And so she did!
I was driving by this building early spring of 2007 and a voice in my head said, "You should buy that building and move your shop into it." The voice sounded like mine but it was a strange experience, enough so that I pulled over to the side of the street to think about it. Now I'm no stranger to talking to myself but I don't usually hear voices, and a voice it was, as if someone was sitting next to me. It was weird!
I looked at the building as if seeing it for the very first time. I'd driven by it almost daily and never gave it a second thought. It was old, ugly and tired looking, nothing to inspire warm thoughts and being familiar with renovating it looked like a money pit. It was on the market for years and no one even cared to look because of the work involved to bring it up to code and give it charm. It wasn't cheap but for location, location, location, it was an excellent deal and one of the few remaining fixer upper commercial spaces in town. I called hubby and he said go for it.
The building had worn many hats over the years. When I was very young it was a Honda Shop, before my time it was the town grocery store, and over the years it has been made into apartments, commercial spaces and finally a junk store, new to you trash and treasures.
I had a bit of personal history with the building. Back in the day when it was made into apartments I had my first kiss in one of the units. A very popular boy, several grades higher took a fancy to me and we made arrangements to sneak him in while I babysat. After a bit of hand holding, TV, conversation and acting gooey eyed, I had my very first kiss. I was 14 years old and knew nothing about love, but my heart went flippity flop. The kiss was gentle and tender and I marveled at the softness and warmth of his lips.
Truthfully, I was amazed this guy liked me. He was so handsome and popular and I was a wallflower of grand proportions, not popular and kind of geeky. Since I turned 13 I was in full blown loathing mode, systematically picking my body apart and finding fault with everything. My ears stuck out; my head was too large; my feet were too sweaty, my arm pits too; my hair was too thin; my eyes were too far apart; my chin gigantic; my nose too small; greasy skin; zits galore; legs like a chicken; scrawny, stick-like arms; I had so many moles I could play connect the dot, and breath that seemed worse than the average bear. Yup I was a mess as my body started to morph into a woman so who would believe this handsome guy gave me a second glance, let alone wanted to kiss me.
If I close my eyes I can still remember the way he looked at me. As I walked toward him, down the long hall at school, it was as if I was the only person alive; an incredible butterfly-in-the-stomach experience. We hung around for awhile, kissing and holding hands but it never went further than that. We saw each other on the sly, mostly at school, as my parents weren't keen on any dating before I was thirty. They had me on lock down most of the time so I couldn't go out and hang with the gang so our budding love slowly fizzled out. But I still remember the way he looked at me as if he could see into my soul. What a lovely trip down memory lane!
By the time we bought the building it was condemned and rotten. Surprisingly, the structure was still solid but I swear there is only one old board left in the place. If this building was a body we would have stripped it to down to the skeleton and then rebuilt it, better than ever. Every window, door, piece of trim, flooring, walls, ceilings, plumbing, insulation and wiring is new. It turned into exactly what I thought, a money pit!
When we tackled our first renovation, the house we live in now, we watched the movie "The Money Pit" and we laughed our asses off. So bloody funny we thought. Well, we learned first hand there's nothing funny about throwing money down a sink hole. We learned the hard way that a renovation is nothing but deep pockets and patience. And Murphy's law haunted us, as one thing got fixed two other things broke down and we were constantly begging for loans and increases in our line of credit. The week we took possession of our house, the well pipe collapsed and things went down hill after that. It's a good feeling to save a building from being torn down, and it's a lovely piece of real estate, but you have to go into it with eyes wide open and account for cost overruns and unrealistic estimates or you'll be bankrupt. But, like labour pains and childbirth, you quickly forget all the angst, pain and suffering and are willing to try your hand at it again whenever opportunity presents itself.
What a lovely building for my shop. The interior was designed specifically for my studio so everything is laid out and built around my requirements. We gave the plain outside a facelift, making it look as traditional as possible. As you can see in the middle picture we stripped off that salon style front facade and continued the roof line in a slant. The window sizes remained the same but everything you see is new construction, new clapboard, shingles and windows etc.
We painted the building in primary colours, my favourites, but also to reflect all the dyeing we do. It was supposed to be an eye catcher from the monument to entice the visitors to town to come up the street, hopefully saying "hey there's some good stuff up here too". Normally the traffic follows the left route down through the center of town, and that is fine. I don't need 6,000,000 people through the shop...just a comfortable 10,000 will do! The buildings next to it, a green residential home and then the dog shop are all colourful eye catching buildings so we are a draw for foot traffic up to this part of town...and then of course we lead to Suttles & Seawinds, a long established retail outlet that's a must see.
You'll find this hard to believe, or maybe that's just me, but at first the colour choice was met with opposition. People were offended by the two tone building and we were told frequently that we should rethink the colour scheme. I had a vision and felt their opinions weren't founded in any kind of sense, so we went ahead and did what no one in town had ever done, split the building into two colours with a golden yellow to pull it together. People would walk by and drop a comment, like a hit and run car accident, leaving "Yuck" to resonate in our ears. One woman said as she hurried by on her way to church, "If I had known you were going to use those colours I would have suggested you stick with the gray primer." Really? Well, halleluiah to you too!
So, we went ahead and painted the building and now that it's blended into the street scape and grown on the closed minded, we get compliments up the yin yang. We've been on the TV show Haven, providing a colourful backdrop to a few scenes and tourists stop and take pictures all the time. Now, we are told we should receive an award for cleaning up the neighbourhood, saving a piece of Mahone Bay history and painting it so attractively. Like fungus, things just need to grow on some people so just blaze the trail and do the wait, they'll come around to your way of thinking.
I love my building. When I walk in the door it feels like home. I have the entire left side for my business. Upstairs is my teaching/workshop area and an office. There is a place for my rack of backings and a wide staircase that is not original to the building and sports an antique newel post and railings purchased from a local antique store. I made the steps extra wide so I could use it to display all of the frames we sell and also to make it grand like a Gone With The Wind staircase to over compensate for the plain one in our house. To me the staircase is the backbone of a dwelling, it should be grand and over the top. Our home will never fill that need in me so I designed the shop to pick up the slack elsewhere in my life.
We used wide mouldings that would normally be found in buildings from that era and real hardwood flooring that needed to be sanded and varnished, none of the prefinished click clack stuff. We paid attention to every detail, not scrimping or cutting corners to give the building a facelift deserving of it's time. Would we do it all again? You betcha. We have a hunky bit of real estate in a wonderful little town. She's a pretty building and an added attraction for sure...although I could be a bit on the bias side. So Que Sera, Sera, whatever will be will be. It was obviously meant to be, that little voice told me so.
When you are cutting wool with your machine, sometimes the strips stick to the blade and rolls under the wheel and before you know what has happened you cut it in half? Sometimes you try to dig it out and maybe back up a bit to retrieve it, but it keeps happening over and over and you get a bit flustered. All you want to do is cut fast and get hooking!
