Just as something so innocent as the purchase of an arch could trigger a chain reaction of activity in the garden outside the studio, I made a similar small change inside the studio on Monday and it seems to  be taking me, irresistably, down a similar path.  

It all started inocently –


For some time, I have thought Jane Olson’s grandfather clock was too close to the wall of wool and ought to be relocated to another spot in the studio.  Therefore, I moved it 2 windows over to the right – about 12 feet.  Of course, because the cork board was permanetly mounted right up against that window trim, it also had to be taken down and moved over to create an appropriate blank space to frame the clock.  

While it did not take me and my power drill  long to remove the screws holding the cork board in place, there ended up being a little more to it.  

Unfortunately, the cork board was mounted on a 4 by 8 sheet of plywood which was securely  screwed into the wall along each of the three studs it straddled.   I had put up the ply wood some time ago because I needed a place to hang “Big Momma” for Celebration shots.  After shooting, I put the cork board on top of the ply wood thinking I will just leave the plywood in place as I can pop the cork board off and on when I have other big rugs to shoot.  As there have not been any other big rugs to shoot, I decided that I did not want to look at the edges of the plywood anymore.  Taking it down was a much bigger job as I had used about 15 screws.  


By reinstalling the cork board at a spot about 2 feet over from its original location, I was able to cover up 2/3′s of those screw holes.  All I had to do was  patch the remaining holes … and then get some touch up paint.

I also had to do something with that sheet of good ply wood.  In fact, I was quite shocked to see that it really was a high grade of  plywood.  This seemed odd to me but then I figured it was because I wanted the painted side to look smooth like a wall for the photos – not rough like cheap painted plywood.  Even so, with no place to store it, I figured I would have to get out my saw and turn it into small pieces that could be thrown away on trash day.  But … if I was going to go to all the trouble to saw it up, why not saw it up into something that I could use?  After all, it was too good to throw away.


Although I never talk about it, I do have a certain amount of low level carpentry skills.  In fact, I used to do lots of wood working, only stopping from those pursuits about 15 years ago when I decided I would rather use my fingers for hooking than cut them off with a saw.  (Yes, many of my wood working friends have less than 10 full fingers.)


Remembering that I have been wanting something solid to sit on top of  my mailing cart, my cutter cart and my personal hooked project’s cart, I decided to throw caution to the wind and save this piece of plywood that was too good to throw away.  


All I had to do was cut it into three rectangle pieces  to fit the top of each cart, then cut out a “round” on each corner of those pieces so the toppers would sit flush in their host metal shelf.  Not only did I have the plywood, I also had the tools to do this.  Well, truth be told, almost all the tools I needed.  After a quick trip to the lumber yard for a hole attachment and some varnish, I was good to go.  Several hours later, I was all done.  


While I am no David Mikoryak, I ended up with three, nice, wooden tops – much better than the previous plastic tops made from a discarded political sign! 


You may notice that my computer printer is also shown in this photo.  It is sitting on an ancient table that belonged to my great great grand parents.  Truth be told, it was a ratty old table that most people would have thrown away.  But, my grandmother thought it was too good to just throw away and put it in her garage as a catch all.   Thirty years later I saw it for what it was and rescued it again.  Unfortunately, as we did not have a place for it in the house, it has been languishing away in the room of requirement for several years.  I thought to my self if I brought down that little table I could put the printer on it and get it off my desk.  Getting anything off my desk would be a big plus as my big desk is a big catch all.  


I love my desk (shown here when it was a Pastor’s desk) even though now, in my studio, it is too big and sticks out way too far into the room.  I should never have brought it into the studio but, when I went from pastor to full time rug hooker, there was no possibilty of getting rid of it because of its history.  So, it went into the studio.


You see, the 4 legs of that desk are made from the 2 center posts from my home church in Illinois.  In fact, to be precise, they are from the posts of the old church – the one that burned down in 1972.  The posts were saved only because the front of the old church had been remodeled and the posts (because you can’t just throw away good things) were put in our barn and forgotten by everyone … except me.  Able to use a big desk in my previous life, I had the legs made into a big table type desk.  Even though it is both historical and special, that desk is just too big for a desk in my studio.  


So … I thought why not think outside the box?  I moved out the desk and replaced it with a temporary small desk.  After all, all I really need in this spot is a computer area.  Something 28″ – 30″ deep and about 3-4 feet wide is plenty of lap top space.  In fact, as I thought about it … I just might have something that would work.


I saved this some time ago because it was too good to throw away.  Still, I had no use for it … or the other older base like it I have.  Both have been slumbering away up in the room of requirement for many years.  I decided to bring this one down because it was my great grandmothers. It should be really easy to make this into a lap top work station.  All I will have to do is find a suitable top.  How hard can that be?


