Rug Hooking Hall of Fame

I  have returned from vacation and a visit to Sauder Village Rug Exhibit where I was honored to be inducted into the first class of the Celebration Hall of Fame.  Here a a couple of pictures of the event which I was able to share with my sister.

Footloose and Fancy Free

I have been hard at work on a new wool snapshots rug.  This one is another panoramic but a little longer and wider than Joy Ride.  I felt that I had to go with this bigger size because the children in the photo are quite small and I would loose all detail if I hooked a smaller piece.

This rug is based on a family photo taken in Galveston at the pier at Christmastime.  I loved the photo immediately because it showed the pleasure of a carefree moment of childhood.  For me, the rug is bittersweet because the moment captured also depicts the last of childhood for these three cousins who were on the brink of young adulthood, when such moments of childhood freedom would become part of their past.

 Footloose and Fancy Free.  2018. 18" x 33". Designed, dyed, and hooked by April D. DeConick.

Footloose and Fancy Free.  2018. 18" x 33". Designed, dyed, and hooked by April D. DeConick.

 Original Photo

Original Photo

Wool Snapshots Class: Finished Pieces 2

Jean Boeckeler sent me photos of her finished 7" by 7" pieces.  She started both of them in the Green Mountain Rug Camp. 

One is Max, her husband's devoted cat.  What I love about this piece is Jean's choice of contrast and color with the purple blanket.  The photo showed a cream blanket that didn't do much for the image.  But wow the purple gives the whole mat a feeling of happiness.  Note too the great plaid background hooked linearly and the whiskers embroidered on top of the hooking. 

The other is her daughter as a bride at her wedding in 2013.  Jean remembers how lovely her daughter looked with gorgeous flowers and a pearl headband that she grabbed at the last minute.  Jean embellished the hair with simple pearl beads in memory of that moment.

Wool Snapshots Class: Finished Piece 1

The finished mats are coming in from the Wool Snapshots class at Green Mountain Rug Camp.  Judy Shields is the first to send me her finished piece to share on my blog.  She choose to hook a Christmas photo taken of her grandchildren last year.  The baby girl is 14 months old and her brother is 9 years old.  Judy wanted to make the mat extra special, so she cut some of the fabric from the actual dress that the baby wore and hooked with that.  She embellished with a little red flower at her waist.  She also textured the background with the basket weave stitch to set the children apart from their surroundings.  I love the way she hooked the shadows in the boy's shirt.  She framed it under glass.

Old Wives' Tales about Dyeing


I just returned from Green Mountain.  Although I had a wonderful experience meeting and visiting with fellow rug hookers, I heard quite a bit of advice about dyeing wool that was inaccurate if not harmful.  This dyeing advice has a long oral history among rug hookers going back to the 1950s when hookers wanted to reproduce the color they saw in expensive rugs sold in stores.  Many of the techniques they developed came from their own experience, with little to no knowledge about how chemical dyes actually work or the health precautions that must be followed to keep us and our families safe. 

So I am sharing this information with the hope that it will be shared widely among rug hookers and that the old wives' tales about dyeing will be put to rest.  Most of us have heard these tales and have been responsible for transmitting them ourselves when we didn't know better.  But no more!

Old Wives' Tale 1.  It is safe to dye in our kitchens. 

Truth: These dyes are poison if ingested.  It is dangerous for us to assume that when we are dyeing in our kitchens that dye powders are not floating around our counters and stove tops and settling on our bananas, that we might not spill dye solution on a dish by accident, that we might confuse a wooden spoon we are using in the dye pot with the spaghetti spoon we use to make dinner.  We shouldn't assume that the fumes coming from the cooking dye pots is something we want to continually expose ourselves and our families too.

Solution: Dye in your garage or on your porch using separate spoons, containers, jars, electric appliances, etc. that are stored in the garage and clearly marked for your dyes.  Never ever use these items to cook with or eat off of.  If you use them to dye with, they should never see food.  You don't need a kitchen in your garage.  All you need is a hot plate or better yet the biggest turkey roaster you can find and plug into the wall.

