Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Best Gift Of All

The Holidays are filled with so much joy and sometimes sorrow. One of my dearest friends has felt the sadness and heartache of losing three family members this year. Although this can make the Holiday season seem hard to manage, it can also be a time to take a closer look at our many blessings.

I have had my years of sadness for the ones lost but this year we have an unusual blessing. On December 22nd my daughter Jenny and her husband Mike will be adopting two children. I can't even explain the joy I feel. The two children have suffered so much sorrow and now we are all blessed with so much love.

 In one year Mike and Jenny went from a family with one child to a family of five children. Danny, the oldest won't be legally adopted but he will always be a permanent part of our family. Lori, with her hands in the air, and Scott, in the gold, are our new members. Kenzie, holding David is their natural born, and David is a foster child we love with all our hearts.

Notice the look on their faces. What a beautiful family. This Christmas, even though we are exchanging the normal gifts and celebrating in our usual fashion, we will all be celebrating the love God has allowed us to pass on to our newer larger family.  Blessings don't get any better than this.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Penny Rugs

While traveling this summer I found myself in a place I have never been. Without a project to work on. All the projects I brought with me were finished in record time and I was panic stricken at the thought on my hands sitting in my lap, empty, without needle or fabric.

The next day I made plans to find a fabric store with wool. Luckily, the owner waited for me to get there and I bought a project and some small pieces of wool for a penny rug.  The project hasn't been touched yet but I had so much fun with the pennies. I found objects in the 5th wheel in three sizes and proceeded to draw circles.  I then found the Valdani Pearl Cotton I had purchased at the Woolen Needle and started stitching.  I never knew sewing circles could be so enjoyable. I'm quite certain it won't be my last penny rug.

This cute little pattern from Reets Rags to Stitches was my latest set of projects. One I made for Traci Marvel, and one for myself. I reversed the pattern pieces quite by accident but it certainly didn't deter from the design. These adorable little shephardesses were so fun to make.

This adorable little basket mat was made from a pattern by Primitive Gathering. It is one I finished while on vacation. I didn't put the stars on the baskets like the pattern.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

My Summer Vacation

My husband Alan and I have been on our one month vacation for about two weeks now. Before I left home I made a list of all the places I HAD to stop to see. One of my "must see" places was The Woolen Needle in Williamsburg Iowa.  http://thewoolenneedle.com  During my planning stage I used MapQuest to get the location, then I used the satellite version so I could actually see what it looked like and found parking around the corner for our 5th wheel.

While I was still in the planning stage of our trip, I had already chosen The Woolen Needle as a destination when I was looking at a pattern for a wool quilt that had been given to me by Traci Marvel thinking I might get it prepared to work on while traveling. The pattern is For Every Season. I noticed the background had an amazing dip dyed piece of wool that went from white to green to fall colors for the seasons so I looked to see who made the pattern and guess what! It was The Woolen Needle!!! Now I not only knew I had to stop there but I had something I knew I had to buy!

I was so excited the closer we got to Williamsburg Iowa. I just knew this shop was going to be wonderful and I wasn't disappointed. My husband graciously sat on the husband chair while I walked around in a daze. Even though the shop is small, it was perfectly filled with the most beautiful hand dyed wool, unique projects and stunning quilts and kits.

After soaking in everything, I finally remembered my specific piece of wool I needed. I found that piece and a few more I couldn't go home without, picked out some Valdani Perle Cotton, and I even got a free t-shirt!

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Summers End Quilt and My Rug

So far I have two projects done form my bedroom redecorating. The rug, as I posted earlier, is my first rug and an original design.  The quilt pattern is called Summer's End by Primitive Gatherings. I purchased the pattern last summer at Quilt Market in Minneapolis. Wool was, of course, the choice for the applique but it is also the background and backing. My love of wool grows with every project I use it in.  The quilt really isn't misshaped, but since I am vertically challenged it seems that way when I take the photo from a lower angle.  The rug isn't misshaped either. I just stood at the end and snapped the picture. I've never claimed to be a photographer.