While I was up in the room of requirement getting the sewing machine base, I stumbled into this old wall phone.  My great grandfather gave it to my parents when they were newly married.  He had replaced it with a better phone but felt this one was too good to just throw away.  So, they got it and used it until we moved to town in 1959.  I remember talking on this phone the first 6 years of my life.  Our ring was two longs and a short.


It dawned on me, while wrestling out the sewing machine base from the room of requirement, that, with the repositioning of the grandfather clock, I now had a space to display the old phone.  And, with the removal of the huge desk, I could easily keep my mailing center, complete with new top, permanetly pushed against the wall.  This was good luck indeed.    I need two things in my studio:  More floor space and less clutter. This allowed me to get both.  

Feeling myself on a roll, I started looking around at other things  that continually get in the way.  My eyes fell on the two 2 drawer file cabinets in the studio.  With ruthless abandon, I started condensing and jetisoning files, eventually getting everything I had to have into one cabinet.  Since my mailing station is on wheels, this allowed me to come up with an unconventional way of positioning my file cabinet.      


Why not go sideways?  I don’t get in there very often and it is no trouble at all to move the mail cart when I need to.  In the past, I could only envision the cabinet sitting one way – a way that stuck out too far into the traffic area of the studio.  This is a much better solution for me.  


My new format got all my essentials reorganized along the wall within a foot print of 18 to 22 inches as opposed to the old desk, which stuck out 42 inches.  I even came up with a plan for the desk.  


While 42 inches wide is too big for a desk along the wall, it is perfect for a student work space!  There is only one little problem. When the man made the desk, he made the legs too long.  They need to have about 2.5 inches cut off.  

How hard can that be?    

Posted in Studio | Leave a comment

*Registration for Cambria Pines Rug Camp 2015 is now up and running at www.geneshepherd.com  I hope you can come!

Even though it is Labor Day and I am doing some labor in the studio, I have opted for a little lighter report today.

There are a lot of perks to living in paradise.   On Friday, I took advantage of one.  

When a person is employed by Disneyland, they get to “sign” in a certain number of their friends free of charge for a one day pass.  So, on Friday, Brian (he literally locks the gate after the last person leaves the park) signed Marsha and me in for the day.  


Our reason for going in was to surprise Brian’s dad, Don (a career teacher who picked up monorail driving after he retired from the classroom), who was  retiring after 15 years of being at the wheel of the famous centerpiece of Tomorrowland.  


Along with Brian’s Mom (also Don’s wife) we formed a little surprise party while we rode 1st class in the nose of the monorail.  As we have a history of going to all sorts of exotic locations on this blog, I thought we better take advantage of this perk while the oppertunity was still available to all of us on the IRgC.  


I am not sure that it has too much to do with fiber art but, it is a perk you won’t find on other sites!


Don was able to glide us into the park without having to stand in line or jostle with crowds.  

Although our purpose for going into the park was to surprise and congratulate Don, after doing so, it seemed a little foolish to not take advantage of being in the middle of the happiest place on earth.  


Marsha, of course, loves to go to Disneyland as she finds loads of garden plantings that inspire her to come home and work in her garden.


I, of course, am more into scenic wonders.  After all, D’land is home to one of California’s most famous mountains – The Matterhorn!  And we didn’t even have to leave  Anaheim to see it.


Besides  scenic natural wonders, there are also a lot of scientific reason for going to Disneyland.  Where else can one go for difnitive proof of Bigfoot? 


We even saw some celebrities in the park that day.  I did notice that they had on some great fiber and could not help but wonder what Jasmine does with her old silk pants when she is done with them.


Even though we weren’t there to do hooking work, I could not help but think this shot would make an elegant rug design.  


We even had time for a tea party.  

While we really weren’t there to ride rides, I told Marsha that no trip to Dinseyland is complete without at least one ride on something and we have to do that for the IRgC!  

So, in celebration of the wild ride that is the IRgC – get your seat, secure your purse and packages and make sure to buckle yourself in!


The Mine Train can be a scary ride indeed.  




done1done4d11I told you it was scary.


We also rode one other ride but flash photography was not allowed in there.  


In my mind, no trip to Disneyland is complete with out eating at the Plaza Inn.


We sit in the same spot


And eat the same food every time we go there.  They have the best fried chicken in Orange County.  (And no, I don’t go there very often. ) 


What is the point of living in paradise if you don’t ever take advantage of it?  (The other perk, because we did not pay for the ticket, is that we could go home after about 3.5 hours and put our feet up!)

Here is another perk from Paradise –  

The winner of today’s Giveaway is

Madona Shelly  

(Madona – Send me your mailing address and I will send you a Mx’d Quarter of paradise green wool!)

