When I first started rug hooking I was as green as Kermit and ignorant of its rich, local history. Truthfully I’d never seen a homemade hooked rug before. My introduction to the craft came from watching my friend Mary pulling wool through what seemed like impossibly small holes. After being treated to a lovely meal, we would converge on the living room where Mary would haul out her hooking paraphernalia and we'd carry on chatting while I watched her work. To me, it looked like just another stupid craft and although I have nothing against crafts, I was just coming down from a very bad relationship with cross stitch and was a bit on the jaded side. Although the finished product was desirable, the work to get there wasn’t. By the time I got to the halfway point of anything significant, I was cross eyed and bored. I tried needlepoint, a Blue Willow tea cosy that is half completed and now buried in the back of a closet or trunk somewhere. Theoretically needle point should have gone a lot faster considering the wool was thicker than DMC floss and only required making half of the cross, but that was a yawner as well. My poor house was bare of handmade finery and I had to accept that I was going to be craft challenged.
My hubby worked in Africa for a few years and we accumulated a collection of hand carvings so I came up with the idea of an animal print/jungle themed bedroom. Back then, items with animal prints were expensive, few and far between and considered a bit risque. Nowadays you can find animal prints on just about anything, even baby clothe, and they no longer hold any sexual connotation. All I wanted was a bed mat to keep my feet off the cold floor while I groped around for my slippers and of course, more important, a designer look to complete the room. Doesn’t
that always trump comfort? I guess I grumbled a bit, or as Mary might recall, whined incessantly, so she offered a helpful solution to shut me up. The suggestion? To design and hook a rug. Well, that was about the dumbest idea ever, no offense to Mary, and I rebuked it for quite some time but I finally warmed to the idea and found myself wandering around Frenchies in pursuit of the wool I would need. Sometimes I think my butt plays landlord to a permanent horseshoe.
Not only did the first shopping trip yield all the wool needed to do the rug, but the beige was a perfect match for the paint on the bedroom walls. Mary provided the cutting service, I
bought some burlap and a hook, sketched out the pattern, transferred it to the back and was off to the races. Not only was I going to get the rug I always wanted, I was going to hook it in record breaking time so I would never have to do it again! That was the plan…I was going to be a one rug wonder, say I had the T Shirt and move on. But, as you know, fate had other plans for me.
The night I pulled my first loop is a bit fuzzy so I’ll try to piece the events together to the best of my recollection. I distinctly recall settling into my favorite wing back chair sometime round 9:30 after all the dishes were washed and put away, the house was tidy and my favorite TV show was about to begin. I pulled the first loops, about a square inch worth and then things start to get lost. I do recall thinking I might be having fun, it seemed easy enough and progressed fairly quickly. I planned to go to bed many times but then I would say to myself, I’ll just do this little bit to see how it will look and then maybe this could be done. The work progressed so quickly I was driven to complete more and more, losing all concept of time in the process. Maybe there was something more to this rug hooking than meets the eye?
I do recall hubby heading off to bed around midnight, asking if I planned to join him and my comment was yes, I'll be right there, but after that pretty much everything is a blur. I came out of a glorious funk when the sun peeked over the horizon, flooding the room with a pinkish
glow. My swollen eyes were red and tired, my horseshoe butt fused into the chair beneath a back that had seized like a rusty bolt. Only my arms and hands were functioning and they were sore as if I gone several rounds in the ring with a featherweight. Despite the aches and pains of sitting in one position for ten hours straight, the euphoria was amazing, the closest I’ve ever been to being high. (I missed the 70's and 80’s being married young and working on my domestic goddess so what did I know?)
So, I napped a bit during the day, while hubby held down the fort and then I hooked all night long for the next two nights in a row. That pace was feverishly wild and maybe that best describes my experience, but all good things in moderation, the passion I felt had to level out. Rug hooking opened a creative door; I embraced it with open arms and allowed it to take up permanent residency. The experience was incredible. The possibilities this craft implied were mind boggling and to think I almost passed it by like a scraggly hitchhiker on the side of the road.
So thanks to you Mary for not giving up on me! I’m a hard nut to crack sometimes, it’s part of my charm. Not only did she give me a creative pastime but it led to an occupation as well. I
had suffered for years with environmental sickness and could no longer work in an office environment. The calling came and within a year I had a business in the front room of
my home, selling compass rose designs and the odd this and that. Like the weeds in my garden it grew bigger than I could have imagined and now I have a wonderful studio filled with items hookers drool over. So if you like me, when you next see Mary, give her a slap on the back and say “Good show!” If you don’t like me, well…be kind.
And how does one thank a person for changing the direction of their life? Hallmark doesn’t cover that sort of thing but we came up with a plan and set Mary up with Peter, this guy I knew from way back when, and they would later marry. Now we can’t take credit for the marriage, I think they put in the hours on that one, but sometimes all it takes is a small seed planted in the right soil.
So now I’m getting to the poignant part of this story. When my rug progressed to the point where it draped over the frame and rested on my legs, I was struck with a very powerful feeling that I had done this before. It had something to do with the weight of it and the warmth on my
knees. I knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that I had hooked before, even though my intellect argued the contrary. The feeling came out of the blue, was gone in a flash but imprinted itself on my brain forever.
Many years later, we were cleaning out my great Aunt Hazel’s house after she had fallen, broken a hip and was now permanently residing in a nursing home. She had lived in the family home, my great grandmother’s house, her entire life and the dwelling was like a walk back in time.
Hazel was a hoarder, bless her cotton socks, just like the ones featured on TV, so nothing ever went out the door but plenty came in. Among the hundreds of boxes, wrapped in brown paper, then waxed paper and tied with string, I discovered three very old hooks fashioned from pieces of
cutlery, one hooked rug in very good repair and an unhooked burlap pattern. Thrilled with the discovery, I was holding the objects when the memory of that déjà vu moment came flooding
back. I was holding the same hooks handled by my great grandmother! That got me thinking. If my great grandmother had been a rug hooker and we share the same DNA, why couldn’t that moment have been her experience, not mine? We are the sum of many parts. Our DNA is encoded with the characteristics of our ancestors, a plausible explanation for Déjà vu. Maybe I was just channeling a glimmer of her past that is ingrained deeply in the DNA of my cells. I read somewhere that scientists now believe that cells are imprinted with memories so why can’t they be passed from person to person through a bloodline? It makes me feel
special having a connection with an ancestor, someone who died long before I was
born. So no wonder I fell hook, line and sinker, head over heels in love with rug hooking, my great grandmother made me do it!