One of the reasons that I started this blog is to write a rug autobiography. So I want to begin that biography in the chilly little parlor of Waterloo Historical Farm where I learned to hook. It was 1995 in Waterloo, Michigan, a sleepy village just north of Ann Arbor. I learned about rug hooking when I saw a group of hookers demonstrating in front of the little log cabin on the farm's grounds during their autumn Pioneer Festival. One woman was hooking the most gorgeous peacock I have ever seen. I had always been a fiber enthusiast - weaving, sewing, clothing design - and when I saw the creative versatility of rug hooking (you didn't need a big loom or have to follow a pattern!) I knew it was something I wanted to do. So when the farm offered a course in rug hooking, I signed up along with my mom and my sister. This introduction to rug hooking is the main reason that I am so enthusiastic about demonstrating rug hooking at local festivals myself.
The teacher, Robin Rennie, was a wide-cut primitive hooker at the time (she has since become McGown certified and hooks all sorts of widths). She started us on burlap (there was no linen backing available yet!) on a geometric chair pad. She had us work with 8-cut worms and refused to tell us how to hold the hook. She said that we had to find the way that was most comfortable for us. I ended up palming the hook, never considering using it like a pencil.
The chair pad I hooked was dismal, with twisted loops and frayed worms because I had yet to get the knack of cutting straight. I didn't really know how to go around corners or curves. It was bad. And I struggled with hooking even that. But at the same time I loved it.
When I got home, I threw the pad away, bought some more burlap, and designed a 3 by 5 rug using elements from old Hermetic manuscripts - a sun and a moon, a cosmic dragon, flowers, a latin phrase, and an elaborate figure-8 border. My mom and I went around to all the rummage sales we could find that week and I bought every coat I could get my hands on. I wanted to hook with as-is or what I called "found" wool.
The next meeting for the rug hooking class, I brought my first rug design and the wool I had found. Robin looked at it and said, "April that is ambitious. Are you sure you want to hook something that big and complex for your first rug?" Of course I said yes. And that is how The Hidden Stone was birthed.