Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Save the Whale! A Restoration Project

Every once in a while we get a request for a special project or custom design.  Each time this happens, we are presented with new challenges, but always rewarding experiences.  This time was no different.

I received an email from a customer who asked if I could possibly finish and restore this hooked rug her grandmother had started working on decades before:

As you can see, the pattern was a vintage Lib Callaway design called "Cape Whale" and was thumb tacked to a wooden frame.  Her grandmother's careful hooking was evident, and I took a deep breath and replied, "Yes."  My next contact was with Connie Fletcher of Seven Gables Rug Hooking, who has been my teacher and mentor in this craft, to see if she had any words of wisdom as I proceeded.

I expressed my concern that the original burlap of this pattern was becoming a quite brittle and deteriorated.  Connie suggested that I put a new linen backing on to the piece and then finish the hooking by hooking through both layers.  I carefully safety pinned the linen on to the back and proceeded to hook as suggested, being careful to keep the layers flat to one another as best I could.  This is what it started to look like as I hooked through the layers, around the existing work of the original artisan.  It was important to me not to undo anything that she had done.

At about this point in the hooking, I realized that the wool that had come to me with the original kit for the sky was going to be seriously short.  This required that I take a break and carefully hand dye some new wool to match and blend with the existing colors.  Here is where I was when I stopped to dye some more:

You'll note that I hooked the sky in horizontal rows, which is akin to a style I've seen used in the Canadian Maritimes.  It's not my usual style to hook this way, but the original hooker had started her sky in this manner and it was my goal to hook this piece in such a way that my loops and style would look like hers.

I feel as though I did a pretty good job of getting a seamless blend with the new wool, and when the hooking was complete, it looked like this, front and back (this being prior to steaming):

The back of this piece shows clearly the areas that I hooked.  Anything missing from this view was already hooked by the original artisan.  Now it was time to steam and serge the edges.  This is normally a pretty basic affair, but in this case I was trying to preserve the original pattern markings and tags.  I could not save them on the piece itself - they had to be cut off for binding - but I knew that I could at least save the pieces as a record of the age and origin of this design.  This required pretty careful serging, especially in the lower right corner where the "Lib Callaway" mark came pretty close to the hooking.  Here is the serged piece.  The serging process, in this case, also served to sew the original burlap to the new linen backing at the edges.

I chose to use tape binding for this rug, as I think that is a classic and traditional treatment for a vintage rug.  I used a matching blue.  This photo shows the binding stitched in place, but not yet pressed.

Now it was a matter of dealing with the original pieces I sought to preserve, and also adding a label to the back.  I had originally considered sewing the original pattern markings on to the back, but their relatively fragile condition made me hesitate.  I consulted with Bruce Little of the Frost Farm Gallery in Norway, Maine, who provided an archival plastic envelope to hold the old pattern markings:

I also chose not to put one of our usual embroidered Parris House Wool Works labels on to the back of this rug.  I felt that that would not be appropriate given that it is not our design, nor were we the original artisans working on this piece.  Instead, I chose an old fashioned, hand written muslin label and hand stitched it on:

This is the finished result.  It will be a Christmas gift from my customer to her grandmother, and I can't wait to hear about how it is received!

I hope this post has given you some ideas on how you might similarly restore some partially finished heirloom of your own family's.  Best wishes and happy hooking! - Beth

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Hampden, Maine Hook-In, Presented by The Keeping Room

When Toni Philbrick, owner of the beautiful hooking, penny rug, and antique studio, The Keeping Room in Hampden, Maine (just outside of Bangor) invited me to be a vendor at her annual fall hook-in, I was delighted.  Toni is a wonderful person, a magnificent artist, and a great teacher of her crafts.  In addition, her shop is on the site where Hannibal Hamlin, first VP to President Lincoln, had his law office.  Hannibal Hamlin's birthplace is in my village of Paris Hill, over 100 miles away, so I was interested to see where his law office had been, and checked that out on the way.  This event, however, was held about a mile or so away from the shop, in the gathering hall of the community's Methodist Church.  I had a great day there, met some of the women who will be coming to our own Paris Hill Hook-In on October 19th, and made some great connections and - wow! - great sales.  What follows are some photos from this event.

There were three vendors of wooly goodies at this event.  This is Toni's table, from her shop, The Keeping Room.  I was very tempted by her penny rug kits, and may yet call her up and order one.

This is the table of  Wool N Ewe  from Ellsworth, Maine.  I met owner Al Jenkins for the first time, which was a pleasure.  Al is an extremely talented man, and was also very open and easy to chat with.  Please visit his web page to see more of his beautiful wares.

And this was my table.  What you can't really see too well in the photo are all the things I had on the shelf behind all that Parris House Wool Works wool!  I had Debbie Howe's beautiful knitting bags, Edna Olmstead's frame covers and snip pockets, Sunset Haven Pottery's ceramic snip jars, and Bear Pond Wood Works' frames.  Wool Is Why's amazing yarn is in a basket in the foreground.  All of these things were hits with the ladies attending, which is a testament to all the great talent we have here in Western Maine.

Toni put on a beautiful breakfast and lunch.  There were nice baked foods in the morning, and for lunch she served a chowder, sandwiches, and a delicious cranberry laced salad.  For dessert the ladies were treated to apple crisp and ice cream!  The theme of the event was apples this year, and there was a fun "apple swap" where attendees could swap apple themed crafts that each had brought.  Here are the hookers enjoying this savory fall feast.

There was also a rug show, judged by the attendees' popular vote.  I regret that I can not tell you the names of the hookers and designers of each of these rugs, but it goes without saying that they are the intellectual property of each person involved in their creation and are not to be copied. The artists brought a great variety of rugs in many different styles and color palettes.

Here are some more.  Note that the two rugs in the center are the same pattern, hooked by different artists.  I absolutely love seeing how different a single pattern can look, given multiple interpretations.

The rug in the foreground of this photo was the winning rug.  I was so inspired by the braided binding on this piece.  This is a technique that I have yet to try, but this is certainly an extremely inspiring example.

A very interesting part of the day's program was Toni's demonstration of penny rug making.  Below are examples of her work.  I left definitely wanting to try out this traditional wool craft.

This hook-in is held every October and would be a wonderful addition to your fall calendar.  For more information about this event or if you would like to be added to Toni's mailing list, contact her at (207) 862-3181. Registration is limited, so if you would like to go, inquire early!

Two weeks from now we will be holding our very own first annual Paris Hill Hook-In.  There are still a few days left to register, until October 10th, and we already have a group of about 55 registered.  For a registration form, click here.

Happy October and happy hooking!  - Beth