Old Wives' Tale 2. If dyes are safe enough to dye wool in our kitchens, we don't have to worry about taking precautions like wearing masks and gloves. 

Truth: Acid dyes are chemical dyes which work through a chemical reaction that involves dyes, acid, and heat.  Exposing these chemicals to our lungs is dangerous. 

Solution: Follow all safety instructions on the dye labels, including wearing a mask, apron, and gloves.   Closed toed shoes are a good idea too, since accidents with glass jars and boiling hot dye solution and water is known to occur.

Old Wives' Tale 3. It is necessary to pre-wash and then pre-soak your wool overnight before dyeing it.

Truth: Pre-washing your wool will only shrink it more.  Pre-soaking your wool does nothing but make a total mess on your floor.  Neither of these things has anything whatsoever to do with the chemical dye process. 

Solution: In order to ensure even coloring and dye penetration, put two tinny squirts of synthrapol detergent into your jars or pot.  Synthrapol (available at art stores or on Amazon) is a high concentrated fabric detergent that is used in the dye process as the wetting agent and pre-wash agent.  It helps the dye penetrate the wool fibers and also helps even out the colors during the dye process. It also removes any starch or stiffening that might be on new wool.  I never dye without it.

Old Wives' Tale 4. It is best to boil your water, dyes, and wool. 

Truth: Not only is this a very good way to get burned, but boiling wool will ensure that you end up with thick wool that is felted.  If you want dyed felt, then this is a good process.  Otherwise, read on.

Solution: All dyes have a different heat for their individual reactions.  Those with lower heat requirements take up into the wool sooner than those with higher heat requirements.  I find working in a water bath in a turkey roaster to be most convenient because I can control the temperature (there is a dial on the side of the roaster).  Once you have your dye, water, and wool in the jar or enamel insert, cover and turn the roaster on 400 degrees F.  Let it go for 45 minutes before adding the acid.

Old Wives' Tale 5. Vinegar will give you brighter colors.

Truth: There is nothing special about vinegar. It has no special qualities to impart to your color. It is used as the acid necessary to bring about the chemical reaction in the dye process.  Without acid, no dyeing will occur.  But vinegar is bulky to store, heavy to lug around, and splashes when poured into the hot dyes. 

Solution: Use citric acid (derived from citric fruit).  It is a white powder and a teaspoon goes a long way.  It is available on Amazon.  To use, take the wool out from the jar, add the citric acid and put the wool back in.  Make sure to stir it around since this is the moment that most of the dye will penetrate the wool (almost instantly).  Cover the pot again and let it simmer on 400 degrees F for another 45 minutes.  Stir twice during this time.

Old Wives' Tale 6. Take hot wool and rinse it immediately.

Truth: You can do this, but you run the risk of getting burned and felting the wool even more.

Solution: It makes more sense to turn the heat off, and leave the wool covered in the dye solution overnight.  In the morning, when the wool has thoroughly cooled down to room temperature, remove it from the dye solution, run it through a rinse cycle with low spin, and then dry it in the dryer on delicate with a Bounce sheet.



Joy Ride

I just finished a 10" x 20" panoramic snapshot rug of my sister and I riding bikes last summer on Mackinac Island.  Wade snapped this photo of us with a long lens so that the photo would be candid.  This picture is extra special to me because I had undergone surgery about six weeks prior, and the recovery was tough.  So to be able to get on that bike and ride around the island felt like a miracle.  All the more so because I shared that ride with my sister, but also my husband, son, and niece.

 Joy Ride, 2018. 10" x 20", #6-cut wool on linen.  Designed, dyed, and hooked by April. D. DeConick.

Joy Ride, 2018. 10" x 20", #6-cut wool on linen.  Designed, dyed, and hooked by April. D. DeConick.

 Original Photo 2017.  Wade Greiner.

Original Photo 2017.  Wade Greiner.

Sculpted Hand

 My Rings 2018. 12"x16" sculpted hooked wool on linen.  Designed, dyed, and hooked by April D. DeConick.

My Rings 2018. 12"x16" sculpted hooked wool on linen.  Designed, dyed, and hooked by April D. DeConick.

