The Studio Story....
Frequently Asked Questions..........
We are located at 33 Church Street Amherst, Nova Scotia. We are open Monday to Saturday 9 to 4 all year round. Come visit us or order online anytime.
Over the past few years I have often been asked questions about hooking rugs. The answers to the questions below are just my opinion. They do not follow rules, or promote the ideas of any organization, or hooking style. They are my honest personal responses to the many questions that come from readers and studio visitors. I am confident you will take them lightly, explore lots of ideas, and come up with your own opinions to the questions posed on this page.
How do I hook a rug?
Hooking rugs is easy. You can even teach yourself. You pull strips of wool cloth, usually recycled clothing, washed , dried , and torn apart through a burlap or linen backing loop by loop. There are no hard and fast rules. The simplest way to learn
is to pick out a kit at our online shop or you can start from scratch.
1. You first fasten your pattern, which is a piece of burlap with a picture drawn upon onto a frame such as a heavy duty quilting hoop, or a stretcher bar.
2. Cut a strip of wool cloth about one quarter an inch wide, and about eight to twelve inches long.
3. Hold your hook in the hand you use to hold your pencil, and the strip of wool in the other hand. Put your hook down through a hole in the burlap backing, and catch the piece of wool, pulling it up thru the burlap. Bring the first end right up through, then continue the hooking pulling it up loop by loop.
4. In primitive hooking , you generally start by outlining an area and then filling it in.
5.Continue hooking until the whole mat is done. Bring all your ends of wool to the surface and clip them evenly with your loops.
6.When you finish your project, cut the excess burlap away from the edge, leaving no more than two inches all around. Use this to bind the rug by folding it and sewing it along the backside of the rug. You can also use cotton twill tape to bind it along the edge.
7.The final stage is to press you rugs with a wet cloth and hot iron on both sides to even out the loops and give your rug a finished look
Where can I buy a wool cutter?
I like the Bolivar Cutter made in Nova Scotia. It cuts beautifully and it is what we use in the studio. Their phone number is 902 543 7762. They are well worth it.
Who repairs or restores old hooked rugs?
We do not do repairs as old hooked rugs require specialized care when repairing, For Hooked Rug Restoration and Repair you can contact Mary Vaughn Rug Restoration at 902-685-3343
How high should my loops be?
I hook so that my loops are between one quarter and one half an inch high but that is what I am comfortable with. You should create your own rhythm and tension through practice. There is no steadfast rule on the height of your loops. I get that "popcorn" effect by relaxing my arms when I hook, and by using thick, soft wools that are full of texture.
Should I hook in every hole?
No. If you hook in every hole with primitive hooking your rug will not lay flat and will probably curl. Depending on the thickness and width of your cloth, every second to third hole is a good general rule.
How do I hang a hooked rug?
I use map pins to hang my rugs, putting the pins right through the rug into the gyprock. It works well, here is a little how to video on hanging hooked rugs.
If your walls are wood, you can put a row of fine nails into the wall and lay the binding over the nails.
What kind of hook should I get?
The hook is really about how the handle feels in your hand. Make sure it feels comfortable. I still use the hook I learned on which is a very fine hook but can be used to pull wide strips of cloth.
What kind of wool should I buy when I go to second hand stores?
Look for 80 to 100 percent wool. I avoid serge as they can be hard to work with. I use them but not frequently. Skirt weight wool does not ravel. I like blankets, and coats as well, though many people prefer lighter weights of wool. The only way you will learn what you really like to work with is by experimenting with a variety of wools.
Does it have to be wool?
You can hook with many different fabrics and yarns. I prefer wool because I like the texture and effect it gives. It is also a natural fibre whick I enjoy working with. The key is to enjoy handling the fabric you choose to work with. Many people hook with yarn, nylons, silks, polar fleece, t-shirts, polyester etc. Each fabric has different levels of durability and gives a different effect when it is hooked. It never hurts to play around with different fabrics.