Sometimes more than one strip is sticking and you try blowing and flicking it off the wheel but it just keeps wanting to feed back!!! Cutting takes forever! Dry winter days are the worst and if you've just pulled your wool out of the dryer cutting it is almost impossible. Frustrating? Tell me about it! I cut more wool than most and let me tell you, it's aggravating! And then after the wool is cut it keeps sticking to your hands as you try to lay it out straight on the table to tie into a bundle. Yup...we've all been there and will be again, time after time. Oh joy! If only someone could invent a way to stop the madness!! Gee, I sound like one of those ads for ShamWow or some other Revolutionary product.
The answer is so simple you'll kick yourself for not thinking of it first. Before you start to cut, get out a bottle of hand cream and add the teensiest bit on the hand that holds the wool. Rub it in well over the fingers...the palm doesn't matter. I guarantee, the wool will feed straight through as if it's on a mission, no static, no charge!
Your hand is the culprit, not so much the machine. It is dry and as the wool passes under your fingers it collects a static charge so when it touches the blade it wants to stick to the metal.
No matter what cutter you use this tip will work. So there. I hope I've made your life a little easier. Its incredibly dry today and I was just cutting some kits and had to reach for the hand cream and then I thought....gee I'll bet others have the same problem, why not share and make a few people smile!
So there it is folks! The tip of the week, month, year!
Spring is obviously in the air. My two orchids were dripping heavily with new buds and behold, they exploded yesterday into magnificent flower heads. The orchid holds a special place in my heart. One of the plants was a gift after my darling Louis died. A magnificent white orchid in memory of a treasured white poodle. A perfect gift, from my friend Juanita. This glorious plant blooms twice a year and flowers for about four to five months at a time. It must like the windowsill, maybe the steam from washing dishes and diffused sunlight provide the perfect setting. I feed both plants two ice cubes every Monday and their flourishing is an indication I'm doing something right. I'm not known for my indoor green thumb.....it's more red, signifying the neglect and death of many house plants. In my care, or lack of, they loose their will to live, turn brown and shed curled, dried brown leaves in silent protest. No amount of guilt or water ever seems to make them shine again. In my defense, the plants were out of sight so therefore out of mind. As long as they were in frequented rooms I could see when a bit of water was needed but plants elsewhere in the house didn't fare as well. So I stopped buying them and when I need to see a bit of greenery I look out the window, better f.
Outside gardening is a different story and my thumb is greener than money. I love to plant things and what them grow, taking great pride in my perennials and flowering shrubs. The soil is rich in the backyard, so much so if a plant grows and blooms and I cut it back I can expect a second showing before the season is out. The soil has been tilled with seaweed and organic matter for years by the previous owner, thank-you Roy! Rich, black soil, cool and velvet to the touch. I usually don't wear gloves so my hands look like crap all summer with dirt embedded deep under the nails but they are happy hands and a small price to pay to connect with nature.
I love flowers. Especially blue ones and I try to have as many varieties of plants as possible. Hydrangea's are my favorite bush and each Easter I buy one for the house and then put it in the garden in the late spring. They are a hardy bush, that seems to like where I put them. Hydrangea is a plant that thrives on water, thence the first part of the name, so I plant them in drainage areas and they thank me by producing huge blue globes of flowers. The soil is also acidic enough that I don't have to add aluminum sulphate to enjoy the deep blue colour that I love. Sometimes I dry them but I usually just enjoy them outside. There is knack to cutting the globes at just he right time but I find it hit and miss so until I get it right, I'll just enjoy them in at the end of their branch.
Lilies are another favorite. I have so many I can't keep track of all their names so I just enjoy their beauty. Overall my favorite flower is the gladiola but they grow so spindly that I prefer buying them in bunches when in season, having the benefit without all the work of keeping them upright in the wind. There is something so breathtaking about a flower. All one has to do it look deep into the center to be rendered speechless. Words pale in their resplendence.
I have flowers in my house from late Spring to Fall. I've announced to anyone who cares to listen that I want my flowers before I die. So don't be bringing them by when I can't touch, smell or see them. If you want to make me smile, pick a bouquet from your garden, a few lilacs from your tree, or grab some lovelies from along the highway, I'll take anything, anytime and I'll appreciate the sentiment more than if you handed me gold.
In winter I do buy little bundles of tulips at the grocery store when available. There is something about they way a tulip gently drapes itself over the side of the vase that makes me smile. Yellow ones are my favorite but I wouldn't turn my nose up on any colour. When we first moved into our current house, I planted hundreds of tulip bulbs in the yard, all kinds of specialty ones with interesting petals but I never saw a bloom. Sure they tried to come up, but the deer came down and mowed them off that first spring and it's been about 15 years now and not one flower. Obviously, tulips are as tasty as they are beautiful and the deer must have some sort of tulip radar to detect them from deep in the forest. Even after all these years, one or two will try to rise up out of the ground, timidly sending out a leaf to test the way only to be mowed off in the middle of the night as if they don't have a right to live. So I've done the only thing I can if I want spring colour in my garden. I plant daffodils. Not a hardship by any means but they don't come in a huge array of colour like the beautacious tulip. But that's life and I have to work around the dietary requirement of the four legged creatures who treat my garden like a buffet.
Rhododendrons are another favorite but they don't stand a chance against the ravenous forest rats as my hubby commonly refers to the deer. I have to admit I'm consumed with envy when I drive by a yard boasting a lush Rhodie bush, heavily laden with blossoms. Deep rich purples are my favorites...be still my heart! The neighbour's bush, although still standing after being ravaged, is a bit of a dog's breakfast. At one point the shrub had been about seven to eight feet tall and at least ten feet in diameter and then in one felled swoop, the deer descended and chewed off every leaf along the bottom and middle so that now the only foliage is high up where they can't reach. An awful looking bush of bare branches with a thin canopy of flowers and leaves across the top. I guess Bambi Scissorhand was going for a topiary look but didn't have the skill to pull it off.
In the winter I don't have flowers as much, except on special occasions and holidays. Good quality flowers, such as you would purchase from a floral shop will last a very long time with proper care. Plants and flowers from grocery stores don't last as long and although cheaper they just don't give you the punch or bang for you buck. I have a good friend who owns Seaside Flowers in Lunenburg, NS. I do all my flower business through her, and I've never been disappointed. Deanna Gear, owner, is also one of the Main Street Hookers and has been rug hooking for several years now. She usually drops by on Saturday for a chat after her deliveries. I love her shop would like to give her a plug......one woman in business to another......so check out her website via the attached link. http://www.lunenburgflowers.com/
Sadly, my parents are both gone which makes me a fifty something orphan. I've joked about it for years, especially when someone comes into the shop and tells me they're in the process of hooking a rug for one of their children. I put on my sad face, pout my lower lip and whine how nice it would be to have a mom to hook a rug for me. Of course it brings on thoughts of my own mother who would have loved to learn this wonderful craft. She's been gone a long time, over twenty years, well before I started hooking, but I know that she would have been interested and hanging out with me in the shop, proud as Punch.
