Online ordering, the GST and you!

Just in case you haven’t  followed news reports of recent days….

You might want to place your overseas, online rug crafting purchases for  frames, fabric or other materials sooner rather than later!  Recent reports indicate a strong possibility that by March of 2014, Australia will impose GST – and possibly additional customs duties and other fees  – on all overseas, online orders.  The charges (GST, customs, etc.) will apparently affect online purchases for as little as $20.  (I believe that at the present time, customs duty charges don’t come into effect until the value of the order is $1000 or more – don’t quote me but I believe this  is correct.)

The fact that we have no choice about  where to buy most of the equipment or supplies for this craft EXCEPT overseas, really makes the thrift aspect a bit more challenging.

What can you do?

Try to identify people in your area (retired fitters/joiners, cabinet makers, woodworking groups, metal workers, etc.) who might be interested in making some of the frames and hooks we are unable to find in this country.  Many men – in particular – who retire from their work in these trades often still own the tools and equipment suitable to produce the simple frames and tools that we use.

Ann and Michelle being closely watched

Lap frame with clamps and strip of timberIt seems to me that there is an increasing need in Australia for a source of quality craft products (tapestry frames, embroidery frames, hooking frames, etc.) that are locally made and of better quality (ie. NOT plastic!) than we can find through the current fabric/craft shops.  Surely there is at least one community  in each state where there might be a small group of people prepared – on their own as part of a group – to make the simple, traditional handcrafted equipment we all use.

Hooking tools clockwise from 12 o'clock: 5mm straight brass hook; 3mm short hook; 5mm bent ergonomic hook; 5mm short hook with turned handle; 5mm brass ergonomic hook with ball handle; 5mm brass ergonomic hook with pear-shaped handle; 8mm straight brass hook; 5mm straight hook with soapstone handle; 5mm straight brass hook with pear-shaped handle; 2 brass punch needles; 2 wood handled punch needles;Shuttle tufting tool.
Hooking tools clockwise from 12 o’clock: 5mm straight brass hook; 3mm short hook; 5mm bent ergonomic hook; 5mm short hook with turned handle; 5mm brass ergonomic hook with ball handle; 5mm brass ergonomic hook with pear-shaped handle; 8mm straight brass hook; 5mm straight hook with soapstone handle; 5mm straight brass hook with pear-shaped handle; 2 brass punch needles; 2 wood handled punch needles;Shuttle tufting tool.

In light of the push to keep us “all working” until we are 70 this might be a Plan B for some or at the very least, a good way to  supplement a retirement income.

If we aren’t able to get more people involved in making appropriate, reasonably priced tools and equipment for rug crafting in Australia, we will be paying even more to order  from overseas.

Sample Prodding Tools moving clockwise from 12 o'clock:  Bodger; Dolly Peg (one leg removed and the other sharpened slightly); turned timber; sharpened cow's horn with deerhide handle; turned timber with finger grip; Brass prodder.
Sample Prodding Tools moving clockwise from 12 o’clock: Bodger; Dolly Peg (one leg removed and the other sharpened slightly); turned timber; sharpened cow’s horn with deerhide handle; turned timber with finger grip; Brass prodder.

Give it a think!

I’d be interested to know your thoughts.



Busy times for hookers

Things have been a bit hectic since the middle of October so this is the first chance I’ve had to share some of the photos of the Sunshine Coast Rug Crafters’ activities.

Landsborough Historical Museum

The Rug Crafters have wanted to meet more frequently as a group since we only have two sessions a month at the local library and not everyone can come to both days. The biggest stumbling block to find a suitable venue comes down to the issue of public liability insurance. Since we are merely a “social group” (we are not incorporated and thus don’t carry insurance) who are a group of people who come together to work on our hobby of rug craft.  So, in an effort to explore our communities we’ve experimented with a number of other venues, like the local historical museum.

Group at MuseumThis venue did have some potential but the group found that the lighting was a bit too low (and in overcast, stormy weather this would be an issue). Accessiblity proved to be a problem at the museum – which surprised all of us – when we discovered the museum locked the public disability access doors on the weekend! This meant that whether you were able-bodied or not, you had to Sherpa your frames and equipment up and down steps in order to get in or out of the building.  We speculated as to what public liability and legal issues this would pose for the museum and Council!

At any rate, the group decided that since we couldn’t find a suitable, cheap venue for our group meetings, we should do what so many other groups do and simply rotate any “extra” group sessions among members’ homes. And we are!

William Landsborough Day

Our first “big” public event was at the end of October when we decided to set up a stall for William Landsborough Day. [Note: Wm. Landsborough was the explorer who in 1861 went to search for the Burke and Wills expedition and later learned that they had perished. Landsborough is also credited with being the first to explore and map a North-South route in Australia].

Although we did have a few inexpensive items for sale at our stall, our focus on was really on raising public awareness about this “lost” traditional craft, and meeting people from the community who were familiar with rag rug making in this country.