Where do you get your ideas?
I get my ideas from all around me. I use all my senses to get ideas. Sometimes it is hearing a song or a story, sometimes I see it, sometimes it is the feel of a piece of wool, occasionall a smell triggers an idea. I try to be an observer, watching and listening to the world around me because if I am not I might miss a great idea. Many people tell me that once they started rug hooking they started seeing the world differently, noticing the many shades of greens. I think it is really wonderful that through our rug hooking , we are also given the gift of observation, and can see more clearly because of it.
How do you bind a rug?
If a rug is going on the floor I like to use black cotton, one and a half inch twill tape. I hand sew this around the edge of the pattern. When the hooking is done I roll the excess binding under the twill tape and sew it along the back side.I do not mitre the corners as it makes them pointy and unnatural. If I am putting a rug on the wall I like to fold the excess burlap on the back of the rug and hand sew it all around. When a rug is on the wall I like the rug to lay right against the wall instead of having a binding around the edge. These are the two method I use to finish my rugs.
What is the recipe for your studio oatcakes?
Our Studio Oatcakes recipe...So GOOD!
Recipe from Mrs. Sheila Sanford
These are a studio favourite, good old fashioned Nova Scotia oatcakes. They’re the real thing. Great served with maple butter, honey or cheddar cheese. Nothing better that these with a cup of King Kole tea…red Roses , or Morses… they are all good
3 cups oats, 3 cups flour , 1 cup sugar , 1 cup butter, 1 cup shortening, 1/4 cup water, 1/2 teaspoon salt
Mix all ingredients together, and work into softened butter and shortening. Roll out to 1/4 inch thickness and cut into circles with a glass. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes.
So delicious! Come by the studio and try one.
How do I begin to sell my rugs, and how should I price them?
The best thing to do is find a shop in your area that might like to sell the type of rugs you make, and discuss the terms. Most shops charge 30 to 50 percent commission on the sale of a rug. That may seem steep but if you consider the overhead of most shops and galleries it is reasonable. A shop has to pay for staff, utilities, advertising and rent, taxes, and innumerable other expenses. It is a great way to get exposure for your work, and to let people in the community know that your work is for sale. Other great ways of beginning to sell your work is to let friends and co workers know you are willing to sell your rugs. I sold my first rug to my sister, bless her heart, it gave me that extra bit of confidence. I would also recommend setting up a booth in a craft show. It is a great way to see how the general public is responding to your work.
The price of the rug can be determined by many things, including the quality of the materials used, the originality of design, the colour sensibility, the width of the wool strips used. Some people choose a price per square inch method, and in some cases this may be fine. In the art world, paintings are not priced on size. Rather there are many factors that effect the value of a piece of art. This is also true for a rug. As for pricing, it is important that you get for the rug what you feel it is worth. Figure out the costs involved in making it, and the time spent making it, and decide what you can accept for a rug. Sit down with a friend who can be honest with you, and understands art and craft. Tell them what you are thinking of charging and see what they have to say. If you price it too high it will be harder to sell. If you price it to low , you may be disappointed in what you receive for it. Carefully consider the pricing of your rugs, and then go for it.
How do I outline without having a thick black line?
I find that a heavy black line can be cartoonish. When I outline I like to give the impression of an outline rather than a strong black line . I would suggest skipping more holes and using a narrower cut for the outline. You can also use a colour softer than black, suck as brown, navy, or dark grey.
How do I start a craft related business?
Starting any kind of small business takes passion and focus. Craft or Art related businesses really require passion. You must keep the spark of why you are doing it alive, so stay in touch with reason why you have started the business. For me that means that I need to keep creating new rugs, and trying new ideas. Think over your ideas and write yourself up a plan of action. Get the trade magazines for the craft and find your suppliers. Many people ask the people who are already in the business for advice and suggestions, but the best people to ask are the friends you have that may already run a different business. They know you, and will be glad to offer advice about small business in general. Your good friends who are already running a business can be your greatest resource to you. Also check out the business education and resource centres in your area for information and education. They know about registrations, licensing, advertising etc. The principals of running a small business can be the same regardless of what you are selling. Write yourself up a list of things you need to do, and work away at it so that you can check things off the list. Get working, that is what it takes....
