Starting Hasani the Lion

Ashani the Lion 2019. April D. DeConick, photographer

Ashani the Lion 2019. April D. DeConick, photographer

Alexander and I had a great time at the Houston Zoo taking photos of the animals. We were so happy to see that a new lion is prowling there, and spent most of the day coming and going near his exhibit to see if we could get a good enough photo for me to create a companion rug for Satu the Tiger. On our last round of the zoo in the late afternoon, Hasani the lion decided to get up from his nap and climb the central rock where he sat there really looking sassy, the king of the animals. We go so many great shots it was hard to decide which to use for my inspiration. But here is the picture that well was picture perfect.

I spent two weeks creating the pattern, transferring it to linen, and getting all the wool cut and organized. This time I am trying something different with wool organization, using floss organizers in tight baskets. Each organizer has 8 different wool in one value. I have 8 warm wools and 8 cooler wools in order to help create the kind of shadows and light I hope to achieve.

The colors for Ashani are:

  • 5-Goodfellow Yellow

  • 22-Butterfield

  • 42-Sea Shells

  • 28-Lady Willow

  • 41-Fincastle Brown

  • 58-Wiil ‘O Wisp

  • 18-Red Birch

  • 38-Rosewood

  • 49-Fingorn Forest

  • 55-Nymph Green

  • 23-Shades of Dusk

  • 20-Black Cherry

  • 15-Milk Weed

  • 51-Fruited Raisin

  • 46-Black Orchid

  • 33-Highland Lilac

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.

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!




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.



A happy surprise in Rug Hooking Magazine

I was so surprised when my Rug Hooking magazine came in the mail today.  I had no idea that my rug Satu has won a Reader's Choice Award for the Celebration of Hand Hooked Rugs contest, and that Satu is featured on the cover!  What a happy surprise.

The magazine is wonderful, featuring children and youth rug hooking.  The article I sent in about Alexander is published along with a number of other inspiring pieces about children creating their own wonderful rugs.  It looks like rug hooking is alive and well in the next generation!

Starting new project called Red Glasses

While I am working on the tree headboard abstract, I decided to start a second project because I would like to create a kit for teaching people how I design and hook portraits.  The problem is always the wool, which needs to be dyed in values and standardized in terms of colors.  So that is why I am working on this particular project.  It is a self-portrait head shot.  I need to dye a few reds and rehook the glasses because I used scraps and so the glasses feel "off" to me.  But you can get the feel for what I am doing.  Another larger rug: 30" by 30".

Tree Head Board Started

Just before the holidays, we upgraded our queen bed for a king.  When we put it in the room, it felt really BIG and LONELY.  Looking at the space, I decided that it really needs a head board, a BIG head board.  Why not hook one?

I try to do a project every year that I can learn something new.  This year I wanted to do something with an abstract feel, but still image oriented.  So I went through my photos and chose a picture I took in Brenham of a big live oak, mainly its branches.  I fiddled with it in filter programs and came up with this image that I then transferred onto linen with the assistance of my sister and my mother-in-law over Christmas. 

I have been working a couple of weeks and have made some progress, although this is a really BIG piece, in the area of 70" by 30".  So it is going to take a long time for any significant progress to be recorded.

Upper left corner of Tree Head Board 2016

Upper left corner of Tree Head Board 2016

I am using 17 colors, 8 values each, in both textures and plain wool.  So that means that I have 272 different wools in play: 64-Fiddlehead; 29-Tom Thumb; 31-Gossamer Gray; 23-Shades of Dusk; 18-Red Birch; 59-Briar Rose; 51-Fruited Raisin; 55-Nymph Green; 33-Highland Lilac; 6-Moorland Moss; 10-Norfolk Lavender; 11-Jack Horner Plum; 46-Black Orchid; 68-Charcoal; 49-Fingorn Forest; 41-Fincastle Brown; 15-Milkweed.

Reframing Jonathan

I decided to try something different with Jonathan.  I went to Texas Art Supply and purchased stretcher bars one inch bigger than the finished rug.  I put the stretcher bars together and stretched black duck twill canvas over the frame, stapling it to the back.  Then I sewed the rug onto the duck, stretching it tight to the edge as I sewed the binding to the duck fabric. 

I love it because it is stretched tight and flat and looks just like a painting hanging in my living room.

Introducing Jesus of Nazareth

"It is finished."

Jesus of Nazareth 2015 .  43" x 39". #6 cut on linen. Designed, dyed and hooked by April D. DeConick.  Red Jack Rugs 8-value Packs used include 159: Briar Rose, 142: Sea Shells, 120: Black Cherry, 146: Black Orchid, 124: Rose of Sharon, 148: Tanglewood, 114: Faune Brown, 118: Silver Birch, 151: Fruited Raisin, 135: Crab Apple, 112: Rowan Raspberry, 134: Pink Iris, 117: Wilde Wood, 119: Hubbard Fig.

