Tips and Tricks: Hooking Sharp Points

Last October’s rug of the month post was Ania’s “Polish Folk Art from the Łowicz Region” rug, which featured a precise saw tooth border that was deceptively tricky to hook. Ania decided to share some tips on hooking sharp points at an angle, as for the border featured in this rug. This is a tip that can be applied to stars, triangles, or similar design elements.

Read on below for step by step instructions on how to hook sharp points at an angle.

Step 1: Ensure your measurements are precise when you draw your pattern. This is especially true if the sharp points you want to hook are part of the border – make sure the length and width of the border are exact.

Step 2: Focusing on the motif where you want to hook a sharp point, in the hole below the top of the point, pull up the end of your strip.

Step 3: At the tip of the motif, in the hole immediately below the end that you’ve just pulled up, pull up a loop.

Make your first loop immediately below the point in your pattern.

Step 4: In the hole immediately above the end of the strip that you pulled up, pull up a second loop. You have now hooked a loop, end, and loop at the tip of your point.

Make your second loop immediately above your tip.
Your point now has a loop, end, loop pattern in place.

Step 5: You now have the two lines in your pattern pointing towards the loop, end, and loop that you’ve hooked. Skip one hole, at the top of the tip, and hook along the rest of the outline of the motif as you normally would.

As you begin to hook the line leading to your tip, skip a hole just below the tip to ensure it is very distinct and sharp.
Hook the second side of the motif to the end.

Step 6: Fill in your motif as usual. Step away from your motif and admire how sharp of a point you’ve created. You can use this for stars, triangles, and similar pointed motifs. This is the strategy I used to hook my saw tooth border, for both the black and white triangles shown along the border.

Once your motif is filled in, you can enjoy how sharp your tip looks!

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

Tips and Tricks: Tracing Patterns Perfectly

Tracing a pattern onto your backing can be quite the tedious project. Aligning the pattern so that it’s on the straight of the grain is key to avoiding headaches while hooking, but it’s tough to do while tracing! I’ve developed a process to make it easier for myself. There’s always a stretch on the bias of the fabric in the backing you use. That is a fact true to all fabrics. Most people use Red Dot to trace their patterns, but I prefer to use a one inch grid interfacing to trace patterns, but it’s essentially the same thing.

When I draw and transfer my own patterns onto backing, I always make sure to do so on the straight of the grain. I’ve outlined the steps below:

The materials needed to trace a pattern.

Step 1: Take your piece of foundation fabric, and make sure it’s square. I start by taping two corners of the backing down onto my table with masking tape. Then, I set out to find the center point. I take my yard stick and measure the width of the backing through the center of the fabric. I find the half way point between the two sides and mark it with a soft graphite pencil in the ditch in the fabric. Then I measure the halfway point along the length of the backing, once again through the center of the fabric, and draw a line there as well. The end result is an x in the center of your backing.

Use the yard stick to find the center of your backing material.

Step 2: From the x I’ve marked, I measure out the boundaries of the pattern I’m tracing. I measure out half of the width in one direction from the x, and the other half in the other direction, and mark both ends. I do the same to mark the length of the pattern.

From the central mark you’ve made, measure out the boundaries of the pattern you’re tracing.

Step 3: I connect all of the lines I’ve marked to create the boundaries of my pattern.

Connect each of the four marks you’ve made to create an outline of your pattern.

Step 4: I now tape down the final two edges, making sure not to stretch out the fabric too much.

Step 5: Then I align two corners of my pattern to the corresponding corners of the outline I’ve created. Usually, it’s the top two corners, but I might shift depending on what makes the most sense for the pattern itself. I try to get them as closely and evenly aligned as possible. Sometimes they’ll be a little off, and that’s ok.

Step 6: Now I tape the corners of my pattern onto the foundation.

Step 7: Now it’s time to trace – I start from the middle of my pattern (essentially, where the x is) and work my way out.

The pattern can be perfectly traced once it’s been taped to the backing.

Step 8: Once the pattern is completely transferred onto the foundation, I remove the interfacing, and trace over the pencil lines in sharpie. Now, I’m done!

