Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Saying so long to The Local Good (Edmonton) (Dec 2007 - Nov 2023)

The following is the text of a speech I read at the farewell volunteer appreciation party for The Local Good on 9 Nov 2023. I gave ten years of my life to volunteering in whatever role was needed with TLG, over time holding pretty much every role as we grew and took on new projects, before burnout and family responsibilities forced me to step back into the advisory role of Past-Chair. After going on hiatus in the spring of 2020, the remaining volunteers were never able to recapture the magic and made the heartbreaking decision to dissolve our provincial society status. Our website and social media channels have disappeared, so I plan to repost some photos and articles from the archives here over the coming month or so.

SPEECH: Saying so long to The Local Good (Edmonton) (Dec 2007 - Nov 2023)

First, I’d like to acknowledge that we are Treaty people, living in amiskwaciw√Ęskahikan in Treaty 6 territory, a gathering place since time immemorial of the vibrant cultures of Turtle Island - including the Cree, Blackfoot, M√©tis, Nakota Sioux, Haudenosaunee, Dene, Anishinaabe, Siksika, Inuit, and many others. We are guests here; may we honour all our responsibilities to our hosts and other-than-human relations.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Deb Merriam, and I volunteered with The Local Good from 2008 to 2018 in a variety of roles. Before becoming a volunteer about a year after their founding, I attended most of their monthly workshops.

The Local Good (and previously, Edmontonians Supporting A Green Economy) was a grassroots, volunteer-run organization dedicated to fostering sustainability and resilience in our community by acting as a nonpartisan networking hub to showcase local expertise, support local independently-owned businesses, and lift the voices of those without a larger platform. We formed (alongside Live Local Alberta) following community meetings on how to create a sustainable city in autumn 2007. We considered ourselves part of the Transition Towns and Local Living Economies movements, in reaction to the detrimental effects of globalization and climate change on communities.

Our hope was that by highlighting the best in our city and facilitating conversations about important issues and emerging ideas, we’d foster creation of projects and partnerships that transformed Edmonton into a resilient and sustainable community with a culture of belonging, social advocacy, and environmental responsibility. 

Some of the resulting projects were our own work, including: our newsletter, social media, and volunteer-written blog; shop-local and active-citizenship campaigns; a seminar series by local sustainability experts (2007-2013); the Slow Dialogue Edmonton workshop; Green Drinks Edmonton, a monthly networking event we inherited from Young Environmental Professionals in 2011; The Good Hundred Experiment (2012-2015) conferences; 7 Cash Mobs (plus a tree planting mob!); and Edmonton Resilience Festival(which we created and ran in 2015 & 2016 while Edmonton Permaculture Guild built their capacity to take it


Like most grassroots, volunteer-run groups run on shoestring budgets, passion and idealism,The Local Good

had limitations. We were entirely reliant on volunteers, without any expertise in preventing burnout. Our

commitment to ensuring events were low-cost created budget problems and exacerbated the burnout. As our

reach was limited by changing social media algorithms, we found ourselves in an echo chamber that

unintentionally excluded marginalized voices, despite diligent efforts toward inclusion and balance. Our focus

on in-person events as the way to build grassroots momentum around issues left us vulnerable to losing all

momentum during the pandemic lockdowns.

However, we also had tremendous success in helping iconic local businesses and shopping districts, creating bridges between academia, civil service, nongovernmental orgs, and local business where none had previously existed, and fostering community and awareness of other local groups. Our emphasis on building a stage and then spotlighting other organizations and businesses, and our policy of generously resharing posts and projects by other groups to increase their visibility, remains unusual despite its effectiveness. 

I was so proud to be part of this talented group of volunteers who did so much with so little. With love and

gratitude, I’d to acknowledge all our team members over the years: Adam, Alexis, Alison, Ally, Arielle, Asia,

Breanna, Catherine, Chris G, Chris K, Conrad, Courtney, Danielle, Diana, Gloria, Hannah, Jason, Jessica, Jude,

Julie, Kerstyn, Kim, Leila, Les, Lindsay, Nadine, Nathan, Rayleigh, Robyn, Sarah, Stephanie, Terra, Tommy,

Tonia, Toscha, and Wes, plus a couple of you who came after my time; our blog writers and events volunteers,

too numerous to list; our founders Tad and Maureen; and everyone who gave a talk, taught a skill, or acted as a

featured expert at the events we organized. I also want to thank my family for supporting my work on all

The Local Good's projects.

