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.)

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.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Tactical Suburbanism: the Highest Point Pop-Up Playground project

[27 May 2015 update: We are extremely grateful to accept a Project Accelerator Grant from Make Something Edmonton for this project! However, we are switching our attention to a different location, due to permit problems with the original site. Please read on for the details of our revised project on the new site.]
[12 June update: We now have a Facebook event page! Also, we're modifying our plans slightly. Look for the crossouts and text in purple below to see how we've changed things.]
[5 July update: I've posted some tips based on what I learned and a Storify of all the #DIYcity over on The Local Good's blog!]

(sign created by our collaborator Green Spectacle Creations)
We want to create a pop-up adventure playground and transitory community-created art installation to animate Rabbit Hill Natural Area for #DIYCity Day. (Here's our Make Something Edmonton project page.) Won't you help us use the ideas of tactical urbanism to create a family-friendly suburban event? 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Tactical Suburbanism: the Bridge To Somewhere Pop-Up Playground project

[27 May 2015 update: we're grateful to accept a Project Accelerator Grant from Make Something Edmonton for this project! However, it turns out the land at The Bridge To Nowhere is owned by the Province of Alberta, and we cannot get a permit for land use in time for #DIYCity - so we are switching our attention to a different site on City of Edmonton parkland. If there is a DIYCity2016, we will attempt to get permits for the Bridge To Nowhere site and carry out the original idea then. Our new proposed site is at Magrath Park and Rabbit Hill Natural Area - please read our latest blog post for more details.]

We want to create a pop-up adventure playground and transitory community-created art installation to animate The Bridge To Nowhere for #DIYCity Day. (Here's our Make Something Edmonton project page.) Won't you help us use the ideas of tactical urbanism to create a family-friendly suburban event? 
This is the view of the underpass from the top of the hill on the north side of Anthony Henday Drive. The pedestrian underpass access is on the east bank of Whitemud Creek, and it's suspended about 7 feet above the creek. 
Who: We're an as-yet-unnamed collective of artists looking for collaborators and volunteers to make this thing happen. (If that's you, please leave a comment below and I will get in touch!) We are passionate about creating a series of pop-up play places in both urban and suburban neighborhoods that activate underused or lost public spaces and create feelings of community connectedness. We see Bridge To Somewhere as the first installation in a series.
What: Bridge To Somewhere Pop-Up Playground will be a pop-up adventure playground, transitory community-created art installation (chalk and wheatpaste), and solar-lit textile art installation under The Bridge To Nowhere. It will be paired with a temporary slide down the grassy steep path on the south side of the highway, and a mix of temporary and permanent wayfinding and interpretative signs along the paths that help people find the spot while informing them about the ravine's cultural and natural history.

Friday, January 2, 2015

My 2015 Goals and 2014 Year-in-Review

My top 20 goals for 2015, in no particular order:

1. more dyeing

2. more hooking
3. more creating
4. more connecting
5. more community-building
6. more self-care
7. more deliciousness
8. more dancing
9. more writing
10. more travel
11. more organizing
12. more making
13. more learning
14. more gardening
15. more togetherness
16. more decorating
17. more sunlight
18. more bike rides
19. more doggy walkies
20. more love

I'm going into 2015 feeling a bit burnt-out. Last year I said yes to too many projects; this year, I need to set boundaries and delegate more things and be kinder to myself. So maybe that list above looks like too much. However, that "more more more" list above really boils down to this: choosing only things that reduce my stress or bring me more joy. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Family Recipe: White Sugar Cookies

I had the pleasure of attending the annual Slow Food Edmonton sugar cookie bake on Candy Cane Lane this holiday season. From our host Cynthia, I learned two tricks for baking sugar cookies: roll them out with extra icing sugar (instead of flour) on the countertop to keep the dough from getting too dry, and use a sil-pat sheet to keep them from sticking to the cookie sheet. Seriously, the sil-pat worked like magic, but parchment paper works almost as well.

Cynthia has a snail-shaped cookie cutter. THE CUTEST.
This is the recipe I made in advance to bring with me: the classic "white sugar cookie" recipe that came to me from my husband's grandmother, Delma (nee LeBlanc) Vienneau, via his aunt Lorraine (Vienneau) Miller. We're not sure how old it is. Aunt Lorraine also had adapted the recipe, so I'll append her version to this post. This is the doubled original recipe.

4 cups sifted wheat flour (I use half unbleached all-purpose, and half organic "soft white" flour from local growers Gold Forest Grains)
2 cups white sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup butter

Preheat over to 350F / 180C.

Sift then measure flour. Add baking powder, cream of tartar, and salt to flour.

In another bowl: cream the butter until soft and smooth. Add while mixing: sugar, vanilla, eggs, then flour mixture (a bit at a time).

(The dough can be chilled or frozen - or used right away.)

Roll on a lightly floured board to about a quarter-inch thick and cut into desired shapes. Bake for 10 or 12 minutes. You may sprinkle with sugar before baking if desired - or decorate with icing once cooled.

Aunt Lorraine's adapted sugar cookie recipe:

3 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda (not baking powder!)
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup shortening (instead of butter or margarine)
1/4 cup milk

Combine dry ingredients (except sugar).
Cream shortening until soft. Add while mixing: sugar, eggs, vanilla.
Add 1/4 of flour mix, mix well, then add 1/2 of milk and mix well.
Add 1/2 of remaining flour, mix well, add rest of milk, mix, then add rest of flour and mix until all traces of flour disappear.
If dough is too soft to handle, add extra flour.
Roll to about 2 cm thick, cut and bake 10-12 minutes at 350F / 180C.