The quilt that is going on my bed has been a years work also. It too is wool applique but with a cotton background. My husband chose the pattern Applique Affair by Laundry Basket Quilts but after completing all the blocks I realized it wasn't near big enough for the bed so I added 11 more blocks from the book by the same company called Hop To It. With only 3 blocks left and a few of the border blocks to applique I am very close to being finished. This has been a quilt that even though I am excited to see it finished, the process has been the real pleasure.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Big Black Dog Rug

The Big Dog Rug is my next rug project. It is an original design by Joan Strausbaugh. I spotted it one day while reading my blog favorites at http://woolfind.blogspot.com/ . I sent an email to Kathy, the blog owner, to see if it was a commercial pattern or an original. Kathy lead me to Joan. I simply HAD to have this design! It was just so perfect and it reminded me so much of my son's black lab Buck. Joan had made this rug of her nephew's dog for his wedding gift. What a special gift!

Joan immediately emailed me that it was her own design and she did not sell her designs commercially but she graciously offered to copy the design on linen for me purchase. When the rug arrived I was a little surprised at the size.It is HUGE! Hence the name Big Black Dog. It didn't seem quite as big in the pictures. It is however, the perfect fit for the foot of my bed, which is exactly where I wanted it to go.

With rug hooking, I am finding that the craft is filled with wonderful, gracious, giving people who are so willing to help one another. Quilting is the same way. I believe it is women sharing and caring, just as they have been doing for centuries. We need each other for companionship, and what better way to get together than through our arts and crafts.

A am so grateful to Joan for this design. I'm almost afraid to start hooking. I think I have enough wool to start so I guess  I should get with it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

First Rug Hooking Finished

The border I chose for my rug is a very simple one. The first row is a pinkish tone from my very own hand dyed wool. The second row is one of the "as is" wools I used in the rug and the rest is mainly solid black with hints of 3 different tones used in the background of the rug.  I chose to go simple because I felt everything else I thought of was very distracting to the center of the rug.

One of the things I changed in the original hooking was that I added some of my hand dyed green to the centers of the leaves. I felt there needed to be more contrast and there needed to be a darker green in there. A lesson I learned from this is that the rug is viewed from at least 5 feet away so the colors really need to show up at a distance. I also wish I had done the center flower in opposite order with the dark on the inside. I'm going to leave it the way it is however.

The next step is to steam the rug. Steaming the rug will make it more even. With the rug laying back side up, I will get a wet towel and hot iron and steam the rug in small sections a few seconds at a time. After I am finished steaming I will let it rest for 24 hours.

To finish the edge of the rug I decided on a whipped edge. There a three types I chose from. My choice to whip the edge with wool yard is based on the fact that wool yarn is readily available where I live. Cindy Gay has exceptional directions for this on her blog as well as the steaming. When the edge is complete I will steam the rug once again.

I am so happy with this rug. It's been a dream of mine to hook a rug for so long. I'm especially happy that the first design was an original of mine. 

My only problem now is that my husband wants a rug for his side of the bed. I am trying to decide what to make for him. I'm thinking something from his childhood on Lake Michigan, or a geometric.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

My First Time Dyeing Wool

After collecting all the tools, dyes, and recipes I needed to dye wool, I was finally able to dye my first batches last night.  I decided on some greens since I need to add 11 more wool applique blocks to my Applique Affair quilt to make it large enough for our bed.  I had pretty much depleted my green stash so I chose colors to match the greens I had used in the blocks I already finished. 
The first stack on the left are the original wools I used. There was a great sale on wool on an Internet site so I bought one yard each of some of the greens. I wasn't quite sure how great the wool was so I didn't want to get to much and with my antique monitor I wasn't sure exactly what color of green they really were. The second from the bottom is very yellow. The original colors weren't exactly what I wanted but the over-dyed fabric sure is.
I have all three of the color ways I dyed in the same order of fabric as the first stack.  There is one more green I need to dye which is a camouflage green. Then I'm moving on to other colors, especially in the red family.
Dyeing wool is so much fun. When I first found out the wool had to be dyed on the stove I decided that was just too much work and too hard. In all the rug hooking books I bought they talked about dyeing wool. Once I saw how easy and fast it was I couldn't wait to try it. I prefer dyeing wool over cotton dyeing now. Much faster results!
Now I need a gas line put in my garage for my old stove, which isn't very old, so that I can dye the wool there. It is right next to the laundry room and utility sink so that will really make it easy for me.
I am SO hooked on WOOL!!!