Jesus of Nazareth 2015.  43" x 39". #6 cut on linen. Designed, dyed and hooked by April D. DeConick.  Red Jack Rugs 8-value Packs used include 159: Briar Rose, 142: Sea Shells, 120: Black Cherry, 146: Black Orchid, 124: Rose of Sharon, 148: Tanglewood, 114: Faune Brown, 118: Silver Birch, 151: Fruited Raisin, 135: Crab Apple, 112: Rowan Raspberry, 134: Pink Iris, 117: Wilde Wood, 119: Hubbard Fig.

Copyright acknowledgement: BP8MEM AF archive/Alamy

Copyright acknowledgement: BP8MEM AF archive/Alamy

My rug, Jesus of Nazareth, was inspired by the famous crucifixion scene in the 1977 film where Jesus, portrayed by Robert Powell, suffers the crown of thorns.  I was deeply affected by this movie as a young woman, and this image of Jesus will always be Jesus to me.  I choose this portrait to compliment the rug Mary Magdalene that I hooked two years ago.  It will hang on the wall of my office next to Mary.

This rug is different because it is an inch mat.  I wanted to hook the most traditional rug possible, while breaking open its form so that something new happened with the inch mat.  Using a pixelated map I created as my guide, I hooked each inch by its value (the lightest or darkness of the color) with no regard for the color.  Each inch square, in fact, contains at least two different colors in the same value.

My goal was to create a rug that ought to be viewed in person, because where you stand in proximity to the rug makes a difference in terms of what you actually see.  The closer you get to the rug, the more you see squares of color.  The farther away you stand from the rug (the broader view you have) the clearer your focus becomes, and you are able to see Jesus' face.  There is a lesson here for me as a professor of early Christianity, that standing at a distance brings Jesus into better focus.

I used a large number of colors in this rug, including 8-values of each: 159: Briar Rose, 142: Sea Shells, 120: Black Cherry, 146: Black Orchid, 124: Rose of Sharon, 148: Tanglewood, 114: Faune Brown, 118: Silver Birch, 151: Fruited Raisin, 135: Crab Apple, 112: Rowan Raspberry, 134: Pink Iris, 119: Hubbard Fig, 117: Wilde Wood.

The stats.  In total there are 1677 squares of 14 colors in 112 values.

Finishing my inch mat

Phew...I am almost done with this big inch mat.  It is going to be 45" by 43" when finished, which means that I will have hooked 1935 squares.  As I have been viewing it along the way, I have determined that you need to stand back about 20 feet to really see the image, or look at it through a camera lens or quilters reducing glass.

I have added a few more colors as I have advanced, mainly because I ran out of what I was using and only had certain other colors already dyed.  Will record the colors on the last post about the rug.

May update

I haven't vanished off the face of the earth, although sometimes I feel like it.  Being chair of a university department has taken more time than previously when I was faculty only.  I have been working on the inch mat and have about 400 squares left to hook.  I am bored out of my mind with it, but maybe I needed that this year with my mind so occupied with work. 

The biggest rug hooking news is that Satu made it into the 2015 Celebration of Hand Hooked Rugs.  So watch for him when that issue comes out in August.

Also I am going to be teaching my Wool Snapshots Workshop at Sauder Village in August, and then in September the Witch Workshop in San Antonio for ATHA Biennial.  This means that I can't dye in canning jars anymore.  So I got serious.  This winter when our shower needed repair, I had a sink installed in my garage.  A couple of months ago, I bought 8 turkey roasters so that I can dye yards at a time.  I need to start dyeing very soon to get everything done in time, but at least things are set up and ready to go. 

I also decided that my packaging needed a facelift, literally.  So I have a new logo now, which I really like.

300 squares and counting

There is nothing much to say except that I continue on toward my 2000 square goal.  Here is the top 300 squares.  Nothing to look at yet except color.  I am finding this a very calming project since it is just focused on hooking values into one inch square blocks.  There are not mistakes or reverse hooking here.  The overall piece is going to 43" by 47".

The first 100 square inches

So here is a photo of the first 100 square inches.  It is the top left corner.  Take a guess.  If you aren't sure, there will be plenty more opportunities since I will post every 100 square inches to show the progress.

Time involved so far?  About 3 hours to create my visual and about 2 hours to get the backing ready to go with the inches drawn out and serging around the edges.  Then about 5 hours into hooking and another 2 hours into cutting.  Total labor so far: 12 hours.

First 100 square inches of Surprise Inch Mat, upper left corner

First 100 square inches of Surprise Inch Mat, upper left corner

Starting another project, an inch mat

The pattern, a simple inch mat

The pattern, a simple inch mat

Now that I am finished with Satu, I couldn't help myself but get a new project set up.  I hate not having a rug to work on.  It is like something is missing from my life when I don't have a rug in the works.

