Friday, November 22, 2013

New Pattern Releases and This Month's Winners of the Birthday Club!

I have new rug hooking designs to share with you, along with a cute little 14" standing Santa you can make from wool or wool felt.  I mentioned in a previous post how much I loved sharing pomegranates with my mother when I was a child, so I decided to work that wonderful memory into three rug hooking designs for a bench runner, a table mat and a floor rug. These patterns will come to you pre-drawn on either monks cloth or beautiful hairless linen and you can also get them as a complete kit--just click on the pictures for more information. The bench runner works up real fast and the original model is sitting on a pine bench in our hallway. I'm hoping the in-laws will reek with jealousy when when arrive for Thanksgiving.
Just sayin' . . .

Olde Colony Pomegranate Fraktur Bench Runner (13"x22 Rectangle)

The round table mat is on my rug hooking frame right now and I can't wait for it to be done!  I think it would look great in the center of a table with a jar candle in the middle? This design is also available pre-drawn as a round candle mat or as a full-size floor rug on monks cloth or linen and also as complete kit (again, just click on the pics if you want details).

Olde Colony Pomegranate Fraktur Table Mat (14" Round)

Olde Colony Pomegranate Fraktur Rug (20"x30" Rectangle)

I also want to officially introduce "Belsnickel Christmas" my pattern for a cute 14" standing Santa you can make from wool or wool felt.  I released this as a test pattern in my Etsy Shop a short time ago and it has done well, so now I think it's time to let everyone have a go at it. All the templates are included in the pattern, as well as instructions for "boxing" his bottom so he'll stand up straight, and I hope you enjoy making him as much as I did!

"Belsnickel Christmas" (14" Standing Santa)

And now the news you've been waiting for!  If you're not already a member of my Birthday Club, I hope you'll join! You'll receive a WHOPPING 25% OFF ALL PATTERNS AND KITS DURING YOUR BIRTHDAY MONTH Plus, winners are drawn each month from all Club Members with a birthday that month!  It's sooooo easy to join and costs you absolutely nothing--it's just my way of saying "thank you" to all my friends.

So Who Are November's Winners?  I'm in the holiday mood, so I'm doing an extra-special giveaway in November and December.  This month, TWO LUCKY WINNERS have won their choice of (1) any pattern, (2) any kit, or (3) any rug hooking pattern from my website, drawn on their choice of monks cloth or linen!  Those winners are Kathryn Worley and Paige Hamblin--congratulations ladies!  I'll be running another giveaway for Birthday Club members in early December, so be sure to click here to become a member!

Well, I'm headed back to my worktable.  I'm working on a crazy-cute wool applique penny rug that I think you'll love, plus my rug hooking projects are wrestling for attention.  I'll bet your life is just as hectic, and I hope you are safe and happy.  Until next time, Happy Stitchin'!   xoxo--Melanie

Thursday, November 7, 2013

For the Love of Pomegranates . . .

Gal-friends, you have probably figured out I’m a bit eclectic and compulsive, which is why I jump from one type of handwork to another. I go from rug hooking one day to working on wool applique the next and stitching happily away on a quilt two days later. Are you like that too? Or is your personality a bit more organized, letting you concentrate all your time and love on one pursuit?

If you follow me on Facebook, you know that lately I've been rug hooking and will be releasing three new designs this weekend, along with a great giveaway for all my Birthday Club members. The thing I find different about rug hooking from all other handwork is that the images we hook usually reflect strong memories and our favorite things. Rug hookers rarely choose a design based solely on how cute it is.  Instead, our rugs invoke some special feeling or memory and they often tell a story, like a small snapshot from our lives.  All three designs I’m releasing this weekend tell a story about my childhood love of pomegranates.

[Unnamed] Pomegranate Bench Runner
As I worked along, I remembered how, just after the first frosts arrived, my mother would bring home deep red pomegranates and share them with me. We both loved pulling the fruit apart to reveal hundreds of glistening red jewels that were both sweet and tart, and our fingers and lips became stained as we popped the tiny orbs into our mouths.  My father didn’t share in our appreciation of this fruit and my husband is the same, so now when I bring home pomegranates I have the memory all to myself, except for tiny tidbits I am forced to share with our greedy schnauzers, Lucy and Baxter.

[Unnamed] Pomegranate Bench Runner
As we create our rugs, our hands busy with the wool and hook, a sort of deep calm comes over us where our thoughts are allowed to travel and memories are beckoned.  I don’t think of worries or bills while I hook; instead, my mind often moves to things that make me happy, such as my parents’ love, my home and marriage, and the warmth of the fire and hot tea I am sharing while I hook.  I think this mental “wandering” that takes place when we hook is what attracts us to this hand-art, more so than the mere desire to create something that will decorate our walls and floors.

What kinds of rug designs do you hook? Can you see bits and parts of yourself in your rugs? I bet if you’re hooking a rug with animals, you or someone you love has strong attachments to our natural world of flora and fauna, and if you’re hooking a homestead with fields and flowers, it invokes memories or desires for the comforts and safety of home.  I believe we are what we hook, and that is why once we begin rug hooking, it is a hand-art we naturally return to again and again.

Well, I’m headed back to my worktable to finish my hooked rug bench runner and put the finishing touches on my November giveaway that starts this weekend.  Since we’re revving up for the holidays here in the US, my November and December giveaways are going to be extra special and you won’t want to miss out. If you haven’t done so already, I hope you’ll join my American Pie Birthday Club so you are automatically entered to win.  In the meantime, drop me a comment and Happy Stitchin’.  xoxo--Melanie

Monday, November 4, 2013

Rug Hooking: Choosing the Right Backing for Your Next Project!

