the perfect book and Annie all hooked

birdbrains book

I’m thinking about a new rug now that Annie is almost finished. I fell in love with Wallace Steven’s poetry in university and a recent article on him in the New Yorker rekindled my interest. (He was a complex man, of course, and apparently punched Ernest Hemingway in the jaw and for some time after that nursed a broken hand and puffy eye.) A 2009 journal of mine has his poem Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird pasted to one of the first pages with ideas for a rug. It has been in the back of my mind since then, or maybe before, to do a rug with blackbirds and somehow incorporate part of Steven’s poem. To stir the design process I’ve been reading Bird Brains by Candace Savage. Savage explains that crows, ravens and magpies “are tops among birds for overall brain size. Their brain-to-body ratio equals that of dolphins and nearly matches our own. What’s more their large brains are packed tight with exceptionally large numbers of brain cells.” Her book is filled with delightful tales of Corvids (their Latin name) outsmarting humans and making “complex decisions…showing every sign of enjoying a rich awareness.”  I am going to enjoy reading this book and hooking some crows. Given the size of Annie, I think I’ll start with a few small pieces, before I tackle another rug.

Speaking of Annie..I have finished hooking all 5′ by 7′ of her. Serging around the edge in preparation for whipping proved to be difficult. I am not sure how much she weighs, but it is not insignificant and I had trouble holding that bulk up to the serger. At any rate, here are a couple of photos taken inside. Once the whipping is done, I’ll hang her up and take a proper shot.annie done 1

I stood on a chair and leaned as far out as I could to take this photo–unfortunately I could not stretch to get the whole thing.annie all hooked

This photo is taken standing at one end, but it too has its distortion. But you get the idea!
annie all hooked1

One last close-up of the signature.annie hooked


annie update…nearing the end

annie may 11 2016I haven’t shared an Annie progress picture for a few weeks. And this will be the last one showing hooking progress. By typing Annie in the search box on the top right you can follow the progress from the start in Wendie Scott Davis’ class in July 2013.  I’ll be taking another class with Wendie this July and starting a new project–but more on that in another post. So, two more dark circles and a little more background and I’ll be ready to start whipping. Annie is 5’x7′, so the whipping may take as long as it took to hook the rug–but I hope not!! Below is the lovely hand-dyed wool I bought from Red Maple Ruggery to do the whipping.

annie with whipping wool


rug hooking: Annie update

annie april 21 16

This section and a small spot in the top right corner for the bird signature are all I have left to hook–about two days’ worth. However…before I have even finished, I’ve become obsessed with correcting some of the very early loops. Now that I have a view of the whole I can see where some of the early sections are jarring. I began the rug with the quotation at either end, hooking in circles with an off-the-bolt mid-blue stripe and adding strips of similar colour and value. From there I had the idea of moving into green and then back to blue in the centre as I hooked around the 65 houses. The ends of the rug with the quotation are quieter, but I still want it all  to work as a whole.

The rug taught me as I went along how to make a smooth transition from colour to colour while keeping an interesting pattern of circles. I learned that smaller circles are better, as well as staying within a close value range. As I look at the whole nearly-completed rug, I realize that the first transition in colour below the quotations is to0 defined. I can see the divide between colours like a line across the rug. So I’ve been ripping out and re-hooking, trying to make a seamless transition from colour to colour.

This rug has been three years in the making, not non-stop hooking by any means, but always in my mind. So it is fine that it is taking a little longer. I am learning as I go. After all, the rug is about how we live our lives.  And imagine how long it will take to whip! I am sure to be devoting many evening hours on the cottage porch this summer to that little task. For an overview of the progress of this 5’x7′ somewhat biographical rug, just type Annie in the search box.

1 comment

houses…sketched and hooked

AGO victorianI was in Toronto for a few days last week. One of my favourite places is the Art Gallery of Ontario. I like to  make a trek to my favourites, David Milne and Lauren Harris. and then head to the cappuccino bar which overlooks Dundas Street and its row of Victorian houses. It was a sunny day, something which has been very rare lately, and I had enough time to complete two sketches of these elaborate houses. I like the sense of calm that comes over me when sketching, even in the centre of a busy city, and I love to get to know a building by sketching it.

AGO yellow bldg

My Annie rug  is too big to leave the house now…so I’ve been working on a few small pieces. I seem to have houses on the brain (Annie has 65 and counting) and it’s interesting how hooking and sketching inform one another. I’m thinking of doing a series of these small mats, working with shapes, values and colour and rows of houses.

hooked street 1


Annie: meeting in the middle

It’s a milestone of sorts–joining the two ends of my rug. It is 5′ x 7′ and the end is in sight. As I look at the whole thing now, I see where I have to make some changes/tweaks but they will come at the end. I hadn’t worked out in the beginning how to morph from one colour to the next. I’m sprinkling some turquoise, my favourite colour, into the middle now. It seems strange, after working so long on this piece  how much joy I still get from forming each circle, from choosing the strands which make each one unique. I’ve spent much of this snowy week with the rug and good radio. A great winter combination.annie feb 20 16

The Globe and Mail had another article this week on the benefits of knitting (substitute rug hooking, quilting, crocheting  most handcrafted fibre arts). Stress reduction has been linked to such activities before. This article goes farther to suggest that such fibre handcrafts not only reduce stress and help avoid depression but  “may help to stave off a decline in brain function with age”. Hurray for that. I’m all for staving off my brain decline. But mostly I’m about the love of strips of hand-dyed wool pulling through my fingers and sitting next to one another in lovely colours.  And I love the feel of the finished product under foot and the look of it across a room. If the joy of creating one of these hand-hooked pieces also helps me keep a grip on things a little long…all the better.Annie feb 20 16 2

If you would like to see photographs of this rug in progress, just type Annie in the search box on the top right of the page.


snow storms and Ronald Searle, the power of sketching

This cartoon depicts the life we have been experiencing in Eastern Ontario this week. Lots of snow and reasons to stay inside, only one of which is eating ice cream. This 1988 NYer cover is by Ronald Searle. For me it has it all: charm, colour, design and wit. I hope you will read this Guardian obituary because it is full of fascinating details of Searle’s life and gives an insight into the sustaining power of sketching, even in some of the worst of life’s situations.
searle 1

1 comment

I am a retired educator and recovered administrator. I have always been interested in fibre, first as a weaver, now as a rug hooker and screen printer. Over the last few years I have become passionate about giving a new life to cast-off wool and leather. This is my journal where I muse about my creative life.

Available in Store

Follow birdbrain via email