Best wishes to all of you for a wonderful Labor Day Holiday.  


Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Life is an assortment of steps – often leading to places that we did not anticipate at the start of the journey.  


Recently, we decided to take one little step.


It lead to a second 


And then a third.


Next thing you know, we jumped one, two three and 


Ta dahhhhhhhhh!  We ended up with a radically different garden.  


I do realize that these shots do not show off the long awaited arch to its best advantage but, after a long day of construction and then planting, you can jolly well bet that I would get a shot or two before the sun set.  


Hopefully, it is enough to convince you that the wait was worth all the effort.  I suspect, as time goes on, you will end up seeing the arch, fence and garden in every light at every season.  But, for now, we are considering it done!

We aren’t the only ones to have a “ta dahhhh” moment this week.  


Gene – I finally set up my new proddy frame on my new proddy legs with my matching strip sorter.  I love it!

Thanks for offering such beautiful, handcrafted equipement.  They are definitely heirloom quality.

Sincerely, Debbie 

Dear Debbie – Thanks for the nice note.  I will pass it on to David Mikoryak, the artist who makes all my speciatly wood accessories.  Let my arch, it takes a while to get but … its well worth the wait.  

As a way celebrating “ta dahhhhhhh” moments, let’s have a Giveaway.  Comment in on this post before Sunday night at 8 PM and  you will be eligible to win one of my new Mx’d Quarters – something in a good garden color I think.  

Posted in Garden | 77 Comments

Much of our energy this week is being spent to make it possible for things to go “live” at our house. 


We want the new sod to go live -


The new plants to go live -


Of course, we want all our living creatures to keep going live.  

In addition to these things, we are also finishing up the Cambria Pines Rug Camp 2015 website so that it can go Live September 1, 2014, at 9 AM California time.

Although I expect the Cambria site to be completely updated in a day or so, I will let you know the particulars ahead of time so you can be ready to register on Monday when it goes live if you want to come to camp 2015.

Cambria Pines Rug Camp 2015,  begins with registration in the Lodge at 3:30 PM on Sunday, June 7 and ends after breakfast on Friday, June 12.

All classes at Cambria are open classes – meaning that students can do any pattern they want with the teacher of their choice.  Classes usually have about 16 students. 

The teachers for  2015 are:


Donna Hrkman – No, this is not a picture of Donna.  However, it is one of her great portrait rugs.  As students found out last year, Donna can do just about anything, but particularly excells at portraits, animals and story rugs. 


Michelle Micarelli -No, Michelle is not a dragon … but I do think that just might be her riding on top of this particular dragon.  Michelle is well known for her whimsical approach to design and great use of color.  


Gene Shepherd – Gene thinks of himself as a fancy wide cut specialist for hooking, traditional proddy and shaped proddy.  He particularly likes to find great dye techniques that will help his students get the look they want.  Students often take Gene to work on their technique.


Diane Stoffel has taught many years at CPRC.   She is always popular with students because she can do just about any thing.


Anita White – Finally, a rug that looks like the teacher!  As Anita is a new teacher at Cambria, here is a little about her.  

Anita is a well known teacher at rug camps and workshops all over the US.  She can encourage the new student as well as the seasoned rug hooker.  


Her style leans towards a refined primitive using lots of textures, both as is and over-dyed wools and also antique paisley to create beautiful rugs.  Her work has been in Rug hooking magazine, Early American Homes, as well as other books.  Her class will be an open class so that students may choose any pattern by any designer.  During the week she will cover techniques, color planning, dyeing, and finishing.  

Camp fees cover tuition, room and meals.  

Double room – $825

Private Room – $1060

Superior double – $880

**A larger suite upgrade is available.  Contact marsha@geneshepherd.com for details.

Non-Hooking Spouse is $700

Day Camper is $425

Deposit with registration is $150.

Campers can come early and stay late by making special arrangments through our contact at the Lodge.  (Contact Marsha for details.)

All registration is on line at the Cambria Pines button at www.geneshepherd.com and will begin September 1, 2014, at 9 AM, CA time.


Posted in Cambria Pines Rug Camp 2015 | Tagged | Leave a comment

Two hooking reports just came in.  The first is from Elise -


Gene:  Here is a progress report on Micmac, the pattern by Jane McGown Flynn that I am doing right now.  I just thought you would like to see how well the wool you dyed for me is working out.  Elise


While this is not a shot of the wool I dyed for her, it is kind of close to what I dyed except that I did the color transition going the other direction so she had longer strips to hook the arcs of her pattern. 


I also dyed the dark background for this project.  Although there aren’t too many differnt kinds of wool in this piece, Elise has put them together beautifully to make a very stunning rug.  Great job!

