Loopgram: Snapshot Portraits 3

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The third step is to use a permanent ink marker to draw your lines onto your foundation. 

If you are doing a gallery canvas frame technique keep in mind that the edges of the foundation will not be bound but will show.  So first draw a 7" by 7" square in the center of a 20" by 20" finished edge foundation piece.  Use a pencil to do this!  And do not draw anything outside this line.

Next attach your transfer fabric and center your motif as you want it inside the pencil square.  Use ink marker to make the transfer.

Loopgram: Snapshot Portraits 2

Transfer fabric over black and white print out of phot

Transfer fabric over black and white print out of phot

The second step in creating a Snapshot Portrait is to select a photo and get it transferred to your foundation.  I use digital photos, which I crop with a square in my photo program.    I play with the photo on my iPad using different photo filters until I have something I like.  Also make sure to save a black and white version of the photo as well as a color photo.  

These need to be enlarged to 7" by 7" square.  I use a program called PhotoRazor to do this.  It is a free download on the web.  Just run a google search and it will turn up.

Print 2 copies of the black and white version and 1 copy of the color in the 7" by 7" square.

Lay your transfer fabric over one of the black and white copies of your photo and draw around the light and dark areas, outlining your subject.  Reduce what you choose to draw.  The fewer elements the better.  These are small!

Loopgram: Snapshot Portraits - How To Sort Scraps

I decided to try recording "how" I create my Snapshot Portraits, what I have been calling "Photo Minis".  The first step is to sort my scraps since these are created from strips leftover from other projects.

Five Scrap Boxe

Five Scrap Boxe

I have five square baskets I bought at IKEA.  I have tried sorting my scraps by value and by color.  I thought the value sorting would work, but it turns out that it didn't.  I think it didn't work because, although I hook by value, I also cluster my colors.  It is easier for me to pull out of a color box the value I need, then to find the color I need in a value box.

What color boxes do I use?  I sort into five rough categories:

  • Red and Orange Box
  • Yellow and Yellow-Brown Box
  • Green Box
  • Blue, Gray and Purple Box
  • Purple-Red Box

The key is to have as many different values as you can.  You need lots of lights and darks to make these Snapshot Portraits work.  Usually rug hookers don't collect many wools in lighter values like peaches, pinks, tans, grays, lavenders, yellows that are almost white.  So if you want to hook Snapshot Portraits, start to collect these lighter wools.  It will give you an excuse to experiment with them in other projects and see how they pop your motifs in bigger rugs too. 

Loopgram: Making pages for photo mini album

How do you make pages out of the hooked photo minis?

1. After sewing a wool backing on the hooked piece and placing a stiff plastic sheet between front and back, I proceed to sew on ribbon snaps.  I separate the two ribbons of snaps and sew one side on the front and the other on the back.

Sew ribbon snaps on the edge you want to bind.

Sew ribbon snaps on the edge you want to bind.

2. I do the same for the next page.

3. Then I simply snap the sheets together. 

It is that easy!

Snap the pages together.

Snap the pages together.

Loopgram: creating the drawing

I was asked in the last post how I get my picture onto my linen.  My process is simple but time consuming.  It takes about four to five hours from start to finish. 

I work with photos that I take.  I crop them and put them into black and white format.  I play with them on the computer until I have them the way I want them. 

I print it out and take them to a copy place that has a big blueprint enlarger.  I usually blow up the print by 400%, so my pieces are about 3 foot by 3 foot.  It can take a lot of playing around with the enlarger to get the copy I want. 

I go home and lay the copy out on the floor.  I put fiberglass screen over the top and cut out a piece of screen to size.  The screen is laying over top of the copy, functioning as tracing paper.  I take a permanent marker and I transfer the lines of the photo onto the screen the best I can.  I understand these lines to be rough guides for my hooking rather than a fully drawn picture. 

Then I cut a piece of linen foundation to size and serge the edges.  I place the traced picture on the screen over the top of the foundation and then I trace the screen copy onto the linen.

Five hours later I have my next project ready to move to the next step: picking out my colors.

Loopgram: Textured backgrounds

I have been experimenting with hooking different types of backgrounds for years.  When I hooked Lady Sunset, I came up with a procedure that I love and have now used in the background to Alexander at Sauder. 

I take a number of different textures and overdye them with the same value of the same color.  In this case I used Shades of Dusk 122.  Then I hook all the different textures in randomly by pebbling. 