How do I get an exhibit of my work?
Start by getting a good set of digital images of your best work. You need to be prepared to submit high quality photographs if you want to be considered for group or solo exhibitions by galleries. Call your local galleries and ask them what they want in a proposal. Then start working toward that. It is best to join local or regional arts groups and commit to participating in their group exhibits. This way you can show a gallery that you have exhibited in the past.You can also call to set up an appointment with local gallery owners/ managers/ curators to ask them to give you some feed back on your work. They will often give a little time to look over the work of a new artist as they are always on the look out for new ideas, new talents. If they are unable to exhibit your work, they may very well no someone who might be interested, and can steer you in the right direction. Do not be afraid of rejection. No artist gets every show that they want. It just does not happen that way. Different museums and galleries have different mandates, and their is feirce competition for their exhibition space. Be patient, kind, curious, diligent, and humble. These things should work together to help you get to show some of your work. The diligence part is really important.
Where do I get a cutter?
I like the Bolivar cutter from Nova Scotia, you can order it directly from them. Call 903 543 7762.
Do you have a shop or is this an online store?
It is both you can shop online or by phone. Call us at 1 -800-328-7756. We also have a Studio Gallery in downtown Amherst , Nova Scotia at 33 Church St that is open Monday to Saturday 9 am to 5pm. It is open year round. We hope you will come visit.
Working with Texture in Hooked Rugs
Texture adds dimension and depth to hooked rugs. It takes a rug from being a flat plane to being an interesting textile with sculptural qualities. It makes a person want to reach out and touch the rug, to feel the quality of the cloth in it. Somehow adding texture to a rug makes it seem more real, more picturesque. Plaids and tweeds give the effect of texture and do add some but it is the warmth and softness of heavily textures wools such as hand spun, slubs, natural sheeps’ wool, carded wool, and heavily textured cloths such as boucle that add extra dimension to your rugs. Bits of silk, linen, fine bits of metallic cloth take your rug out of the ordinary and bring it into the realm of art.
How To Hook with Texture
It is the same to hook as regular wool cloth or regular yarn. I like to take the natural sheep wool and pull it gently into a five or six inch strip, then hook it the same as I would a piece of cut cloth. I do tend to pull it higher. I also let the loops stand out from the rest of the rug. Some highly textured wool cloths or sweaters may need to be hand cut into strips rather than using a cutter.
If you are using a fine yarn or very thin fibre it is a good idea to strand them together to hook if you want that fibre to be more pronounced. If you want it to be in the background, or not to jump off the mat try hooking it as a single strand. This will give you a fine texture.
Where to Use Texture
Texture can be used well in landscape, for animals or for hair. Natural sheep wool undyed makes great clouds, and big fluffy waves in an ocean. When you dye it, it can be the sky or the sea. Using such textures in the sky gives a larger billowing feeling to them. I like to hook three texture in large patches to give this effect. When you hook it in thin spindly lines it gives a different effect, as if the sky is divided. I n the sea you can hook rows of un-spun wool under the waves to give them extra presence and strength..For landscape you can use almost anything, in nearly any shade. Golds , rusts and other autumn shades will show the earth as fall, or somewhat parched. Bright yellows, reds, and purples will stand out as flowers. Greens will look like dimension in the land or bushes. I like to use multi- coloured slub that because the variegated quality changes the look of the land.
The most important aspect of using texture is to practice with it so that you can understand what it can do. This is true of wools in general. The more you work with different types and varieties, the greater understanding you will have of what you can get the wool to show, what you can make the wool do for you. You will need to experiment with texture to understand it better and gain greater control over how you can use it to make it work for you. Try it, even if you think it might not be quite right. Push your limits, and sometimes override what you think may be your better judgement. That is how you learn to work more competently with fibre, and it is how you put your own creative stamp on your work. Remember you can always pull it out if it is not working, and start again. This is the forgiving nature of hooking.
