Rug of the Month: January 2022

Happy New Year! We’re starting the year off with a brand new project. This month’s rug is from a pattern named “Solitude,” designed by Ania. She hooked it in #4 strips of wool, and it measures 8″ X 8″.

Read on to learn more about the project, and to see images of the completed rug:

Ania’s “Solitude” rug.

What was the inspiration behind this project?  

Last year I gave a talk on how to hook stained glass rugs in the Louis Comfort Tiffany style. After the talk, members of the guild requested that I teach a workshop on the same topic, sometime this year. This being the age of Zoom, I gave the talk online and it looks likely I will teach the workshop online as well. I have been very enthusiastic about projects inspired by stained glass, and especially Tiffany-style stained glass, for several years now.

I love the challenge of translating the glass into dyeing techniques, and then using that wool to mimic the look of stained glass in a rug. I chose to make a lily pad pattern, because they’re a common motif in Tiffany windows. I also really like lily pads, which you can tell based on how often I hook them! I thought it would be fun to design a simple pattern that could be used to teach key hooking techniques to mimic the look of confetti, favrile, or drapery glass.

The lily pad was hooked in pink spot dyed wool.

How did you approach color planning for this project?

It was very simple – I used all spot dyed wools, and used colors suitable for sky, water, the lily pad, and lead. I didn’t want to get too experimental with the colors as I plan on using this rug to help teach during a workshop.

The sky is hooked in a blue wool with a good amount of white included, to add brightness.

Is there anything else of note to you about this rug?

With stained glass rugs, I like using a technique when I dye the wool that I call stained glass spot dyeing, where I intentionally leave white spots in my wool. When you hook with it, it gives you brightness in your rug that looks like sunlight shining directly through your window.

I’m looking forward to teaching the class, whether it ends up in-person or online, and if you’re interested in doing a similar workshop, I’d be happy to work with you to pull something together. Please message me to let me know of your interest by leaving comments on this post. This piece is nice and quick – you can finish it in a day or two.

Happy Holidays!

As has become tradition on this blog in recent years, December’s blog post is showcasing one of Ania’s handmade ornaments! For 2021, Ania’s ornament is a paper poinsettia design, one of her favorite winter flowers, which is a little bit of a departure from the usual beaded ornaments she’s chosen in the past.

You can take a look at the ornament below, and read a brief message from Ania on the Holiday Season and New Year:

Ania’s paper poinsettia ornament.

I wish you a Happy Holidays, and a very healthy and Happy New Year! In 2021, I was delighted to return to in-person teaching for the first time since 2019. I also spent a lot of time this year studying the science of color, and how each of us sees color differently. In 2022, I have exciting plans to use that extra knowledge in a series of courses and in my teaching! I’ll be able to share more in the upcoming months.

In the new year, I hope you enjoy many new hooking adventures and make new friends. I look forward to spending more time with you in the new year, whether in-person, online, or somewhere in between! Merry Christmas!

Tips and Tricks: Next Dye Session Bring a Flashlight

Have you had a situation during a dye session, where: you have your solutions, they look ready to pour, but when you do you find you have clumps of wet dye that pours onto your wool? Sometimes, you can rescue it if you’re using a lot of water in your dyeing and you stir aggressively after the pour. Otherwise, you might be stuck with frustration and starting over again because the color is not what you needed or wanted. You’ve wasted time, dye, and possibly even wool! I’ve been there, and started incorporating an LED flashlight into my dye sessions as a way to resolve those clumpy dye issues.

With darker dyes, it can be difficult to confirm if the solution is fully dissolved and ready to pour.

The solution is simple: have an LED flashlight handy when you’re dyeing. Especially with darker solutions, it can be difficult to tell if the solution is fully dissolved. After you’ve made your solution and mixed it, and you’re ready to check if it’s ready to pour, that’s when it’s time to grab your flashlight. Shine your flashlight through the bottom of your container and you will see dark spots where there are still solid clumps of solution – continue to stir your solution until you see no more solid participles floating through the solution when shining that light through the bottom.

With the help of a flashlight, we can see clumps of undissolved dye remain at the bottom of this solution.

This method has worked for me in every situation I’ve had trouble with dissolving dyes, even with hot water. It’s a quick way to see if you’re dye solution is homogenous, and a great way to avoid worrying about whether the concentration of your dye solution is where you want it to be.