Pebbling is a technique I use when I purposefully do not hook in a straight row.  The hooking meanders, although each consecutive loop touches the other.  So there is no jumping around.  I hook the next strip in next to it, continuing the meandering, until all the space is filled in. 

For the background on this rug, I used overdyed texture pack 122 in value 5 (lighter) on the right side of his head; texture pack 122 in value 8 (very dark) on the left side of his head.  I love the look because it feels like the light and shadow is dancing behind him. 

I am packaging my texture packs for this purpose, so each texture palette pack contains 1/4 yard of different wools overdyed with the same value of dye.  I can do this in any of my colors, in any value. If you are interested, go to the pull down menu SHOP FOR WOOL to view what is available.

Loopgram: tips for hooking a BIG rug

All in the Family is 3'7" by 9'.  It is a BIG rug.  It is heavy and cumbersome already, and I am just over 1/3 complete.  What have I learned so far? 

1. If you want to hook a BIG rug, just go for it.  Don't let the size overwhelm you.  It is just a rug, and you will hook it in stages, and give yourself a break to work on another project when you need to.

2. Select the widest cut size your design will allow.  This will result in faster hooking so when you work on it, you will see measurable and reassuring progress every time you hook.  I am using #9 and I always feel that progress is being made.

3. Start in a corner and hook in 8-inch swathes. Do not start in the center.  Do not hook all your motifs and then your background.  If you do either of these things, you will never be able to handle the weight and the bulk of the rug.  So figure out the direction you hook.  I hook left to right (like I read or write) and from top to bottom (downwards).  So I have started in the upper left corner of the rug, and I hook 8-inches across, working from the top of the rug all the way to the bottom.  When I get to the bottom, I have a full 8-inch swath hooked on the left side of my rug.  Then I move my rug to the top again and hook down the next 8-inch swath.  As the rug develops, it falls to my left.  I prop it on a big basket or a chair to balance the weight so it isn't pulling down my stand.  I can get under the rug to hook it because I don't have anything in my lap except unhooked foundation.  If you hook right to left (as most ruggers do) you will want to start in the upper right hand corner and hook down, and move the rug to the right as you progress.

4. Use a stand.  I can't imagine trying to do this using a quilting hoop or a lap frame or a table top.

5. Think about marking your progress in stages.  I take a picture after each row I hook and put it up on my blog.  I also have broken it down into thirds, so I can measure how much more I have to go, and how much I have already done.

6. Set a goal to finish.  I did this by seeing how long it took to hook the first few swathes.  My goal is to have it hooked, bound and mounted by June 1.

Loopgram: Citric Acid replaces Vinegar

I got tired of hauling huge jugs of vinegar and pouring (should I say slopping) vinegar into my jars when I was dyeing.  So I bought a 5 lb. jar of citric acid crystals and have been experimenting with amounts.  The acid dye process works when you infuse the dye molecule into the wool fiber.  This is a chemical process that is done with a mild acid like vinegar or citric acid, which creates a special chemical bond between the fiber and the dye color molecules.

Citric Acid is a bitter acid derived from citric fruits and it is used in everything from cosmetics to flavorings for food.

Citric acid is SO EASY to use I recommend switching immediately.  It is more cost effective and has no mess at all. And I found that the dye water cleared much better than it does with vinegar.

1 tsp. Citric Acid per 1/4 yard of wool

If you are trying to dye really dark wool (as in create a really dark value so there is a good amount of dye you are trying to infuse into the wool fibers), double this amount

Loopgram: How to create hooked ATCs

I imagine that every rug hooker who creates ATCs will develop her own way to make them. I gave this some thought and here is the way I went about creating 2 1/2" by 3 1/2" original pieces of art to trade. My concept is to create 8 ATCs for every rug I hook, using leftover wool from the rug. The first I have done is a series of ATCs to accompany Lady Sunset. I have marked each of the 8 ATCs in the series with a number representing its place in the series: 1/8, 2/8, 3/8, etc.

1. I chose black wool as my foundation fabric, so I wouldn't have to worry about figuring out how to bind the tiny card.

2. I cut out a piece of cardboard 1 3/4" by 2 3/4". I pinned this template on my black wool foundation and a hooked around it to establish my outside line. I was able to fit 8 cards on my backing.