I finished my first sculpted hooked project, my hand.  Cheryl Bollenbach taught me how to sculpt.  You can't see the sculpting so well in this two-dimensional photo, but the hand is made in three dimensions with rounded fingers and knuckles. 

This project was tougher than I thought.  I found myself fighting to pull some loops higher than others, and high enough.  I am so used to correcting my loops as I hook to keep them flat.  While it was difficult, there was something very liberating about pulling different heights, especially around the cuticles, knuckles, and various wrinkles.

The main problem with the piece was hooking a ring that was distinguishable from the hand.  After a failed attempt using wool strips, I went to the sewing store and bought some metallic ribbons.  Once I hooked them, the rings worked, and then so did the hand.  The piece got its name: My Rings. 

Red Geranium

I am continuing on the Mackinac Island series with a third 5" by 7" mat called Red Geranium.  Anyone who has been to the island is awestruck by the profuse blooming red geraniums, how they grace window boxes everywhere and march in white troughs along the porch of the Grand Hotel.  I figured that any series on Mackinac Island has to include this delight.

Red Geranium, Mackinac Island Series, 2018, 5" x 7", designed and hooked by April D. DeConick, linen foundation with hand-dyed scrap wool.

New Mackinac Island Series

I still have halfway to go around the border of my bench cover with the Bighorn sheep.  Tired of hooking rectangles!  So I pulled out a series of wool snapshot mats that I wanted to do for some time and got started.  This is a series of 5" x 7" photos taken on our summer trips to Mackinac Island.  I don't know how many will finish the series, but here are the two I did this weekend.

Tea at Fort Mackinac 2018

Alexander and Horse 2018

A New Hooked Stitch for Backgrounds

Basket Weave Stitch

I have rehooked the background on the Bighorn bench cover four times.  No color was right.  So I went back to the oatmeal and decided that it needed to be distinguished from the Cockeyed Stitch I used in the animal itself.  So I worked on creating a Basket Weave Stitch.  Super easy to do and what lovely texture.  I am amazed at the way the change of a stitch can make all the difference in the world.

So how did I do it? Here is a short how-to video I made.

Progress on Billy the Bighorn

I have finished the main subject of my oversized bench cover.  I am now moving on to the background and then the side border.  I had planned a very dark chocolate for the background, but now I am worried that I will lose the sheep to the brown.  I also dyed an oatmeal which is just a tad bit brighter than the linen background.  I don't care for light backgrounds, but that may end up the case with this piece.  I am going ahead with the dark background to see if it will work or not.  If not, oatmeal it is.

How long does it take to cut one yard of wool into wool strips?

It all depends on the cutter system you have.  Using my Townsend cutter meant at least an hour, maybe more.

This afternoon I tested my new Big Shot cutter. Hard to believe, but ten minutes.  An entire yard of wool done.  So now I have more time for rug hooking!

I purchased the Big Shot system from The Old Tattered Flag rug hooking studio.

Big Shot cuts more wool

For Mother's Day, Wade and Alexander bought me a wonderful rug hooking gift.  Because of my surgery, I haven't had a chance to share a post about it.

They purchased it from Julie proprietor of The Old Tattered Flag rug hooking studio.  Julie has a video on how to use the machine on her website.

Julie is so inventive!  She wanted a way to cut bigger amounts of wool strips at one time.  So she took a fabric cutting machine called The Big Shot and had custom dies made to cut our wool strips.  You purchase the machine and then the different size dies you need from her.

I couldn't be more pleased.  When I create a new rug, I spend a huge amount of time cutting my wool initially on my Townsend cutter (which I love but it is slow going).  But with my new Big Shot cutter, I can cut two layers of wool in 6"x18" strips in one crank of the die.

Here's how it works.  First you place your wool on top of the black die pad.  You sandwich this between bottom and top plexiglass plates.  You insert this sandwich into the machine and turn the crank.  After the sandwich passes through the machine, you remove the top plexiglass plate, and you have cut an entire strip of wool at one time.  I use the #6 cut die.  The machine will cut 27 #6 strips with one layer of wool and 54 strips with two layers!  Magnificent.

