Sunday, May 31, 2015

Nature's Bounty

I am simply amazed by the bounty of beautiful blooms that have erupted this May, it's been quite a display. We got our flower and garden fix when we visited Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA earlier this month, but noticed when we got home that things were looking pretty lush and vibrant in our own gardens.

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We got home in time to see our Crabapple trees in bloom and the Azalea bush our daughter got us years ago.

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Some of the perennials that had been planted years ago really are thriving as well, to my surprise.

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You really have to persevere with your plantings every year, as you never know what will endure the long cold winters we have. Nature's bounty has been rich. So glad this Bleeding Heart is's the small things.

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I am always cautiously optimistic about what will show up in the rock terraces every spring. The Jonquils are thriving, as are the Lupines and a clump of Heather. I just planted the Day Lillies, adding a nice pop of color. The trick is to plant things that can get enough sun to get established before the leaves come on the surrounding far, so good.

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I love these irises that were given to me, this is the second good year of blooms...

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I have planted 70 Gladiola bulbs due to blossom mid August, always love the mystery of colors that I get!
I have planted many more perennials that I look forward to blossoming this year.

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Next up will be Hydrangeas, Foxglove, Black-eyed Susans and who knows. I'll take whatever Nature's Bounty has to offer.

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While I have taken a little break from rug hooking to enjoy the yard and flowers, do some planting, and get the outside areas ready for barbeques and swimming, I am ready to resume hooking my autumn themed rug to have complete by September.
I will tell you about it next post...meanwhile enjoy the beauty around you.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Productive day

After a few days away with my husband, traveling to beautiful Lancaster County PA, I feel recharged and ready to explore another tool of blogging. Sometimes it's productive to step away from something, and return later ready for the challenge.
While "on the road" I was requested to rug hook three chair pads, which I happily accepted. So between hooking and preparing to attend Green Mountain Rug Hooking School, I am all abuzz with excitement to begin my new project. 
This "Royal Queen Bee" is a stunner, a little hooked mat perfect for the counter, to hang on an old cupboard door or wall. I finished with a lined back and hand sewn artist label on back.

 photo 2015-04-20 18.46.46_zpsyw52iqof.jpgItem #RQB $75.00

The fun part of rug hooking is using what you have and coordinating a color scheme that compliments your motif. It has been awhile since I hooked anything designed by another artist. I really like drawing up my own motifs, as the ideas come to me.
This spring I came up with a few motifs that I really feel captured the anticipation of Spring. This one is entitled "Sheep on Mountain" which features a piece of Gotland Lambs Wool from a vintage coat sleeve.

 photo 2015-02-11 17.18.14_zpshtidbuqm.jpg Item # SOM  $75.00

Having grown up with many pets, such as sheep, rabbits, chickens, goats, ducks, and geese, just to name a few, I thought this little mat entitled "Peep Chick Sitter" depicting a baby chick perched atop Mother Hens eggs captures the Springtime activity of baby chicks  hatching.

 photo e558cbb3-a5d4-4aaf-9452-4a3855b4c7ee_zps5snuiufj.jpg Item # PCS  $60.00

I love the peaceful feeling of a gentle cuddly rabbit. This little mat is entitled "Cotton Tail Rabbit" and features a bunch of carrots in each corner. Perfect for hanging on a wall or door or on a sideboard cupboard. Use all year round or as Spring décor.

 photo 2015-03-23 22.12.57_zpsq9shaygx.jpg  Item #CTR $75.00

For a little bit of whimsy, I hooked two baby chicks scratching around in the pen entitled "Spring Fever". Blue skies, weathered fence, freshly blossomed flowers and two peep chicks basking in it all. Perfect mat for a farmhouse table or stand or can be hung on the wall. Makes a great gift.

 photo 2015-03-28 15.23.49_zpsy2lscifl.jpg Item # SF    $65.00

All of these hand hooked rug mats measure 10 1/2" x 9" and come with a hand sewn artist label on the back.

I have loved hens and roosters since building our own home and have used them everywhere in my décor. This was my rendition of a Rhode Island Red Hen perched upon her nest. This little mat is sold, but wanted to feature it as part of my spring inspired hooked mats on todays' blog.

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Have a great day and thanks for dropping in, hope you'll leave a comment before you continue with your day. 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Blogging Good Time

It's funny how you can bump into people, I don't mean at the grocery store or running an errand. I mean on the web, I recently re-united with a friend via blogging, we were able to contact each other via email and get together! She is an energetic, resourceful, vibrant woman who is doing what she loves in her beautiful home and studio. It was great to visit her and she was so generous to share blogging tips with me.
As any blogger knows, sometimes you just hit a dead end, technically that is. I will always be able to blog about something. So a big thank you to Hilary from for your assistance and time. I look forward to bumping into you again anytime, anywhere.

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It's a push today to plant annuals before Mother's Day, so I'm heading outside to the rock garden and terraces I built 20 years ago. (Thank you to myself, even if it did ruin my poor feet). Happy Mother's Day to all of you busy ladies out there.