3. I used wool leftover from the rug I just finished (Lady Sunset) and filled in the rectangles.

4. I cut each card out of the backing by cutting the foundation fabric about 1/8" wider than the hooking so that the outside dimension measured a perfect 2 1/2" by 3 1/2".

5. I pressed the 8 cards.

6. I printed my backing information on printable fusable fabric: Name, date, title of ATC, no., contact information. I used my cardboard template as the outside dimension to cut out the backing information.

7. I tore 8 pieces of black wool 2 1/2" by 3 1/2". I fused the backing information onto each piece of black wool.

8. I attached the backing to the ATC sewing by hand with black thread all the way around.

9. Took an afternoon, so if you are looking for a fun guild project...

Loopgram: How to pebble a background

I started hooking the background of Sol Invictus by hooking in curved lines and filling around them as we normally do, using four textures I overdyed with Fincastle Brown 141, the same color I'm using in the eyes and around the rays.

But the linear background competed with the sun face. So I ripped it out and began to play around with non-linear hooking and came up with a technique I'm calling 'pebbling' because the way the loops are arranged remind me of pebbles on the bottom of a riverbed. It is very simple, based on the concept of the 'random walk' or 'drunken walk'.

The loops are hooked non-linearly and randomly, although not jumping around or crossing over like in waffling or pearling where spaces are left between the loops and filled in with another color. With pebbling, each loop touches the previous one, but is not hooked in a line (or a circle or a curve which are hooked linearly too). There are no crossovers on the back.

So here are pictures of how I pebbled the background, hooking with loops staggering next to each other. I worked small random areas and kept filling in with the pebbling technique until the area was complete. I absolutely LOVE the look and think that this may become my favored technique for hooking backgrounds. I might have to experiment with using this technique in motifs as well.

After I saw how beautiful the effect is, I began to wonder why we are always looking linearly, why we are taught to do this. I imagine that it has to do with rug hooking's history as a craft imitating rugs that are created on looms or machines where lines are the only way to create tapestries. But we don't have to be restricted by lines! Hook randomly today!


Loopgram: How to hook with palm spun roving

I have been promising for months to post on how to hook with palm spun roving. I learned how to do this from a spinner at a yarn shop who sold me roving and gave me an old pair of carding paddles to help with the process.

I was intent on hooking roving to create a ram as the central figure of my rug Got Wool? I had no idea what I was doing when I started, but I discovered that I love hooking with roving and will probably do another piece one day since the ram turned out so well. The texture is beyond belief.

The first thing you do is take a bit of roving and spread it out in your left palm. Then put your right hand over top and briskly move your hands back and forth so that the roving begins to felt into a slender piece of yarn. Add a little more roving to the end and briskly felt another piece onto the end of the first. In this way you can extend the roving into a piece of yarn as long as you wish to hook with. It helps to begin wrapping it into a ball.

Want to mix colors so you can shade and blend rovings? Easy to do. Just take one of the carding paddles and run one of the colors of roving in between the teeth. On top of this layer another color of roving. Then put the other paddle on top and without locking the teeth pull the top paddle to the right. Continue until you have blended the rovings together. Do this until the roving is blended as much as you want it. Then use this blended roving to create your palm spun yarn as shown above.

Loopgram: Waffling

I haven't posted on White Tiger Beauty for a while - not because I haven't been working on him - I have! But as usual, I have spent some time reverse hooking. I posted previously on developing a technique to achieve a pointillism effect in the ears and on the nose, a technique which I have decided to call "pearling" , dots of color randomly hooked on the linen to look like beads of wool. I've come up with a similar technique I'm calling "waffling".

When I moved down the sides of the piece and began hooking the long hair extending from the face, I initially did so in straight lines as we have been taught to do, with no crossovers on the back of the linen. Good girl technique, like this:

Then a few nights ago I got into the bad girl mode and started to rug hook randomly-shaped lines with quite a bit of jumping around. As I did this, I discovered that it looked great (but it does have crossovers on the back). It is a very different effect and one that I really prefer to all those straight lines. In fact, it is feeling a bit "abstract" to me. I am calling the technique "waffling" because you hook in random lines and fill between the lines as you go.

So I went back to the white chin hair that I had hooked straight, and I waffled the area. I went in with white in random rows, jumping around so the rows aren't straight. Then I went back in with other #1 values and hooked more random rows in between the white.