My mother tried a few handcrafts over the years from traditional embroidery to sewing. I'm sure she would have been thrilled with rug hooking. I would give my right arm to have her back, to get to know her as an adult and forge a lifelong friendship. I'm always jealous when women in their golden years say they've been out for lunch with or going to mom's house for Thanksgiving, Christmas etc. I think, why is there no happy balance....why couldn't my mom have lived longer? I suppose there are some people out there who would say I was lucky to have her as long as I did so I know things could be worse, but that doesn't lessen the pain I feel. Even after all these years I find it difficult to admit she is no longer here. I used to pretend she was still in our family home. I would drive by and look up and imagine my parents sitting in the kitchen in their comfy recliners watching TV or sitting at the table eating dinner. That worked for awhile but when the new owners painted the house yellow, it got harder to keep the fantasy going so I was left to deal with the reality that I was alone.
So I kid around and say I'm an orphan. I've told a number of people that I'm up for adoption, you'd think someone would take me up on my offer.....I would think I'd be a catch considering the stash of wool they would inherit along with me.....I come as a package deal! What rug hooker wouldn't want a kid with a wool store, why hell, I should be fighting them off in droves!
I guess it's all fun and games until someone gets hurt or it becomes awkward. One lovely lady said adoption wasn't an option but she would gladly hook a rug for me. So the joke backfired, I was only kidding and now someone was offering to hook a rug and I'm not the kind of person who can accept gifts graciously. Through circumstances beyond my control, I've been treated rather badly by people in my family and there have not been any acts of kindness without strings attached, so I have no personal education to draw on when someone wants to do something nice; it goes against my grain. I've only learned how to be a giver, not a taker, I like being generous, it gives me pleasure, it's well within my comfort range, but the reverse almost leaves me paralyzed with awkwardness.
The gift giver was Jean Morse, that sweetie I can't seem to stop talking about. But even with her, the fun of joking around crashed to a halt and I felt terrible that I might have somehow bullied her into hooking a rug for me. She didn't see it that way but I had a lump to swallow. No matter how much I refused, she insisted and I was mortified. I tried to let that lead brick drop, but she kept bringing it up and insisted I give her a pattern and dyed wool so she would hook it. She wore me down and quite frankly, it might have been the nicest thing anyone had ever done for me up to that point in my life; maybe it was a turning point and time to feel worthy of someone's kindness. Pathetic sounding I know, but it is what it is. Not all familial relationships are warm and fuzzy. So I designed a rug for hubby's study and dyed up the colours to match the room and Jean started the rug.
I've said many times before how much I cared for and admired Jean and I tried to bury the guilt of goading her into hooking the rug for me. It was never my intent to put anyone out, I just like to be funny. But you know, I think she really liked me as much as I liked her and I just had to accept graciously that someone was willing to do a nice thing for me. So that makes Jean's gift an even more treasured memory and every time I walk on or look at the rug I think of her. How she liked me enough to spend months working on a gift for me with no strings attached. That single act of kindness left a lasting impression and maybe I walk a little taller because of it. I've cooled the jets on whining about being an orphan but every now and then I bring it out and dust it off. I am a bit of a kidder and that will never change, but I draw the line on the sad face and pouty lip.
Nautical Runner was a lot of fun to colour plan. My hubby is big on sailing and his office is filled with half models and artwork of things on or around the water. He had a large stained compass rose on the floor already but a hooked compass design wouldn't be over the top and the stylized sea monsters added another feature to balance out the rug and the room. I had originally made a mood board but that is long gone so I put together a few chips and swatches to show the colour plan. Taking the colour palette from the study walls, trim and upholstery fabric made for easy choices and I invented dye formulas to match. Ganache was a new colour I created for the rope work and compass interior. Rust was also new and the Army green was a staple. I combined all three colours in a spot dye formula called Burnished Autumn for the compass background to tie it all together.
The Army green is used as three values, lighter for the background and medium and dark for the compass points and trim around the border. The third and darkest value was dyed over herringbone to add a bit of texture.
The Ganache rope was a 6 value swatch all dyed over natural. I used Antique Black for all the outlines, outside border of the compass and the outer border around the rug. Jean loved the colours so much that she hooked her next project using the leftovers.
The rust was also a three value swatch, with herringbone to add texture to the stylized sea monsters and striped border. It was with great pride that I positioned the rug in front of the French doors in its forever home. Sorry the pictures are not the best but you can see the rug is an important addition to the room.
A variation of the Log Cabin pattern. Clever!
The acorn hasn’t fallen far from the family tree. Sue Cunningham’s sister, Bev Brownlow, has proven to be another natural, taking to hooking like fish to water. She’s already completed her second piece in record time and as you can see, a lovely rug for the floor. Hmmmm....two sister’s with a wool addiction…that ought to be interesting. Sue’s very generous but she might have to padlock her stash or risk being picked cleaner than a roast chicken at a picnic. Tee hee!
They both hook very similar in style. Extremely neat and quick. I was impressed with the quality of Bev's first piece when Sue brought her into the shop for a few tips on technique. Just a few neat tricks and Bev was flying! I personally hook for speed and with a few corrections you can maximize your loop count per minute. Holding your hook a certain way can be the difference between hooking like a tortoise or a hare. If at any time you'd like to up your game, drop by the shop and I’ll show you the way I pull a loop and you can give it whirl.
It always amazes me how different people react to rug hooking. Some take it in stride; working on a project in their spare time, picking away happily until it's finished. Others are possessed, going at it with a fevered pitch; hooking as if their life depends on it. When they aren’t hooking; those times when they're forced to lay down their project to sleep, eat and function with family and friends, it’s never too far away from their thoughts. If you aren't hooking, you're thinking or talking about it!
The discovery of rug hooking actually changes lives, like waking a dormant passion; the feeling similar to falling hopelessly in love. I can see in the eyes of my students which ones are making a strong connection and which ones think it’s fun and something to do while watching TV. The difference between the two will be the extra room that needs to be built on to accommodate the stash that will grow like spraying compressed foam from a can.
Rug hooking is like no other craft. With other fiber arts, most don’t make up their own knitting patterns, design for and dye the yarn or floss for cross stitch or needle point projects, design and dye cottons for quilting. They work with what is available and usually follow instructions to a prepared kit or specification. But with rug hooking, you can work from scratch, draw your own pattern, dye your own wool and get down and dirty with the bones of the craft. Creating a rug is like conceiving a child and watching it grow. The end result, the rug, is like giving birth and we couldn't be more proud! Conceived, grown and delivered; hopefully in less than nine months.