Natural colours both dyed and undyed are great for hair. Haul the loops up slightly higher than the loops of cloth so that the hair stands off the head and is life like. I like to leave a strand or loose to show movement in the hair. This can look as if the hair is blowing in the wind.
Collecting Wools to Add Texture to Your Mat
Be on the look out for heavier woven fabrics, such as plaid coats, boucle, or boiled wool jackets. I have always used mohair scarves , coats, and blankets. They also dye easily and make wonderful texture in fields and skies. Natural wool right off the sheep, llama, or goats can be washed and used as is or dyed. Spinners have a vast array of yarns of different textures that add variety to your work. Sweaters, long woolen underwear, even old woolen socks give a fluffy dimension to your work. Very thin wools such as serges and men’s suiting add a thready texture that is great to show movement in a sea.
Bits of metallic fabrics, or threads can be added into key points in the rug. Remember that adding metallics will draw the eye to that area of the rug so it will become a highlight. Do not use it in an area you do not want to highlight.
An interview between Deanne Fitzpatrick and Hayley Perry
This is an interview that was carried out with me by Hayley Perry, my neice who is a second year painting major, completing a fine art degree at Montserat, in Massechusetts. She is writing a paper for one of her courses. I thought the questions were so thoughtful, and interesting, she really got me thinking. Here is my personal point of view, in answer to her questions.
1. Do you catagorize your work as fine art or craft/folk art? Is there a difference between the two definitions? If so, what is it?
I look at my work now as art, my medium as fibre. It is also a craft, but a craft to me is really about the technical, the way of doing it. The art of it is the creation, the pushing the limits, extending it beyond the craft. My influences are folk art, but really I think it is hard to call myself a folk artist. I am not outside the mainstream, I am well educated. I am a folk artist in that I am untrained artistically. I have never taken a fine art course.
2. What drew you to making art in this medium? How did you first begin?
I learned as a means of making mats for the floor, it was purely for the craft of it in a decorative sense. The art of it developed thru the use of the rugs as a means of expression.
3. How do you feel about your progress as an artist? How would you define your first few rugs if having to categorize them as fine art or craft?
They were craft, pure craft. I like to look through the work and see the clear lines of my development. I am so glad I kept a decent visual record. My work now is freer, influenced more by what I see than thru the eyes of other artists. I am looking through my own eyes most of the time. It took a while to trust them.
4. What are some of the themes or emotions that you convey in your art?
Simplicity, or perhaps it is the complexities of a simple life. Even the most primitive of things are highly structured. My latest body is called Feildworks and just records the transitions of a feild. Eventually I will start adding people to these fields. I like people, and raw emotion, the interaction between the souls of the village. I have always been fascinated with the way people treat one another, the way humans interact, and this comes out in my rugs.
5. Have you ever had any "professional" training in the formal elements of design, such as line, texture, color, composition, shape, etc.?
No, I consider it every once in a awhile but always step back from it. The medium of hooking rugs is really unexplored artistically. It has been traditionally carried out using stamped patterns.Only a few people teach it from an artistic perspective very much. It is most often taught as craft. I might like some life drawing classes. I am caught up in a life, and the thoughts of pursuing a fine art degree is far away from my mind. I am also pretty sure that I want to keep learning by doing, thinking freely, reading, watching. I read alot about art, and creativity, but mostly I try to focus on making stuff, coming up with new ideas. I learn by doing. It can be a slow method but it has served me well.
6. What sort of choices do you find yourself making when deciding how to design your art?
I try to work on inspiration, not to think to much, but to react to what is happening on the drawing, on the hooking. I like to just go by the feel of things. Sometimes I step back and have a look. The good thing about hooking rugs if that when you are finished you can still go back and unhook, change things etc. I rarely do this but knowing it is an option gives me the confidence to proceed on instinct.