The result is impressionistic and quite vibrant. There is so much more life and movement than there was with the straight row hooking.

Now I have to go back to the left side of the piece and reverse hook and then waffle the area. So it will be a week or so before I am finished with White Tiger Beauty.

Loopgram: Basics of Needle felting

Carrie Martin taught me the basics of needle felting last weekend. It is how I created the Bon Bons Valentine 10 by 10. I needlefelted five hearts, which I then attached to the linen foundation and hooked around. I was surprised how simple needlefelting is, and how much I enjoyed the process. Wool is cool whatever shape or form it takes. It is the superior fabric.

Wool consists of fibers, so when friction is applied and the fibers rub back and forth against each other the fibers begin to "tack" or stick together. So if we add water and detergent and motion to wool, we end up with felt. Or consider spinning, the heat of our hands and the twirling of the fibers causes the wool fibers to cohere and yarn is created.

With needle felting, the cohesion of the fibers is created by the up and down motion of a barbed needle held between the thumb and the index finger. Jumping the needle up and down through the fibers causes them to felt.

What do you need to try this? A needlefelting needle, a block of foam, bits of roving, and yarn for embellishments.

1. Start with a bit of roving. Lay it on the foam in a rough shape of the object you intend to felt. In this case I want to felt a rug hook. With the needle between your thumb and index finger plunge it up and down over the roving. Keep going back and forth over the roving until it begins to felt. Rest the side of your hand on the foam to steady the needle and to keep your fingers out of the way of the needle. You want to avoid stabbing yourself! So keep your free hand well out of the range of the plunging needle.

2. Add bits of roving here and there to develop the shape and dimension you want. Here I am adding a lighter color roving on the top to begin to create a light-shadow dimension on the handle. Then I am adding a yellow on the top to create the shank. Plunge the needle up and down as you add new pieces of roving. Go right through all the layers of the roving you are building.

3. Add bits of yarn for embellishments. Lay the yarn where you want the embellishment to start. Plunge the needle through the yarn and the roving underneath. Lay down the yarn and plunge as you go. Go back in and add more roving as desired, plunging the needle through the entire thickness.

4. Eventually you will be done and have an exquisite needle felted piece to add to your rug or to make into a pin or attach to a bag. If you want to attach the felt piece to your foundation and hook around it, cut a piece of scrap wool the shape of your felted piece. Hand sew the scrap wool on your foundation. Place the felted pieced over top of the scrap wool and needlefelt it onto the linen by plunging the needle down through the felt piece, scrap wool and linen foundation. Once it is attached, you are ready to hook around it. If you want to attach it to a wool bag, just needle felt the piece directly onto the wool, plunging the needle through the felt piece and the wool bag.

Loopgram: Pointillism

Pointillism is a painting technique developed in the late 1800s, growing out of impressionist art. It is a form of art known as Neo-impressionism, and is represented by the works of Seurat, Signac, and Cross.

These painters used small dots of color, often contrasting, to create the impression of a wider use of color. This technique relies on the fact that our eyes and brains to mix colors we see and blend them naturally. During this time period, color theories were being developed and it was realized that when you blended pure pigments together (particularly the primary colors: red, yellow, and blue), this dulled the color decreasing its intensity. Since light is so important in painting, these painters discovered that if they juxtasposed the pure primary colors next to each other as little dots (instead of mixing the pigments into a new less intense color) that the eye would blend them and the intensity of light would not be lost. This is how they were able to create paintings that appear to glow. Critics today call the technique "Divisionism". But Seurat himself called it "Chromoluminarism" which must mean something like "the illumination of color".

Can we apply this to rug hooking? Yes. I have been experimenting with it while hooking White Tiger Beauty, and I will probably continue to play with this technique in other pieces in the future. In the case of White Tiger Beauty, I am not worrying about luminosity. I am hooking a piece in neutral colors that are not pure pigments but blended to dull the intensity by mixing complementary dyes on my palette.

I am using the technique to create an impression of shaggy hair and multi-textured areas on his face. Here is a step-by-step example of how I am approaching this technique.

1. I am using a xerox b/w to see my values. I will hook the light values (white, #1, #2) in the white areas. I will hook the medium values and overdyed textures (#3 and #4) in the fuzzy areas. I will hook the dark values (black and #7 and #8) in the black areas.