Having experienced this new cutting system, well, I wouldn't be without it.  I highly recommend it for any serious rug hooker.  It is worth its weight in gold (well almost!).

Terryl finishes her wool snapshot

Back a couple of years, I taught my wool snapshots workshop at Sauder Village, and, since it was only a day-long course, most students did not finish there work on site.  Terryl Ostmo got busy with life but recently returned to her project and finished it.  She sent me this picture, which shows how adorable these miniature pieces are.  Just wonderful how she captured the delight of her son Karl on his third birthday.

Billy the Bighorn, a new project of a new year

I am finally able to write a post about a new project.  Billy the Bighorn is inspired by our vacation to the National Parks last summer, when we spotted a herd of bighorn sheep on the top of Mt. Washburn, Yellowstone National Park.  Even though we weren't able to capture a close up photo of one of these bighorns, I was inspired by a photo taken by Steve Woodruff (see below with link to its original website).  Mr. Woodruff kindly gave me permission to use his photo and adapt it to a rug.

Over winter break I was able to complete the dyeing for the wool which includes these colors:

  • 14 Faune Brown
  • 27 Lake Agate
  • 48 Tanglewood
  • 58 Will O'Wisp
  • 36 Red Roan
  • 6 Moorland Moss
  • 45 Rosehip
  • 38 Rosewood
  • 21 Toadstool
  • 51 Fruited Raisin
  • 23 Shades of Dusk
  • 7 Sherwood Green
  • 20 Black Cherry
  • 59 Briar Rose

The rug is being created to cover a large bench footstool, the top is 21 1/2 by 44 inches.  I was inspired to do this when at the end of our vacation to the National Parks we ran across a used upholstered bench in a used furniture store.  I was so delighted, we bought it without too much further thought and then had to figure out how to load it in our van which was already stuffed full of suitcases and other travel necessities.

Before we went back to school, I managed to get the pattern created and drawn onto the linen foundation, my wool stripped, and hooking started.  Billy has an eye!




Rome Triptych

I started this project last summer after returning from Rome.  It consists of three 10" x 10" hooked canvases framed in a triptych series.  Went back to it in August and finally finished them in white wooden boxes.  The idea was to create a panel of wool snapshot memories of our adventures in Rome.  Alex, Wade and I each selected photos of ourselves and various artifacts we especially loved.  Then I hooked them into this series using my scrap materials.

My canvas contains a photo taken of me at the Dionysus House of Mysteries at Pompeii.  A clay sculpture of Demeter and a marble of Athena.  Wade's canvas contains David, Venus, and Galileo. Wade's photo is one of him sporting a hat he bought in a Roman bazaar.  Alexander's canvas has the famous mosaic of Alexander the Great and an ivory mask of Apollo.  Alexander is sporting a cap that he bought in Rome at a men's store, and wore almost every day on our trip.

 Rome Triptych 2016. Three 10" x 10" framed canvases. 6-cut wool on linen.  Designed, Dyed and Hooked by April D. Deconick

Rome Triptych 2016. Three 10" x 10" framed canvases. 6-cut wool on linen.  Designed, Dyed and Hooked by April D. Deconick

After Sauder

What a whirlwind!  After traveling throughout the southwest and west visiting as many national parks as we could in four weeks (it is the 100 year celebration of our national parks), we made it over to Ohio and Sauder Village on opening day Wednesday.  Had a blast.  Then drove back to Houston.  Exhausted to say the least.

Saw my rug "Jesus of Nazareth" in the Celebrations display along with a number of excellent Celebration rugs that I fell in love with - including my two favorites this year: Dana Psoinas' version of Red Riding Hood called "The Guardian", and Susan J. Baker's adaptation of "Greta Garbo" which graces the cover of the Celebration magazine. 

Celebration Rug Highlights

 Jesus of Nazareth 2016, April DeConick

Jesus of Nazareth 2016, April DeConick

 The Guardian, Dana Psoinas

The Guardian, Dana Psoinas

 Greta Garbo, Susan J. Baker

Greta Garbo, Susan J. Baker

Other Show Favorites

My self portrait "Red Glasses" was displayed below what may be my favorite rug at the show and the one that won the People's Choice Award for the Originals Category: Nancy Thun, "Heathen Hill".  Am so proud of Alexander and his "Galveston Gull."  He was inspired by Dana's fairy tale rugs, so he is now talking about a dragon and knight rug as maybe his next rug.