Why we connect so with rug hooking is a bit of a mystery. I’m in the business and have witnessed a lot of passion, saw a lot of glints in the eyes of the hooked, but sometimes I ponder, what is the driving force behind it all. Hey, even though I am one of the hard core smitten, I still can't help but wonder the ‘why’ at times. Not that I look a gift horse in the mouth; it’s here and I’m so very grateful for Mary’s persistence in leading this sold mule to water and standing there until I took a drink. Sometimes I wonder what in heck I'd be doing if that window had never opened.
Maybe we are genetically predisposed to rug hooking through our ancestors. Their DNA is coursing through our bodies, why can't their passion for the craft be waiting there to be awakened. We are carbon based creatures so maybe we’re just carbon copies of those who came before us, recycling their inner most desire to create. We just pick up where they leave off and only think we're being original. There has to be some reason we fall hard and fast.....as if we’ve walked off a cliff to a soft, wool landing.
Cats In Hats by Jean Morse
This design was created for Jean Morse. She asked for some cats wearing hats and that’s what she got. She loved the pattern and once again she didn’t go more than a few days without popping into the shop to show me her progress. What enthusiasm she had. When the large French doors rolled back on their track and her smiling face emerged I knew it would be a a good day.
I mentioned once before that she never had a bad word to say about anyone but one day she dropped in after the guild hook-in wearing a bit of a scowl. I had to pry what happened out of her and after the words were spoken we both broke into side splitting laugh. A couple of rug hooking teachers told her they didn’t like the design, that the cats were pinheads. She loved the pattern, nothing would change that, but she resented the comments because they were unnecessary and hurtful to me. She told me that some of teachers had cooled toward her since she started coming to me for advice, designs and colour planning. Apparently the new kid on the block had inspired a bit of professional jealously. Well, I took that as an elephant sized compliment! Wow, seasoned rug teachers offended by little ole, wet behind the ears me! It seemed ridiculous and for want of a better thing to do, we laughed our socks off.
Pinheads…what a lovely new name for my folk art kitties! The trio was never meant to be serious, just a few cats boldly wearing hats, probably heading for lunch at Tiffanys. When was the last time you saw pear shaped, big bottomed cats, wearing a string of pearls and wide brimmed hats? They weren't meant to be serious, Just a bit of whimsy. Jean and I shared that private joke, we'd look at one another and I'd see that sparkle of mischief and we'd launch a new round of chuckles.
Mary hooked the design next. I loved the way Jean’s turned out but it was a gift for a family member so all I had left was a picture. I mentioned it would be nice to have the pattern hooked and on display in the shop and Mary took the challenge. Back then, both Mary and Susan Leslie helped me fill the shop walls with my hooked designs. I would give them a pattern, they would hook it to their own specifications and then I would buy the rug to hang on the wall to showcase the design. It as a win win situation as I didn’t have enough time fill the shop with hooked pieces on my own and I had a vision!
So Mary decided to portray the cats as members of the Red Hat Society and a clever idea it was. So she made the felines varying shades of purple and capped them off in red chapeaus. It made for a pretty fetching rug. The cats bold expressions have rich with personalities and the rug has served me well as a display piece, selling patterns and kits and is still hanging in the shop today. Except for that group of teachers, not one customer since has called my hatted cats pinheads.
Since then a number of people have hooked this pattern, each putting their own stamp on it. I’ve made several kits of dyed, carbon copies of Mary’s version but I do love to see different colour palettes, such as the two featured pieces by Janet Delo and Shirley Good below.
I’ve run into a a few problems over the years designing patterns but I’ve let it roll off my back. You have to look at the source and consider where the comment is coming from as to whether it’s constructive criticism or something caked with hidden agenda. One of the teachers that called my cats pin heads also told a student that another pattern of mine was riddled with design flaws and couldn’t be hooked, the now infamous "Away in the Manger" rug. I’ve talked about this before and I hooked the rug to prove that it could be done. I'm a bit temperamental about my work and don't like having it slagged off unfairly. But like I said you have to consider the source and judge accordingly.
So that leads to another story. I was in business for a few years when a woman dropped by the shop, someone I knew well and was respected as one of the matriarchs in the rug hooking community. She said she would like to have a ‘chat’ with me about something "we" are concerned about. The “we” indicated she was the appointed spokesperson of her group and the conversation went like this.
Woman - "Christine, We feel that you shouldn’t be designing oriental patterns."
Me - Hah? (to shocked to form a sentence)
Woman - “Yes, we feel that because you have never taken an Oriental rug hooking class, your knowledge of Oriental design isn’t enough to produce proper patterns."
Me – “I can draw and I can hook..... I think I'm capable of knowing if a design is hookable or not."
Woman – “Yes well, we feel that you should first take an oriental class before undertaking those particular designs. They are quite difficult.”
Me – Tell me, who am I supposed to be taking this oriental class from? It is abundantly clear your group only endorses Dorothy Height, who is no longer teaching, so please tell me, who am I supposed to be taking this class from?”
She sputtered a bit, didn’t have an answer so I continued.
Me – “You know as far as I’m concerned rug hooking isn't rocket science. If you want to make it
sound difficult that is perfectly fine but I don’t. And as far as my designs are concerned, they are meticulously drawn. I hook them in my head as I draw the lines."
I could tell that she was highly offended that I thought rug hooking wasn’t rocket science but always the lady, she took what I said gracefully and quietly replied. “We just thought you should know” and left me to work through what the hell just happened. It was a scratch your head moment, an out of the blue, slap on the hand.
I stood there utterly bewildered and let her words fully absorb. After a big shrug, I went back to my work table that just happened to have an Oriental drawing in progress. I didn’t blink an eye as I picked up my pencil and continued to create Blue Beijing.
I didn’t hold the little "chat" against her and until she passed away we were good rug hooking friends. The fact that I continued to design Oriental patterns was never verbalized again, but I was well aware how that group of "we" placed me on the rug hooking totem pole. Silly was the word that came to mind because I view rug hooking as fun; a craft; an outlet for creative thought, not world domination where you have conform to someone elses ideal. It's your prerogative if you want to think rug hooking is only for the Oriental, fine cut elite, and you can think you’re climbing Everest every time you hook a rug; just don’t tell me or anyone else for that matter, that they have to climb it as well.
Our new dye book is finally here! "Dye Me To The Moon"
Written Tuesday evening........
Well it’s started again. My old nemesis insomnia has come a calling. Is it a full moon or something? I had a brief reprieve but its back with a vengeance. I made the mistake of having a wee nap after work, not intentionally, just fell asleep after dinner and that might be the culprit, we’ll see if it repeats itself like a belly after beans.
Not being able to sleep is like having a broken blind. No matter how much you tug on the cord it won’t close. You play with it a bit but to no avail and finally give up trying. Then all of a sudden it comes crashing down and hits the window sill. At last sleep. But then of course you can’t get up in the morning, cause that’s when the body decides it’s time for rest and the body gets what the body wants.