Jan got back to me about her rose rug.  Although I tried to answer her question without seeing the pattern, I felt kind of stupid when I did get her photos in the mail.   



The pattern in question is Aurora Rose by Joan Moshimer.  I felt stupid because I reported on this project a few times several years ago when she worked on it with me at Cambria.  After all the wool I dyed for this rug, you would have thought I could never forget it.  


Gene:  As you can see, I have not made much progress since camp a few years ago.  Like others, it is always a conundrum as to finishing old projects vs making progress on new things started.


I expect I am not the only camper and hooker who has a group of unfinished but cherished projects in hand. As I explained when we visited on the phone, I have been purging some of my older wools from the time when I was doing dark and mainly primitive rugs.  In cleaning and sorting, I just got an itch to work on this experimental rug.  It is a Joan Moshimer rug designed for a 3 cut.  I am hooking it in 8.5 to 10′s.  I think it will look fine from a distance but the jury is still out on what it will look like closer up- hence the “experiment”.


The challenge I am facing at this time is how to do the stamens.  As you can see, they are an important design element and it seems to me the most logical to just cut back to a 5-7 and hook around them in the predominant color of that area.  Any other ideas are most welcome!  

As always, good talking with you and your archway is a perfect addition to your garden.  I am blessed to have shared a little bit of your heaven and know exactly how it will look when finished.  Why is it that the “simple” projects always turn out to be not so simple.  Hugs to you, Marsha and Maisy.  Jan 

Dear Jan – Now that I know what the pattern is, yes, of course, just use a smaller cut – whatever will do the trick, only make sure to hook it as high as those other wide loops you are using.  

As for how it will look – I don’t think there is too much to experiment on.  We can see quite a lot in the few petals and leaves that you have done.  I love the painterly way that you have mixed in various colors and shades to give the flowers a lot of interest.  It is “working” quite well.  All you need to do is stop sorting wool and get back to hooking.  When you are doing that painterly “thing” it doesn’t matter if you paint with a wide brush or a narrow one, the colors are still mixed by the eye as long as you put in the right ones to start with.   And, you seem to be doing that just fine.  


Posted in Reports | 3 Comments

I am not sure if this is a short cut, being lazy or just working smart.  You be the judge.  


Last night I dyed up a multi-colored yard of textured wool.  I like to cut this sort of dyed piece with the selvedge, then use it as a varigated outline or beauty line.  This gives me a hooked line that changes colors every few inches.  


Of course,  sometimes I like my colors to change more gradually.  In stead of getting just 2 or 3 inches of one color on a single strip, I prefer to get 4 or 5 strips before the wool changes color. When creating something like that, I have to pour the dye on the wool in a different direction.  

Instead of getting two pans dirty to make these 2 different kinds of wool, I just decided to take a short cut … or be lazy … or work smarter – you decide.  


I got out my big pan


And put my wool in going two different directions.  I scrunched the piece on the left over so that it fit in half the pan and the piece on the right got scrunched in on all 4 sides until it fit in its half of the pan.  By arranging the two different textures in 2 different ways, I was able to get two distinctily different kinds of wool, with one set of dyes poured in one direction, in one dye session.  


I also took a short cut with this pile of curly mohair.  Although I bought it as “clean” mohair, “clean” is a relative term.  I suppose it comes out of the bag somewhat cleaner than it comes off the sheep … but not a lot.  Before I sell it to others, therefore, I feel the need to wash it again … a couple of times.  While hand washing is not such a big deal, drying it is.  There is nothing quite so heavy as a very wet fleece.  To speed things up, after washing by hand, I put all the wet wool in a cotton pillow case and securely tied the end shut.  From there, it was put in the spin cycle of my wife’s washing machine.  The centrifugal force of the cycle does a great job of removing excess water, thereby speeding up the drying process.  Since all the wool is confined to the pillow case, it is not abused or distressed.  While the wool still needs to be spread out on a window screen to finish air drying, it drys much faster haveing gone through the spin cycle.  

Why am I washing curly mohair?  Two reasons.  1. I have a lot of curly mohair.


2.  I decided to make some Santa Packs – 3/16 of good Christmas Red wool and enough curly mohair to make a nice Santa beard.  Yes, I will have them on the site … but the mohair has to dry first!  

Jan called yesterday with a question.  

Gene:  I am hooking a bunch of big roses on an old Moshimer pattern.  I am using cuts #8.5, #9 and #10.  Many of the roses are at least 14″ across or more.  My question concerns the stamens in all these roses.  The #8.5 is too big.  Can I go down to a smaller cut?  Should I tie French knots?  What do you think?  