Rug Hooking Progress

As you can see I haven't made a lot of progress on my rug, but it's progress all the same. I still haven't decided on a design for the outside border yet but it will come eventually.
The black background makes the colors of the floral show up so much better than a cream or tan would have, which was my original idea.
It's amazing how one rug can have such a ripple effect. About a year ago we put in wood flooring in the living/dining room and hall way. Now, we have purchased the wood flooring for all the bedrooms. Originally, my husband insisted on new carpet for the bedrooms but once I promised him a rug for his side of the bed he has graciously agreed to the wood. In all honesty, he probably knew he didn't have much choice. I am thinking a geometric designed rug for his side. Humm, I should probably paint the walls too....

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

And Then There Was Color

In an earlier post I mentioned dividing my wool strips in half so that I could make sure I had enough to finish my rug. Well, there is no worry about that! In fact I told my husband I had more than enough cut wool for a rug for his side of the bed and who knows how many others. But that's good. I can just keep right on hooking when this rug is finished.

Since my son has my laptop, I am using my old computer. The antique monitor I am using doesn't show color right so I have no idea if the rug colors are true on the screen or not, but I suppose it really doesn't matter, this is about my rugs progress.  There is much more value variation than I'm seeing on my screen in each of the flowers but hopefully you can see it on yours. I haven't got a clue how well I'm hooking since I don't know anyone who hooks but I know I love how the rug is turning out and I love hooking! I am sure I'll get better as I go along. The beauty is that it's a Primitive Rug so I think that allows for imperfections.  It's going to be on the floor in my bedroom, which means at all times I will be at least 5 feet away from it and as my eyesight gets worse it will just look better and better.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

First Rugs Progress

The red dot tracing paper along with some wool arrived in the mail at the beginning of the week. I transferred my rug design on to the tracing paper from the paper pattern with a pencil. The next step was to transfer it on the linen burlap by laying the red dot tracing paper on top of the backing and drawing over the design with a Sharpie. The marker goes through the tracing paper right on to the backing. I checked in one of my hooking books to make sure I was doing everything right and read that I needed 4 inches on the outside of each side so that it would fit on the frame. Guess what? I didn't have a large enough piece!  So back to the computer I went, ordered Scottish Linen and today I was finally able to draw my design on my background!

Now I will go to my sewing studio and sew around the very outside of the background and just outside the finished line of the rug. I would normally use a serger for the outside edge but my daughter has mine so the sewing machine will work just fine.

I have wool in the washer right now being felted, and more hand dyed wool on it's way. I'd like to say I think I might run out so I keep buying more but we all know that's a lie. I just love wool.

So anyway, I'm almost ready to start hooking. I have a few more wool strips to cut and I will be on my way!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Strips Cut

This weekend I decided to use my wool stripper and cut some of the wool for my rug. I am using size 8 or 1/4" strips.  Unfortunately, my photography skill is lacking, so you can't see any of the colors the way they really are but I think you get the idea. The point is to show my progress on the rug anyway, right?

I have several more blacks that I have ordered so the background will have interest. The blues are more of a teal color and the pinks are not so pink. I have more shades the greens and pinks ordered too. The applique blocks around it are some of the 'unironed" wool blocks I have been appliqueing from Laundry Basket Quits, Applique Affair. I have two more blocks to finish out of 25 and some of the border blocks left to applique. I am making the rug to coordinate with the quilt when it is finished.

After I cut the strips for my rug I divided the quantity in half. Since my design is symmetric and I've never hooked before I wanted to make sure that I had enough strips for the whole rug. Now, if I run out of a color I can cut more or get more ordered. Someday I can just dye the wool I need but I'm taking baby steps right now.

My tracing fabric should arrive today so I am hoping to get my design drawn on my linen soon.  Once that is done and all my edges sewn so my linen doesn't fray, I can start the process of hooking.

I don't know anyone who hooks in my area so I have learned everything from a few books and on the Internet. Thanks to great sites like Red Jacks Rugs I was able to see first hand how to hook. Gene Shepherd has a wonderful blog and a virtual camp to learn rug hooking and wool dyeing. I have also gone to YouTube to watch videos. I joined a Yahoo rug hooking group who are so great for giving advice and I am following several blogs of rug hookers.