So I tossed and turned and rolled around like a chicken on spit until I thought screw it, got up and went downstairs for my computer. It’s called a laptop and although I’ve never moved it from the dining room table I figured it was time to serve the purpose it was intended for. I purchased one of those things that keep the computer from overheating and burning out the motor from your lap heat and it comes with a mouse pad and a wrist rest, rather comfortable for typing actually…I see more writing in bed in my future. So I spent from 5:00 am to 6:30 am throwing down some thoughts and then decided if I could grab two hours before the alarm went off that would be enough to get me through the day. Well, the alarm went off and I was so deep in sleep I didn’t hear it. It runs for two hours and then shuts off automatically and interestingly I awoke after the booming voice stopped....I guess the stark quiet disturbed my brain. Luckily Chelsea is in helping me out a bit this week so the shop is open, but that’s a luxury I won’t be able to count on when I’m back to being a onesy. Aw well, maybe this is the time to take a breather as there’s a lot of year left ahead of me. This just might be all the vacation I get this year.
Earlier in the evening after my nap, I was watching a PBS broadcast about yoga for arthritically challenged people. There were lots of testimonials on how yoga is saving their bodies from atrophying. Older women in their late 80’s say they have no stiffness in their joints, no pain in their fingers even though they are disfigured with arthritis. I do believe in the benefits of yoga and might give it another chance.
I signed up for a local class a couple of summers ago but being a newbie I didn’t know the moves and hurt myself a bit. We were told not to force it or go further than our comfort level but I wasn’t instructed on the proper position of each move, thought it was fine, overdid it and was pretty sore. I would like to be shown how to property construct the moves, not be left to flounder on my own and figure it out by spying on the person next to you while trying to keep up. The instructor never left her position at the head of the class and that was okay for all the experienced people in the room but I didn’t know yoga from a hole in the wall and could have benefited with a bit of instruction. So my first experience with a class left me a bit cold but I am willing to give it another go with another instructor. There is a morning show on our local cable station that I should tape to try. Not being much of a morning person and not wanting the stress of the 7:30 deadline I'll just set the magical Eastlink cable box to record the show and watch it at my convenience...just like I do with my favourites.
I’m a fan of Coronation Street and watch it every evening with dinner, it records daily so I don’t have to be home at 7:30. I’ve been watching the show as long as I’ve been hooking, introduced to me by Mary Doig all of 14 years ago. I’m a bit disappointed that the show is now on par with England’s broadcasts as in the past we have been almost a year behind so there was always the ability to read ahead to get the skinny on what might be happening. Now you just have to wait and see. Like Christmas presents I always like a little sneak peek, especially if a story line is particularly juicy and I don’t want to wait for the next episode. Someone in England writes a blow by blow account of each episode and you can go online and read all 40 years’ worth of shows. Corrie fans are everywhere and in the past, our prime minister has postponed calling an election until after the show as not to pre-empt the broadcast and piss the country off. No politician wants disgruntled Corrie fans when they are after votes. Funny, to know the popularity and long running history, I can't seem to find many people who admit watching it.
For those of you who don’t know anything about the show it’s been running over 40 years and is nothing like regular North American soap operas. This is a show with a fast paced plot, if someone is murdered on Monday you pretty much know who did it by Friday. No year long suspense as the storyline is dragged out to infinity. Mt attention span likes the quick turn around but what attracts me the most is the clever comedic writing.
The past few years the show has seen a lot of change, taking a few hits to the older characters as they are either dying (sometimes in real life) or being replaced to attract the younger audiences. I
know things can’t stay the same forever but all the kids and on the show might make it more appealing to the younger viewers but I’m not a big fan of teenage drama. I’d prefer a few more murders on the street, maybe the offing of whiney Gail Platt. After all the losers she’s married you’d think one of them would have successfully bumped her off, because it's not from the lack of trying. She just doesn’t inspire any sympathy in me. She’s a nosy interfering biddy, the kind of neighbour I would hate in real life. Her sanctimonious attitude is what irks me but if the truth be told, her character is obviously doing something right to evoke that kind of annoyance so she's playing the part well.
She just got duped by the guy her mother was in love with and let me tell you, I’ll bet all of England cheered as she got her comeuppance. But she’s a flexible one, little less than a week later and her feathers are ruffled and she’s all righteous again. My mother always said, a skunk smells its own hole first, but she never does, somehow her own faults are lost on her. Now she’s hell bent on telling a secret that will destroy her children’s lives. Rich coming from someone who bends the rules for convenience, hers that is. How many women would try to run off with the love of their mother's life? She's pretty selfish on the loyalty scale, but God forbid someone else makes a mistake or she's on them like fleas on a dog. Yup, someone could bump her character off and I wouldn't blink.
Every now and then I swear I’ll stop watching the show and a couple of years ago I did for a year when we cut the cable in pursuit of a more active life…it was that or have the sofa surgically removed from my arse. I was becoming a pretty dedicated couch potato, wasting my life away while my brain turned to mush. I was wonderfully productive during that cableless period and I truthfully didn’t miss it. Like any addiction, remove the enticement and your focus is shifted elsewhere. But, somehow the cable got turned back on, someone must have phoned and had it reconnected…..
One aspect of Corrie I’ve always found amusing. No one in England, at least not the ones who have visited my shop will admit they watch it. During the first couple of years in business, I stupidly asked anyone with an English accent if they were fans of the show. Well, talk about getting the head bitten off, I was put in my place in no uncertain terms. One woman was so indignant she stuck her nose in the air and loudly showed proclaimed, “I’ll have you know that England is nothing like that!”
After several, much the same, responses, I kept my mouth shut. So much for trying to build a common denominator with a customer. Apparently no one over there watches the show, nor do they in Mahone Bay. The same thing happened when I queried some of the local imports. Once again, no one watches the show, and it’s an insult to be asked. I asked a neighbour and she totally dismissed me, but in a very lovely accent, and later when I asked her husband if she was in as I had something for her, he told me that you couldn't pry her from the TV with a crowbar when Coronation Street was on, so come back later. So I've uncovered yet another closet corrie fan. But why lie? Where’s the shame? I’d be more ashamed to admit I watched Honey BooBoo (and I don't!) Corrie’s a classic, the oldest running soap opera in the world, with very clever writers. Why lie?
It’s like country music. No one will admit listening to it but it’s boosts the highest grossing sales of all the music genres. Turning defensive as if listening to a bit of George Jones makes you an inbred, county bumpkin. I think there are worse things in life than worrying if someone will find out you enjoy a bit of twang. I’m not ashamed to admit it, I love country music, like Barbara Mandrel I was raised on a steady diet of country. The old style, turkey in the straw, hurtin kind. The old joke what do you get when you play country music backwards?…you get your wife back, you get your house back, you get your truck back, your dog back….
