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.

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