Thursday, October 25, 2012

Finishing Hooked Coasters - a No Sew Method

We recently got an order for my Popham Beach Roses set of four 4" x 4" hooked coasters.  Since I had given the set we had stocked to a Popham Beach, Maine loving friend as a gift, along with the matching 8" x 8" trivet, I had to scramble to make a new set for our customer in California.  I popped her an Etsy message letting her know that I'd have them finished and shipped by today; she ordered them Sunday evening.  Luckily, I met the deadline.  I thought along the way I'd photograph the process of finishing them and throw it out there to see if any other hookers want to offer their advice on the process too.  There are a lot of ways to finish items like this.  My particular method evolved through trial and error and personal preference after picking the brain of my hooking mentor, looking at her items, and reading an article on the subject in Rug Hooking Magazine.  There's nothing wildly original about my method, but if you've never done it before this blog might be helpful. were my Popham Beach Roses coasters hot off the hooking frame.  I would like to note that I should have hooked them a little further apart for ease later in the process, but they did work out fine:

It probably goes without saying that the next step is steaming them, know the drill.  Put a damp cloth over the hooked pieces and then gently blot them down on both sides with an iron.  Note that my iron may be older than I am (and that's sayin' somethin') - it's a vintage find that was with my lake camp when I bought it - and it works a lot better than the lightweight pieces of junk they sell today.

To me it's always like a miracle of the universe how the wool kind of pulls itself down and in, and here and there, and integrates itself in to a much better looking piece once the steam is applied.  It's not terribly evident in photos, but it's very obvious in person.

After this I take the coasters and lay them top side up on a piece of waxed paper.  I use plain Elmer's Glue and (usually with a brush but sometimes with a finger) I run the glue all around the edges of the pieces.  The purpose of this is to keep the linen from raveling when it is later cut.

(A note about the pretty syrup pitcher sitting in the equally pretty saucer on the Hoosier cabinet:  those were thrown and finished by my novice potter/ceramicist husband, Bill.  I am encouraging him to open an Etsy shop of his own but he's not biting on that idea yet...)

The glue is best applied to both sides.  I do the top side up first so that when I turn them over there's a little air gap for drying.  I put down a new sheet of waxed paper when I flip them to make sure no glue that may have gotten on the old paper can get on the wool.

At this point, you have an option.  You can either go have a cup of tea, visit with friends, do the laundry, feed the chickens, whatever, while the glue dries, OR, you can use a hair dryer on warm to expedite the glue drying.  I did that today because I needed to get these coasters shipped.

Once they are dry, cut them apart leaving maybe 1/4 to 1/2 inch around the edges.  Don't throw away your scrap linen!  I have been admonished to keep it by a) my mentor Connie who uses it sometimes to extend a piece for better fit on a frame and b) by Lou, owner at the Secret Garden gift shop in Oxford, Maine who said she has crafters who use it to make little primitive art pieces.  So...waste not, want not I guess!

Next, cut a piece of a double sided heat activated plastic about the size of your coaster plus edge.  I use something called "Heat Bond," but I know other hookers and crafters use other products that they have a preference for.  This material is inexpensive and easy to find, and just as importantly, easy to work with.  I've tested my coasters and trivets and this material also keeps any moisture off the surface you are using the item on.

Then, place the Heat Bond plastic side down on to the back side of the coaster, apply heat with a medium iron, and let cool for a moment.  Peel back the paper and you'll see that the back side of your coaster is now plastic coated.

Next....take the wool you'd like to use as your backing (I used a pretty black herringbone I dyed last spring) and place it over the plastic side.  Again, apply heat from the iron.  I find that using a damp cloth between the backing and the iron creates a steam effect that helps transfer the heat through the wool backing and creates a nice tight bond.