I grew up in a house of music. Every Saturday night there was a jam session. My father was a self taught, amateur musician who played a bit of honky tonk piano, guitar, mouth organ and fiddle. He played by ear alongside Fiddling Jim Hamn, Little Buddy and Austin Younis with his steel guitar and accordion. Our house vibrated with a country hum. I would lie on my belly till the wee hours of the morning watching the party through the register vent in my bedroom. Too nosy to miss a thing, I would linger until my body was numb and I’d inhaled a cartons worth of
cigarette smoke. Adults had so much fun back then, kitchen parties, dancing, drinking and singing to the old time favorites and laughing like there was no tomorrow.
I got my first guitar for Christmas at age 12. My father gave me my first lesson which yielded the basics to play Tennessee Waltz, Bouquet of Roses and then Please Release Me Let Me Go. You can play a lot of songs with a magic trio of G, A7 and D. I was a soft strummer, quiet and shy just like my personality. It was evident that I wouldn't be blazing any blue grass trails but my friend Cheryl Benedict and I both played together and sang in a talent contest at the Legion. We wrote and performed a tune called “Candy Cone Mountain”, I can’t remember any of the words but it was probably hokey and love related. Being two wallflowers, neither of us had any experience with boys or with romantic love so maybe the title of the song was the only good part. We didn’t win but we had fun and there’s a picture somewhere to commemorate the evening, The other memory is wearing the brand new pheasant blouse hot from my mother's sewing machine. I often wonder where Cheryl is these days, I think of her often. We were best buds for a couple of years; if I close my eyes I can see her face as if it was yesterday. If she walked in my shop today I would recognize her step and her voice.
So I started out with a bit of insomnia and then jumped to yoga, then touched on Corrie which led to country music in just a few sentences. Now there’s a weird bridge. That’s why playing with words is so much fun; one word leads to another and a whole bunch more and all of a sudden you have a story.
68 1/2" x 31" A perfect runner for our hall.
So this is my Oriental effort. Such a pretty pattern and would be so lovely in our home. Now that I dug it out I'm feeling warm and fuzzy again. There's a lot left to do but I could make an effort to pick away at it. Maybe the hooking fairy will drop by or maybe I should be hooking instead of writing when insomnia steals my night.
I have bags of wool for this piece stuffed away in some corner, I should have a look around. I hadn't totally worked out the colour placement for the border but they will be the blues, green, red and gold of the tiny stripped border. I see there is a bit of one of the shous to do and some of the blue here and there. Yes, this would be lovely and I would have a grand sense of accomplishment to have this puppy finish and off the bucket list.
If only I could clone myself. I would get to do all the exciting stuff and I'd give my double all the crap jobs and then when I need a couple of kidneys or a heart, well so long, it's been a slice!
As Ginny closes in on the center of this rug I am overcome with desire to hook it myself. Once she hits the outside border I might swoon under the sheer weight of my
lust. You hear comments about artwork speaking to the soul, well this pattern is screaming at mine. What makes it difficult is that I look at the rug and I know I could be there, I could be keeping up with Ginny loop for loop but it’s a tough reality when the time just isn’t there. I’m a working girl and Ginny’s is now retired so she has the time to dedicate a portion of each day to her passion. For now, I’ll just have to live vicariously through her, seeing this beauty progress until the day I am able to tackle it myself.
I have a copy of the pattern that we made a booboo on and can’t sell, so the plan is to hook it and I’ve made a promise to myself to do just that even though it might be after I retire. These days hooking is all about the shop, demos for kits and window displays. I find very little time to hook for my own pleasure, my home. I think people are quite surprised to find out my house isn’t heavy laden with handmade rugs. I’m a bit ashamed to admit there are only two, a compass rose and one I designed for one
of the spare bedrooms called Courtyard. I have the large rug, Catch of the Day but it will remain in the shop for a few years as a demo to sell the pattern and later will find its forever home in my hubby’s study.
Sometimes I feel sad but as I’ve stated so many times before, it’s like the carpenter house that’s never finished. I am so immersed in all the other aspects of rug hooking I’m worn out by the time I get home. I’m not complaining nor do I want to sound bitter, I've accepted my lot in life, but every now and then I get a twinge of envy as I see the spark in the eyes of those who have started a new project or just completed one. The pride of accomplishment, the beauty of the finished rug, the pleasure of displaying the heirloom in its forever home. I believe "he who hesitates is lost", so I hope arthritis doesn't set in cutting my rug hooking retirement short. A hooker without working fingers is like a pianist without hands.
Not hooking as much as one would like is one of the downsides of being in the rug hooking supply business. Maybe others have it better with partners to help to manage the workload or a slew of employees to take care of the mundane, freeing up time for a bit of pleasure along the way, but I am a one man show and when it comes down to it, accounting, designing and kit making and all else that keeps the door open is the bread and butter of the business, so you see, I don’t have time to make or indulge in cake. Maybe I’m a low level energy person, maybe I should get my thyroid checked or take a pill so I could zoom around like a machine, become super woman, extend my 12 hour work day to 16 and do everything on my bucket list. Yep, there’s a lot of rugs to be hooked on that list, I just hope I live long enough to check them all off.
Any piece I would hook for my home would be small cut, probably an Oriental or Persian design and a sizable long term commitment. The little projects I polish off in an evening or two are great for the shop and fulfill that need to hook but I’m realistic about starting anything large as it will just get pushed back as life commands my attention until it becomes a curse to find the time to finish.
I’m speaking from experience. I started an Oriental a few years back. The entire Wednesday Main Street Hookers group decided to hook an Oriental rug. Lois Sweeney and Mary Doig, both schooled under the tutelage of Dorothy Height at the NS Rug Hooking Guild School in Truro, were our mentors and like horses at the gate, we all began in an enthusiastic running start.
My eyes have always bigger than my stomach so I designed a large hall runner for our home, with Chinese Shou symbols down the length of the center and pagodas along the border. As always, I went gang busters and almost completed the center field. I worked in a #3 cut and quite frankly it went pretty quickly so the bulk of the rug was done in a three week period with only the multiply borders remaining. Thank goodness, being a realist, I announced before I pulled the first loop that it would be a ten year project, just to save myself the embarrassment of not reaching the finish line. I think I’ve exceeded that decade so it might be time for a new deadline. All but Shelley and I have finished and I see she’s putting a push on to complete hers so maybe I’ll have to dig it out and try to revive the passion I had when I first started. I think I might stray from the #3 requirement just to cut the time down, probably move up to a #4 to add a bit of speed. It would hardly make a difference to the eye and quite frankly I don’t have the time to be a purist. Git er done is more my philosophy these days.
I dyed the field of the rug to look like faded denim. The other colours are taken from the large rug in our living room. If I could do it over I would have made a rug for the front door area instead, which might be where I put “Alice” hooked in the same colours as my Oriental. The long runner was to be dedicated to a heavy traffic area and now with four dogs it might not be the best idea although ten years ago I hadn’t started collecting poodles!
I called the design Blue Beijing and several people have hooked it so I know the end result will be stunning. Each person choose totally different colour palettes but a beautiful rug by any other colour is just as sweet.
