The Chicken In The Garden rug was one of the first handful of designs that I created for my Primitive Spirit catalog. As is most often the case, the tiny photo that is in the catalog really does not show all of the detail and color in this 22″ X 33″ piece. Just taking these photographs brought back memories of hooking the rug. Memories took me back to what was happening in my life at the time.
I had been living in a tiny apartment, trying to make ends meet with a job that barely covered my living expenses. I decided to start a rug hooking pattern business, but wanted first to have enough finished rugs to create a catalog of my designs hooked as I envisioned them. This meant I had to have wool, but I could only afford thrift store garments that I took apart. This was a big challenge because I was limited by what was available, and the fabrics varied from being very thick to very thin.
I found a big camel-hair coat. It was not the right weight for hooking, so I didn’t nab it right away but waited for it to go on sale. I had no dyes and I desperately needed more colors. My solution was to bleed the color off the dark-colored wools, and add light colors, such as the camel, to the dye pot to make a tints. The head of the chicken is hooked with some of that over-dyed camel wool. Notice how nice and plump each loop looks, kind of like corn on the cob. I love this look. Since the wool was thicker, I cut it narrower so that it was easier to hook with. I did not have a strip cutter, but I was not going to let anything stop me, so I used a rotary cutter.
The blue and white herringbone and the pumpkin plaid in the above photo were mens shirts. I can still see them as I found them, hanging at the Salvation Army. Word got out, and so people who I worked with donated their old clothes to my craft. Of the cast-offs, wool from an aqua plaid jacket found its way into my chicken. See it hooked here, too. Even though the wool was very thin, I made it work by cutting it into 1/2″ strips and folding it in half as I hooked it to give each loop more body.
Many of these wools were as-is colors that I tea-dyed to make them into softer versions of themselves.
The chicken was not much more than a hit-or-miss coloration using scraps. My next challenge was the background.
Once again, necessity being the mother of invention, I had to make do with using a blend of wools to get enough fabric for the background. Hence, my style was born!
In this case, I had a great collection of dark greens. Instinctively I added other dark colors into this mixture. I loved this little spark of color. My experience in painting guided me as I used colors of wool like dabs paint.
For the leaves, even though the greens were not all the same, they shared a common element of being soft, mellow colors. I found that hooking them together, a few loop here and there, helped them to blend into a vibrant mixture, like an impressionist painting. Look at a Monet up close and what do you see? Bits of color. And they don’t look like anything until you step back.
Even though my palette of colors was limited I was able to pull together enough variety to do a simple hit or miss border. Many of these colors were already in other places in my design.
I finished this rug with binding tape gathered at the rounded corners. This was before I learned the crochet edge finish that I prefer. Actually this rug was made before I learned many things about the craft of hooking rugs. I believe that sometimes it is good to have no preconceived notions. Just wing it and see what happens.
One of the great masters of painting, Leonardo DaVinci, was known for experimenting with new techniques and ideas, even to the point of making some mistakes. An example of this is his painting The Last Supper, which he painted by applying paint directly to plaster with his new formula. Unfortunately, his work started deteriorating within 25 years.
We all fail from time to time. But what if we did things without any fear of judgement? Would our work change?
Thanks for reading ~ Karen