7. Have you ever or could you take the formal elements you have learned from rug hooking and apply them to art in a different medium, such as painting or sculpture?
The sense of colour and design goes with you into every medium but it is the basic skills of handling paint and clay, or whatever medium you chose that would take enormous amounts of enegy to master. In someways, most ways, it would be like starting over. It takes years to master a medium. There is so much technical know how that you gain from carry out the craft or the art. You learn each time you make a new pot, a little tiny bit. Those tiny bits add up to a body of a knowledge that can only be gained from experience.
8. Do you feel that the history of rughooking is just as important that a classical painter's history holds to them? Does the history of classical fine art inspire/inform you to make your art? What sort of value does the history of rughooking hold for you?
The history of rug hooking comes out in my rugs in the borders. I still like to use the classis border design that was so common on early rugs. The designs in my borders are my own. You do not see borders on painting, that is something unique to hooked rug design. I am inspired by impressionist painters, by William Kurelek, a Western Canadian painter from the mid twenthieth century. Gustav Klimt is one of my favorite artists.I liken the strokes of a brush to the way a rug can be hooked. Painting has had a big influence on my work. It has shown me there is endless possibilities. The real value in the historical aspect of rug hooking is that both my grandmothers hooked rugs. My mother hooked rugs. They did not teach me, but I feel like I carry on something that my family has done for a century. I respect that, and I find it humbling. It keeps me from being to influenced by the idea of rugs as art. I like to stay in touch with the humble beginings of the craft. In the winter I keep a hooked mat by the back door, and I wipe my feet on it. If I ever lost that idea,if I ever started to think that mats were too good to be by the door, then I would have become someone other than myself.
9. Before you start a rug, is it your intention for it to ultimately end up in a gallery or a home? Do you do different projects with different intentions? If so, what are the differences?
I do not have any intentions for it ussually. Some times I am getting ready for a show but that does not mean I approach it any differently. I want to make it more beautiful than I think that I am able. This of course, only happens opnce in a while. Imagine if that happened every time.
10. Where do you exhibit your art? Are they held with the same respect that art of other meduims are held when showing?
I show my work in public galleries. I have always sold my work directly so I have never worked much with private galleries. I like to look after my own sales. I do participate in shows in private galleries. I do find that people respect the rugs as art, especially when there is the credibility of a public gallery behind them.Once though I was looking through the comments at a public gallery, and a man wrote "I am dissapointed, these are like mother made.". That comment cracked me up and delighted me. It was like if your mother made them they can't be worth while. That was the only negative comment I ever received directly. More and more, the lines of craft and art begin to blur.
11. Does this sort of art make it easier to raise a family? Does the fact that you have this responsibilty influence your art and decisions?
Responsibility definitly respects my art and decisions. I do not hook much when the children want me, it is just impossible now that they are older. I like to work uninterupted for blocks of time. School has given me this luxury and once you get used to nice things it is hard to go back. There is nothing toxic in rug hooking for the most part so in that way it is easier to carry out with children around. Oil painters, print makers really have to worry about their materials around children.Some friend who are painters basicall have to stop painting in the house when their children are little. Rug hooking is okay that way. Art always gets in the way. Artists need blocks of time alone working.It is a selfish pursuit, but I have no choice. I have to do it. I have to tell my children to stop interupting me. Motherhood and your art are competing interests, but I suppose it is like any working mother.
12. Have you ever noticed men being interested in this form of art? Do you know any men who work in textiles? If so, how many? If not, what do you see men commonly working with?
I have taught a few men, and know some men who makes rugs. I find they approach it seriously.I do not know any men who work at it full time as artists. with textiles.However, men are very interested in my rugs and often buy them, some have nice collections of my rugs.
13. How did people react to your rug hooking activity when you first started? did they regard it as a hobby? Do you think their opinions changed when you started making an income from your art?
