OK….Just a quick note (I’m not sure how long this photo will stay here) but the piece I submitted for exhibition at the Red Rock Gallery in Victoria is actually on their website! How flattering!
It’s a curious situation: I’m involved with a craft that “almost” has a history! Since the craft – and skill – of rag rug making or rug hooking has gradually disappeared from Australia, it seems to me that before it’s too late we need to track down and document the people, tools and rugs that shaped this aspect of our cultural and social history.
Do you know an older man or woman who used to make hooked or prodded (rag) rugs as children?
Have you perhaps found an “odd” tool in granny’s sewing box?
If you find any of these items would you please let me know? Or find the rug group nearest to you (there are groups in WA, NSW, VIC, ACT) and let them know?
I’d love to see your photos, hear your stories – or that of your granny – and would really love to see the tools, frames, rugs or any other objects in person! Please contact me or one of the other rugcrafting groups around the country and share your “find”.
It’s time for Australia to restore this craft to its rightful place in our history but we need your help. You can contact me through this website or send your contact information as a comment at the end of this post.
I’ve had a number of people ask me about the dye I used for my panty hose so here’s the website for where I bought my dye: http://www.kraftkolour.net.au/
Kraft Kolour is in Thomastown, Victoria and offers a huge range of dye products, fibres and equipment. I used a particular group of dyes called “Landscape” which claim to replicate the colours of the Australian landscape. I’m also led to believe they are slightly less toxic than some other dyes (I won’t swear to this!). KK also has materials for natural dyes and the appropriate mordent to use with them and a wide range of fibres and the list goes on. I used used these dyes on both my panty hose as well as the wool blankets.
Have a look at the blanket colours!
I recently discovered that I had somehow accumulated eleventy-two thousand pairs of panty hose (give or take sixty-eleventy). I really like hooking with panty hose but frankly there is only so much you can do with “flesh tone” so this morning I sorted out my stash and decided I would dye the lot of them so at least I would have some interesting colours.
Those of you who know me know that I would prefer to use recycled, already-dyed fabrics but sometimes….I just don’t have the luxury of time to wait for someone to clear out their house and drop off that perfect coloured fabric I’ve been waiting for and lately I needed some colours I didn’t have in my ever-growing stash.
It was time to head to the dye pot.
So…this morning I spent about 3 hours sorting and dyeing panty hose. I’ve included a few pictures of what came out of 4 batches of dyeing…some really wonderful colours I think!
Monday I had a delightful visit from Maggie Whyte (and husband David) who took the time to drive up from the Brisbane area where they were house-and pet-sitting for family. Maggie lives and creates (hooking, felting, embroidery, and more!) in Canberra and we met for the first time last year at The International Guild of Handhooking Rugmakers (TIGHR) conference in South Australia. We had a great time – appearently we both have the same “skewed” view of the world – and spent a lot of time getting to know one another.
Visits from other rug crafters, hookers and fibre artists are really important – particularly for those of us who have worked in isolation with this craft,; for rug crafters in Australia that’s all of us! I really appreciate the visits I’ve had from hookers (Jo Franco, Miriam Miller and Jacqui Thomson for example) and am always flattered and humbled when people are willing to take time from their busy schedules to visit me.
At any rate, Maggie and David drove through some pretty appalling weather to get to the Sunshine Coast for lunch, conversation and a lot of mutual inspiration! Great fun.
I can only encourage you to network with other rug crafters and fibre artists in Australia (join the Australian Rugmakers Guild to find other members in the Australian “pool”) and when you’re travelling, think about visiting a rug crafter. You’ll not only find yourself a very welcome visitor, but you’ll probably be well-fed, enjoy a “beverage of your choice” and have an opportunity to re-inspire yourself!
I decided to offer a full-day session on design and planning since I only meet 3 hours a month with each rug group (Mon. & Tues.). In such a short amount of time, I find there is simply no way I can absorb new members, introduce them to the craft and help them practice the basics, while at the same time move the more experienced members forward. Although some members are happy to answer questions for others, they too have their own questions and projects to do. In the few months that the SC Rug Crafters group have been together, a small group managed to complete the 3 groundwork project tasks I “assigned” (prodded flower, mug mat and carry bag) and indicated they were ready and interested in having a chance to spend more focused time on the design planning process.
This full-day session was set up to move the group through the thinking, planning and preparation process of designing a bespoke, hooked (or prodded) piece. It was not intended to be a hooking and prodding session, although they were encouraged to bring sample fabrics to review colour, texture and try hooking a sample of the techniques they intended to use to see if it would “work” in their planned design.
So….Saturday, five women from the Sunshine Coast Rug Crafters groups arrived at my house early enough to have blueberry muffins and coffee before we started our day. I had set up a table of resource books as well as a table of objects (see below) as a way to remind ourselves that the inspiration for design ideas – colour, texture and patterns – can come from simple objects around us.
To broaden the ideas base, the group was also encouraged to have a “sticky beak” around my house to look at other ceramics, textiles and craft work I have collected over the years; that’s not that my “collection” is so wonderful but it serves to highlight the fact that we each like and collect a different range of collectibles, art, craft and things.
Be assured that if ever I come to your house you can bet I’ll want to poke around in your collection!
The day seemed to be quite a success and the shared lunch was terrific (no surprise!) and the glass or two of champagne was just right!
We reviewed our accomplishments at the end of the day and I think the group agreed that they had managed to do everything I hoped they would:
- Understood the basic planning steps – questions to ask and answer – before hooking a project.
- Understood how a design can be influenced by the fabric, colour choices, hooking technique(s) and backing fabric.
- Understood how to make a reasonable “guess-timate” of the amount of fabric needed for a particular piece or design element.
- Know where to find design ideas.
- Decide how to finish your edges.
And last, but certainly not least:
- Have your design accurately drawn onto a piece of your backing or foundation fabric of your choice.
I had a great day and it reinforced my own “rule of thumb” that 5-6 people is the maximum number for a small group, hands-on session when there is only one instructor.
NB Workshop teachers and students: For what it’s worth, this ratio information might serve as a “warning bell” for you if you decide to offer or take a workshop: be certain that the instructor-to-student ratio is appropriate for the level of the learners in the session. Learning a new skill set takes time and practice. New learners need time to practice with guidance during a workshop and not expected to “just practice this at home”. Instructors need adequate focused time to spend with each participant.