2. I hooked the outline of the ear and then some structural points with my light values. I hooked in the direction of the hair and ear (up) and I did so randomly (not in straight or curved lines).

3. I added white in the white areas.

4. I added dark in the black areas. Notice that there are little spaces left in my hooking. I am not filling all the holes in yet. NOTE: to hook randomly means that the wool is going to cross over on the back of the piece; this cannot be helped.

5. I begin to add medium colors, the cool tones on the top of the ear.

6. I add the warm medium colors on the bottom of the ear, randomly filling in around the light hooking already there.

7. I went back in to the dark areas and filled it out with more dark values, trying to hook different colors of the dark values between each other. This helps the area have movement so it doesn't turn into a blob of black. So there is #8 value of my 11=PURPLE, 10=BLUE-PURPLE, 12=PURPLE-RED, and BLACK, plus the #8 values of each of my neutrals.

8. I filled in around the outside of the white area with light values other than white, mainly #1 values of my neutrals.

Now I have a left ear to match the right ear!

Loopgram: Hooking with Leicester fleece

I have been trying to finish up the fleece and roving central block of Got Wool? It took a while, mainly because preparing the roving to hook is time intensive. I have some photos I took to show how to do it, but I don't have the time today to upload the lesson. SO my evaluation of fleece and roving will take two parts. The first is an evaluation of Leicester wool fleece. It was a special bag of fleece I bought. The hair is very course and shiny and long, so it felt completely different from the average roving I also purchased but which I will discuss in another post. I am posting a picture to the left of what the fleece looks like. I had purchased it to prod the beard of the ram, but when I did this, the prodding looked funny because his face was flat and the beard was sticking out high above the face. I tried shortening it, but this didn't work either. So I cut off the prodded ends and just hooked big high loops to get different texture and show off the gorgeous fleece. I think it worked. Here is a picture of the ram finished and a close up of the fleece section - the ram's beard.


Cutting ease: on a scale from 1 to 5 with one being "Cuts like butter; easy as wool" and five being "So terrible don't bother," Leicester fleece gets a "4". There is no cutting necessary or any other preparation, BUT you do have to separate out the amount of fleece you want and I found it impossible to do so with consistency. In other words, some of the pieces I separated were thicker than others. Thankfully I wanted this sort of variation in the ram's beard. But if I had wanted consistency, it would have been next to impossible to achieve. It was also a hairy process. I mean hairs everywhere I didn't want them, including in my mouth, on my chair, and covering my p.j.s. And every time I had to pull out another piece to hook, I had more hairs shedding. I could have felted by p.j. bottoms by the end of the evening!

Hooking ease: on a scale from 1 to 5 with one being "Hooks like a dream; easy as wool" and five being "Why am I trying this?", Leicester fleece get a "3". It really really slippery, so it pulls great through the linen, and right out again if you aren't careful when you pull the next loop. So I found that I had to pull high loops and then be content with them pulling out a bit when I hooked the next loop. This caused for uneven hooking, but again this is what I wanted in the beard so I was happy with the result. The other trouble was that the fleece wasn't bundled in any way. With roving, there is a process to palm felt it into "yarn" which I will demonstrate in another post. But the fleece was too slippery to felt this way. So I couldn't make palm yarn. This meant that the hook would not necessarily pull all of the hairs up to the top of the linen, no matter how careful I was. Sometimes the hairs would catch in the hook and I would end up with a lopsided loop and have to fish it back out, roll it smooth between my fingers, and then bring the loop up again.

Overall look: on a scale from 1 to 5 where one is "gorgeous like hand-dyed wool" to "bad look even for a bad hair day", Leicester fleece gets "1". It is gorgeous. The sheen and texture is unbelievable. I imagine that I could dye it any color I wanted, but the pure ivory made a stunning beard so there was no need for my dye pot. I am sorry that the prodding didn't work. But the prodded beard overwhelmed the face, and in fact, the entire rug. All I saw was ivory hair sticking up! Once I cut off the prods, I fell in love with the ram. So I think all came out right in the end.

Average evaluation: 2.6 out of 5 or "Maybe more gorgeous than strips but what a lot of hair!"

Loopgram: Dimensions of Color

I thought it would be fun to post here one of the lessons that is part of our Palette dyeing rug camp on Rug Hooking Daily.