Please continue to create and support local independently-owned businesses, arts walks, block parties, cash mobs, clothing swaps, community leagues, craft guilds, cycling societies, disability advocates, environmentalists, farmers markets, festivals, front-yard gardens, fruit rescue societies, gay-straight alliances, housing co-operatives, Indigenous initiatives, land protection trusts, makers, minority-led organizations, musicians, permaculture guilds, pop-up parks, pride marches, regenerative farmers, repair cafes, renewable energy home tours, skill sharing events, Slow Food groups, solarpunks, social justice advocates, Transition Towns, tool libraries, urban foresters, unions, writers, and activists. Keep building a better world.

Keep loving local and doing good. We’re passing the torch to you. 

XO - Deborah

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Vintage Harry M. Fraser Model 500-1 instruction sheet

Last year, I bought a huge stash of vintage (mostly pre-1980) rug hooking supplies from a wonderful lady who was downsizing. Both she (Myrna L.) and her mother (Velma B.) had been McGown-Hookrafter-Guild-trained rug hookers, so she had boxes upon boxes of tools, books, patterns, and wool. I'm so very grateful to her, and I'm going to do my best to pay it forward by sharing the supplies with other rug hookers and sharing curiosities and treasures here on the blog. This is the second post in that series.

Among the supplies I inherited last year were four very vintage Harry M. Fraser Model 500-1 cloth slitters in various states of repair. (As teachers, Myrna and Velma had owned two each.) These classic finely-machined tools for those of use who hook using fabric are still being made (and serviced!) by the original company, and the owners have provided a history of the machine shop and their Bliss and Fraser cutters along with an image-based instruction PDF on their website. My old cutters came with a sheet of text-based instructions that likely date to the 1950s or 1960s (the model being referred to as 500 instead of 500-1 might help date them):

Fraser Model 500 cutter instructions, side 1

Fraser Model 500 cutter instructions, side 2

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Adapted design: "Blue Darner and Wild Rose"

Our guild had the opportunity to exhibit our work at a local library recently, and our learning and development team decided to make it a challenge: insect rugs, about eight inches square. I decided I wanted to hook a local dragonfly species, hovering over a local flower.

After a lot of sketching, I ended up with a design that's heavily influenced by the American Arts-and-Crafts movement. The background is inspired by the abstracted square rose designed by printmaker Dard Hunter during his Roycroft period. The dragonfly in the foreground is adapted from a Dragonfly Tile by Detroit's legendary Arts-and-Crafts ceramicists Pewabic Pottery.

April 17th: I'm doing the dragonfly's wing by layering clear elastic (that stuff from the shoulders of blouses) over the cochineal-dyed wool of the rose underneath. Taking forever because it's both stretchy and slippery but it looks so cool! (The width of the elastic is identical to the width of a #6-cut wool strip.)

You can kind of see in this detail shot that I need to hook in the elastic loop high, hook in the wool loop below it, then adjust the loop heights and align them as I go. It's slow, finicky work.

May 8th: The wings with the layer of clear elastic are taking me forever, so I switched to working on the background.

May 13th: I'm switching back and forth between background and wings, because I need to know the correct values for the background before I hook in the wing. The pink is a mix of wool flannel and wool yarn dyed with cochineal, and I'm geeking out a bit about using insects to dye the materials for my insect mat.

May 14th: almost done!

May 30th: Finished and pressed**! But my beaded border went higgledy-piggledy where it's adjacent to yarn and needs persuasion to behave itself.* 'Blue Darner and Wild Rose', wool flannel, wool yarn, and polyurethane elastic on linen. Cochineal and goldenrod used to dye the background. Finished size 9.5 inches h x 9.0 inches wide. 