By studying quilts at places like Virginia Rug Fest and several rug hooking sites I have learned what styles I am attracted to, what colors I prefer, how to shade, and making interesting backgrounds.

One of my favorite places to purchase wool has been Ram in the Thicket. Susan Sylvia has the largest selection of colors and values of anyone on the Internet and the best part is that you don't have to spend a fortune getting what you need. She is beyond gracious, a pleasure to work with and her wool is wonderful.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Rug Hooking Adventure Beginning

My friend Susan Sylvia at Ram in the Thicket, who I buy a lot of my hand dyed wool from, thought it would be a great idea to document my adventure of learning to hook rugs. It never occurred to me that anyone would be interested in seeing this even though I would love watching someone else's progress. I haven't started the actual hooking yet but there is a process to getting ready to hook, just like any other craft.

 One of the tools on my list was a rug hooking frame. The one I chose is from Hopewood Crafts and I LOVE it! (This is their picture by the way, not mine) I do a lot of researching before I jump into a purchase I know nothing about and this one had everything I needed. A floor frame with adjustable height and swivels 360 degrees.  I read these are very important features. I wanted one that looked like my hand would easily go to the underside without hitting anything and I wanted it to be sturdy.

I looked at one rug hooking sight after another trying to find the right design for my rug. It's funny because in my mind it was like I thought it was the only rug I was ever going to make. Then one day I realized that I will be making many rugs, just like I have made hundreds of quilts. Realizing this helped but I still wanted it to be the perfect rug after all wool isn't cheap you know. I decided to design a rug that would compliment the quilt I am appliqueing out of wool.

After studying rug after rug I also realized that I would want a black background instead of the camel color I originally thought I would use. I had to move my thinking from quilt mode to rug mode. I felt that the black or dark background grounds the rug more. Some might think it is a clean factor but in my bedroom where the rug will be going won't get much dirt, so it was all a design decision. Since I didn't have much black wool in my stash that was the next move. Ordering and buying more black in a variety of shades.

This was the initial drawing of my rug. I do have a border added and I have tweaked it some. I was quite interested in reading that so many designers draw their designs small and simply enlarge them. Cindi Gay describes how to enlarge your design on your PC rather than having to go to a copy store. I was so amazed at how easy this was to do. I didn't even know my computer had this feature! When I had my finished drawing I scanned it. and enlarged it to 275% which came out perfect. 16 sheets of paper taped together and I have a life size drawing!  If you click on her name it will take you right to the page on her blog where she tells how to do it. Her blog is very interesting as well and she is so helpful.

So, I have my hook, Scottish Linen for backing, a design, a frame, a fabric cutter, ambition, and desire. Next step will be washing some of the wool I bought to felt it, and getting my linen ready with the design.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Next Year's Christmas Gift

I was looking at felted clogs in a catalog the other day, thinking about how much I would love a pair when I ran across a blog where a woman was talking about how she had made several pair for gifts. She showed the HUGE pair before felting and then the adorable pair after felting.

I immediately wanted a pair. No buying them out of the catalog for me, no sir. I want Hand Made! But there is a problem with that. I can't knit, and no it isn't that I don't just know how to knit, I really CAN'T knit. I've tried and it just isn't something I can do. However, my first born daughter can knit! In fact she is knitting me a felted purse right now that is almost finished. It is my Christmas gift for this year. She is finishing the handle right now.

So...I ordered the pattern from Fiber Trends and I ordered the children's size too so that my granddaughter Kenzie can have a pair. Then I called my precious knitting daughter Jenny to inform her that I found my gift for next Christmas. She didn't seem overly thrilled but at the same time she didn't say no either so I'm pretty sure she can get them done. I told her they must be easy because some people have made something like 20 pair. I neglected to tell her that they might not work full time,  have children that had to be taken to dance class, a 10 month old that just learned to walk, and all the things that being a young mother entails. No. I just told her I ordered the pattern and I'll even buy the yarn. After all. I don't want her to be bored or anything.

You know...my birthday is in April....Nah..that's too soon.