There are three dimensions to color that we need to understand as rug hookers and dyers, especially if we are creating our own color palettes.

1. HUE = the color itself (red, yellow, blue, and everything in between them); 3 primary colors from which are mixed the 9 colors in between them
2. VALUE = the gradation of color (darkness or lightness of the hue)
3. INTENSITY = the purity or saturation of the color (dullness or brightness of the hue); different intensities are created by adding white, black, and/or gray the color
More about INTENSITY. There are three main ways to change the purity of a color, to make it less intense:
1. Tint: the color plus white; the white will dilute the color and lower the intensity while lightening the value.
2. Tone: the color plus gray or the complementary color; this will neutralize the color, graying it.
3. Shade: the color plus black; darkens the color, lessening the intensity while darkening the value.

This is a tint diagram which adds gray to the color:

For a rug's color to work, we need to be aware of more than HUE. We need to be aware of the VALUES and INTENSITIES of our HUES. Most rugs that we hook are hooked in medium values. Rug hookers are generally afraid to hook with light values, and use dark values too sparingly. This means that the rugs we are hooking end up looking flat. What pops rugs is contrast of value. And this is most easily achieved by using light and dark values along with the medium. The lower the intensity of the color (more muted), the more the color will recede in the rug, giving a sense of distance. So differing intensities of color will help to achieve contrast too.

To achieve the most successful color in rugs, it is wise to include different values and intensities. I try to remember to include in my rugs dark and light values, along with dull and bright intensities. This is the DAL DAB rule. In every rug, it is important to hook dark and light, dull and bright.

Loopgram: Hooking with cotton yarn

In my yarn panel for my alternative fabrics rug, Got Wool?, I used a yellow cotton yarn I picked up from a local yarn shop called "Knitting in the Loop." I needed a particular yellow, and the only non-wool yarn I could find to use was cotton. It is very different from acrylic yarn so I am giving it a separate evaluation.

Cutting ease: on a scale from 1 to 5 with "1" being "Cuts like butter; easy as wool" and five being "So terrible don't bother," cotton yarn gets a "0" since all you have to do is snip off the end and start hooking. Just as a note, if you buy yarn that is not balled yet, be sure to ask the retailer to take the skein and ball it for you. It makes hooking the yarn easier than trying to deal with a skein getting tangled up or trying to ball it yourself. Retailers will have a little winding machine that should ball it quickly. I'm not sure about the technical term for this since I'm not a knitter and rarely deal with yarn but the point is, you don't want to hook from a skein that is knotted and will tangle up. You need to have a ball of yarn to pull from.

Hooking ease: on a scale from 1 to 5 with one being "Hooks like a dream; easy as wool" and five being "Why am I trying this?", cotton yarn gets a "3". Cotton yarn is a bit stiff so you have to work with it a bit to get the loops to sit the right height. The cotton yarn I used was variegated in width, and this made it a little more tricky because the really thin areas of the yarn didn't want to stay tall and put. In one area of my rug (pictured to the left) I doubled the cotton yarn as a hooked. In another area of my rug where I am hooking all the alternative fabrics together (and wow is this fun! but more on that in another post on another day) I am using only one strand. The one strand is a bit harder to keep even loops, but I think this is because the width of the yarn is variegated.

Overall look: on a scale from 1 to 5 where one is "gorgeous like hand-dyed wool" to "bad look even for a bad hair day", cotton yarn gets a "3". I'm not sure how much I like the look of cotton yarn. It is stiff in appearance, and the loops are really visible. It reminds me of cotton string - which I guess it is in some respect - although it puffs out a bit more than string when it is hooked because it is not as tightly wound as cotton fibers that make up string. I liked the fact that I could get really thin lines if I wanted them, and the cotton yarns I found at the yarn shop had a good range of color choices. I imagine if I really looked, I could find plain cotton yarn and dye it myself. But I would really have to want the stiff string look to go to that much trouble, especially when I have gorgeous wools in my hooking closet.

Average evaluation: 1.2 out of 5: "Not bad hooking, but it's string"

Loopgram: Hooking with tee-shirts

When I was in CVS a couple of days ago, I grabbed a bunch of tee-shirts, 4 for $10. Happily I carried them home and immediately went to work hooking them into my next area on my alternative fabrics mat, Got Wool?. Here is my assessment of tees as hooking fabric.