Here we see the solution is fully dissolved and ready to pour!

I usually use polypropylene semi-transparent plastic containers for my dyeing – this method will definitely work if you use glass or clear plastic containers. If you use containers that are more opaque, you can check if it will work for you by filling a container with clear water, and shining a flashlight through the bottom. If you can see the light, it should work.

Happy Dyeing!

Rug of the Month: October 2021

After a few busy month’s off, preparing for teaching, we’re back with a new Rug of the Month post! This month’s post is focused on a project entitled a “Study in White.” The rug is 4″ x 4″, and mounted on stretcher bars. It was completed with #3-5 strips of wool.

Take a look below to see completed images of the project, and to read about how Ania approached hooking it:

What inspired this project?

The base of this rug was the same type of canvas that served as the base for my triptych project. These small canvases are great for studies of ideas that you think might be interesting as a bigger piece.

I had a canvas, and I wanted to try out using natural wool and everything devoid of “added color.” The idea was to use materials and techniques from rug hooking and teaching, and also materials from my jewelry design business. Rug hookers will often venture into different materials, like yarn or silk, and I was specifically interested in different textures and how light can be absorbed and reflected by different soft and hard materials. That’s why I chose to use white fresh water pearls, silver lined clear glass seed beads, and natural undyed wool.

The better you understand how light is absorbed and reflected by different materials the better you can use that knowledge to add depth to your art. The way water absorbs and reflects light is very different than fabric. And the way different fabrics absorb and reflect light is going to be very different as well – cotton as compared to silk as compared to wool and so on.

How did you approach hooking this rug, to create interest despite the achromatic color planning approach?

I used different sizes of pearls, as well as pearls that had been drilled in different directions, to emphasize the different shapes of the beads. There are round, potato, and rice pearls. I’ve also used stick pearls before, in my water lily rug. It almost felt like embroidering a wedding gown.

I made the central motif with the pearls, and then did directional hooking with my wool to draw further attention to that motif.

What were your observations and take aways from this study?

I love the luminescence of pearls! And how I could create that as a focal point using directional hooking around the central motif of the pearls. The more you observe it, the more you start to see subtle differences in color. The impact of the shadows is also really noticeable with this project, and that was a takeaway I started to pay more attention to with other projects. Attention to that type of detail helps you create more realistic images and allows you to be very intentional with your art.

With future works I’d like to incorporate my jewelry design into more of my rug hooking.

Feel free to comment below with any questions or comments for Ania! 🙂

Are You Interested in Getting Together?

The second half of 2021 is looking promising for more in-person events in the U.S. For me, one of the more exciting prospects has been teaching at rug schools. I’m so excited to see fellow rug hookers again, and work on projects in person together. One of the great parts of rug hooking is learning new techniques and methods together, and enjoying the company of fellow rug hooking enthusiasts.

Ania’s “Notre Dame Gargoyle,” which was featured on this blog as the Rug of the Month for July 2019.

I have two rug schools that I will be teaching at this year. The first is Rugs by the Sea, which is located in Cape May, New Jersey and will be held over two weeks in September. I’ll be teaching an open class during the first week, from the 12th through the 17th of September. Rugs by the Sea is located at the Chalfonte, which is a historic post-Civil War hotel, with views of the Atlantic Ocean. If you’ve been looking for an excuse to get away, and would enjoy some time working with me on a hooking project, this school might be a great option for you! You can get registration information and more details by sending an email to Linda Woodbury, a co-director of the school, at linda.woodbury@gmail.com.

Ania’s “Jack in the Green,” which was featured as this blog’s Rug of the Month for September 2018.

The second school is the ATHA Region 1 Rug School North, which is located in Meredith, New Hampshire. The school will take place from the 17th to the 20th of October. Meredith is located on Lake Winnipesaukee, just south of the White Mountains, which is a truly beautiful area. The school is held at the Church Landing Resort, which has phenomenal views of the lake. In October, the foliage is beautiful too – it will be a great experience! I will also be teaching an open class at Meredith. If the ATHA Region 1 Rug School sounds of interest, please contact the director, Pam Bartlett at redhorserugs@comcast.net.

