13 September 2010

Hookers & Strippers

I love this photo of just my mom and my girls, taken when my parents were here this summer just before racing off to church. She is completely helpful and truly one of the most humble people you'll meet.  And I know we could probably say that about your mom, too.  I think it is the abrasive process of motherhood that creates such calmness and refinement.  I am so pleased she is here today to share [one of many of] her trade[s].

Everyone loves a good story.  Even when we're big and grown, add our own children, and on to grandchildren, we still love a good plot and colorful details of a tale.

Rebecca Knudsen has many stories to tell; and tells a good yarn with wool strips--she is a fiber artist. Each of her pieces is saturated with playful patterns, vivid hues, dimensional shapes, and Symbolism.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

Louisiana Heppler
One day in New York City, I happened upon some old hooked rugs.  Hooked rugs were beginning to surface after many years of being stuffed in the attics of homes all over New England.  Rugs that were made by mothers and grandmothers that had long been forgotten because of the advent of carpet.  I have always loved fabric but never had the desire to sew beautiful clothes.  Here, I thought, would be the perfect combination of fabric and art!  So, I went back to Utah and could find no one (many surfaced later) that knew anything about making hooked rugs from strips of fabric.  Not letting that slow down my determination, I ordered a few books and figured it out myself.  The rug above is my first attempt.  Every book I read suggested starting out with a small rug.  But that didn't seem much fun so I ignored that advice (often a good things to do) and made this one six feet by five feet, a nice large project that would keep me busy for quite some time.  In fact, I was preparing it for a show of all woman artists, but the dead line was in three months.  So sometimes I worked on it for 12 hours a day, my children and husband, patiently enduring the many hours spent at the hooking frame.  Katy was only in middle school at the time and it will be no surprise to the readers of this blog that she 
learned how to hook the minute she picked up the tools of the trade.  Needless to say, I must confess that I did keep her home from school a couple of days to help me finish.  I love that she would give me encouraging words that I could do it!  Because you have to cut the wool into strips, she turned to me one day as we were hooking away and said, Mom, do you know that we are hookers and strippers? 
For those unfamiliar with the art of hooking I will give you a brief tutorial on the process.
I almost always use 100% wool felt fabric.  First you wash your piece of wool in hot water, then dry it in a hot clothes dryer.  This causes the fibers to shrink and come together.  It shouldn't be as heavy as coat weight but a little lighter because you need to be able to rip the fabric so you get a clean, straight line to line up on your cutter.  This will prevent your wool from fraying.
Most fabric cutters are made by Harry Fraser Co.  This model clamps to the side of your table.
This is the fabric guide and the cutting wheel.
Gently guide the fabric toward the cutting wheel.
I do primitive hooking which means the wool strips are at least 1/4 inch wide.  This particular cutter is made for primitive hooking and cuts two 1/4 inch strips.
Notice it cuts along the grain of the fabric to eliminate any fraying.
The hook is actually a crochet type hook with a handle.
Depending on the type of hooking you do, the size of the hook will vary.
Here is the backing.  This is 100% cotton burlap made specifically for primitive hooking.  The weave is much looser to allow room for the wider strips.
This is a hoop frame.  I normally use a Puritan Lap frame found here, but it is nicely packed away.  I much prefer it but this will do if you want something a lot cheaper.  It can be purchased at the Harry Fraser Co. from the link above.
For my own designs I do many sketches first.  Sometimes I draw them directly onto the burlap or make a transparency of my design and use an overhead projector to transfer the design onto the burlap.  
I use a colored Sharpie to draw my designs.  If I make changes I just change the color of the Sharpie.  It doesn't matter if you make mistakes because your lines will not be seen on the finished rug.
So, to begin, I hold the strip of wool underneath the burlap with one hand.  With my hook I draw up the raw edge onto the surface of the burlap. 
Whatever object I am doing, I outline it first, bringing the loops up right next to each other.   Control the length of the loops by pulling up with your hook or pulling down on the wool with your hand underneath.
All raw edges are on the surface or the right side of the rug.  Amazingly they blend in with the rest of the loops.
Cut all the raw edges flush with the rest of the loops.
This is the underneath side of the star.  Notice there are just a few areas showing burlap. That's okay, it allows the rug to breathe
Tah dah!  Here is the finished star.  The loops are usually as high as your strips are wide, so in this case the loops are around 1/4 inch high.  As you can see the process is very simple!  To add dimension to your hooking it is fun to dye the wool or remove color from the wool so the piece you are hooking is not just one color.  Also, tweed adds an interesting texture.  