People saw it as a hobby. Many people who only know me a little still see it that way. I think their opinion changes once they take a little time to understand your work, and learn how seriously you take it. The fact that you sell your work does also contribute to people taking it more seriously. I work away regardless of what people think. We all care a bit about what others think, and it does influence us. It is only humane to care about what those who love you think. If we did not we would be cruel. My rugs though are on their own path, I just sit at the frame and make them. I do not think to much about selling, what others think of them etc. I find that if you make it beautiful to your own eyes, others may also see the beauty.
14. When together with a group of rug hookers, do you feel more comfortable working with a group of women? Do you engage in conversations concerning primarily women? Are you happy it is regarded as a women's art?
I hook alone mostly.Many many people do hook in groups though, and they do talk and share friendships. I think a man would be welcome however, if he shared their love for the craft/art.When I go to a group it is social time. I may hook but the visit is really about the group, and being with people.
15. Do you feel that art most commonly referred to as craft/folk art, such as quilting, rug hooking, needlework, etc. should have more exposure to the world of fine art? Is this possible for folk artists?
It is possible. I think it is about the artist and whether or not they want to share it as fine art. I did want to and I pursued this.I think something is art when you can see that it has it's own style, it's own voice. I do not think the medium matters much. There are many fine art institutions that are only interested in painting, but they have decided that that is their mandate. An instituion has a right to decide it's own mandate. It is a wonderful thing when mandates broaden and change. Many public institutions are open to cfaft/folk art for exhibits. Some are not.
16. Do you feel that the negitive stereotypes that craft/folk art is linked with "busywork" stems from generations of it being known as a women's art?
Yes, definitely. I also know that some parts of carry out making a mat can be "busy work", and I am comfortable with the idea that it is sensible to keep your mind busy. I think that when you put artfullness into something, art comes out. If there is a little busy work involved so be it. I do find it interesting though that no one ever refers to gessoing canvas as "busy work". There's your answer.
General Instructions for Dying Wool
Once I read that the quickest way to turn a new hooker of rug hooking is to tell them you have to dye your own wool. You never have to dye wool but the truth is that many rug hookers eventually want to try their hand at dying wool. The studio has a selection of light wools and wool dyes, that you can use to creat a ewhole new pallette of colour for yourself. If you would like to order some you can contact us at 1-800-328-7756, and we will ship it out to you.
- Wear a dust mask and rubber gloves. Keep out of reach of children and work in a ventilated area.
- Pots and utensils should be used exclusively for dying. Do not eat with , or cook with dye utensils and pots even after they have been washed.
- Cover surfaces with newspaper for easy cleanup
- If you want to be able to repeat your dye lots make sure you keep accurate records of the amout of water dye and wool used for each job.
- You can make a dye concentrate by mixing pack of dye with one half cup boiling water. Cool slightly and add one half cup warm water. This can be stored for six months.One half cup concentrate will dye one or more pounds of wool depending on the intensity of the shade you want,
- use vinegar as a mordant to keep dyes from running.
- You can change your shade of wool by changing the ratio of the dye concentrate. The more dye used the darker the shade. The amount of time you leave the wool in the water will also effect the shade.
- Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil. Add one quarter cup of dye solution to create a dye bath. You can add more dye to intensify the colour.
- Squashing lots of wool into a pot will give your wool a mottled effect. I can ussually dye about one yard like this with this method.
- Presoak your wool in water so it will absorb the dye more easily.
- Simmer the wool , not boiling for twenty minutes until the desired shade is acheived. Add half cup of vinegar, ans simmer five minutes more. Rinse thoroughly.
- Orange = three parts yellow one part red
- Scarlet = one part yellow, three parts red
- Magenta = fourteen parts red one part blue
- Violet = three parts red,one part blue
- blue green, one part yellow, seven parts blue
- jade = one part yellow, three parts blue
- Mid Blue = equal parts navy and royal, use less dye for less intense colours
- Mid Green = equal parts blue and yellow