Gather Inspiration Where Ye May

It was a good sign when I arrived at Kathy's house for the Saturday afternoon rug hooking group. There was a lovely plant on the front step whose blossoms looked like they could have been hooked. Does anyone know what this beauty's name is?
Kathy showed off a rug made by a Shawnigan Lake hooker, whose name she couldn't remember. (A reminder to always label your work!) Even to my beginner eyes, this piece shows off a very skilled use of directional hooking, colour and texture.

So what's this rug hooking interest all about for me? It's not like I need more projects. The simple reason is that I have always liked the look of hooked wool. I especially love the Grenfell rugs of Newfoundland, and the story of Jessie Luther, a proto-art therapist from the 1900's who made a reality of Dr. Grenfell's idea of helping the women of the outports become more self-sufficient. Even back in the 1980's, when I was a self-absorbed space cadet, I remember noticing  Barbara Klunder's hooked rugs and thinking how marvelous they were. So rugs have always been lurking in the background.

But I never got around to trying it, until a neighbour on Salt Spring Island, Lynn Raymond, gave me a quick lesson one day. I was amazed at how simple it was, but other projects loomed, so it wasn't until another neighbour here on Gabriola, Roberta Bryan, invited me to a beginner's workshop that I actually took up the hook. I was hoping for something that had a different sort of hand movement so that I could take a break from stitching, and although I suspect that if I did enough of it, hooking would lead to more repetitive strain, just in a different part of my hand, it does use more of my palm and takes pressure off my fingers.

Our beginner group has over a dozen members, which seems to have surprised even the "madam" hookers who are guiding us along. This is a craft which was barely on my radar. Unlike Atlantic Canada, the West Coast has no tradition of hooking. It is so simple to do, and can cost so little, I suppose there isn't the same attraction to developing a market that there has been for quilting or knitting. But it is so easy, and versatile, maybe it is the next craft phenomenon.

I picked up the book below from the library. Deanne Fitzpatrick's Inspired Rug Hooking  offers much more than the title would indicate.

I think this is a great guide for any textile artist who wants to design their own work. There is nothing here that art school would teach you, no Bauhaus fundamentals of design. Instead, Deanne is like a loving, generous friend, sharing her own approach of drawing upon the world around her for inspiration.

Here's her opening line:
Making rugs is not just a utilitarian practice; it is a personal journey. I believe that in making rugs, or any other kind of art, you are constantly confronted with your powerlessness to be perfect, or to even be what you want to be, and your comfort with this imperfection makes you open and accepting of "less than-ness." You realize that you are a small part of something bigger.
She then talks about visiting a nun who is a sculptor working with stone. The nun says, "I rarely get down on my knees to pray, but I pray all the time with my work."

Deanne continues,
I have read, and I have felt, that when you are creating you can get closer to God or whoever you think made this beautiful place, where every leaf and every tiny creature has a structure that is intricate and complex and beautiful. You come to understand, as a mat-maker especially, that the world is created in patterns, with rhythm and beauty. This understanding comes from making rugs, because their creation is a meditation and through it you come to understand yourself and the world around you.
 Which is a pretty darn good way of saying why one makes art of any kind, I think. Her chapter titles give an idea of where she draws her inspiration from: Beauty by Design, House and Home, Walking Into the Landscape, Magic and Storytelling, Creativity and Spirit, People and Community, Hooking a Prayer.

I can't recommend this book highly enough, as an excellent read and inspirational guide. It's not a "How-to Hook" book though, apart from a few sidebars with technical advice, but if you want to learn I'm sure there are videos on YouTube, books in your library, or even a rug hooking group in your community.


  1. That flower looks to me like a lantana, though I can't really tell the scale from the phoeo. Blossoms about an inch and a half across, leaves a bit shiny and toothed at the edges? Lantana has a distinct, sharp smell when you rub the leaves. It grew easily in lots of gardens of my childhood (in Texas).

  2. Lantana? Leaves have a distinct sharp smell, flowers about an inch and a half across.

  3. Thanks Sue! I believe you are right. It was so pretty, I'll have to get one for my garden.

  4. Great post Heather... Years ago I hooked all the time. Mostly from cut wool strips... which will you be using, yarn or strips?

  5. Anonymous6:13 AM

    Good morning, dear Heather,
    Another beautiful sunny morning - and it was supposed to be cloudy this morning and raining tomorrow! I am off with Bev in a few minutes but wanted to say hello to you. I look at your Codex hanging on the dining wall everytime we sit down to a meal. I asked Jim to bring up your blog and was loving the read as usual. So, you and James are up to your eyeballs in preparing for the Thanksgiving art tour. Hope it goes well and you are pleased and not to exhausted with its outcome. Love the hooking - you know I made you a hooked rug - pink with a rose on it to match your wallpaper. Is it still the same process? Having a good time here - garden all gone through. Going to Montreal on Thanksgiving Day, seeing Margaret on the Tuesday I think, returning to Kingston on Friday, Toronto on Sunday for a couple of days and homeward, slowly, bound.

    much love and hugs,


  6. Anonymous7:15 AM

    Yup, that's a lantana. They have become part of the wild urban greenery here in Japan. They do like the intense heat of summer but can also survive the cold winters. They don't seem to require much care. I have seen pink flowers, brilliant orange/red flowers and yellow flowers. Hope to see an example of your rug work in a future post.


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