I decided to do something a bit different this time around, to go back to a traditional rug form and see what I could do with it.  So I choose the inch mat.  How many inches?  43 inches wide and 47 inches long, for a grand total of 2021 square inches.  It is many many more inches than I imagined before I drew them out with a sharp pencil!

I am not going to tell you what I am doing with the inch mat, just that it isn't very traditional. I want to try to reinvent the form, to break the tradition. For fun, I will post occasional pictures as it grows and see who can be the first to guess what I am hooking.

Colors I am using in all 8 values (very important):

  • 159: Briar Rose
  • 142; Sea Shells
  • 120: Black Cherry
  • 146: Black Orchid
  • 124: Rose of Sharon
  • 148: Tanglewood
  • 114: Faune Brown
  • 118: Silver Birch
  • 151: Fruited Raisin
  • 135: Crab Apple
  • 112: Rowan Raspberry
  • 134: Pink Iris
  • maybe more...


Satu (and Maggie) finished in time for Sauder

144 hours, eleven colors, and eighty-eight values later, Satu is finished.  Just in time for Sauder.  He is immense, measuring 3 by 4 feet.  I am super delighted with him, really seeing my design, sense of color and form developing.  Rug hooking is a tough art because nothing is quick.  So you work a year, hoping that some improvement will result.  I think that hooking all the mini snapshots must have helped me grow as an artist since they allowed me to experiment with the wool with quick turnarounds.

Also, Alexander has been busy with his Sauder project, a portrait of his dog Maggie.  This is the first time that he has been old enough to use stripped wool and hook it without twisting.  It was frustrating for him at times, but he worked through it and in the end hooked a terrific piece that he can be very proud of.

More on Satu

I have hooked another 15 hours into my big mat of Satu the tiger from the Houston Zoo.  I am almost halfway finished.  I have done very little reverse hooking on this piece.  It looks small in these pictures, but it is huge, 36" by 40". 

I wasn't sure that I would like the amount of green and pink that I am adding alongside the oranges and maroons.  But I think the combination is stunning.  I am looking forward to moving down into the neck area and adding the cooler tones to balance the piece.

My photo inspiration

My photo inspiration

Satu in progress

Satu in progress

Slow but steady progress on Satu

News on the might notice that it looks different.  I have completely recreated the Red Jack Rugs website and have a subscribe button to the right in the sidebar.  If you want to receive my new posts via email, sign up and they will be sent to you automatically.

Satu rug on my rug frame 2014

Satu rug on my rug frame 2014

I have 25 more hours to log in on Satu, the tiger at the Houston Zoo.   This means I have a total of 69 hours into the project at this time.

I have really only been able to work on this piece on the weekends, and then only a few hours here and there.  I hope once summer hits, I will be able to sit down and get him completed. 

One of the troubles is that I have run out of my dark wools, so I need to spend a couple of days dyeing.  I have found this to be the case with most of my projects.  I run out of my darkest darks before any other value.  I assume that this means that we need a majority of dark to pop out the occasional light and anchor the medium values.

There is nothing to report in terms of new things I have learned yet.  I did find that I was using too dull of colors in the oranges on the top of the head, so I had to go back in with some brighter orange wools here and there.  That seems to have fixed the problem.

Mary Magdalene at Sauder Village

I had a wonderful time again at Sauder Village Rug Hooking Exhibition this year.  The show was amazing as always with beautiful Celebration Rugs (congratulations to all the winners) and a very special exhibit of American hand sewn rugs that I have never seen before.  These rugs predate hooked rugs and show all kinds of fancy piecework and threads.  I bought the book that was on display.  There was also a special exhibit of hooked portraits of the US presidents by Nola.  Wow I still can't believe she created all those presidents in one year.   Bought her book too.

Mary Magdalene. 2013. 30" by 40". Forgotten Women Series.  Designed, dyed and hooked by April D. DeConick.   Winner of Sauder Village People's Choice Award 2013.

When I traveled up to Deanne Fitzpatrick's earlier in the summer, I drew out an oversized portrait (30" by 40") of Mary Magdalene based on an antique German mosaic of unknown date.  The mosaic itself features the virgin Mary in blue.  But to me, this is the face of Mary Magdalene.   So I gave her a red cloak instead.  I worked on her a bit in the car (it was a long car ride to and from Texas), but found it difficult going since her features were so big that it was hard for me to see what I was doing until I had a huge area hooked.  This meant that I rehooked her face three, if not four times, before I got it the way I wanted it.  Once I got home, I went into a rug hooking marathon and worked hours on end to complete her in time for Sauder.  The night before I flew out, she was done.  I packed her in my suitcase and took off on a jet to Michigan.


Here is a picture of her hanging at Sauder.  I thought that she really commanded the room when you walked in to the exhibit, glowing there in her scarlet cloak.  I am so honored that she won the People's Choice Award for her category (People, Places and Pictorials).  She is the favorite of my rugs and will be stretched on canvas, framed and hung in my office above my desk.