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

Tips and Tricks: Smartphone Values

Happy New Year! For January, we wanted to start off with a useful tip on how to gauge the values of the colors in your rug. This is a tip that Ania uses while color planning, but also while actively hooking, to confirm that all of the values she wants to present are covered in her projects.

A gray scale is a common tool for finding value, although I prefer my own method.

Why would you want to gauge the values in your rugs?

Value is the lightness or darkness of a color. It’s like looking at a gray scale. Values provide dimension to your art. If you use varied values, your projects will have more depth and visual appeal. You will have “movement” in the rug. Using multiple values of one color to depict, for example, a red ball, can give the viewer the impression that the ball is spherical. Even if you’re hooking in a primitive style, value will help you distinguish between different motifs in the rug.

How do you gauge value while color planning?

In order to give dimensionality to your rug, you have to use wool of different values.

To check the values in a project, a lot of people will use a gray scale, or value finder. What I like to do, is take a picture of my wool with my iPhone. I then duplicate that photo so that I have two identical photos. To duplicate a photo, I select the photo I want a copy of, and hit the “share” button, which is located on the lower left side of the screen (it looks like a box with an arrow pointing up). From the menu that pops up, I hit duplicate. That then results in two identical photos in my camera roll, right next to each other.

After I have two identical photos, I convert the second photo into a black and white image. To do that, I select the second image, and hit “edit” which is in the upper right hand corner of the screen. At the bottom of the screen, I select the middle edit button, which is three overlapping circles. I then slide over to the mono filter, which is the first black and white filter, and the third filter from the right. I then hit done, and my black and white photo is saved.

I toggle between the black and white photo and color photo of my wool to see what the values are, and determine where I might need to make adjustments. Bright and dull colors will often appear to have a more exaggerated value than what they actually are – this trick helps you see their actual value, relative to the other wools you’ve chosen.

I do this trick while color planning, and while actively hooking, to confirm that the values I’m using make sense and give enough dimensionality to my motifs.

In the example rug images above, you can follow the outline of the motif in the black and white image, and see where the values I used match the background, because the outline essentially “disappears” when you get to the small mitten motifs towards the bottom of each side of the pattern.

If you have any questions, please leave them below!

Happy Holidays!

As is our tradition, December’s blog post is a show case for one of my handmade ornaments. Unlike most of the ornaments that have previously been chosen to be featured, this ornament is unusual, in that it is….fifty years old! It reaches back to my early years of fiber art interests. I handmade this candle ornament when I was 11!

This year’s ornament can be seen in an image below, along with a brief message about what the new year is bringing!

Ania’s handmade candle ornament.

I wish you all a Happy Holidays, and a very Happy New Year! Looking ahead to 2023, I hope that I will be able to see some of you in person. I have plans to teach at the following rug schools:

Maryland Shores Rug School, which runs from April 2-7, at The Grand Hotel Ocean City, MD

Hunterdon County Rug Artisans Guild Rug Camp, which runs from July 31-August 4, at St Anna’s Greek Orthodox Church, Flemington, NJ

Rugs by the Sea, which runs from September 10-15, at Chalfonte Hotel Cape May, NJ (contact Shelley Lencioni

ATHA 1 North Rug School, which runs in October, at The Common Man Inn and Spa, Plymouth, NH. (contact Pam Bartlett

A Refresher on Horrors in Home Dyeing (Oh no!)

In recent rug schools, Ania has had multiple students ask her for tips on how to work with dyes that are difficult to dissolve. Back in October 2017, we posted a tips and tricks blog on exactly that, so Ania decided it was time to return to that post and present a little refresher. Read on below, to revisit a great dyeing trick!

Many of us play in the dye pot for fun, out of necessity, or for some combination of the two. A lot of people find dyeing scary, but eventually pick up the basics and think “hey, this isn’t too bad.” But there always lurks the possibility of something inexplicable gone wrong. Maybe the color you want, isn’t the color you get. Maybe you get the dreaded white core. Or maybe, worst of all, you’ve experienced the horror of all horrors……flocculent percipitate.