Ania’s “H2O Lily Pad,” which was featured as this blog’s Rug of the Month for January 2020.

Both of these schools have been operating for many, many years, and have been international rug hooking attractions – people attend from across the U.S., Canada, and as far away as Japan! I’m excited to teach in person again, and hopefully I’ll be able to see some of you.

Tips and Tricks: Bias Cut Binding Finish

Why would a rug hooker need to use a bias cut binding finish? It can be used for any kind of rug, and it is particularly amenable to rugs that are oval or round. A few months ago, this blog featured a post about Ania’s oval “Rosewood” rug. That post briefly discusses how the finish for this rug was inspired by her “Paisley Rain Forest” rug, with the exception that it required a bias cut. There was some interest in how to complete a bias cut binding finish, and so that is the focus of this month’s blog post!

The “Rosewood” rug, with the bias cut binding finish in it’s final steps.

Step 1:

Measure around the perimeter of the hooked rug. As a example, my “Rosewood” rug was 102 inches.

Step 2:

Add 10-12 inches to your perimeter total, to allow for easing around the edges of your rug, and to allow for overlap of the bias strips when you are completing your finish. In my case, I did 102 inches + 10 inches, for a total of 112 inches. I knew that my bias strip needed to be at least that long.

Step 3:

To determine how wide of a bias strip you will need, there are two things to take into consideration. The first is how much of a finished edge you want to show from the front of your rug, and the second is how far you want the bias strip to cover on the back of the rug. To determine how wide your bias strip needs to be, double the first measurement, and add that to your second measurement.

For “Rosewood”, I decided I wanted a 0.5 inch finish visible from the front of the rug, and I wanted 2 inches of the strip visible on the back. So, the width of my strip needed to be 3 inches – 0.5 inches doubled is 1 inch, added to 2 inches. I like to have extra width on the back to protect the underside of the rug, and a wider strip also makes it easier to ease around the curves. That’s my personal preference, I know others who approach the finish like a quilt, where the strip is the same on the back and the front.

Step 4:

Now that you have your key measurements for how long and wide your strip needs to be, you need to calculate how much fabric you need to make that strip.

a) To do this, start by multiplying your length by your width. This is the area of your strip. In my example, that meant multiplying 112 inches by 3 inches, for a total area of 336 square inches.

b) Now, to determine the size of the square of fabric you need to cut, find the square root of your area, and round it up to the nearest whole number. I bet there are a few readers who are confused about how to find the square root of a number: you can find it by using the symbol on your calculator, or there are square root calculators available online. In my case, the square root of 336 square inches is 18.33, which I round up to 19. So, in theory, I would need a piece of wool that is 19 inches by 19 inches.

c) But hold on, we need to sew our strip together from that fabric, which means we need to take into consideration a seam allowance. I calculated my seam allowance based on the knowledge that each piece of wool I would sew together would have two 0.25 inch seams, which meant each piece would lose 0.5 inches to the seams. By dividing my length (112 inches) by the square root of the area of fabric I needed (19 inches) I estimated that I would have 6 seams (the total is 5.89, rounded up). 6 seams multiplied by 0.5 inches, totals 3 inches. To be safe, I added 3 inches to the 19 inches I had already calculated to allow for a seam allowance. So with this in mind, I knew I needed a piece of fabric that was 22 inches by 22 inches.

d) If you don’t have a square of fabric that matches your needs, you can calculate the size of the rectangle of fabric you’ll need instead, by calculating the area again, this time of your square of fabric. If you take the new area you calculated, and divide it by the length of the wool you’re using, it will tell you what the width of the wool needs to be for you to cut enough for your bias strips. For my finish, the area of a 22 inch by 22 inch square is 484 square inches. I didn’t have a square of fabric that matched those dimensions, but the wool I was using for the finish was off the bolt, and I had half a yard left. It was 18 inches wide. 484 square inches divided by 18 inches equals 27 inches. 18 inches by 27 inches is exactly the dimensions of a fat quarter of wool, which is just what I had. Lucky me!

Step 5:

Now that you have the piece of fabric you’ll need for your strip, it’s time to start cutting. You should be starting with either a rectangle or a square. At one corner of your wool, measure a 45 degree angle and cut along the line it makes. I use a ruler and a rotary cuter, but if that isn’t available to you, you can find a 45 degree angle by taking the top corner of your fabric and folding it over your piece of wool until it aligns with the bottom line of the fabric. Then, cut along the seam of the fold you’ve created.