*In the end, I concluded that the only way to get it to behave itself would be to hook one row of fabric all around to contain the yarn, then do the beaded border outside that - but it's already bigger than the dimensions we were meant to stick with, so I left it as is.

**I carefully went around the wings when I was steaming it. I wouldn't want to melt the polyurethane after all that work to hook with it!

June 7th: My "Blue Darner and Wild Rose" is on exhibit for the month of June 2016, alongside other insect-themed rugs by members of the Edmonton Rug Hooking Guild, at the Riverbend Branch of Edmonton Public Library.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Dyeing with old Cushing's Perfection Union Dyes

Last year, I bought a huge stash of vintage (mostly pre-1980) rug hooking supplies from a wonderful lady who was downsizing. Both she (Myrna L.) and her mother (Velma B.) had been McGown-Hookrafter-Guild-trained rug hookers, so she had boxes upon boxes of tools, books, patterns, and wool. I'm so very grateful to her, and I'm going to do my best to pay it forward by sharing the supplies with other rug hookers and sharing curiosities and treasures here on the blog. This is the first post in that series.

Among the supplies I inherited from Myrna were three boxes of Cushing's Perfection Dyes, which I have just finished sorting and alphabetizing - there's at least one envelope of each colour of the Ordinary Type (union) dyes. As near as I can tell they date to the mid-1980s at the latest. The All-Fibre Type dyes (which can also be used on nylon and synthetic fabrics, and have three different styles of pakaging) have been set aside in a ziploc bag. See below for more photos of the pamphlet.
A typical Ordinary Type dye packet, although the ink and paper colours vary a little, and the interior envelope of dye is sometimes made of paper instead of foil. Notice that the instructions don't call for added vinegar, likely because there is something like citric acid in the blend to bring the pH of the solution down. Some of my packets feel a little lumpy inside, but as long as all the dye dissolves in boiling water it should work fine.
Side 1 of the undated pamphlet, printed on heavy cardstock, has more dyeing instructions. The "Perfection Plurosol" detergent they refer to is a wetting agent, like Synthrapol of Jet Dry.
Side 2 of the pamphlet gives you an idea of the colours - although many rug hookers used recipes developed by teachers in their community to mix the dyes for custom shades. has good advice on using vintage union dyes, and notes that it probably contains the carcinogen benzidine. So, wear gloves and a dust mask when working with it, and (as always) never ever use your dye pots for cooking.

page 124 of Maryanne Lincoln's wonderful book (I need to get my hands on a physical copy!) via Google, explains in a sidebar the history of Cushing's Perfection Dyes and how the dye formulations changed from union dyes to acid dyes in the mid-1990s.

Because they are union dyes and I want to exhaust the dyebath before disposal to protect the environment as far as possible, I need to also throw cotton into each bath. So I will also have a stack of white cotton fat quarters (for a quilt, someday) and some cotton twill binding tape on hand for that purpose, in addition to the wool I'll be dyeing.

I'll follow up with some photos of my dye results when I give these a try!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

TIGHR Back To Nature friendship mat

At the last possible minute, I decided to attend this year's Triennial Conference of The International Guild of Hand-hooking Rugmakers (TIGHR) in Victoria, British Columbia (Canada). I last went in 1997 when it was held at Oak Island near Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, when the guild was much smaller. I was so excited to be in Victoria - the other attendees are all so incredibly gifted and generous with their mentorship and friendship. It was so humbling and inspiring.

I am Storifying the live tweets and instagram photos from the conference here. (They're still trickling in, the weekend after the conference.)

One of the new-to-me traditions of the guild is the exchange of small (5"x7") 'friendship mats' with other attendees. This year, the theme was "Back To Nature", and we could interpret it however we liked. My first thought was that I should use only the fabrics and yarns I've dyed in my ongoing natural-dyeing experiments.