Maritime Squares design by Susan Leslie, hooked by Adena Clark
Susan Leslie would be smiling today. Seeing one of her patterns, “Maritime Squares” hooked in such a delightful way.
Adena Clark hooked this piece for her daughter Monica who lives out west in Alberta. I really like the fact that she branched out from the typical nautical blues of Susan’s rendition to use a more colourful palette.
Traditional hit and miss is always a show stopper for me. I love the use of multiple colours, little hits of this and that as if spray painted with a well shaken can. Like a chameleon, I believe hit and miss rugs connect nicely with any room’s décor. For added interest she switched up the direction of the hit and miss squares, keeping a pattern of horizontal and then vertical. A whale tail, a mermaid on a rock, various sea birds, a ships’ wheel, lighthouse, compass rose and starfish combine for an interesting array of nautical images that would make anyone long for the Maritimes. Every time you look at this piece you discover something new.
She personalized the rug by taking out the sand dollar that was in the top right hand corner and substituted it with a field of lupines, her daughter’s favorite. This rug was actually picked out by her daughter as a vestige of home.
Adena used #6 cut with some yarn, old shirts, jackets and new wools. I'll bet she got to use up a lot of odds and ends. She relayed really enjoying making this rug for her youngest daughter. She only started this piece the middle of February so it hooked up quickly. I only just sent her a Black Tie Bundle last week and she said it was perfect for the seagull square.
This rug was initially designed by Susan for the Firehouse Hookers as a fundraiser. Her group all contributed to the hooking. This was a yearly activity to give back and support the fire hall where they hooked every Sunday afternoon. On a couple of occasions Mary and I drove to Black Point to hook with the group. Susan was also in charge of the Annual Rug & Quilt show held at the fire hall that I attened with my shop to sell rug hooking supplies. It was always a fun filled day surrounded by so many talented fiber artists.
If you wish to purchase this pattern click on Susan's page for the details:
To view patterns click the link - http://www.encompassingdesigns.com/sue-cunningham.html
So here are three seafaring pillows hooked by Sue Cunningham. Done in beautiful marine colours these rug toppers are the perfect compliment to a nautical themed décor for home or yacht! Rich navy backgrounds hint of deep sea and pop the mythical characters into full focus. Curly mermaid manes flow in the ocean’s current and the whimsical circles add to the feel of movement.
A pillow is a fun item to hook. You can do so much with a pillow sized rug. Make a chair seat, hang it on the wall, rest it on a trunk, coffee table or use it as a chair cushion for your home. It's rewarding to treat yourself with a smaller project after completing a larger rug, and if you are into selling your hooked items, small trumps large any day. A tourist with limited room in their suitcase will happily pay for a smaller piece, not just for the cost but also its packability. A set of coasters, a trivet, chair pad or pillow will fit nicely among folded clothing without creating a lot of extra weight.
The airlines haven’t done much to help the retailer in this country. Placing strict weight limitations on luggage can prevent supporting local businesses. I hear it all the time…"I'm packed to capacity, I really want this but I can’t go over the 50 kg limit!"
So unfortunately, tourism dollars aren’t what they used to be. A word of advice, if you want to go into the retail business find smaller, lighter items to sell, something that fits in the pocket, purse or carry on. Larger items are often bypassed for the smaller keepsake. Only a few of your customers will opt to have the item shipped home, 95% of them will just walk away. Years ago, you sold more items during the tourist season than all year long, helping you to get over the slump of the leaner months. It’s not like that anymore. Between recessions and paying for extra baggage, the traveler is less about consuming and more about window shopping.
So back to the pillows. Who doesn’t love a good pillow. Beautiful to look at and comfort for the head. They hook quickly, in two or three days to a week so there’s instant gratification for your toil. And as for gift giving, it’s much easier to give a project away when it worked up quickly.
Finishing the pillow can be as easy as hooking it. Apparently the idea first came from Linda Ruth and Pam Haughn shared it with our group. This clever idea sure changed the groan factor to WOW when sewing a back on a pillow. There aren’t any buttons to fuss with or button holes to create, because they’re already there! It’s ‘sew’ easy and another way to recycle those fabulous Pendleton shirts.
Easy Steps to the Perfect Pillow Back
Step 1 – When hooking the border on your pillow, Sue suggests hooking one extra row of loops all around the outside...use a #6 or larger cut. This is the row you will sew the backing to.
Step 2 - Find a complimentary coloured Pendleton shirt (maybe even use a bit of it in the front of the pillow for a custom appearance or you can dye the shirt to match the existing wools), button it up and cut out the square you need for the size pillow you have. If the shirt has a pocket on it you can leave it on or carefully remove it with a seam ripper. If you are making a 16" x 16" pillow you would cut 17”x 17” square out of the shirt to back it.
Step 3 – Assuming you have already steamed and ziz-zagged 3/4”- 1” out all around your hooked pillow top cut it out, place the right size of the hooking with the right side of the placket and pin together. Usually the buttons will run horizontally across the middle of the pillow so make sure it’s in the right position.
Step 4 - Now work from the hooked side and run the pillow through the sewing machine staying in the center of that last row of loops. The two pieces will be thicker than what you normally sew through so make sure the tension is set properly so there isn’t any bunching and pulling on the shirt placket underneath as it goes through the machine. Hooking directly on the loop will prevent gaps when you turn the pillow inside out and no backing will show on the edge.
Step 5 – After you have sewn around the entire pillow cut each corner off, leaving at least 1/2" so you don’t have a lot of bulk when you turn the pillow right side out. Unbutton the placket, turn the pillow right side out, steam press and bulkiness out, insert your pillow form and voila you have the easiest pillow imaginable. No sewing the usual gap shut that you forced the pillow form into. No sewing on buttons or making those dreaded button holes. You have a pillow that opens easily and it is very attractive to view. Your pillow will look professionally put together if you are selling in a boutique or impressing a loved one.
Tip – If backing shows anywhere around the edge use a coloured marker and rub it along the exposed burlap or linen. Markers come in all sorts of colours so you can match pretty much any shade. Especially if the border was hooked in dark colours a bit of burlap or linen peeking through can be off putting.
Also, don’t turn your nose up at a linen or cotton placket; this is a way to recycle any shirt front. Just because the rug is hooked in wool doesn’t mean it has to be wool everywhere. As long as the colour is a match, any material can be used.
While off sick I watched Dr. Oz show. This seem like a great three day cleanse to eliminate harmful toxins, restore your system, and reset your body. All you need is 3 days, a blender and $16 a day! Take the shopping list to the store to stock up on the super foods you will need. All items are easily found at your local supermarket.
I've detoxed over the years and they are usually more involved and for longer durations. I think three days would be a breeze. Most of the woman who tried this also lost an average of 5 lbs and inches off the waste.