Once I had my fabric, I found the 45 degree angle at one corner and cut along that angle.

Step 6:

Take your triangle piece, and without moving your initial piece of wool, move it to the opposite end of the piece of wool and seam together the two pieces, so that you have created a piece of wool in the shape of a parallelogram. Press open the seam you have created.

The triangle of wool cut from the top of this piece of wool was moved to the bottom and sewn back on.

Step 7:

Cut strips of wool at your determined width along the 45 degree edge, which is the bias edge. My strips were 3 inches wide.

I used a ruler and a rotary cuter to ensure that my strips were an even 3 inches.

Step 8:

Align your strips so that they form a 90 degree angle. Don’t align your strips by the edges, the diagonal edges will have a small overhang and that is what you want. Sew the strips together. Press open the seams, and snip the overhang. Now you have your bias strip for your finish!

When aligning your strips, allow for a small overhang when creating the 90 degree angle.

Step 9:

Now it’s time to apply your strip to your rug. Ease your bias strip at the curved edge of your rug, and pin it in place starting from approximately 3 inches from the end of your strip. Pin the strip in place all along the rug, double checking that the easing is uniform all along the rug before you begin any hand stitching. You do not want any tight pulling. I usually stand the strip along the curved edges to prevent pulling. Make sure you leave a tail at the beginning, so that there is an overlap that can be used to hide the raw edges of the binding.

When pinning your strip to your rug, leave a tail at the beginning so that the strip can overlap for your final finish.

Step 10:

Hand sew the strip to the front of your rug, as close as you can to the last row of loops that have been hooked. When you are completing stitching, overlap the end of your bias strip with the start of your bias strip, and finish by sewing both pieces of wool to the front of your rug. I usually allow for a 1 or 2 inch overlap. Trim your excess wool strip.

When sewing the strip to your rug, try to keep as close to your last row of loops as you can.

Step 11:

Turn your rug over and tack the loose edge of the strip to the back of your rug.

Step 12:

Press your rug and you are done!

The completed “Rosewood” rug.

Rug of the Month: May 2021

In recent weeks, the weather has started to take a turn towards summer, and that change has inspired Ania’s choice of project for this month’s rug of the month post! A few years ago, Ania completed a Triptych series, called “Coral Triptych.” Each of the rugs is 4″ x 4″, and mounted on stretcher bars. They were completed with #3-5 strip wool, and glass and coral beads.

Read on to see the final project, and to learn about how Ania approached it:

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The completed triptych is displayed on black stands.

What was the inspiration behind this project?  

I had an idea I was sitting on for a while, of using gems and semi-precious stones to depict the growth of an underwater coral reef. Then I saw the Seasons Challenge on Facebook, and I thought that my idea was a good fit for the prompt.

Part of the inspiration came from a trip I took to Australia. I met someone who was an avid underwater photographer, named Craig Morton. The photos he showed us were beautiful, and I thought of those pictures as I designed these rugs. Coral always looks the same when it first begins to grow, but as they continue to grow, they can diverge quite dramatically from each other.

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Prior to rug hooking, I designed and sold jewelry, so I have a hefty stash of beads stored up. Over time, I’ve entertained the idea of incorporating my beads into my rug hooking. A number of my recent projects have done so, like my “H2O Lily Pad,” and my Kinetic Water Series. My beads were a big inspiration for this project. This is a rug series about the growth of coral, and the coral is entirely created through beads.

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How did you incorporate the beads into this project? 

Like I mentioned, the coral is all created through beads instead of hooking. I wanted the coral to be very abstract. I also wanted to incorporate specific beading techniques that I used to use in my jewelry designs, like the peyote stitch around the coral sticks in the final rug.

I used glass beads to create a border, instead of a traditional hooked border. I used flat four hole beads, with seed and drop beads sewn on.

My wool choices for this project were pretty straight forward, and mostly focused on mirroring the colors of tropical waters, so the beads really shine through.

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What was the biggest challenge with this series? 

