Late in Life Pleasures

I want to tell you about a surprising new pleasure.

It wasn’t as if I didn’t have a wealth of fiber interests to pursue in my off moments. Weaving, Knitting, Spinning, Embroidery, Quilting, to name some. Much as I love learning, the thought of taking up a new craft (in this case rug hooking) was out of the question.

But ten years ago when I saw a poster in a local store offering a one day hooking course in nearby Westport, complete with pre-made kits, I remembered a new friend who might like to come with me. It would be something we could learn together. This was a very small investment just to find out what was involved.

The trouble was, that, as it turned out, as soon as I learned how to pull loops I was committed. Long before lunch break I was excited to discover how contemporary rug hooking offered me an experience as close to painting as I’m likely to come. I remember I barely took time to set aside my hook and frame and stop for a sandwich. It was supposed to be a social group, but beyond asking my teacher questions, I was wrapped up in creating my “Autumn Sheep” that I did not talk.

In fact, tired as I was, when I arrived home at four, I rummaged in my extensive fibre stash to see how a few bits of my own colours would improve my primitive sheep pattern. Then, needing to explore what more I could do, I poured myself a big mug of tea and dragged my small bag of new hooking supplies and a chair across the lawn so I could sit and work under the shade of the big maples.

Since then, instead of a one-time exploratory project, this adventure has continued, thanks in part to the encouragement and inspiration of my wonderful teacher and friend, Loretta Moore and  hooking friends I have made along the way.

I’ve discovered that what I like most about this late in life passion is that making rugs this way is fluid. Hooking is relatively quick and is easily made pictorial. After drawing a very few guiding lines on my linen background with a sharpie, I can literally use my hook to sketch on my linen backing. Where weaving’s design process mostly takes place before the threads are wound and stretched on the loom, with my new love I can revise as simply as ripping out and moving stitches. If a hill needs to lean a bit more to the left, that’s the work of a few minutes.

And colour? Oh colour. That is a visual poem in itself. In rug hooking, designing with colour feels a bit like pointillist painting, building with dots and dashes of texture and subtle hues in ways that feel true to me. –It turns out that part of the design process is draping the current work over the couch back where I can eye it across the room while I’m cooking my supper.

(I could go on about how I would dearly love to do more dyeing to give me a still bigger vocabulary of wool—I use both cut strips and yarn fibres of assorted kinds, including the incredibly luscious colour of sari silk. I also could mention that some of the natural wool I had set aside for hand spinning special projects, like replica Scandinavian rugs, now is being translated into the bittern rug which is my current hooking project.

Because I’m not sure how much time is left when I will physically be able to create, I tend to aim to express my heart, rather than to work decoratively.

Although I will want to show you all the rugs I’ve made, I’m going to take a leap here to one of the rugs which makes me happiest. June is the month of the turtle, so that seems right. (As with my writing and indeed everything I make, I am grounded and taught by Nature.) This turtle rug, which took me a year to design and hook, turned out to be both play and very hard work.

Story? Always story. As I designed this long, skinny rug, I was thinking about mortality, and where I felt I was at in my blessedly long life. This is the old mother turtle, rooted in the fecund ooze at the bottom of the pond. She is settled and content in this rich, dreamy milieu. However, her baby turtles have hatched and are swimming/being drawn up to the surface, to the oh so alluring life of yellow pond lilies and sky. They will go on where the mother can not.

So, although I never could have predicted it, it has turned out that the story of the unexpected gift of rug hooking is another of the ways I still surprise and challenge myself. What I most want to tell you is that I’m delighted that I can still learn, adapt, and make things which please me. I would wish the same for you, my friends.

Small with Great Love

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