Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Quilt Rugs

I love American Craft.  Folk art, tramp art, fiber art, whatever.  I think American quilts are the most amazing things.  The art quilt movement is quite strong and those quilts are truly inspiring.  But, I still prefer an old-fashioned American quilt.

My grandma learned to quilt in her 80's (she lived to 103) and she loved the fabric piecing.  I haven't tried piecing, but sewing is really not my thing.  It's a means to an end for me.  Sewing allows me to line purses and make pillows and create scarves.  Quilting is too much sewing, I think.  But I want the look of quilting.  So, back when I first started rug hooking (2005-6) I thought it would be cool to take a single quilt block pattern, blow it up, and make a rug out of it.  These four rugs are my first attempts at this.  The designs came from a wonderful book called 849 Traditional Patchwork Patterns by Susan Winter Mills.  Wow.  849 different patterns.  I think I might be making these rugs for a long, long time.

This rug was the first one I did.  The darkest color is a great plaid that came from a thrift shop skirt.  I learned quite a bit on this rug.  First, curves are hard for a beginner.  The pinwheel in the center and the corners were really difficult.  Especially since my frame at that time was a stationary frame that didn't rotate easily.  The other thing I learned was that running out of wool can actualy improve your rug.  I ran out of my initial yellow.  So, I took the closest thing I could find to finish up.  To blend the two, I pulled out single strands in the finished triangles and worked in the new yellow.  The result was more movement and more interesting color.  Lesson learned.  Now I never do an entire large area with a single, solid color.  I always blend at least two similar shades.

This rug was my second one.  Again, the inspiration wool was a plaid with mustard, red, and blue in it.  I also had this wonderful charcoal grey and the best red ever.  I think this rug is my favorite of the four that I've done.  Lots of red, touches of blue, etc.  The oatmeal wool was a batch I'd bought on Ebay.  I learned never to buy pre-cut wool unless I can see it.  The ivory was a pretty loose weave and wasn't cut on the straight of the grain with any consistency.  So, lots of fraying and splitting.  I ended up tea-staining the wool to get a little less brightness.  It worked out fine, but lots of waste.

This Tumbling Blocks quilt was the 3rd one.  Tumbling Blocks is one of my favorite quilt blocks.  I love the optical illusion.  Many years ago I attended a Kaffe Fassett knitting workshop (yes, it was fabulous!) and we spent the week working the tumbling blocks pattern in about 50 shades of tapestry wool yarn.  I felted my swatch and turned it into a pillow.  Another picture for another day.  Anyway, I love Tumbling Blocks.  I decided to have a blue/yellow theme mainly because I had lots of those colors in my stash.  You may remember my stair riser in the same colorway.  Both used the same series of wools.  This was a fun rug to work on.  I didn't plan out the whole rug ahead of time but just had set combinations of colors and then put them in appropriate places as I went along.  There were some combinations I had very limited stock so those were placed and worked first to make sure I could maximize their impact.  This was a good rug for using up small bits.  It didn't take a lot of wool to work a single little diamond.

And, here's the final one in the series to date.  I worked this rug when I had my ankle surgery.  I had all the wool cut and organized and set up next to this one chair.  I would crutch-walk over, plop myself down, and hook.  I could even work this rug with my ankle elevated on the couch!  Within a few weeks, I had this one done.  A great project to take my  mind off my confinement.  The blue in this rug is a favorite.  I'm planning to use this blue in our new addition.  The combination with the orange is terrific, I think.  And, naturally, I had a plaid that matched.

On all these rugs, I took the pattern and Kinko's blew it up for me.  They can do any size you want.  I aimed for about 17X17 square.  But, some are slightly larger or smaller.  I don't think it really matters.  Once I had the blown-up print, I would tape it to one of my windowed doors and then tape the linen over the top.  Then, it was simply a matter of tracing the lines with the Sharpie.  It's important to follow the lines of the linen so your borders are nice and straight.  But, with patience, it works out.

Rug hooking camp is next week!  I'm almost done with the fruit basket rug.  Only background and border left to go.  That rug is HEAVY!!!  My frame is protesting every time I put the rug on.  I'm amazed at how much I've accomplished in the last few weeks.

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