My mother taught me how to hook. I drew a simple picture on the burlap backing and picked out my colors. She placed the hook in my hand and said try this. She showed me how to pull the loops up. Within a week I had finished my first project and started my second. Like traditional folk artists, I have developed my skills through my experience and observing the work of other hookers.
I have taken some classes from some of the old time rug hookers; the primitive ones who use old clothes and hand draw the pictures or designs. Mostly I teach myself, try out ideas, and just plain hook a lot. I go to second hand shops and people give me clothing to hook. I wash, dry, and dye it before cutting it into strips. I experiment with dyeing with natural dyes and some commercial ones. I also mend old rugs to learn how they were finished off or about the direction of the hooking and sometimes I just look at the beautiful colors and designs.
My mother has been the single most important influence on my rug hooking. She has supported me and showed me not just the technique, but influenced how I cut my strips. I cut my strips with scissors and then tear them rather than using a commercial cutter. She has also taught other family members to hook. My mother showed me how to dye wools, marry them (cook different colors to blend them) and make antique black. My children know how to hook too but they do not choose to do it at this time.
I live on a farm in the Mid-Coast of Maine. We have animals and they frequently get drawn and then put on rugs. I hook what is around me and what is important to me. In times before there were cameras people choose to save memories by drawing and hooking mats. Like most Mainers, my mother and grandmother included, I recycle everything. All the wool I use in my designs is from recycled garments which I collect at second hand shops, or that friends and family have outgrown and discarded. Wool clothing gets washed, dried, dyed with onion skins maybe and then cut into strips and hooked into rugs. I dye a lot of wool in my cast iron dye pot over an open fire. Lots of my dyeing is done by trial and error, if the color isn’t right for my rug I was dyeing for I do not discard it; I keep it and use it in another rug.
Both my mother’s and father’s families are from Maine. They were farmers and fishermen in the Brooks and Belfast region. I taught school for many years in the state and chose to raise my family here on the coast. I have shared my rug hooking skills within the community through adult education classes, working with the local schools, donating rugs to local charities and by showing my work in local galleries. Within the state, I have demonstrated rug hooking at fairs and at The Maine State Museum.
Rug Hooking is a traditional American art. It was first done of necessity and as a way of brightening up dark houses during long winters. It is now done mostly as a creative outlet and a way of having a traditional mat for the floor which is durable. My rugs are home made original designs that depict family memories, pets, and important events in our lives. They are made of recycled wool clothes, cut by hand and dyed at home. Rug hooking is a traditional American craft and part of our heritage. My mats are of a primitive style and design. Like the traditional artists, I sometimes push the boundaries and try new ideas within this style.
I am dedicated to rug hooking and have been doing it daily for 14 years. I love the way it connects me to my past and the stories of my family as I go forward into the future. Three years ago I started teaching primitive rug hooking in my home and in Adult ED. I am trying to pass this traditional art to others.