Still Hooking

I am much encouraged by the progress I have made on my rug, and I’ve decided that there is a chance that I will finish it by the Biennial Celebration in Long Beach at the end of September, so I am going to make rug hooking my priority for the next month. That means quilting goes on the back burner. This worries me a bit, but sometimes taking a little break brings some clarity in the direction your work is taking.

Here is the “fish” part of the rug, with the sky filled in. I knew I was running short of the mottled pale blue and white wool, and so drew a line in close to the sea. Originally I thought that I would fill in with sunset or sunrise colors. But as soon as I drew the line, I knew that that was where the “distant ocean” needed to be, so that is being filled in with a deep dark mottled blue. So fun to make discoveries like this.


And here is all the mottled blue wool that I had leftover!


Some close-ups:




And to keep my hand in quilting, I have this little quilt that I have been working on:


All the mosaic pieces are hand-stitched with perle cotton in blanket stitch. I love the way it looks, but it is time consuming. A lot more will be added to this quilt. I think that I will be doing a lot of beading on it too.


Oh, and I started this idea of doing a value study quilt only in neutrals, using some of the strip piecing techniques I learned from Nancy Crow.


Beginning blocks:


As I asked my BF: exactly WHY am I working in neutrals, when I love color so much? Still, I think it might be an interesting learning project, so I might do a bit of this in between the hooking!


Lots of Experimenting

Since I came home from the Nancy Crow workshop, I have been experimenting with the strip piecing and restructuring, and also have reverted to some of the style of work I was doing just before I left.

I made one composition, and then decided to see what would happen if I tried to insert a lattice-type of strip piecing into it.


And then I had the idea to make a BIG quilt (56 inches square is big for me.) I wanted to try to include strips and circles together in one quilt. This was very fun to do, but also took a lot of time to put together all those strips of fabric.


And then this one, which is back to the style that I started, and is the style I am using for “The Psalms” quilts. It is very calming. I will probably add some circles or other shapes on top of it, but it is all ready for me to start hand quilting.


And that’s what I’ve been working on for the past week or so!

The Nancy Crow Workshop

For the record, I need to start by confessing that a week after I sent in my deposit for the workshop, I got cold feet and tried to back out of it. I had been told by a number of people that Nancy Crow was hard on you. I didn’t want to work hard!¬†Fortunately for me, there was no backsies. And since I didn’t want to forfeit my deposit, I went ahead with my plans to attend.

This was, without a doubt, one of the very best workshops and retreats that I have ever attended. The surroundings were beautiful, the workspace provided was superb, the pace was exhilarating, the instruction and inspiration were above reproach, and the food was out of this world. I talked a bit about the retreat on my other blog, so I am going to concentrate on the actual workshop in this blog.

First, I want to address that reputation that being in a workshop with Nancy Crow is hard. Somehow the fact that she is honest in her critique of your work and has high expectations of each participant has gotten a bad rap. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was refreshing to have a teacher that is passionate about art and wants to convey that to her students and help them to become the best that they can be.

After a brief introduction to what we would be trying to accomplish–a discussion of figure/ground and how it pertains to art in quilting, and some instructions on what strip piecing and restructuring would involve, we were given a number of exercises to do, which involved cutting fabric selvedge to selvedge (sans ruler!) and sewing strips together in various combinations (i.e. dark/light, bright/cool, etc.) We would be making new fabrics with our own original combinations of colors. We were using all solid colors this first day.


After we had those “fabrics” assembled, we started cutting them and restructuring them into a “composition” (quilt top) on our design wall. I am showing my first top here, even though I don’t like it. As I said on the last day (when we had to present our work to the group,) when I was putting my strips together, I liked each of them. But when I was finished and looked at them, they made me think of school uniforms. So when I put them together in a quilt top, I still saw “school uniforms.” One of the things that Nancy impressed on us was to not be afraid to experiment and fail.


Then, we were given all new sets of exercises to do, first combining strips of neutral and brown fabrics, and then combining colors with some prints. One of the interesting things Nancy said was that you had to be careful of prints, because if you used too many of them in your composition (quilt top) they will start “bossing you around.” And I found that that was true. I love prints, and had made a lot of them, but I had to eliminate most of them when I started working on my final quilt.


We cut one strip from each fabric for reference, and pinned it to the wall.


And then assembled all our “fabrics” neatly on our table. They didn’t stay this way for long!


I started putting pairs of strips together that I thought might work well.


After we had most of these exercises done, we were given new instructions on cutting the “fabrics” (that were composed of our strips) into strips and restructuring them, combining them to make units and small compositions that would then be assembled into our final composition. This was fun, but also frustrating. At one point, my next-door neighbor, a really nice woman who had come all the way from Canada, saw me looking perplexed. She said, “well, where is your figure and where is your ground?” And I just said in despair, “I don’t know.” But we were on a time schedule, and so I just kept on working.



With such a large class, it was amazing that Nancy gave plenty of individual attention to each participant. She would circle the room and ask each person, “talk or pass.” If you had a question, she would spend some time with you. But if not, she went on to the next person.

On Thursday afternoon, we took a break from our work, and each workshop participant gave a brief (5 minute) presentation of their current work. Of course, I shared some of my housetop quilts, and how I love combining quilting with God’s Word. So after dinner, most of us went back to work on our composition. I had cut some simple strips and ‘restructured’ them into what looked like plus signs to me. My neighbor glanced over at my design wall, and said, “after your presentation, I understand your composition a little bit more (indicating that the ‘plus signs’ were indicative of crosses.)” That had not been my intention at all, and I had not seen that myself.



THEN, Nancy came around one last time, and I was kind of apologizing for the diagonal lines in the middle piece (I had heard her criticize other workshop participants for ‘meaningless use of diagonals,’) and she said, “Oh, after your presentation, I kind of thought they looked like an arrow pointing upwards.” OMGOSH. It kind of made me cry. Even though my intention was to NOT do anything spiritual, it seemed like God had other plans. So then I just went with it and added two obvious crosses. In the final group evaluation, another person pointed out that there was a very large cross in the middle of the composition.


I was not sure I liked it. But I decided that rather than try to take it apart and re-do it, or leaving it unfinished in a heap (as most of my workshop projects do) I wanted to quilt it right away. I had a little idea of how I wanted to quilt it, so I started in the day after I got home!

Close-ups of some of the restructuring and quilting details:





I loved the whole experience. If I could I would definitely take another class. I know I have only scratched the surface of what Nancy has to offer. She is taking all of 2014 off from teaching because she wants to concentrate on her own art. Maybe I’ll be back in Ohio in 2015!