Not having the pattern before me, it was a little hard to make a suggestion.  


I did go out in the garden looking for the tupe of flowers that I THINK must be in her pattern.  I suspect they look something like this.  


Or this -


Or this.  

Not wishing to take short cuts in my answer or to be percieved as skirting the question, I will start by saying a lot of it depends on exactly how one is interpreting the design.  (Which I have not seen.)  Is it being interpreted realistically?  Or, maybe a better question would be How realistic is the interpretation?  Since cuts 8.5-10 are being used, I expect that the artist is not approaching the piece in they same way they would if using a #3.  So, is it primitive in feel?  Representational?  Painterly?  Impressionistic?  

Certainly, much smaller cut sizes can be used in the little stamen areas.  That might be a good way to go as long as the loops are pulled as high as the wider ones close by.    


But, if the rose is 14″ across, these little stamen my not be so tiny.  A #6 cut might look downright fragile next to a #10.

Given the “style” of the interpretation, the artist might want to hook each one as drawn or, pair back and give a “suggestion.”  You might make a suggestion by putting in a few stamens or by picking the right sort of textured wool to give this area a nubly  speckled look.  On a big flower, I could even see a shaggy Waldoboro approach for this section.  

Whatever the style, I would not suggest the French knots for a rug that will be walked on as I don’t think they would wear well over time.  If the piece is dedicated for a wall, then that would be fine but not for the floor.   


David just sent out this brand new set of painted proddy legs – black over mint green.  Someone asked the other day why I do not have these listed in the store so people could just click and buy.  We don’t do that because each order is unique.  Generally, a painted set like this costs about $900 plus S & H.  However, if different woods are required or other “specialty” things about them, the price could be a little higher.  Additionaly, just like Jack in the Box – we don’t make them until they are ordered.  So, it is not like there are 6 sets laying around waiting to be bought.  Consequently, whether it is a proddy leg set like this or a painted strip sorter, I work with each interested party to get just the right thing.  As far as the strip sorter go, they can be quite different.  


A painted sorter, like this one, usually costs about $750.  While they come with three arms, additonal arms are also available. Sorters made out of hard woods (maple, cherry, mahogany) cost a little more than the painted ones.  A hand carved one, of course, costs even more than those.  But, as a recent recipeint said:  It was nicer than I expected!  

On these projects, we take NO shortcuts.

Posted in Studio | 2 Comments

Often, I gravitate towards larger cut sizes for the projects I do.  On Friday, I used my biggest cut size ever.  In fact, it was so wide, I am not really sure what the official cut # is.  If a #12 cut equals a strip one inch wide, I guess the cut size I used on Friday was an #180, as the end product was 15″ wide.  


Yes, it was made by a professional cutter but one not made by Townsend.  As is the case with all sorts of wide cuts – big cuts make for quicker work.  


By lunch time, our whole side yard was covered with new sod.  Although we can’t walk on it for 4 weeks, we do like looking at it.  

One of the surprising things I like about the new back yard re-do is the prominence of the palm trees across the street.  While they were always there, the trees in our yard obscured them to the point that you couldn’t really see the palm trees … “for the trees.”  Although I really did not want to remove those trees, now that they are gone, I very much like the new look.  It almost makes me feel like I live in California.  


On Saturday, we put in the new little flower bed on the other side of the back porch – the side that rarely shows up in photos I take of the back yard.  As there were too many roses in the old bed on the studio side of the porch, some roses got moved over to this new bed where they can now grow quite tall.   To move them, of course, they had to be cut back to a manageable size.  

In the past, there was a particularly fine navel orange tree here.  Even though we loved the fruit, the tree was a problem because it wanted to grow up to block Marsha’s kitchen window.  This required us to keep it cut to a 6 foot height.  In my opinoin, that was a bad cut size for a navel orange.  Additionally, the fat tree’s branches went all the way to the ground, thereby covering an area much larger than the foot print of this new bed.  If we would have left it, the effect would have created a bottle neck to the view.  So, we decided we needed a narrower cut.

Over the weekend, since I was on a roll after sorting through my stash looking for proddy wool, I went back and culled out several small, odd pieces of good hooking wool.  Much of it came from leftovers of new wool I had dyed.  Other bits were odd sized good found wool.  All of it came in odd sizes that were too small for me to do much with.  As a lot of it was quite pretty, I decided to sort and prep it for some beginner’s classes I have coming up.  


When cut (in a #7) and tied in little bundles, I thought the wool ended up looking quite nice.  As I prepare for the classes, I know exactly which additional colors I need to get to augment the stash with plenty of student options.  However, when I got done picking out the pretty wool, I still had a rather large pile of wool that was anything but pretty.  While I did not weigh it, I suspect it would total at least 1.5 yards of wool – maybe 2.  Some of the pieces were white, off white, very pale or lifeless colors that I would never think of using.  So lifeless that I couldn’t bear to take up storage space for it. Instead of just throwing it away, however, I threw it in a big cassarole pan.  


