Here in my spot of Maine a switch has been pulled. Summer tomato salads have given way to a pot of simmering lamb stew(with tomatoes). Morning strolls to the garden are no longer barefeet and tank tops, but oversized sweaters and thick slippers. Rest assured, no matter the season, there is always a steaming cup of coffee involved. Almost to my horror at this point–not really, but really—the tomatoes keep coming, despite the blighted state of their affairs. I’ve frozen, canned, jammed, and sauced them in every way I can think of. The summer squashes are rife with powdery mildew even though we’ve had only scant rain and the garden well has run dry. Even still, they keep fruiting. There’s a basket of garlic in my studio that rivals my baskets of wools. There’s a tsunami of hot peppers coming in that my husband dutifully strings to dry, even though he is a little scared of them. But my studio feels festive and decorated for celebration with vegetal garlands hanging from my display rails along with drying herbs, my finished rugs and freshly dyed skeins of wool.
My garden always gives me solace. Maybe more so this year than usual, but in equal measure to my work—which has taken wild turns into unexpected territories. There is more to muse over on that topic, but for the moment I’m going to enjoy my hooking and the burbling of stew on the stove.
I hope you are all well in these tumultuous times. Not only are my thoughts with you, so are my actions.
The year is 2020. I spend an inordinate amount of time making cloth masks on my 1930s Singer. I’m hooking a Pandemic rug. It’s snowing in May. My hair is purple. Life is different. Worse. Better. Changed. Evolving. To be determined.
I feel like we are living in a Snow Globe. Shake it to enhance the innocence, naïveté, denial. Hide behind glittery objects. Oh, so sparkly. I can’t explain what’s going on. Why is data (science) a four letter word?
Still, I find joy in the garlic–planted last fall during more hopeful times–persisting in pushing through its straw mulch. The seedlings that lay in wait to put down roots in the garden until this snow and minor league temperatures pass. The patio slowly taking shape as I lay it down stone by stone. We have a home, a garden, a patio. All of them riches, by any measure. We are still trying to decipher the world and determine how to help make it a better place for everyone. And, yes, I entirely acknowledge there’s not much in the way of grammar going on.
Like many of you, mask making has become a significant part of my daily tasks. When I finished yesterday’s allotment, I realized a low grade fury had been building as I worked over my sewing machine. I grabbed discolored and worn antique flannel and a scrap of quilting cotton from the late 1800s and made my Vote mask. Born of scraps and anger.
Stay safe. Be well.
There are so many things on mind, yet my head is blank at the same time. I’m a gifted worrier, which is usually a good thing because it keeps us prepared and ahead of the game. Now the only things I have control over are the little, frankly stupid things, and I feel myself getting edgy and raw. I miss my yoga classes, which generally help center me, among other things. And I’m grateful for the online resources that enable me to continue my somewhat hobbled practice at the edge of my dining room. I’ve always chanted, hummed easily and enjoyably in class, even tiny classes. But at home, I find I can’t Om alone.
I hope you are all safe, healthy, and well, though I know everyone isn’t whether you or a loved one is unwell or you or loved one is on the front lines of trying to save us all. My gratitude to everyone for doing their part. I look forward to the day that we can all take one big breath, chant one long OM, or do anything and everything else together again.
The news is overwhelming. I am not surprising any of you with that statement. Of course, I take solace in my hooking, my fabrics, my knitting. But I also find hope and inspiration in the newly popping seedlings lined by my windows preparing for garden season. I don’t usually attempt seedlings, preferring to defer that task to my wonderful neighbors at Morning Dew Farm. But there were a couple things I wanted for my garden this year that weren’t available, so I took the small task of starting a few thing on for myself. And immediately ran into problems. I’ve cataloged for you here a few of my little low to no budget garden tricks to keep this train on the rails.
I first came across peg looms at one fiber festival or another a few years back and was immediately enthralled. What I was seeing were gorgeous alpaca rugs and throws. My immediate thought, however, was that I might try my hand at peg loom rag rugs. The idea simmered for a time. And then a time too long.