Selecting a border that would be creative and different. Each of the three rugs has a similar but different border. The first rug’s border is the simplest to match the simplicity of the water. In the second rug, I switched from square flat four hole beads to round ones, to match the shape of the coral buds that the rug is focused on. In the final rug’s border, I chose copper colored beads to more closely match the color of the coral, which helps keep the eye traveling across the rug.

If you have any questions for Ania, feel free to leave them in the comments below!

Rug of the Month: March 2021

March’s rug of the month is a project that Ania approached in a very unusual manner. This month’s rug is from a pattern called “Rosewood” by Yankee Peddler. The dimensions of the oval pattern are 22″ x 40″, and Ania hooked it in #5 strips. You might be wondering – what was the unusual manner? Well, the goal of this project was to give up all creative control while hooking!

You can read Ania’s explanation on how that worked below, as well as look at images of the completed rug: 

Rosewood 1 Watermarked

Why did you decide to hook this pattern? 

I won this pattern in a raffle a long time ago. It’s a fine pattern, but not one that I probably would have chosen on my own. I tend not to gravitate towards oval or round rugs, although there were elements of the pattern that I appreciated. The flowers, in particular, remind me of Polish folk art, and I’ve long thought that I should try to hook something inspired by Polish folk art, because it’s part of my heritage. But the shape is not what’s most unusual about this project.

In 2019, I attended the Country Inn Rug School in Rindge, NH. The co-directors of this wonderful school are Beverley Mulcahy and Benita Raleigh. I decided to take this pattern with me, along with a stash of wool, and embark on an experimental hooking journey. I wanted to open myself up to totally new insights and out of the box thinking (for me) about color planning. I knew my teacher at the school that year would be Betty McClentic, and I wanted her guidance specifically on this pattern.

I decided to give up control on this project to Betty because I knew it would be a big learning experience. I would be able to sit in the back seat and observe what Betty’s creative eye saw in this pattern, and how she approached the different challenges and opportunities this pattern offered. I was not disappointed as it was really a great experience.

Rosewood 2 Watermarked

How did you approach color planning?

I really love playing with color and color planning my own projects. I contributed to color planning on this project in a very removed manner. My only contribution was providing the material. And there was a lot of material I provided! It was all wool I had compiled over the course of years from diverse collections efforts and dyeing projects. With this stash in hand, Betty is the one who chose which specific wool pieces and colors would be used in this project.

This process was very enlightening to me, in informing me on both the perceptions and design approaches regarding how I see color and in how Betty sees color. One notable choice was that we ultimately decided to only use textures from my stash.  I don’t use textures that frequently, so that was a big change for me – this is the first time adventure with textures for me.

Rosewood 3 Watermarked

What were your biggest takeaways from your different approach to this pattern? 

Betty actually asked me that as well, what I was learning from this. My biggest takeaway was that it was very stress free! The most important takeaway was how differently someone else could see color. For example, what I called steel blue, Betty called turquoise. It reinforces the very important reality that not everyone sees color the same way. Colors are perceived by the human eye, and individual colors are influenced by the colors that surround them as well as by each individual’s unique viewpoint – influenced by biology, culture and experience.

It made me further realize that when I teach I need to be cognizant of how my students perceive color.

Rosewood 4 Watermarked

Is there anything else you’d like to discuss about this rug?

We ignored the border on the original pattern. Also, the finish on this rug is similar to the one I did on my “Paisley Rain Forest” rug. I used background wool that I cut on the bias. It had to be bias cut wool because the rug is an oval shape. If readers are interested, maybe we can do a separate post on how to do that finish. Please let us know if you’d be interested in such a post.

If you have any questions for Ania on this rug, feel free to comment below!

Tips and Tricks: Tricking the Eye Through Colors

On a recent Rug of the Month post, Ania discussed her “Desert Wanderer” rug, where she faced the challenge of creating hooked sections that mimicked the color of natural wool, without using un-dyed wool. This technique, of tricking the eye through color, is surprisingly common in rug hooking, and in art in general.

Why would an artist need to use one color to mimic another color? Why can’t the artist just use the color they want?

The human eye sees individual colors in relation to those surrounding it. You see this technique quite a bit with artists who used pointillism, for example, where dots of varied colors are used to create the impression of another color.

In rug hooking it’s the same, where all the colors used in a rug influence each other. That means sometimes you need to trick the eye into seeing the color you want instead of simply using the color you want. It’s often a matter of exaggerating a value difference.