After allowing it to soak for a while, I did a multi-colored dark spot dye over everything.  (Mustard, Rapsberry, Purple and Ivy.)  The wool, which is actually darker than this photo suggests, has lots of highs and lows in all the colors that you see here.  Because is was dyed over a wide selelction of previously dyed solids and textures, when cut and all hooked together as a background, it will look great.  Now, at least, there is a reason to put it back into storage.  

Here is a note from Donna -


Dear Gene – As per your request, here is a photo of me demonstrating hooking to a child.  You have to look closely, but the hook is in his right hand.  His daddy allowed him to stay with me for about twenty minutes one day when I was demonstrating at the Morgan County Fair in 2010.  As you can see, he was a very serious and intelligent young man.  The picture was featured in a local newspaper.   While it may be an oldie, I hope you will think it is also a goodie!  Donna  

Dear Donna – Thank you so much.  I do think it is a goodie.  While I was a little older than this lad when I watched Miss Weigle hook, I doubt if I ever had as much as 20 minuets total discussion time about the art form.  So, you just never know the impact your 20 mins. might have.  We will document your encounter here because, no doubt, years down the road this lad will probably be a famous rug hooker who will be trying to find out who the rug hooker was that changed his life one day at the Morgan County Fair.  

As I did more yard work than hooking over the weekend, I limited my studio time to fun projects.  In  this case it was putting together more Mix’d Quarter packets.  In my opinion, playing with wool like this is quite a lot of fun.  




I actually put together more collections than this but these photos are enough to prove my point. 

Posted in Studio | 2 Comments

Although I do enjoy a lot of variety in my daily routine, 3rd Thursday’s usually have more facets than normal.  

I started mine with great reports in my mail box.


Gene: Here is a shot of the completed koi mat that we worked on at Yellow Rose of Texas.  Thank you for all of your wonderful guidance. I had a wonderful time hooking this koi mat and it is the quickest project that I have ever completed.   The photo isn’t perfect but I think it will provide you with how the mat turned out.  Jaci Clements

Dear Jaci – Thanks for the report – the photo is just fine. You have been quite busy as not much was done on this original design of yours when you showed up at Yellow Rose.  It turned out great! I love the way the koi look, although I don’t think this photo (nor any for that matter) captures the subtle nuances of your color choices for the fish or the water. Nevertheless, the rug makes a dramatic impact.  

Here is a second report that came in from Cheryll Salzberg.  The first rug she shows is one of her original designs, inspired by the special departed relatives that she feels keep watch over her. I feel a bit bad using just that one sentence to describe the piece as I remember how animated she was when describing her design to the class.  While I particulary like the lion, the other animal standing next to it is quite interesting as well.  


Gene:  You really encouraged me a lot when you said nice things about my  Fractur Family rug at Hooker Hill.  I thought you would like to see it all done. 


I am also sending along my scroll project that you helped me with at camp. I am happy with it  - just not so sure how the McGown judges will like it!  Thank you so much for helping me on this piece. I really like the colors.  Cheryll 

Dear Cheryl, After taking so many months to attack this scroll project, I can’t believe how quickly you have gotten it done!  Knowing it is something outside your box, I am glad you persevered.   While it certainy has your unique perspective on hooking, it does showcase several types of scrolls and the different sorts of wool one can use to make them which, I assume, is one of the points of the project.  That said, I much prefer hooked pieces that capture the personality of the artist, rather than just be an exercise.  You ended up with something that is different and, very much, “you.”  Given the fact that you were about ready to throw the project away, I would say that you accomplished a lot!    

I went right from finished rugs in my mail box, to an almost finished rug in my studio.   


Pam finally got this stunning pillow completely hooked and came to class with the goal of getting it whipped. 


Luckily, she had one really “swift” friend to help her get everything ready to start.  


Before long, she was busy whipping away.  

In many ways, it was a rather odd 3rd Thursday.


Instead of doing much hooking, Barbara and Jean spent most of their time sorting through my tubs of selvedges, picking out the colors they will need for a traditional proddy project (Scottish Thistle) they will be working on this fall.  Actually, Barb, Jean, Gretchen and I will all be doing proddy projects – Gretchen and I just hadn’t picked out what we wanted to do when the day started.  

We are all doing proddy projects, at my urging, BECAUSE I have soooooooooo much proddy wool stacked up that tubs of it may fall over and trap some unsuspecting rug hooker.  

