For Christmas, I made one rug for my mother-in-law, Marilyn, and one for my dad.
Marilyn’s Living Room
Marilyn lives in a lovely spot near the Halifax harbor, walking distance to a farmer’s market and the ferry to Halifax. At the entrance to her building is a coffee shop that bakes cookies. It must be magic to the kids, that every time they visit their grandmother, they smell giant cookies baking. Yes, these cookies are huge.
To design this rug, my husband Bob and I studied photos we had taken of Marilyn’s living room. When we took the photos, we were not planning the rug, so they did not show us everything we needed. But it was enough for Bob to draw a sketch on paper. He then laid it out on the monks cloth for me. This is the first rug that Bob designed.
Just after starting this rug, I attended a meeting at my rug hooking guild about hooking with “alternative” materials. In rug hooking, that just means hooking with something other than wool or yarn. Most rug hookers hook with strips of wool that are cut using devices that look like pasta makers. At that session, I got the idea to hook the mirror using a shiny bathing suit fabric. The instructor said that when hooking with non-wool, you typically have to pull your loops up a little higher because other materials tend to sink down after. That was the case here. I really enjoyed hooking this type of fabric.
We struggled with the colors a bit, because in real life, the bookshelves are white, the fireplace is white, the chair is white, the floor is white. That is not possible to hook effectively. So we took some artistic liberties and added colors to define the objects in the space. I particularly liked the green rug from an old woolen skirt. The highlight other than the mirror was using “worms,” i.e. stray pieces of wool, when hooking the books and trim.
I have wanted to make a rug for Marilyn for many years. She has given me wool as Christmas gifts and taken photos of cool rugs when she finds them. She collects folk art. But I typically only get to make one large-ish rug every two years, so she has been waiting a while!
Marilyn seemed pleased with her rug and has already hung it up in her house.
Dad’s Phases of the Moon
On November 22, my grandfather Fred Brown died after being hit by a car. It was so unexpected and very difficult for his 10 children and all the members of our extended family. My grandmother Shirley passed away in 2009 and he has been living independently since.
My grandfather lived in Newfoundland, and I chose not to travel there for his memorial service, which was a difficult choice. My sister went with my parents and did a great job calling me to tell me what was going on.
I had thought about making my dad this rug for more than a year, but did not think I could get it done by Christmas. After the news about my grandfather, I needed a way to feel connected to my dad while he was in Newfoundland, even if he didn’t know I was making it. I needed something to do with my hands while worrying about him.
Why phases of the moon? My dad has a tradition that I admire related to the moon. Every full moon, he calls his friend Derek. It’s a way they stay connected while living in two different provinces. I think it is such a great idea. Whenever I see moon charts, I think of my dad and Derek.
Also, I wanted to make a rug that would be easy to put up, and most of my parents’ walls are already filled. I designed this specifically to be hung above a door, where there is not usually anything.
If my dad had a catchphrase, it would be “We are so lucky.” That attitude is difficult to remember sometimes, certainly it was difficult at the end of November. Underlying his grief, he still brought his best to help his family because he wants us to remember the good things and for things to be done right.
Here is a photo of the label that I sewed on the back of his rug:
I feel lucky that I could find the time to make these rugs. They gave me a lot of peace while hooking them. I love how they feel when I rub my hands across them. I love rug hooking more than almost any other activity because each loop is so small and insignificant, and yet when you hook and hook and hook – in the end there is a soft yet solid, comforting and cherished item.