Cutting ease: on a scale from 1 to 5 with "1" being "Cuts like butter; easy as wool" and five being "So terrible don't bother," tee-shirt material gets a "5". Tee-shirt material will tear along the selvage but not across the selvage. When it is torn, it does not always tear straight. I was not successful tearing it thinner than 3/4" to 1". Once torn, the long edges curl so that you end up with something akin to inflexible cording rather than a strip of fabric. When I tried cutting it on my Bliss, it was too thin to keep a straight line and still curled. So I tried cutting it by hand across the selvage. It didn't curl, but the edges looked very raw, especially if there was any unevenness in the cut (which with this material and hand scissors was impossible to avoid).

Hooking ease: on a scale from 1 to 5 with one being "Hooks like a dream; easy as wool" and five being "Why am I trying this?", tee-shirt material gets a "5". I tried hooking the tee-shirt cords and they were so bulky they were difficult to work with and looked terrible. When I tried to open up the curled tube and cut along the center line to create a less bulky cord, it was easier to pull loops, but still looked terrible. When I tried to pull the strips I had cut by hand across the selvage, it was so thin that it looked miserable hooked and those raw uneven edges didn't help anything.

Overall look: on a scale from 1 to 5 where one is "gorgeous like hand-dyed wool" to "bad look even for a bad hair day", tee-shirt material gets a "5". In fact, it was so bad that I pulled out what I had hooked and abandoned the idea of using tee-shirts in my alternative fabric rug.

Average evalutation: 5 out of 5 or "Go and get some wool."

The moral of this story? Be smarter than I was. If you are going to try to hook with tee-shirts, make sure to buy sizes that will fit you and your family in case you decide to abandon the project too!

Loopgram: Hooking with polar fleece

I've been hooking yesterday and today with polar fleece, creating the first square of Got Wool?. So here is my rating of it as a rug hooking material and some tips for using it.

Cutting ease: on a scale from 1 to 5 with one being "Cuts like butter; easy as wool" and five being "So terrible don't bother," polar fleece gets a "3". First, it can't be ripped in a straight line. So scissors are a must. Second, it HAS to be cut with the selvage, not across the selvage. If you cut it across the selvage and try to pull it into a loop in the rug, it gives and forms a curly string, like paper ribbon that you curl with a knife. It has to be cut straight with the grain or it gets funky when you try to hook it. Straight is hard to maintain because you can't tear a straight edge. My Bliss cutter will cut it, but just barely. I am using a 6-cut and it holds together well.

Hooking ease: on a scale from 1 to 5 with one being "Hooks like a dream; easy as wool" and five being "Why am I trying this?", polar fleece get a "2". It is a little slippery, so it pulls nicely through the linen, very much like wool. After a couple hours of hooking, my finger tips started to feel a little strange from the nap of the polar fleece. It is easy to see the "right" side and pull it consistently. It is stretchy, however, and therefore I notice two things about it. One, you can't crop your tails as close to the top of the other loops as you do with wool. In other words, if you pull on the tail and then crop it, the cropped end will sink down further in the rug than is desirable, leaving a slight indentation. Solution is: don't pull the tail taunt when clipping; just hold it gently and clip near the surface of the other loops. Second, when the material is hooked and stretched in the process, there is a slight color change. The color seems to lighten, so my bright red has become a red-coral when hooked. This is important to keep in mind when color planning. You might want to hook the polar fleece first to see the actual color it will be before buying or dyeing the materials for the rest of the rug.

Overall look: on a scale from 1 to 5 where one is "gorgeous like hand-dyed wool" to "bad look even for a bad hair day", polar fleece gets "1". I am stunned with how beautiful the piece is looking. I show it here in the unfinished block. It is amazing that a firetruck polar fleece blanket is turning into this!

Average evaluation: 1.2 out of 5 or "Almost wool!"

Loopgram: Keeping TOD spoons clean

I learned a valuable tip from Jan Peckenpaugh and Betty Mugg. To keep TOD spoons clean of specks of dry dye, dip the spoons in salt before measuring the next dye. Just put some salt in a jar and label it "DYE SALT" so you won't mistake it for edible salt in the future and store it with your dyes. After measuring a dye, swish the end of the TOD spoon in the salt, and like Harry Potter magic, the dye specks disappear from the spoon. It sure beats using paper towel!

Thanks to Jan and Betty for sharing this great tip with me!