Proddy wool – thick, blanket, too heavy for anything else wool – is the kind of wool one keeps because it is too good to throw away … then it reproduces in the still of the night and ends up taking over whole sections of the studio before you know it.  

So, for that reason, we are going to either put it in proddy rugs … or throw it away.  


Gretchen, who can multi-task, hooked on her pumpkin rug while she contemplated proddy rug patterns she wants to do.  

Carol came to class not intending to hook.  She had ordered a pattern and knew it woud be ready.  She isn’t going to start it until she goes home and looks over her stash – no doubt she is trying to avoid having the same problem with her hooking wool that I have with my proddy wool.  


She did bring something made out of wool – a lovely crocheted afghan.  Some time ago, I gave her the left over wool yarn I had after a woven commission piece for  local celebrity that I can not name.  While I intended for her to have the yarn to do with as she chose, she brought me the afghan to do with as I choose.  It was a very nice surprise.  As this wool yarn has a firm, silky texture, the afghan is quite luxurious.  I am not sure exactly what I will do with it but suspect it will end up in a fund raiser for some worthy cause.  

We had others present – I just did not get photos of what they were doing.  

Before the day was over, however, Gretchen and I decided that we would both do full sized prodded versions of my Carnival Paws rug.  

While this report, so far, has concentrated on mail reports and other things happening in the studio, there was quite a lot of work going on outside the studio in the garden.   No, everything is not done yet.  If all goes well, it will be done next week.   However, before the final arch and fence can go up next week, certain other things needed to happen this week.


Thursday morning started with me contemplating my wrecked side yard.  It was uneven, full of tree roots and littered with holes, hills and sprinkler heads that were in all the wrong places.


When I say “tree roots” I mean big honking tree roots.  Many of these roots were 4″ thick.  No wonder my side walk was a mess.  


By the time the rug hookers left, all the old grass and high places had been removed, the sprinklers relocated to their proper places and the soil worked over and leveled out.


We even added a new brick edged rose bed (right) on the other side of the porch that you rarely see.  This is necessary as Marsha is moving roses around and re-balancing her beds so as to get everything just right.  Originally, I intended to try and do this dirt work myself but, after digging in the concrete-like soil, decided it was something that called for professional help.  To get all this done on Thursday was, to my way of thinking, miraculous.  

Friday will bring a repeat miracle – sod!

Posted in Hooking Events | 8 Comments

As a follow up to yesterday’s post, here is a re-cropped version of one of the photos I showed.  


I incorrectly reported that there were 2 birds in this photo.  A very sharp eyed reader commented in that she also saw just the head of a third bird sticking out from the foliage.  After going back to the photo to do a bit of sleuthing, I discovered that she was correct.  However, the way that original photo was cropped, it was very difficult to see that little bit of bird.  So, I re-cropped it so that the head is a little more isolated in the upper right hand section of the leaves.  You have to look hard but, it is there.  And, Barbara, while they do look a lot like peach faced love birds they are, in fact, much bigger than love birds.  More the size of a crow.  

In an effort to educate myself on these parrots, I even went so far as to google “flocks of parrotts in Orange County.” My research supported what I had reported – that there are several flocks of different parrot types in OC.  No one knows, for sure, how they got here.  Nevertheless, there are several urban myths about their appearance:

1.  An African Safari park shut down and just turned their exotic birds loose.  

2.  Parrot smugglers jetisoned a cargo to avoid capture.  

3.  Old people with caged birds got tired of taking care of them and just let them go.  

4.  A pet store shipment had a wreck and the birds got free.  

Given the different species of birds in Orange County, there may be more than one Genesis event for their appearance.  All I know is this – about 75 showed up again Wednesday morning and hung around my yard for nearly 15 minuets before taking flight.  Again, they were plainly visible – up close and personal.   As I did not have my camera with me and I did not want to leave my vantage point, I did not get any new photos.  Nevertheless, I had a very good time hanging out with them.  It was, in many ways, educational.  

Since I gave a Celebration preview yesterday, I will follow that up with a Rug Hooking Magazine preview.  As you might guess, this particular article is all about education.


The article shown here was written by me about the spring class I had with several children in the immediate area.  Although I titled it “Teaching Kids To Hook,” the RHM editor came up with her own title, “Pay It Forward.”  I don’t really care what it is called as long as it results in making it easier for rug hookers to teach children how to hook.  I guess it would be appropriate to say that this article is very educational.  You can read all about it when your September/October issue of RHM arrives in the mail.  