I’m a tremendous fan of recycling and reusing. Much of my work involves the repurposing of old wools, cashmere sweaters, vintage and antique cloth and other materials. While my love affair with rug hooking is unequivocal, I’m always curious about other techniques, processes, and learning opportunities. New ways to use materials I may have collected, but aren’t necessarily my go to’s—cottons for example, are a constant tease. Weaving would seem an obvious destination for a girl with my fiber proclivities, but two things held me back: the space requirements of a number of styles of looms and the limitations of a shoulder injury. Here I circle back to my introduction to a peg loom and the possibility of it fulfilling my dream of creating rag rugs.
Unlike most looms I’d known, a peg loom is compact and requires very little space, is portable, and could work with the stash I already have. It is simply comprised of a wooden block base drilled to accept pegs. Each peg, in turn, has a hole drilled through the bottom diameter to accept your warp threads or yarns. That’s it. You can use as many or as few of the pegs as you like for a piece. The more you use, the wider your weaving will be. The length of your warp threads determines how long your weaving can go. When I divulged my plans to my hubby, thinking I could give this a go with a scrap of 2 x 4 and some dowels, he surprised me with a beautiful, well thought out finished maple piece. The pressure was on!
I had a few stops and starts with peg loom weaving. And I’m going to insert here a big thank you to Anne at Cape Newagen Alpaca Farm for the confidence building time she spent with me! The finished weave is a bit different than the more traditional under/over method. Fabric created on peg loom creates a weave that leaves only the weft visible. Rather than beating the weft into place as you go, the warp is cinched up at the end to create the density of the fabric.
My first few attempts found me experimenting with core spun alpaca, vintage flannel yardage, and recycled saris. The latter two were torn into strips that I joined as I went. I definitely have been bitten by the bug now and have more plans. I want to experiment with chunky warps and, alternatively, more delicate wefts. Visions of denim and antique silks are a tease. The possibilities are enticing. Rag rugs have always appealed to me, but different materials could make wonderful table runners or placements, window shades or pillows.
The Story of Unite, An American Hooked Rug has a querulous beginning. There are a wide range of thoughts and emotions lurking in the background of this rug. Unite was conceived and hooked while I was listening to and taking in the impeachment hearings and Senate trial. There is no doubt that it was a national event of wildly varied import and impact. This rug is how I captured this moment in history for me.
This rug has been an especially fulfilling project for me. I am not a gifted illustrator, but my doodles occasionally surprise even me. I’d been studying a variety of other rugs, both old and new, for angels, swimmers, flags. My wonky striped versions of the American flag, have always been a favorite motif to include, but I’m not quite sure how the mermaid element came in. When I was choosing my wools for her, I kept thinking of The Statue of Liberty. She must have been an unwitting influencer.
I dug deeper into the making of this rug than I usually do. Unimpressed with the color variety in my stash of wools and cashmere and committed to using as many recycled materials as possible, my long resisted dye pot was pressed into service. I learned so much and was so happy with the results of my efforts, that a little corner of our home is now being transformed into a dedicated dye studio.
As you know, Twenty Twenty (2020) is an election year, and my doodle session resulted in more than one successful rendering of a rug to be. While we march from one political fiasco to the next, I’ll continue to brandish my hook in search of patriotic harmony through my language of choice, fiber. The Story of Unite shall continue.
Hooked with new, vintage, and recycled wools and cashmere.
Measures about 36″ x 22″
Signed and dated in embroidery on the back.
Nothing may signal the height of summer more than a robust tomato harvest. Rich ruby reds, sunset golds, and greens that yellow around their shoulders while their bottoms blush pink as they ripen— so many varieties are in the garden this year, I couldn’t tell you them all. I’m a big fan of the variety pack, and love the surprise begotten by both a lack of knowledge and no memory of what I ordered way back in February. Each of the fifty tomato plants, plus the volunteers we let grow, is a surprise package. I never know what we’ll get. One thing for sure, though, is that we have bounty! My day falls into a a comfortable rhythm: tomatoes are quartered and slow roasted for hours while I hook or scribble out ideas for new designs. Packaged, frozen, and start again. We gather ponderous bulb trays full of these juicy beauties from the garden, and they even travel with us when we escape to camp for a few days of respite from everything but our tomato chores. In the roasting, the tomatoes’ flavors mingle, intensify, nearly caramelize. While we can enjoy the fresh flavorful fruits of summer right off the vine now, come fall then winter, these roasting days of tomato summer will sustain us.