I think we managed to achieve both goals – thanks to the efforts of the rug crafters!

Our StallOur stall with banner.

Sale itemsThe prodded flowers went over well and served to draw people to the booth.

Pat Reid and Phil O'Shea at stallPat Reid and Phil O’Shea discussing a hooked project.

Pat and Diana answering questions from the publicOnce we attracted the public to the stall, the rug crafters took on the job of answering questions and listening to stories!

Rug crafters ready to meet publicThere wasn’t too much time to sit down once the steam train arrived in Landsborough.

Hooking and demosRug Crafters engaged in a different aspects of rug hooking and these diverse activities attracted an amazing number of visitors.

Ann demonstrating craft to visitorsThe group members surprised even themselves with the amount of knowledge they had regarding this traditional craft and had no trouble engaging with the public and answering even complex questions.

Ann and Michelle being closely watchedThe public was able to observe rug hooking from all angles at our stall and we could hardly keep up with the questions.

During the 5 hours at the event, I estimate that we had at least 80 people stop by and actively engage our group with their questions and stories about this craft, while a handful more sat down to “have a go” at the demo frame.

We also managed to add 4 new members to our list of hookers.

A day to dye!

Judy Owen wanted to try Scribbly Gum bark-dyeing and spot dyeing the wool she planned to use for a floor mat. Since I’m not a very experienced dyer myself, I wasn’t quite sure how to actually “teach” someone else since my approach is a bit more “slap dash” than the controlled dyeing techniques I keep reading about but I thought we could experiment a bit and see would happen.

The bark dyeing went very well…although the day was wet and blowing so most of the finished product had to be hung in the shed to drip dry.

Bark dyed fabricWe bark-dyed two pieces of fabric that really came out well! Since we were using some quite fresh bark, I wasn’t sure if it would  transfer enough tannin to dye the fabric but it worked well.

Then we moved on to spot-dyeing pantyhose

Panty Hosethen used the same technique on some of Judy’s handspun wool (which she had to “unroll” first and put back into a hank!

Judy Winding wool to be dyed

Two strips of wool blanket dyed and dryingThe spun wool and the spot dyed blanket wool all came out very well and I think we might try this again!

Considering the fact that the Sunshine Coast Rug Crafters didn’t really start meeting as a group until April this year (we were in flood for the first 3 months!) they have manage to produce some amazing results!

More later!  Judi



Thinking about Creativity

I’ve been thinking about creativity and lateral thinking in recent weeks – an important part of the workshops I used to offer – and was having an insightful shuffle through Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book Creativity: The Work and Lives of 91 Eminent People. Mihaly is a seminal professor of Psychology and Management, and is the Founding Co-Director of the Quality of Life Research Center in Claremont , Calif.( USA).  I thought you might find some of his findings interesting.

He writes:

“I have devoted 30 years of research to how creative people live and work, to make more understandable the mysterious process by which they come up with new ideas and new things. If I had to express in one word what makes their personalities different from others, it’s complexity. They show tendencies of thought and action that in most people are segregated. They contain contradictory extremes; instead of being an individual, each of them is a multitude.”

Nine out of the ten people in me strongly agree with that statement. As someone paid to be creative, I sometimes feel kaleidoscopic in my views or opinions, and that “multitude” of expressions sometimes confuses those around me. Why does that happen? My thoughts make cohesive sense to me, yet others sometimes feel that I am contradicting myself or switching positions. What is wrong with me?

Mihaly describes 9 contradictory traits that are frequently present in creative people:

#1      Most creative people have a great deal of physical energy, but are often quiet and at rest.   They can work long hours at great concentration.

#2      Most creative people tend to be smart and naïve at the same time. “It involves fluency, or the ability to generate a great quantity of ideas; flexibility, or the ability to switch from one perspective to another; and originality in picking unusual associations of ideas. These are the dimensions of thinking that most creativity tests measure, and that most creativity workshops try to enhance.”

#3      Most creative people combine both playfulness and productivity, which can sometimes mean both responsibility and irresponsibility. “Despite the carefree  air that many creative people affect, most of them work late into the night and persist when less driven individuals would not.” Usually this perseverance  occurs at the expense of other responsibilities, or other people.

#4      Most creative people alternate fluently between imagination and fantasy, and a rooted sense of reality. In both art and science, movement forward involves a leap of imagination, a leap into a world that is different from our present. Interestingly, this visionary imagination works in conjunction with a hyper-awareness of reality.  Attention to real details allows a creative person to imagine ways to improve them.

#5      Most creative people tend to be both introverted and extroverted. Many people tend toward one extreme or the other, but highly creative people are a balance of both simultaneously.

#6      Most creative people are genuinely humble and display a strong sense of pride at the same time.