In case  you missed it, I was recently asked to become the Education Chair for ATHA.  While I can’t really start doing that job until after the ATHA Board has approved my plans for 2015, I can tell you right now that “teaching kids how to hook” is one plan that I expect to be approved.  In fact, I am going to be asking every hooking group I run across to offer at least one class for children during 2015.  While I have always spent a lot of time doing that on my own, I hope you will join me it doing the same thing whereever you live.  In fact, I would love to hear any ideas you have on how we can offer exciting beginning rug hooking classes for children.  Obviously, I am willing to share my own experiences.  However, I know, if we put our minds to it, we can come up with all sorts of execiting ways to share our art form.  Who knows?  With classes like that for children, we might even get a parent or two hooking rugs!  I am going to want to hear your ideas, see photos and read your stories. 

Most of my day on Wednesday, after the parrots flew away, was spent making patterns.  Used to be, I spent the majority of my pattern time upstairs in the room of requirement where the light table is located.    Now, however, I stay downstairs as long as possible before going up there.  


I measure and cut all my linen, down stairs, then iron it, down stairs, before scribing the outside lines … also drawn downstairs.  It is only with all those things done that I finally go up to the light table to draw the patterns.  


Although I did not get every pattern drawn that I wanted, I did get several large patterns finished, as well as several smaller ones.  

Posted in Teaching Kids To Hook | 6 Comments

Even though I spent all morning digging in the dirt, there was not anything picturesque about that activity for me to show.  Nonetheless, it was beneficial as it reconfirmed my committment to leave behind my rural upbringing, and the pursuits that go with that, to fully embrace the life of an artist.  Hence forth, I will lay down my spade to pick up my hook.  And, much like that classic line  about hunger in Gone With The Wind (with just a bit of adaptation) “With God as my witness, I will never do spade work again!”  My hand was made to hold a hook, not a spade.   

Even so, being out in the back yard all morning did produce one splendid moment that made it, almost, worth all the effort. 

Although not indigenous to Southern California, many towns in the region have flocks of beautiful wild parrots.  Some places have flocks of African Greys.  Anaheim, however,  has several flocks of big green parrots.  Given the similarity of our climate to that of Australia, escaped pet parrots were able to not only survive in Orange County, but also thrive.

Their squawks are often heard high over head and their distinctive, torpedo like flight is easily spotted.  I hear them and see them high in the sky but they never get very close to me or, at least, as close as I would like them to get.  

That changed today while I was working in the back yard.


Not only did about 100 birds circle around my back yard several times (sorry, but only 3 cooperated for the shot)


They actually landed in the magnolia tree right by the studio where I was working.  Given the fact that I had to go diving into the studio to get the camera, I thought I did pretty good getting one good photo.  In case you are dissappointed in that I only show 2 birds in this shot, take a long look at the leaves of this tree.  With such great natural camouflage  I am surprised I could find 2!  For what it is worth, the whole tree sounded about 100 times louder than my parakeet aviary.  On that inspirational note, I laid aside my spade and went into the studio for the rest of the day feeling this was a sign from on high.  

My studio work the rest of the day was prompted by a recent request that I update my Gene On The Road section of the blog.  The actual question was Why haven’t you updated the blog on your travels?  

Here is the answer to that question – I don’t know how!  Or, I guess I should say, I didn’t know how … until today.  In all candor, we usually get that site updated about 24 months at a pop and then I turn my attention to other things and forget about it.    Now that I know how to do it myself, I will try to do a better job.   

If you want to see where we will be going in the next 20-24 months or so, just click on the Gene On The Road button.  

There was one other noteworthy thing that happened on Monday –


My copy of Celebration arrived.  While I always like flipping through this yearly report from RHM, I particularly liked this year’s volume.  In fact, I thought it was probably the best ever.  

While I could report on several of the rugs, I decided to limit it to just two because the artist behind those rugs are also artists on my Gene On The Road list.  


As I just visited Carla Jensen’s home on my way to Hooker Hill and, once again, showed a shot of “Jack Rides,”  I will only show this side of the article about Carla and the making of this rug. This rug has been reported on several times as it has shown up in my studio, the Biennial and at Cambria.  Of course, you have seen it every time as you go on the road with me.  

Here is a rug I have never shown before … but will show again very soon.  


Sue-Anne Jay, who frequently makes comments on the IRgC, hooked this beautiful Susan Quicksall design.  Sue-Anne, and her husband Robert, will be my hosts for my upcoming trip to Prince Edward Island, September 21 – 24, at the Lanes Riverhouse Inn and Cottages in Montague, PEI. While all the information is in the Gene On The Road section, you can just call Robert at 1-800-268-7532 for more information.  I would love to have you join me in person while “on the road.”  

Congratulations to Carla, Sue-Anne and all the wonderful artists in this year’s Celebration of Hand Hooked Rugs.

Posted in Studio | 5 Comments