A recent small-scale dyeing experiment with Dorr woolen fabric and (L-R) caragana, goldenrod tops, tansy tops, trembling aspen leaves, logwood chips (and a smidge of iron), and cochineal.
After dyeing, from the top: goldenrod, cochineal, horsetail, logwood (iron modifier), undyed.
My design needed to be a small, simple sampler - and needed to still look great if the materials I've dyed turn out not to be light-fast and fade to beiges and greys. I decided not to draw anything on my backing, and just make it up as I go. After piling up my materials and squinting hard at them, I decided what I had was a sunset or sunrise scene, and I went from there. (Of course, I also needed to remember that some of the experimental ones might not be fast, so I needed to keep in mind that they may fade to grey or beige over time, too. Some might see that as a flaw, but I prefer to think of it as time adding another dimension to the textile art.)

Work in progress, hooking without a drawn pattern. Unless otherwise noted, all the wool fabric is Dorr natural, was dyed without a mordant, and was cut at #6; and the wool yarn is Custom Woolen Mills (Alberta)'s Mule Spinner 2-ply, pre-stripped and alum-mordanted, hooked two loops to a hole.
Finished hooking and needs binding! From top-to-bottom: indigo, logwood (cold processed, iron modifier), red cabbage (ecoprint on 20m/m silk habotai scarf, alum mordant, hand-cut), cochineal, eucalyptus (alum mordant, ecoprinted then immersion-dyed), goldenrod, saskatoon (exhaust bath, alum mordant), saskatoon (full strength, alum mordant), black hollyhock (basic pH), black hollyhock (neutral pH). The saskatoon dye is the most likely to fade on this piece.
Sunrise Sampler #1 ('Back To Nature' TIGHR2015 friendship mat). After binding (by whip-stitching with the saskatoon-dyed yarn) and pressing.
When I was finished, I instantly decided I needed to hook another one, to keep.

Work in progress, Sunrise Sampler #2 - the colour is a bit too blue in this shot, thanks to my phone's poor camera. I imagined this as the same sunrise, framed a bit differently, taken a couple of minutes later so the sun is higher on the horizon.
Sunrise Sampler #2: from top to bottom: indigo, logwood (cold processed, iron modifier), cochineal, beet (tannin mordant), onionskin (alum mordant, ikat resist). eucalyptus (alum mordant, ecoprinted then immersion dyed), goldenrod, saskatoon (exhaust bath, alum mordant), saskatoon (full strength, alum mordant), horsetail, black hollyhock (basic pH), black hollyhock (neutral pH). I think I'll frame this one, so I can note all the materials on the mat. Saskatoon, onion, and beet are all likely not to be colourfast.
I think this is the beginning of a series - I'd love to hook more of these little landscapes using only my naturally-dyed materials.

My friendship mat among others. (Clearly I need to work on getting my natural-dyed materials darker so I can do one with a greater range of values - seeing my mat next to one with an orca in it really points out how pastel it still is.)

Friday, August 7, 2015

Traditional Rug Hooking Resources: the rug hooking FAQ, updated

Blast from the past:
Look what I found!
Yesterday, I stumbled on archived versions of the rug hooking FAQ, which I created, maintained and posted to rec.crafts.textiles.misc in the mid-1990s, when Usenet groups were still a thing and rug hooking information on the internet was hard to come by. It was archived in three places:

My goal in creating the FAQ was to make basic information about the thrift-craft-turned-textile-art and its practitioners more widely available, with the hope that more people would start rug hooking. When I finished grad school and began working full-time, I was no longer able to maintain the FAQ.

In case these archives disappear (as I thought they already had), I've copied and pasted their merged contents into this blog post, and updated it where appropriate. The care-and-repair and bibliography sections are still useful, I believe. You'll find the entire FAQ after the jump.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Deanne Fitzpatrick 'Salty Swimmers' workshop, and 'Port Greville Poppies' pillow

The timing of my family's trip to Nova Scotia last summer allowed me to take a one-day workshop at Deanne Fitzpatrick's gorgeous studio, so of course I jumped at the opportunity.