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Making a list of flowers to get for this space...

Friday, May 8, 2015

Another Beautiful day to be outside

Before heading outside to continue sprucing up the outdoor spaces, I just wanted to share some of my indoor projects that I worked on through the long cold winter. All were my own idea and just things that inspired me since my recent retirement.

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After many years of "thinking about hooking", once retired everything clicked. I thanked myself for how I had prepared myself for "my time". Although the house was getting cluttered and chores were getting behind, my hooking stash was organized and ready for me. It was so easy to just pick up where I left off. Just like being with an old friend, no matter how much time goes by, you always pick up where you left off. 
Enjoy, and feel free to comment. Hope you have a productive day, whether indoors or out.

First Project...25 years ago

So, getting back to blogging...
I was thinking about the early days of acquiring a van load of wool from a dear friend who was cleaning out her attic. She had been interested in sewing and quilting and recycling, which go hand in hand, but knew that I had expressed a desire to learn to braid a rug. She invited me to her house with the intent that I would be taking some wool off of her hands. So, my sister in law and I took her van and literally filled it to the brim with boxes, bags and tall cardboard canisters filled with all manners of wool--from coats, clothing, hand dyed pieces safety pinned together intended for rug hooking (which I didn't even know about yet). I can't even describe the sense of excitement we felt about this trip, but it was intermingled with dread as to where and how to store all of this treasure. What would my husband think? Where would I begin to organize it all? After all, my friend had just emptied her attic!
There were wonderful old coats with big ornate buttons and the cutest wool skirts and jackets that looked adolescent sized. There were handmade and brand name clothing, some Woolrich and Pendleton. Some pieces were so nice I didn't want to cut them up. A few wool skirts even fit me, which I hand washed and wore...colorful plaid skirts!
So, having just built our post and beam house, I decided to drag everything into the basement, we started emptying the boxes, bags and canisters. We found large balls of multi-threaded cotton of all colors...I crocheted many round striped rugs with them. They appeared to have come from a factory of some kind. I gave my sister in law as many woolens as she wanted to take. I started disassembling the clothing, cutting out the linings, removing the buttons and pocket linings, snaps, zippers and so on. All wool was placed in my heavy duty Kenmore washer and whatever will be, will be. All went into the dryer "que cera, cera, and it all came out B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L-L-Y. I was happy, went to an auction and bid on two pieces of antique furniture and won. One was a 6 drawer chest and the other, a giant pine armour with a big raised panel door and lots of deep shelves....oh yeah, this is going to work! 
First project, as if preparing all of this wool wasn't project enough, I sorted all of the unpure (not 100%) and synthetic polyesters for a braided rug. There was a lot, so I knew this would be a great project, the plaids, the colors, the solids. I cut all into strips, connected the strips by sewing machine and made three balls...big balls. Started braiding every chance I had with three children and a new home to finish. But my beautiful hardwood floors needed a rug, so I kept at it. Bought the heaviest thread I could find and started sewing the braids together. The colors were so interesting and how they blended into each satisfying.
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So this is the rug many years later, the thing is I had never completely finished it, I left a tail which I shoved under the couch and nobody knew but me. It had come apart in a few places, so I repaired it, finished it, and sent it to live with my daughter. It will be my oldest grandson's and an inviting floor covering for him to play on in his room until it moves to its next purpose. Wonder how long it will be around, it's already been around for 25 years. Well, thanks for listening. Enjoy the sunshine and pleasant Spring weather wherever you are.

Dyeing drab wool to enhance your rug hooking.

When I first began Rug Hooking, I was taught by an experienced teacher just beyond our NY state border in Vermont. She was located in Pawlet and had a sign outside "Rug Hooking" by appointment. We were just riding by, so we took a chance and dropped in. I was greeted by a very nice woman who invited us in and noticed that there were rugs decorating every surface of her home. She showed us through her house telling us little stories about each rug project, she was so gracious. As the afternoon was closing in upon evening, she showed me the "tricks of the trade" she had in stock. I was able to purchase a frame, Bliss cutter, a few patterns and a couple of hooks. I later returned and sat with her to receive instruction. I had little knowledge about the craft of rug hooking and the history of its existence and the pioneers of its teaching. Now that I had the wool and all of the supplies, I sought to learn from area rug hookers and met with 2 other knowledgeable teachers and received more instruction. I learned the difference between Realistic and Primitive hooking and the characteristics that define them. I learned about "fingering" and shading flowers and leaves. I challenged myself literally by hooking Pearl McGown's pattern "The Challenge" which is bordered by large scrolls. This rug is on my bedroom floor today and over 20 years strong. I learned the professional way of finishing the edge of a rug to ensure it will last for generations. 
Finally, it was time to delve into the art of dyeing. I purchased packets and reading materials, enamel pots, measuring spoons and recipe books.
So...this is how I amused myself when faced with the last weeks of winter, the cold temperatures and ice here in the North Country. I read that you can dye with ice and I had a big mound of drab wool. I don't mean the wool itself was drab...wool is NEVER drab. But, the color was uninspiring. It was an old coat that was a very pale pink, but very fuzzy, and a plain beige skirt.
So, following the instructions the best I could, and as close to "my understanding and interpretation" of how I wanted to proceed, this is what I did.
First, I filled a 5 gallon bucket with warm water, a couple cups of white vinegar and a squirt of liquid dish detergent. I sunk the wool pieces into the water and set it outside for the night. No reason for putting it outside besides that it would get me to the next step for the morning. The next morning, I decided where I would get the ice for my dyeing project. I looked outside at our pool cover and it was covered in a foot of ice that gleamed like diamonds. I filled a bucket and started getting excited.