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The cloudy substance in the dye solution are flocculent percipitate.

It goes like this: you’ve soaked your wool, your dye pots are out, your measuring cups are out, the water’s been boiled, the dye has been measured, and you’re expecting smooth sailing to your final product. You add hot water to your dye paste and you stir, stir, stir, waiting for it to dissolve into a smooth solution. But you notice something odd: the dye solution isn’t clear.

Dun, dun, dun……the dye solution has the dreaded crud. Or, if you prefer, the correct scientific term for it is a flocculent percipitate. What’s that, you ask? It’s when the solution has a billowy cloud-like substance in it. This scary happening occurs most frequently with red dyes. In my dyeing experiences, I’ve noticed cloudy solutions most often with ProChem’s Bright Red 351.

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The guilty culprit.

What do you do after discovering a cloudy dye solution? Maybe you decide to pour it into the dye pot anyways, with the optimistic hope that a lot of stirring will help dissolve it. But be warned, in my experience, that never works. Instead, the flocculent participate won’t dissolve, and smudges of dye will appear on your wool undissolved. My tip to you is: don’t torture yourself with this. What I did to find a solution, was I turned to my scientific side.

I don’t know the exact chemical equation that leads to flocculent participate appearing in dye solutions. What I do know is that it is effected by the pH. Under very acidic conditions, cloudiness can appear, and you can help dissolve it by making the solution more basic. How do you do that?

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Our Savior!

In your pantry, you will likely find a box of baking soda. Add small amounts of that baking soda to your dye cup, mixing very well. You’ll notice there will be less and less of the cloudiness in the solution. If you wait about five minutes, and the solution remains clear, then you can move onto the next step of dyeing your wool. If the solution is still cloudy, then that’s okay too. Just add a little bit more baking soda, and it will dissolve.

Take note, when it comes to adding your vinegar: add it very slowly, in small amounts, and stir it well. Baking soda is a base (sodium bicarbonate to be exact), and vinegar is an acid, so there might be some bubbling. The bubbling isn’t something to worry about (all that is happening is the release of carbon dioxide), but it’s good to know to expect it!

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Bubbles in the dye solution after vinegar is added to the solution.

Feel free to leave any comments for Ania below. If you have any other dyeing questions to ask, please leave them below too!

Rug of the Month: October 2022

For this month’s rug of the month, Ania is chatting about one of her newer rugs, an original design entitled “Polish Folk Art from the Łowicz Region,” or Wycinanka Łowicka. It was featured in Hooked on Handwork: Design a Rug Inspired by Fibers, Textiles, and Handcrafts by Kathleen Eckhaus. The dimensions of the rug are 41″ X 35″, and it was hooked in #6 and #4 strips of wool.

Read on below to learn more about this rug and the inspirations behind it:

Ania’s completed “Polish Folk Art from the Łowicz Region” rug

What inspired this pattern?

I am the daughter of Polish immigrants, and I have always lived my life surrounded by Polish culture and heritage, which has included traditional Polish folk art. My family is from the Łowicz region of Poland, and so that is most of the folk art I have seen. Some of the folk art was from the Tatry region of the Carpathian Mountains too.

Polish folk art motifs often originated from cut paper patterns. From the time I first started hooking rugs, I’ve wanted to create a pattern in this tradition. I was inspired by a pillow a friend of mine gifted to me – it is decorated with a Łowicz folk art image.

I worked on the design to ensure that it represented the regional culture. Several elements of this pattern are very traditional – the presence of flowers, the saw tooth pattern in the border, the two-fold symmetry.

Detail of the flowers included in the rug.

How did you color plan this project?

The color design was taken directly from the traditions of Łowicz’s folk art. The central motif is always very bright colors like reds, blues, greens, and yellows. The background is almost always white with a black saw tooth border. Occasionally, the background is black with a white border.

Since this pattern features five flowers in total – one central flower and two sets of two that are mirrored, I wanted to establish three set color schemes. The flowers have layers, so the decisions on how to color plan each flower flowed from how I initially decided to color the back layer. With the central flower, I decided on the red first, then the orange, and then the dark blue. You can also see the cut paper effect in the pattern with the colors – the orange of the middle layer peaks through the blue layer in the front.