Let it cool and this is what it's going to look like:

This next step is, I think, the scariest part but you get used to it.  Trim away the excess around the edges very carefully, getting as close to the edge as you can without nipping any of your loops.  My mentor/teacher, Connie Fletcher, uses pinking shears and leaves a cute little pinked edge.  I have also seen that method written up in magazines.  For these pieces I opt for a straight edge invisible from the top, but you could do anything you liked.

After I have the edges cut I go and nip the corners to itty bitty 45 degree angles because it makes them look a little tidier to me.  (This photo was taken on my sons' air hockey table - kinda stark white Etsy-ish, no?)

 This is what they look like from the side.  I do not mind, and the people who have purchased or received these as gifts don't mind, that the linen is visible from the sides - in fact, I like the primitive look of that.  IF you do mind it though, I'm sure an overstitch binding could be applied, or some other solution.  For these pieces, I've kept it simple and I do think they're still pretty.

So that's it.  In my case, I wrapped these up nicely and shipped them to our customer.  In your case, you might want to mix a gin and tonic and test out your handiwork.  :)    Let us know how you finish pieces like this, and happy hooking!    ~ Beth

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Custom Project - Part 1

Well, with the gracious permission of my custom rug customer, Kate, I am going to document this process from beginning to end.  I will get out there right up front that I'm not sure I will ever do a custom commission again...not because it's too much work, or too little pay, or anything like that - this project is fine in those regards.  It's about the enormous sense of responsibility I have to really get this right.   That didn't sound good either, did it?  I do not mean to say that I don't always want to get a piece right...but when a customer comes to you with an idea for a design that you know is about experiences and memories near and dear to them,'s intimidating.  But who knows - I may finish this one and think, "Wow, maybe I should do that again."

A little background info on the design:  This pattern was drawn by Daniel Rosenburg, Jen's husband, because I was unable to get it to a state where I thought it did the subject justice.  I draw chunky, very primitive designs - that's my thing.  If you go to our Etsy shop you'll be able to see the difference in style between what I draw and what Dan draws.  Still, I took a stab at this one, working from photos Kate gave me, and then she and I sat down together to fine tune where elements might be out of proportion or place.  This was a great excuse to meet with a great woman at the great Cafe Nomad on Main Street in Norway, Maine - that's a lot of greats, but they're all justified!  After that I took the pattern home and started tweaking.  And tweaking.  Aaaaaaand tweaking.  And vowing to take a drawing course some time soon at the local community college (which I still plan to do).  And more tweaking.  And then....I contacted Jen and Dan with a cry for help.  Dan agreed to rescue me so I sent my version, all the photos, a video Kate had taken of the subject, and a long and involved email out to him, along with a check for his services lest I feel any more like a dweeb than I already did.  Dan assessed the multi-element design as a request to fit a "five pound ham in a three pound can" task, but proceeded to pull off the following drawing, which I think is pure genius:

Copyright 2012 Parris House Wool Works/Daniel Rosenburg
This pattern depicts Kate's view from her husband's family's gorgeous lake front home in our fair region, northern New England.  Our family also has a waterfront cottage, and I grew up summering on a lake in Maine, so the importance of this spot for them and the love they have for it is something I can easily relate to.  Thus...the sense that I need to really make this beautiful.  After receiving it back from Dan, I presented it to Kate, who declared it wonderful (yay!) and I set about transferring it to linen.  But...hold the presses!

Again, I'm a chunky, primitive kind of girl.  (Oh dear...that came out all wrong...)  My patterns are relatively simple, so tracing them under bright light by just putting the linen over the design has always worked for me.  Not with this project.  I tried multiple places in the house, with bright sunlight, lamps, big flashlights - I just could not see the pattern well enough in enough detail to properly get it on to the linen.  (Up side?  Hubby has promised to build me a light table, which will also come in handy doing photography for the Etsy shop.)  I called up Connie Fletcher of Seven Gables Rug Hooking - my mentor and eternally patient guru - who told me to come on in to the shop she co-owns, Artful Hands Fiber Studio, also in Norway (aren't we lucky???).  Connie showed me the process of tracing the pattern on to dot covered sheer interfacing, and then tracing through on to the linen.  I know many of you reading this have done this before, but as Jen and I explained in our very first post - we are still learning.