 Red Glasses, 2016, April DeConick

Red Glasses, 2016, April DeConick

 Galveston Gull, 2016, Alexander DeGreiner

Galveston Gull, 2016, Alexander DeGreiner

 Heathen Hill, Nancy Thun

Heathen Hill, Nancy Thun

Also eye-popping was Liz Marino's fine-cut photograph rug "Martellotti's Family Picnic circa 1928".  Her rug won both the People's Choice Award for the People and Places Category as well as the Sauder Award selected by Mrs. Sauder.  Absolutely love my sister's footstool with the geometric roses she created and the black and white striped border.  I am now inspired to hook a footstool even more than I was before.  The good news...on vacation I found a second hand black leather footstool (21 by 44 inches) with a flip up top.  So guess what my next project will be!

 Martellotti's Family Picnic, Liz Marino

Martellotti's Family Picnic, Liz Marino

 Rose Footstool, Tiffany DeConick

Rose Footstool, Tiffany DeConick

Galveston Gull by Alexander

After Alexander finished a portrait of his Grandma's dog Sassy at Christmas, he decided he wanted to turn his attention to figuring out how to hook landscapes.  While our family was here visiting at Christmas, we went to Galveston Island and snapped a great photo of a gull wading in the sea.  Alex came home and I got the photo transferred onto linen for him and he started to hook it with a bunch of wool palette swatches and scraps from my scrap boxes.  It is a good thing that Sauder comes around once a year because it is real motivation to get these rugs finished.  Here is Alex's rug mounted on a gallery wrapped canvas frame, all ready to be shipped to the exhibit.

Alex says about his rug: "I love doing landscapes.  I learned that I needed to put very different values on the bird and the surrounding water in order to see the bird."

 Galveston Gull 2016. #6 cut on linen.  11" x 15".  Hooked by Alexander DeGreiner.  Designed and dyed by April D. DeConick.

Galveston Gull 2016. #6 cut on linen.  11" x 15".  Hooked by Alexander DeGreiner.  Designed and dyed by April D. DeConick.

Red Glasses Finished

Red Glasses 2016. 30"x30". Hand-dyed wool on linen.  Designed, dyed and hooked by April D. DeConick.

Today I finished stretching and mounting my most recent portrait on a canvas-wrapped frame I assembled.  It is a self-portrait called "Red Glasses".  The finished rug is 30" by 30", so it is quite over-sized. 

The reason for this project was to develop a series of wool palette packs that can be used to teach portrait rug hooking in the Face Zone course that I am developing.

The intent of this rug artistically was to play with muted grayed colors and soft textures that I overdyed in 8 values.  I wanted to see if the textured wools make any difference in the overall look of the project.  I am still out to lunch on this.  Sometimes I like the textures, sometimes not.  I really thought there would be more difference in the final look since I incorporated so many different textures in the piece.  But honestly, I think the plain wool would have worked just as well.  I don't see any overall "great" effect in terms of increasing the volume of textures.

My main frustration with this piece was that I started with wool dyed in hues that were too grayed, and frankly, I looked dead.  So I had to start adding in red and red-brown tones so that I didn't look so corpse like.  This also meant quite a bit of reverse hooking.  I probably rehooked the face three times over before I was satisfied with the color.  The glasses I rehooked twice.

In terms of color, I incorporated 13 colors (8-values each; in plain and textured wool) as follows: 23-Shades of Dusk; 31-Gossamer Gray; 51-Fruited Raisin; 40-Spanish Moss; 10-Norfolk Lavender; 68-Carcoal; 15-Milkweed; 42-Sea Shells; 1-McIntosh Red; 44-Red Oak; 59-Briar Rose; 33-Highland Lilac; 18-Red Birch.

Below is the original photo I used as inspiration, and some of pictures of progress.