I’ll admit choosing which backing to use for your rug hooking project can be daunting.  Rug hookers use all types of backing materials with names like burlap, Scottish burlap, monks cloth, linen and rug warp, and to further complicate things, some terms used to describe the backing materials are used interchangeably.  In the beginning, I didn’t know what all those names meant, and with some backings costing upwards of $25-$27 a yard, I didn’t want to make any mistakes!  In addition to my confusion over different weaves and levels of coarseness, I also became confused by the multitude of colors that backings come in, ranging from white to tan and gray, as well as the words used to describe those colors, such as bleached, natural and unbleached.  I worried I might not be using the “right” backing and my work would look amateurish.

So, I scoured the internet and books on rug hooking, ran polls on Facebook, and even emailed rug designers to ask what everyone was using.  Do you know what I found?  There’s no right answer!  That’s right, you’re not doing anything wrong by picking monks cloth over linen, or picking rug warp over Scottish burlap.  There are pros and cons to each type of backing, including how much you invest and where you intend to display your finished piece, but there are no hard and fast “rules”!

Scottish Burlap in Tan and Gray (Foreground) and 100% Linen (Background)

So where do you begin?  How do you choose?  Let’s take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly of the most popular types of backing for your hooked rug:

Burlap, Natural Burlap, Angus Burlap, Root Ball Burlap:  Many rug hookers begin with this type of backing because it is inexpensive (about $3 to $6 a yard) and can be found at Walmart and other department stores.  It is made from jute and is nearly identical to burlap used for feed sacks, which incidentally, colonial women often used for backing material.  There are several different grades; for example, angus burlap is made with a flatter fiber and has a more uneven weave and Scotch or Scottish burlap is woven with a rounder fiber and is more consistently even.  Burlap is often used for primitive hooking (meaning hooking with wool strips that are at least 1/4” wide).  It is very coarse and rough to the feel, and the threads, sizing, space and coloration are often irregular.  Obviously, since feed sacks were not designed to last forever, rugs made with burlap backing sometimes disintegrated over time and as a result, very few of the rugs hooked during colonial times are still around today.  If you are making a rug you want to last a long time or which will receive considerable wear, you may want to choose a different backing material.

Burlap; Natural Burlap; Angus Burlap; Root Ball Burlap

Scotch Burlap, Scottish Burlap, Premium Scottish BurlapAlso made from jute but much better quality than angus or root ball burlap, this backing is usually available in 48” and 60” widths and is easy to use and economical (approximately $15 to $17 a yard for 60” widths).  The threads are pretty much uniform and it is a stable backing.  This backing is popular with rug hookers and works well for primitive hooking (hooking with wool strips that are at least 1/4” wide), is rough to the feel and "sheds" little fibers.  It comes in colors ranging from light tan to off-white and gray.  If you are confused as to whether you are getting Scottish burlap, ask your supplier about the feel and texture of the backing--it should be somewhat rough to the feel and “shed” little fibers.  

Scotch Burlap; Scottish Burlap; Premium Scottish Burlap

Monks Cloth:  Made of cotton, this backing is very popular with rug hookers because it is good quality and economical.  It stretches more than burlap, so you can pull it tightly across your rug hooking frame.  If you hook without a frame, this backing can be more of a challenge for the beginner.  It is stronger and more durable than burlap, and is soft and pliable.  It has an even weave and is available in widths from 72” to 144”.  It does not “shed” little fibers as you work.  Unfortunately, huck weaving cloth is sometimes sold as monks cloth, but you can tell the difference by the “grid” thread woven at regular intervals in monks cloth (see the white line woven into the monks cloth in the photo?).  With monks cloth, it is essential to give your piece a good iron steaming when finished so it lays flat, particularly if you pack your hooking a little tight.  You can use monk's cloth for fine or primitive hooking and it sells for approximately $15 to $17 a yard.

Monks Cloth with its Characteristic White "Grid" Thread

Rug Warp, Rug Warp Cloth:   Woven with single strands of tightly twisted 100% cotton, it resembles woven string.  Rug warp is one of the heaviest backings available for rug hooking, which can be a disadvantage, especially when working on a large piece.  It enables you to hook with both wide and narrow strips of wool or yarn, and suppliers state it allows you to hook without skipping spaces.  Although rug warp is a good quality backing and exceptionally strong, it is heavy.  Some rug hookers prefer the weight, as they claim it won’t allow their rugs to buckle or ripple.  Rug warp usually comes in 60” widths for about $20 a yard.

Rug Warp; Rug Warp Cloth

Linen, Scottish Linen, Natural LinenLinen is the most expensive of the backing fabrics and can be found bleached (off-white) and unbleached (tan or grayish).  It is usually sold in 60” widths for for $25 to $27 a yard.  It is an even-weave material that enables you to hook with both wide and narrow strips of wool.  It is very strong, soft, flexible and easy to work with.  You will notice a quality difference immediately if you place it against Scottish burlap, and many rug hookers refuse to hook on anything but linen.  Most experienced rug hookers claim it will probably outlast other backings.  In my experience, good quality linen is very soft, does not shed a great deal and has a slight “sheen” to it  (if your linen is not soft and relatively smooth, you may have received an inferior sample or the supplier has it confused with Scottish burlap).  Linen can “beard”, meaning small fibers may poke to the top of your work while hooking, which is especially noticeable when hooking with darker wools.  These fibers may be simply trimmed with scissors or picked off with a pair of tweezers.  Do not store linen folded, as folds can weaken and split the fibers over a period of time (it is best to roll it on a tube for storage).

Linen; Scottish Linen; Natural Linen

I hope this helps clear the muddy water so you can choose the right type of backing for your next rug hooking project.  Please feel free to email me if you have any questions, or leave me a comment if you'd just like to say "hi!"  In the meantime, Happy Stitchin'!  xoxo--Melanie