The border and background were two of the most challenges parts of this rug to complete.

What was the biggest challenge with this rug?

The background and the border were both challenging. The background is white, but I wanted it to have visual interest and to look like felted wool, which is a traditional material used in folk art from the Tatry region. I hand dyed the background wool a light yellow to ensure it was reminiscent of felted wool, and then applied specific hooking techniques to continue the illusion. I used meandering hooking, avoided echoing my patterns through most of the background, and applied directional hooking techniques to combine everything to achieve the desired appearance.

Creating a saw tooth border that was crisp was very difficult. It required very deliberate technique, and I think we’ll likely create a blog post just to review that technique on its own.

If you have any questions about this project, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

Rug of the Month: September 2022

For the month of September, we’re back with another rug of the month feature. Ania is discussing ring dishes that she has hooked using #3 and #4 strips of wool, velvet, and yarn, on a foundation made of both plastic canvas sheets, and plastic canvas circles. You can also incorporate beads, cabochons, and other adornments into these dishes.

Read on below to learn more about how to create your own ring dishes:

The two ring dishes that Ania created.

What was the inspiration for this project?

I noticed my youngest daughter, who frequently wears rings, would take off her rings to wash her hands or for the evening, and leave them on a counter. It seemed so inconvenient – she was constantly knocking into them, knocking them off the counter, running into issues where she couldn’t find them. I was inspired to come up with a solution – I thought it might be a fun challenge.

I saw the art store sold the plastic canvas circles, and thought they would be perfect as the foundation for such a project. Then I saw plastic canvas sheets and the idea really came together.

The foundation for the dishes are made using flexible plastic canvas.

How do you construct these dishes?

I cut a strip off of the flexible plastic canvas sheet, which would serve as the wall of the ring holder. The strip was 3/4 of an inch wide and long enough to wrap around the edge of the circle plastic canvas, and overlap by an inch. I sewed the strip into the 3 inch round, using button hole thread, and making sure that it fit around the outside of the round plastic canvas.

Now you have your ring holder foundation, and you can begin hooking. The plastic canvas is a mesh pattern, and you can simply hook in every row in a circular pattern.

Once the sides and bottom are all hooked, I sewed the side to the bottom of the round, and I used yarn to “whip” the top edge of the dish as well. You can sew button feet on with thick thread, you can super glue a cabochon into the mesh material and hook around it – you can embellish it however you would like.

You can add beads, buttons or other embellishments – here you can see fours beads that Ania used to create feet on the bottom of one of her ring dishes.

What do you use this ring holder for?

I made two dishes – one I use as decoration on a counter, and the second is used by my daughter as a ring holder, coaster, and candle holder.

What is your favorite part of this project?

This is a really fun little project to pull together. You can make them with friends and swap the final projects, you can make them as fundraisers.

You can apply the same principles to make larger versions, or even coasters without any walls.

I really enjoyed putting the ring holder together, realizing that my idea would work, and that it would be easy.

If you have any questions, you can leave them in the comments below!

The Hooker’s Book Club: Hooked on Handwork by Kathleen Eckhaus

A few years ago, Brigitte Webb reached out to me to ask if I’d be interested in contributing to a book on rug hooking inspirations, and I said yes. Kathleen Eckhaus then reached out to me with her idea: she wanted to write a book capturing the many ways that rug hookers find inspiration for designing in their own rugs. I had a few of my rugs in mind based on that prompt, and Kathleen asked me to complete a write up on all three rugs and the inspiration behind them.

Kathleen similarly collaborated with nearly thirty other rug hookers from all over the world to gather examples of the myriad creative ways rug hookers source inspiration. The end result has recently been published, in the form of the book titled Hooked on Handwork: Design a Rug Inspired by Fibers, Textiles, and Handcrafts by Kathleen Eckhaus, presented by Rug Hooking Magazine through Ampry Publishing. The book was published earlier this month, and is now available for purchase.