The store itself is like a candy shop for textile junkies, in a beautiful old building in downtown Amherst, NS, filled with both hooking and knitting supplies (this photo just shows one corner of the front room). The walls are hung with Deanne's inspiring work. I can't properly express what a treat it was to see art like her recent Iris In The Rough in the flesh - photos almost don't do it justice. 

I think I'd come the farthest for the class; there were hookers of all levels (including other teachers) from across the Maritimes and New England there. We were welcomed to the light-filled salon where the workshops are held, invited to pour ourselves a cuppa and grab a snack, and treated to a master class in fearlessly modifying a design to make it your own, creating personality without losing the abstraction and painterly, gestural quality that typifies the best in primitive rug design, and mixing textures to add interest to the piece. Deanne has adapted her notes from the class to create her online course "The Swimmers", and I highly recommend that you fellow rugmakers check it out! She's also written a newsletter from 2013 with tips on working with texture.

Here is my early work in progress from the class:

I'm a slow hooker, thanks to essential tremour and my early mentors belonging to the finicky-fine-shading school of hooking, so this is as much as I had finished after a couple of extra hours on the day after the workshop. As you can see from my labels, I chose to make my version of the Three Swimmers myself, my mom, and my sister. I'm especially pleased with how my wrap skirt and my sister's braid add motion to the piece, and the two extra-long loops in the centre made the perfect bow for the polka-dot bikini's halter top. By the third figure (my mom) I had finally mastered the dotted-line outlining technique that Deanne had taught - when I add the background you'll see what I mean.

A few days later in mid-August of last year, with a bit of the background in and a couple of the ribbons laid on to remind me of my colour-planning for the piece. You can really see the gorgeous sheen of the recycled sari ribbon in this shot. I should probably point out that I've exaggerated my mom's curly grey hair with my fun choice of yarn (the 'Sooty Santa' curly mohair from Encompassing Designs in Mahone Bay) - it really isn't quite that wild and woolly in real life.

I put it away for awhile, because I wasn't entirely happy with the materials I had assembled for the sea in the background - but realized that some yarn I had dyed in early July using MAIWA's indigo powder was the perfect thing to pull it all together:

In order from top to bottom: Custom Woolen Mills (AB) Mule Spinner 2-ply, scoured then given 6 dips in a chemically-reduced indigo vat; 'sexy jersey' from Deanne's shop; Mirasol Peru Pima cotton - silk blend shade 1511; Dorr wool graded swatch 6-15 blue (part of the huge stash I inherited, which I'll write about soon); slightly tweedy 2-ply wool yarn from Briggs & Little (NB). Not included is the grey sari chiffon or the blue/metallic sari ribbon that I've also used.
Work-in-progress photo I posted on my Instagram account 3 Aug 2015
I'm soooooo close to finished as I write this! Just a few rows of yarn to go.
Update: Completed rug, 10 Aug 2015. The dimensions are 12 inches x 8 inches.
This will be framed made into a cushion as a gift for my mom. (Even if she finds the curly mohair I used for her hair offensively grey. Sorry, Mom.)

Update: after consideration, Mom decided to display it on top of her antique sewing machine table. The finished mat with whipped edges can be seen on my Instagram account here.

I also couldn't resist picking up the kit for Deanne's new design 'Port Greville Poppies' while I was in the shop. My dad grew up in Port Greville, and one of his aunts had planted poppies that still volunteered year after year on the hill above the old Wagstaff & Hatfield shipyard when I was growing up, so this design really resonated with me. I'll change the colour planning somewhat from Deanne's version, to a leafy green background, but the coral-red and eggplant shades and textures included in the kit are so scrumptious that I just had to keep them. Right now I'm playing with doing a petal with the lightest colours as the flares in the petal base and grading to the darkest shades on the outside of the petal, but I may decide I'm not happy with it and pull it all out to start over.

Port Greville Poppies, on linen, work in progress.
Colour looks a bit washed-out in this photo to me.
My goal with this rug will be to hook faster and looser than I typically do - I really feel that my technique will benefit from that exercise. The hardest part of that has been resisting the temptation to fine-tune the length of every.single.loop as I go. Old habits die hard, but this is one well worth breaking.