Well, I’ve crawled from my bed and see the light at the end of the tunnel. I'm at work today but it's a slow deal. I coughed so hard last night I did something to my hip so I'm a bit gimpy and maybe a tinge grumpy. The simple cold with the odd sniffle and sneeze of our youth is no longer what's attacking us.....this was full on war. Like some sort of political germ warfare. I wouldn’t offer this to my worst enemy. Well, maybe just one or two…...
The nose has stopped dripping but remains plugged...thickening means there’s an end in sight. Yah! I’m coughing more than sneezing now, and I've been watching for signs that it's traveling south to my lungs, so far so good. My throat is as rough as an unpaved road so I sound pretty gravelly when I speak, like a hard core, 100 year old smoker. I’m drinking copious amounts of water to hydrate my poor chapped lips and flush this crap out of my system and I’m downing green tea with Lemon like there's no tomorrow. So that's where I am health wise.
While convalescing I watched a bit more TV than normal, there being nothing else to do. And now I feel compelled to rant bit. I guess that's a sign I'm on the mend.
Off and on, in between naps on the sofa, I would awaken to shows in progress. Things that would normally not appeal to me but I didn’t have the grey cells to concentrate on anything I had to follow closely. One of the channels had a series of attention getters, giant tumours, a man with only half a body, the Bubble Man and other medical abnormalities that people have to endure. I like being informed but this sort of programming always makes me a bit angry. I just wish they are done for more altruistic reasons, instead of being about shock value and ratings. I’ve always felt the main reason for these documentaries and the so called ‘reality’ shows is exploitation. Cheaply made shows where they don’t have to pay actors to fill time slots.
They search until they find the strangest misfortunes, stomp through their lives and then walk away. Sometimes there's the benefit of surgery to improve or save their lives and other times not. Regardless of the outcome, these a whole lot of homing in on the suffering and focusing on the abnormality; showing the same shots over and over, zooming in during the operation to show all the bloody gore, finishing with a shot of the result and then you never hear of these people again. If there was an update on their condition down the road I might have a better opinion as to the reason it was done in the first place but there never is. These people are mainly used for our shock and entertainment and quite frankly, I’m angry where television is going with its peep show mentality.
Just like all those true crime shows, they are meant to shock without much regard for the grieving families of the victims. We live in a society that is fed a steady diet of infamous serial killer’s but not one of us know any victims names. Times have changed; it seems we have become so desensitized by violence and death that we need even more gore to be put off our popcorn. Another show I watched was “Criminal Minds”. When the show first aired I used to be a fan, until I got grossed out as they wrote in more sadistic plots and showed dead bodies ripped and mutilated. Now I know they aren’t real bodies but they are fairly well done and can sometimes cause a shudder down the spine and a quick check to make sure the doors are locked. Also, what happened to the code that women and children are never defiled or killed? Everything is fair game in a crime show these days, its a no holds barred, no taboo world.
And speaking of children, they no longer have the strict bed time cut offs that were enforced in my generation. Teenagers and God forbid even younger, impressionable minds are watching these shows…what kind of message we are sending them? Maybe in a few years cutting the eyelids off of a woman, and legs sawn off one body and sewn on another won’t bother me, I’ll be so desensitized I’ll need a higher level of depravity to turn my head away. There is no longer a story for the sake of a story; it’s just patches of unimaginable gore to hold our attention while less interesting filler plugs the gaps in between. Maybe I’m cynical but I’m growing tired of paying for cable when it offers little in the way of real entertainment, just show after show of frightful murders and dismembered bodies.
And then I have a beef with all this Reality TV. It offends me in so many ways. It's all riddled with questionable motives and believe me, there isn’t that much reality. Regular lives aren’t that exciting; it’s all scripted for entertainment value. Maybe the networks should check what the words 'real' and 'reality' mean in the dictionary. Maybe these people aren’t memorizing lines but they are adlibbing their way through the show following a guideline. As far as I am concerned, Survivor, the granddaddy of all this reality craze, was the ruination of TV.
On occasion I’ve joked around about pitching a rug hooking reality show to the networks, but of course it would have to be altered and scripted. No one would want to watch a bunch of lovely, talented women showing passion for fiber art. We could call the show “Big Sister”, a shut in group of controversial hookers held up in a house, stealing each other’s wool, being critical of each other’s work, copying designs, undermining and back stabbing, vying for power, cat fights over a piece of plaid, brawls and trucker language. Maybe let the women out every now and then so they could bribe judges at juried shows, sleep with each other’s fellers or carry a baseball bat to second hand stores to gain the upper hand for a piece of recycled the wool. And all for the big prize, a trip to the Dorr Mill Store for all the wool they can carry…..(Hey, maybe you wouldn’t have to script that kind of reaction for a prize like that!) So how would that be for a reality show..…just like real life right? Of course not!!! But that’s the only way to grab today’s audience. No one, except you and me, wants to watch a rug hooking show where everyone is nice to one another, trading ideas and sharing wool, showing support and complimenting each other on their work. That kind of goody-two-shoes pilot wouldn’t make it out of the can unless of course it was a low budget, local cable show that no one cared about.
Reality shows need an edge and most real lives aren’t that exciting, at least not enough to fill show after show, week after week. Without the added spice it would be like watching paint dry. Real life is now designer TV with edgy, off the wall people, foolish, fame hungry, pot stirring, Hatfield and McCoy types, that’ll slap you as quick
as look at you.
There aren’t any June Cleaver role models anymore. To spin a reality show you have to hunt and kill something…like a gater, blow something up, compete over cakes and pastries; be obnoxious with the table manners of pigs, be a group of spoiled, cosmetically enhanced housewives, scream at chefs to perform impossible tasks under pressure , or be potty mouthed and scrappers. And then all those shows where they take thousands of people and dangle the fame carrot in front of them only to snatch it through a mass elimination. Does anyone give a second thought or care about the people they cut, throw off or send to the box truck baby? All those broken dreams and hopes crushed; collateral damage just to entertain us. Some of those shows feature real people, like you and me, hoping for a break in life, hoping to live the “dream”, but they were all just pawns, used to make money and are then cast aside without a care.
Sure one lucky person always wins, but does that balance out all the pain and devastation of those who lose? When I watch those shows I think of controversial books such as the “The Hunger Games”, and George Orwell’s 1984. Shows like American Idol, The Voice and the X Factor, to name a few, really aren’t all that far removed. Remember the Colosseum? The blood soaked arena? Wasn’t that a last man standing sort of show?
Controversy is what sells TV. Watching these contestants crumble and cry as their dreams go up in smoke is entertainment. They make sure they stick that camera in for the close-up of the dream ripped apart. But interestingly, you usually don’t see the level headed contestant who accepts their fate quietly, no they push the camera at the one who is more likely to punch out the camera guy, chase them down for a comment. Are we now so bored with our own lives that we have become a voyeuristic society that views the humiliation and suffering of others entertainment?
Sorry, I'll get down off my soap box....maybe it's all the phegm. There's so little on TV worth watching these days....it's a sad reality!
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