#7      Most creative people are both rebellious and conservative. “It is impossible to be creative without having first internalized an area of culture. So it’s difficult to see how a person can be creative without being both traditional and conservative and at the same time rebellious and iconoclastic.”

#8      Most creative people are very passionate about their work, but remain extremely objective about it as well. They are able to admit when something they have made is not very good.

#9      Most creative people’s openness and sensitivity exposes them to a large amount of suffering and pain, but joy and life in the midst of that suffering. “Perhaps the most important quality, the one that is most consistently present in all creative individuals, is the ability to enjoy the process of creation for its own sake. Without this trait, poets would give up striving for perfection and would write commercial jingles, economists would work for banks where they would earn at least twice as much as they do at universities, and physicists would stop doing basic research and join industrial laboratories where the conditions are better and the expectations more predictable.”

Sometimes what appears as a contradiction on the surface is actually a harmony in disguise. A common problem for many creative people tends is one of communication. It’s the letting people know what they are thinking and why; then explaining themselves in a way that helps them understand why they are discussing multiple perspectives instead of just view-point. My approach may not make sense to others at first, but given enough time, it will.

So….now’s the time to surprise yourself with what you can do by lateral thinking and release your creative side!




Ahg! I’ve been asked to make a gift!

That’s right! You can almost set your watch by the fact that within about 20 minutes after completing – and proudly displaying – our first hooked or prodded piece, someone will ask us to “make me something”! As flattering as this is, it is terrifying when you are  asked to make something for “public” display, particularly when you are just learning the craft and feeling a bit “wobbly” about your skills. Sooooo…..Here are a few ideas of things you easily make (and they WILL look terrific!) even if you’re still pulling your “2000 loops).

As long as you know how to prod or have hooked even a small piece, you will be able to make all of the following projects as gifts or for “public display” (Honest!)

OK…you decide you will actually make a hooked piece for a friend who sews, or quilts or just does a lot of mending….what could you make for them?

How about a fleece (sheep wool with the lanolin) stuffed pincushion?

Cushion is 5 inches x 5 inches; stuffed with sheep fleece. You're right this is NOT hooked (I didn't have any more fleece to make a new one!)
Cushion is 5 inches x 5 inches; stuffed with sheep fleece. You’re right this is NOT hooked (I didn’t have any more fleece to make a new one!)

If you know someone who spins and weaves you can probably barter for a bit of sheep fleece that has not been cleaned of the lanolin. If you use fleece to stuff the cushion, the pins won’t get rusty as they are pushed in and out of this natural lubricant.

I made this piece a long time ago when I was trying to teach myself how to do some “fancy stitches”….I am too slow and not very patient so this was all I made! But….use your imagination to see this as a 5-inch hooked square (pillow). I never hooked another cushion for myself because I don’t have access to sheep fleece.

But…you get the idea?

OK.  Most of us – hookers or not – have at some point been asked if we would make table decorations or party favours for a wedding, anniversary, holiday or other event.

Now what? Making a large number of small items  are time- consuming, expensive and sometimes (often?) vary in quality as you get bored making them.

So.  Put your new-found skills with rugcrafting to work and prod a few pieces to be used as the decorative “surrounds” for a votive candle, nut/sweets dish or vase of flowers.

Votive candle table decoration.
Votive candle table decoration.

OK.  I made this one verrry quickly (I wanted to get a couple of these done before my group arrived!) But you get the idea.  Use any fabric, in any colour or texture you like or feel is appropriate. The white chiffon with gold or silver looks good for anniversary settings and of course the red/green/white colours work well for xmas. You could even use some of the satin from a wedding dress for an anniversary or wedding celebration.  Your choices are limitless.

These are easy to make.  Draw a circle around the container you intend to use. You’ll end up with probably something like a 6-7 cm (3 inch circle).

Now all  you have to do is prod 2-3 rows of your fabric around the outside of the circle:

Two rows prodded around candle base.
Two rows prodded around candle base.

Now. trim the pieces to fine-tune the shape and you are ready for your candle. (Note: be VERY aware when making these for candles that you are using the small votive candles in glass that won’t get too hot. Also make sure your fabric is not highly flammable. Just use your common sense and check on these items regularly if you are using them around flames)

Ready for a trim.
Ready for a trim.

Sometimes its just not economically feasible to buy all new dishware for a party. If you’re like me you have a hodge-podge of dishes you use for nuts, sweets, olives, etc. If you feel you really need these dishes to “match” or need “tizzing up” then this prodding approach can take care of them as well.

Make the "petals" longer in order to "hide"more of the dish if necessary.
Make the “petals” longer in order to “hide”more of the dish if necessary.

You can add more rows of “petals” around the dish to make it a larger centre piece, or make the prodded pieces longer/larger to cover more of your dish.

These are easy to make and it’s a great way to use up small pieces of leftover hessian or backing.

OK….just a couple of quick thoughts on how to handle the “can you make me something” requests you’ve gotten!

Happi Hooking!