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A series of pastels are used in the border of ‘Desert Wanderer’ to create the impression of natural undyed wool.

In the “Desert Wanderer” rug, using off the bolt, un-dyed wool, would have been too jarring to the human eye. It would have looked stark and unnatural, when the idea behind that specific project was that it need to look like a natural, hand-made rug.

To create that effect, I needed to use dyed wool in a variety of colors that would provide the perceived effect of natural wool. If you look at each strip of wool I used to replicate un-dyed wool in isolation, they contain the same yellows, blues, greens, and reds used elsewhere in the rug, but at much lighter values. I leveraged pastels of the colors used elsewhere, to create an effect of natural wool.

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Ania’s completed “Desert Wanderer” rug.

I used this technique in another project I completed, my “Frank Lloyd Wright Stained Glass” wall hanging. In this project I again used pastels of various shades to create the effect of milk glass.

Have you ever used similar techniques in your rugs? Where have you found this technique most useful?

Rug of the Month: January 2021

Happy New Year! 2020 was a difficult year for many of us, and it’s a relief to have a “clean start” with 2021. To kick off the year, and in the spirit of continuing the goodwill from the holiday season, Ania has decided to feature a new project as this month’s “Rug of the Month.” This pattern is called “XMas Bouquet.” It’s dimensions are 31″ X 23″, and it was designed by Jane McGown Flynn. Ania hooked it in #6 strips. We previously featured a sneak peak of this rug, in a blog post about hooking holidays.

To see the finished rug, and to read more about the process behind completing the project, take a look at the post below:

Ania’s completed “XMas Bouquet” rug.

Why did you decide to hook this project?

This was from a teacher’s workshop class in 2019. It was one of the day classes offered that year, focused on flowers. Connie Bradley taught the class.

I thought it would be nice to have another Christmas rug at home. We’ve previously written up a blog post on my only other Christmas rug! I really like Poinsettias – I think they’re very Christmas-y, and I thought this pattern in particular was very pretty. For a number of years, I would buy red or red and white spotted Poinsettias every December. There were holly berries in the original pattern, but I chose not to hook them.

There were a wide variety of textures used in the leaves and details like the petal veins.

How did you approach color planning?

I wanted a red Poinsettia, inspired by the red and white Poinsettia’s I used to buy for my home. Connie provided the wool for the flower petals, and the swatch set I used was all as-is wool. The swatch set I used for this flower was the narrowest value range that I think I’ve ever worked with. A friend of mine, Betty McClentic, offered to pick up wool for me during the class, and I requested that she pick up the red wool that was “least like me.” There’s always a challenge when you’re using wool choices made by someone else, and I wanted that challenge for this project! The class was also held in an old inn that didn’t have great lighting, so it was also genuinely pretty tough trying to see what the colors would actually look like.

The red “petals” of a Poinsettia are actually leaves, and the true flower is the yellow at the center. The kit with the wool included seven values of reds, a texture which I used for the veins in back petals and the veins and stems in my green leaves, and the gold and chartreuse for the true flower. I added two purple and fuchsia spot dyes which I used for the veins in the front petals, and for highlights in the leaves. This was to help create the appearance of the red and white spotted Poinsettia’s that I used to buy.

The greens used in the leaves and pine needles were all from my own stash, they were a combination of textures and spot dyes. The gold I used for the background was dyed for this project. I used a variety of pastel wools dyed over with Cushing Old Gold. I decided to use pastel wools as a base, because I had a lot of left-over pastel wools laying around that I wanted to use up! I also dyed the whipping yarn to match the background. I used an extra strong dye bath using a combination of various gold dyes, including the Cushing Old Gold.

The gold for the background was dyed for this project, using a variety of pastel base wools.

What is your favorite part of this project?

My favorite part was working with the narrow range of reds! It was a real challenge to use those reds for shading to give the flower depth. I also enjoyed dyeing all of the wools for the background and hooking that. I used a variety of blue greens and yellow greens that worked out very well in the greenery. Since red and green are complementary colors, I was able to use such a wide mix of greens and still have it all pull together nicely.

I’m pretty happy with this project – I’m very happy with how it turned out!

If you have any questions or comments for Ania, please feel free to leave them in the comments below!