As you attempt to hook a rug be brave.  Don't ever say I can't draw.  Ever.  If you can pick up a pencil, you can draw.  Don't copy.  Make something personal to you.  You might be surprised at how amazing you are! 
So, take a gander at my hooking:
The Work To Which I Have Been Called

Never Miss A Trick

Be Still

Mom Burch

Prayer Rug I

Prayer Rug II

Prayer Rug III

Prayer Rug IV

Prayer Rug IV

Prayer Rug VI

Sacrifice Triptych

Sacrifice Triptych


Sacrifice Triptych

Blessings of the Womb

Head Strong

Tribute to Gee's Bend

Flee Like A Bird

* * * * * * * * * * * * 
Middle school is overrated anyway, right?
Thanks for sharing, mom!


  1. WOW! THAT is amazing! I'm sure there are many, many cups of tea in those rug and many memories of working on them, where you were, who was around, smells, what was simmering on the stove.... many hours of love.
    This is a very timely post, as I bought a mini kit this summer with wool yarn and just yesterday bought another with wool strips at a yard sale that is half completed. Now I'm inspired to take it on.
    thanks for sharing

  2. Oh, your mom. I love her and her talent for mothering and hooking!

  3. Beautiful! That looks like something I might be able to do, but, really, I can't draw.

  4. We always knew where to find mom--hooking in front of her rug.

    Loved this, mom. Have you started another rug?

  5. So fun to hear the story and see the process all in one poised post! I want to try sometime.

  6. I loved seeing your process in detail. Fascinating. I feel honored to own one of your rugs. If our house was on fire I'd grab the rug then go back in for David. Yep, that's how much I love my Becky rug.

  7. It looks like you use so many different colors of wool. Where do you buy it? Do you have a resource for that?

  8. Blogful--I look everywhere for wool. I got quite a bit at Pendleton Wool outlet store in Pendelton, Oregon, if you are from the west coast. Look for wool felt in the spring at fabric stores when it is much cheaper. Mandys Woolshed in Maine has pretty good prices, also. (207-582-5059) She will sent you samples. There are so many sources online now for rug hookers. Anything $10 or under for 100% wool felt is a good price. If you like to dye fabric, buying while wool from Mandy's and then dying your own is a good way to go, also. I do know the price of wool has gone up in the past few years. Hope this helps.

  9. I loved Judy's comment. And I, with Olivia, think I may give this a try, too. It was beautiful to see several of your rugs all in a row. My favorite has always been "the work to which I have been called".

  10. Inspiring!
    Thank you for sharing her talent.

  11. Oh how lovely! Katy it's no wonder that you and your siblings are so darn amazing. I mean, look at your parents! I love getting a little peek at your lives.

  12. I have always admired your rugs, I remember being so nervous about walking on them when they were on the floor in your main room. They are so beautiful. The process looks so simple, is it really that easy?? it seems something so beautiful would be more complicated.

  13. I've hooked for over 10 years and have never run across these rugs.....thanks so much for sharing. I'm going to share this link on my blog, so other hookers can view this spectacular work!
    By the way....found a picture of one of the rugs on www.pinterest.com which led me to your blog.

  14. Wow. I'm a hooker in Utah and belong to the Utah Fiber Arts Guild. There are about 30 + in Utah now. I'm amazed that we have never seen these rugs. Would love to be in touch and have the opportunity to see these rugs.


Be a lamb & tell me what's on your mind.