The front cover of Hooked on Handwork, by Kathleen Eckhaus

I’ve gotten my hands on my copy and I’m delighted by the end result. Kathleen and the other contributors have done a phenomenal job pulling this book together. The book has been broken out into chapters by form of inspiration: knitted and crocheted, pieced quilts, applique, weaving, needlework, other rugs, fabric prints, other handcrafts, and a final chapter titled “Inspiration from the Gambia”, based on a non-profit social enterprise called Rug Aide. My three rugs were included in the Needlework chapter, the Other Handcrafts chapter, and the Fabric Prints chapter. The three rugs that were included from me were my Paisley Rainforest rug, Frank Lloyd Wright Stained Glass rug, and Wycinanka Łowicka rug, which will likely be featured on this blog soon.

If you simply flip through the book to look at the photos of the rugs and the pieces that inspire them, it is incredible to compare, and very nicely done. The book is full of beautiful projects, and is a true wealth of information and inspiration. You can see the cultural influence that is permeating the rug hooking community, which I find inspiring myself. For example, Brigitte’s tartan is incredible and perfectly captures her Scottish heritage. I have loved reading the stories of what has served as inspiration to various rug hookers – from family heirlooms, to ancient traditions, to brand new purchases. How people build from these sources to create new pieces of art that are decorative and/or utilitarian has been hugely inspiring to me.

I highly recommend people read through this book and use it as inspiration for their own creative growth. It’s a job well done, and I’m honored to have been a part of this project. I would love to meet with all the other contributors in one room and talk through everything that they have written.

You can purchase the book through Rug Hooking magazine, and you might also be able to ask your local library to purchase it on behalf of you and other patrons who might enjoy it as well.

Tips and Tricks: Labeling your Artwork for the Internet

You may have noticed that the pictures of my rugs that I share on this blog have my name on them. Or, maybe you haven’t noticed – I try to add my name discretely so that it doesn’t take away from the rug itself. Recently, a fellow rug hooking teacher sent me a picture of a rug and asked me if it was mine, because it looked familiar to her. She had found it after it was posted on the internet by another person. It was my rug, and I didn’t know the person who had posted it without any reference to me. However, anyone who took a close look at the photo would have noticed my name on it.

I don’t know how this person found my rug, if it was on this blog or elsewhere, but this is a valuable thing to remember: if you post a photo on the internet, it will be there forever, even if you take down the original image. This exact issue is why I began watermarking my rugs when I post them on this blog, so that even if someone else reposts my art without attributing it to me, it’s still labeled with my name. It’s possible that most people who post someone else’s work just do so because they like it. On the other hand, there are most definitely some who try to represent another artist’s work as their own.

To watermark my images, I use Photoshop Elements, which I downloaded several years ago. You might already have access to a version of Photoshop or Photoshop Elements that you could use for watermarking your work. However, Photoshop and Photoshop Elements require paid subscriptions now, and so if you don’t have access already, there’s a variety of free photo editing software available, that you could use instead. For example, there’s Darktable, Pixlr x, GIMP, or Krita.

Once you have access to a photo editing software, watermarking your photos is very simple.

To create a watermark, I start by opening up my Photoshop Elements software. I then go to the File menu at the top of the window, select New, and then Blank File. Then, I drag the picture I want to edit into the new blank file I created.

I like to drag the photo I want to edit directly into the software page, to make it easier on myself.

The first step to working in photo editing software is always to duplicate your current “layer”, which is the photo you are editing. You do this in the panel to the right of your screen – you right click and select “duplicate layer”, as shown in the image below.

Here you can see the photo I’ve selected at the center of the screenshot. On the right, you right click the image of the photo and select “Duplicate Layer.”

Once you’ve duplicated your layer, click the little eye next to the original background layer to hide it. You will know the layer has been successfully hidden, because the eye icon will have a red line through it, as shown in the images below. Now you’ve prepped your photo and are ready to begin creating your watermark. Start by selecting your text tool – it is usually shown as a “T” in the menu on the left. Once you’ve selected the text tool you can click on your image where you’d like to begin writing your watermark.