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The ice crystals were perfectly uniform in size and I can't think of another way of getting ice like this. The next step was to remove the wool pieces from the mordant,(vinegar/soap which makes the wool absorb the dye optimally) and gave each piece a good twist to wring out. I arranged the damp wool pieces accordion-style into a big enamel pan.

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Then covered the wool with a thick layer of ice crystals. Pretty drab looking wool, right? But the ice was so pretty and fun to run my hands through (wear plastic gloves).

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Once covered, I took three packages of powdered dye of any colors desired.

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I chose a teal, purple and evening blue. I have a lot of old packages of all different brands, and was more concerned about the colors than the brand.

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You may want to wear a mask over your nose and mouth as the dye powder is very fine and floats around in the air. You simply sprinkle the contents of all 3 packages, one at a time onto the ice crystals. I know this doesn't look like much except maybe a giant snow cone.
Now, the idea is to let all of this ice melt, allowing the dye to drain through the wool in slow motion and in its own time will naturally melt creating a pattern. But do you think I could follow a recipe exactly?

Oh No, the whole pot was placed in a 325 degree oven to make that ice melt! I couldn't wait.

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You can see why!?! After letting the pot cool, I pulled each piece from the pot carefully and ran each piece under cool water until the water ran clear. Just like dyeing your hair, right? I draped the pieces over a rack outside in the wind to dry. The pieces are so gorgeous and sun kissed in the fresh air. I laid them out so you can see all of the patterns and color variations.

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More close-up pictures. The possibilities of planning a rug with irises, paisleys, or an under the sea motif...makes me drool. I enjoyed this process so much, I did another pot using three more packets.

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They were called wine, plum and mulberry, and I used more than one brand. Remember: use what you have, especially if you live "out of town". I placed this batch in the dryer and it got fluffy and soft. Can't wait to hook a rug with this! 

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Can you stand it? Part of me was sad when the beautiful ice crystals completely melted from the pool cover, but hey, I can wait until next year. Winter was too long, besides I have this beautifully dyed wool to occupy me until then. You can use your own crushed ice or cubes for other variations. You can use large jars if you only want to try it with a small amount of wool and you can use only a single color or several colors. You can layer wool, ice, dye, wool, ice, dye with alternating colors. The rule of thumb is that when the dye water is clear, all of the dye has been absorbed. It's an outdoor project! Get outside with it, just be careful of your surfaces, wear gloves and a mask around the dye powder until its wet. Instead of making sun tea, dye some cloth in ice in a large jar. Doesn't have to be wool...but it's my favorite. Do tee shirts, skirts, napkins, tablecloths, ribbons. I know this was long, thanks for stopping by. Leave me a note, or better...a picture of what you came up with.
Until next safe.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Challenge

Another beautiful day to maintain the momentum of washing the windows and admiring the flowers. I've got myself set up outside to work on a rug that I started almost two years ago. It has an autumn motif and I would like it to be on the floor by end of September. I will get a picture to you next post. Meanwhile, thinking about one of my first rugs, Pearl McGown's "The Challenge" which got my feet wet in regards to shading flowers, hooking scrolls and finishing edges. Here is a picture.

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This rug was hooked using the Realistic approach, these are recognizable flowers that we all can name and there is a likeness to the real flower and the colors are appropriately chosen. I completely underestimated how long ago I hooked this rug. It was more than 22 years and it has been on my floors since completion.

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The best way to freshen up a hand hooked rug is to drag it around in a freshly fallen powdery snow. The wool becomes vibrant again and the dust sticks to the snow. Give it a good shake and bring it back inside. Maybe when the rug begins to look frail, I will place it on a chest instead of the floor, but I always told my family, "If anyone is going to walk on my rugs, it will be me!"

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You will notice the flowers are: Bleeding Heart, Roses, Lillys, Foxglove, and Dahlias.
I was looking around the house at some of my other early rugs and noticed that I didn't sign two of them, so now I can't determine which rugs I hooked first. Now I understand why the teachers suggested, "always sign your rugs." Thanks for dropping in, I will get back to my current hooking and make sure to add my signature to it.