Copyright 2012 Parris House Wool Works/Daniel Rosenburg

Copyright 2012 Parris House Wool Works/Daniel Rosenburg

Copyright 2012 Parris House Wool Works/Daniel Rosenburg
I will sheepishly admit also that I had to ask Connie to show me the best way to make sure a pattern is drawn on the grain, as I have had some occasional mishaps in the past making that happen (although please be assured that any pattern purchased from our shop is successfully drawn ON the grain).

Next came the fun part - choosing the wools.  I could have dyed my own wool for this project but it's just not necessary.  Seven Gables Rug Hooking has so many beautiful wools to choose from and Connie is such a master at dyeing that I felt that doing it myself would just add time to the process that by now I do not have - this rug is going to be a Christmas gift.  Here are some of the wools I chose yesterday, and stripped in to 6 and 7 cuts today.  My camera does not do them justice - the color saturation and richness of these wools is much greater than it appears in this photo.

Wools purchased from Seven Gables Rug Hooking/Connie Fletcher

So that's it - that's where I am.  Only one thing left to do, right?  I'm starting with the rocks.  Wish me luck!

What have you got on your hooking frame these days?  Please share!  I'll keep you posted on this project - happy hooking!  ~ Beth

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Expanding Our Scope...

It's been a long time since either Jen or I have contributed to this blog, but make no mistake - we're still hooking!  It's just that life is so often hectic and often I personally feel like this:

Tesla doing one of the things that Tesla does best.
And yet...when I get my page view count from Blogger I notice that people are still tuning in to this blog...probably expecting some wonderful wooly content, only to find nothing new here, like an abandoned barn, somewhat empty and smelling of must.

So...what to do?  Well, obviously...we have to start posting again.  I asked myself the question: "Can we find something to post at least once a week that's hooking related?  Probably we could.  But then I thought some more and realized that much of what I find I have in common with other hookers goes way beyond rug hooking.  Hookers are often attracted to the art because it is a heritage art, something our foremothers (and some forefathers too!) took up not only as a practical matter for covering cold floors, but as a creative outlet and a way to record aspects of their lives and beliefs in colored wool.  Because most hookers I meet, and most artisans for that matter, value heritage I often find that they are also keeping other heritage arts and skills alive.

For example, I know rug hookers who farm or garden, raise livestock, knit, sew, quilt, needle felt, spin, weave, can and pickle foods, make soap & other household items, make jerkys and preserved sausage, restore old homes, participate in historical societies and reenacting, and collect and/or sell antiques and vintage items.  This is just to name a few activities hookers engage in that are related to preserving heritage activities and living a homesteading lifestyle to some degree.  Of course, there are others who do none of these things, and that's ok too.  

From here on out I promise we'll post more often - mostly about hooking but sometimes about some other heritage art or skill that we think may be of interest.  Feel free to share ideas and suggestions.  

Before I go, here's a peek at what we're working on right now - these pics are a little older - we're both further along on these projects now, or nearing completion:

Jen's 1796 House rug - design by Daniel Rosenburg (her hubby!) - pattern available in our shop

My Tesla's First Snow rug - pattern available in our shop

And, we just sold these on Etsy to a very nice woman in Kansas whose daughter actually collects hooked coasters!

Primitive Coaster Set - pattern available in our shop - similar finished set could be made to order

In addition, I have just purchased the linen and am starting to purchase the wool for a custom commission for a great customer!  Her pattern was also designed by Jen's husband, Dan Rosenburg.  If I get permission from the customer to show off her very special design and project as it progresses, maybe I'll share!

Hope everyone is having a beautiful fall...our foliage is near peak here in Maine.  I'll try to post some photos of that too!   Best wishes to all.    ~Beth