The Text tool is the “T” in the left menu bar. Once you’ve selected your text tool you can click on your photo where you would like to begin typing, which in Photoshop Elements shows as a cursor with a check mark and red circle with a line through it.

Type out your name, company, or other text that you’d like to watermark. There are three tools that I use to change the appearance of my text to suit what I need: font size, color, and opacity.

In the screenshot above, I’ve typed out my name for the watermark, and the color, font size, and opacity options are all circled in grey (in the bottom left and top right of the image). For this photo, all I choose to do was lower the opacity of the text to 50%.

Once the text has been adjusted to suit my needs, I can further adjust where it appears on the page using the rectangle that surrounds the text to enlarge the text, make it smaller, or turn it on a diagonal.

After adjusting the opacity of the text, I choose to shift it over to the right side of the image, and shift it so that it is on a diagonal.

Once the appearance of your text is to your liking, you can click the green check to accept it, and save your photo. When saving your photo, I like to recommend renaming it so that you know it is edited, and make sure you remember to save the image as a JPEG file.

Here is the final watermarked image that was created!

If you have any questions about the steps outlined above, please let me know! I’m happy to further clarify anything that’s needed.

As a final note, if you do come across a photo of something you like, and you want to post it online, on your social media page, website, etc., post a note with the photo attributing where you found it, who created it and/or from whom you have obtained it. It will help you remember over time, it will give credit where it is due, and if someone sees it and knows the originator, they will most likely let them know that someone thinks enough of their work that they are sharing it with others. This will reflect well on the originator of the post, AND on you as the sharer.

Dynamic and Dramatic Backgrounds 102

Last month’s post was an introduction on the keys to creating a dramatic and dynamic background, through deliberate absence and use of edges. This month, we’re going to continue on the subject of backgrounds by discussing how color and color accents can complete your projects beautifully.

Ania’s “Karen” rug.

My “Karen” rug uses color as a key aspect of the background. I decided when planning the project that the main motif of the rug was going to be the peonies. Everything else, including the scrolls and other flowers were going to be in support of the peonies. Once I decided the peonies would be orange, it became easy to choose blue for the remaining elements in the rug, as that is the complementary color. The scrolls, remaining flowers, and background are all hooked with the same navy color, in various values. This creates a “navy wash” that visually pulls the scrolls and small flowers into the background, to support the peonies. The navy color is also very grounding – it sets the rug off well when placed on the floor.

There are outlines of leaves nestled into the background of the rug, as circled above.

If you read last month’s post, you might recognize that the background of this rug also uses edges in the soft echoing of the shape of leaves used elsewhere in the pattern, similar to the technique I used in my “Jack in the Green” rug.

Ania’s “H2O Lily Pad” rug

Color accents are related to the surrounding colors, but when chosen carefully, can represent different effects. Usually color accents are seen in choices like using “poison colors.” In my “H2O Lily Pad” rug, the beaded flower is the obvious focal point. The lily pad leaf, and especially, the water, are in support of the beaded element. Taken as a whole, the water in this rug looks like a pretty standard take on hooked water. However, the closer you look at the water, the more you might notice colors you would consider “unusual” in the normal context of what we think water looks like.

There are a wide range of unexpected colors used in the background of this rug, as seen in the upper left hand corner of this image.

I hooked neon green, bright purple, orange, and turquoise wools into the water as accents. That sounds crazy as a concept, but it works very well in this rug. I specifically chose to use these accent colors in the background to give the impression that the water was moving and reflecting light and other nearby items. Adding color accents to your background can be very effective in showing movement and reflected light. It causes the eye to scan and take in the entire rug.

When I approach the background of a rug, I think of it as the environment in which the motifs of my rug reside. It becomes a living space, of sorts. Bringing a thoughtful approach to your backgrounds can really enhance your entire rug. In addition to color, and color accents, I also use deliberate absence and edges when planning my backgrounds. A combination of these four aspects in the background can inspire the viewer’s eye to truly see your rug’s key motifs, to their best advantage.

Have you used any of the four key aspects that I discussed this month and last? Do you have any tips or tricks you like to use in hooking your backgrounds? I would love to hear about them in the comments below!