Thursday, September 30, 2010

Getting Hooked!

Antique Primitive Red Rug
Rug hooking has a very long history.  In North America, rug hooking has its roots as original folk art.  Once a craft utilized to cover the drafty floors of primitive settlers' homes, it is now a fine art practiced by talented and skilled artists.  In its earliest years, rug hooking was a craft of poverty, using strips of used material, among the first examples of recycling.  In the past few decades, rug hooking has reached new heights as a fine art form, and modern rug hooking is often described as painting with wool.

Three Churches of Mahone Bay with Gazebo
Hooked by Janice Daniels
Design by Encompassing Designs

The mother of modern rug hooking is Pearl McGown.  In the 1930s, she popularized guidelines for rug hooking, formalized its study and established the modern preference for using only cut wool strips in hooked rugs.  Her vision of rug hooking and teaching grew into a family business and then beyond as she was determined that rug hooking not become a lost art.

I Have My Eye on You
Designed and Hooked by Christine Gibson
Recently, hookers have followed quilters in exploring new materials and developing techniques.  This experimentation, combined with knowledge of the past, has allowed rug hooking to evolve and grow.  Rug hooking today falls into two genres, primarily based upon the width of the wool strips used to create a rug: fine and primitive hooking.  Generally speaking, fine hooking uses very small strips of wool.  Designs of the fine-hooking genre use more fine shading, accomplished by over dyeing wool in gradated colour swatches.  On the other end of the spectrum, primitive (or wide-cut) hooking uses wider strips of wool (up to a 1/2 inch wide).  The wide-cut hooking accomplishes shading and highlights using textures in wool, such as plaids, checks and herringbones. Wide-cut designs are generally less detailed and tend to mimic rugs of the past (pre-McGown designs).

Patrick & Logan Summer 2009
Hooked by Trish Johnson

A big Canadian connection to hooking is Loretta Bluher-Moore who stumbled upon rug hooking by chance.  On impulse, Lorette  purchased a rug hooking kit, which got her started down on a path to artistic fulfillment.  She attended rug hooking class in Montreal, where she credits her teacher with instructing her how to dye wool.  Loretta loves creating exactly the right hues to execute her original designs.  Of colour, she says "when you can control the colours, it opens up so many possibilities!"

Robertson Glacier
Designed & Hooked by Betty Calvert

Within a few years of taking up hooking, Loretta was invited to exhibit and demonstrate traditional rug hooking at a show in Roxham, Quebec.  She sold dyed wool and was inundated by people asking for lessons and kits, so Loretta created her first rug hooking kit.

In addition to creating unique pieces to sell and for herself, Loretta has developed a number of kits for hooked wall hangings, seat covers, runners, rugs and purses.  She also enjoys the artistic challenge of designing specialty items on commission as well as teaching.  Loretta was featured in a fall issue of A Needle Pulling Thread, a Canadian fibre arts magazine, along with one of her traditional hooked patterns.

Celtic Flow
The Running Stitch is excited that it will start retailing wool and rug hooking kits in the near future!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Velocity Iron

No one likes ironing.  Let's be honest.  It's not exactly fun, but more something that has to be endured.  But... let me tell you: with the Velocity iron, it's actually a piece of cake!  Surprising, I know, but the result means you can get on to better parts of life, like quilting!  No spit, no drip, no muss, no fuss!  And it is an eco-intelligent product to boot, saving on water and energy.  I can't believe that I'm saying this about an iron, but it's a wonderful tool, completely unlike the traditional iron.  

Its list of fantastic features makes ironing less painful.  The Velocity iron has few holes, which mean better steam, and the bottom line is that ironing goes faster.  When it comes to ironing, I like fast.  It's ergonomic, so it even works with you.

You know it's a fantastic product when The Oprah Magazine selects the new Velocity V50 iron to be part of the esteemed O List - Makeover Edition.  The Velocity is featured on page 92 of the September 201 issue as one of the several select items that Oprah and her team thinks are better than ever!  

When you add Mary Ellen's Best Press to your ironing regime, combined with the Velocity, life gets even better and you almost don't realize that you're ironing!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Fibrefest 2010 in Almonte

Post Office designed
by Thomas Fuller

Almonte is notable for being the boyhood home of Dr. James Naismith, the inventor of basketball, but the village's history reaches further back than that.

In a region where the early settlers' Irish, English, and Scottish origins are prominent in the names of the communities they founded -- Lanark, Corkery, Glen Isle, and Scotch Corners to name a few -- it is interesting that Almonte's namesake is Mexican.

Burnside House
The combination of Canadian Loyalists and American Revolutionaries led to tensions between the two countries.  The War of 1812 did nothing to help the situation, nor did US military incursions into Mexico during the 1840s.  The border skirmishes between Mexico and the US during this time were seen by Mexicans as a land-grab, and this worried Canadians that the American Republic was ready and willing to use force against its neighbours to achieve its territorial goals.

Mill Street (c. 1910)
At this time, Mexican General Almonte was primarily a diplomat as well as the ambassador to the US.  He was recalled to Mexico, and served in the field against the invading US forces.  He was taken prisoner, later released, and died in 1869, lauded by the English press at the time as "a kindly and accomplished gentleman".  In the political climate of the day, this lead the British citizens agreeing to rename the village to its present-day name.

Rosamond Woolen Co.
In 1819, David Shepherd obtained a Crown grant of land, and he began construction of a grist mill and sawmill in the area that would later be named Almonte.  Sadly, fire destroyed the sawmill the following year, and he gave up the entire project.  The Crown re-granted the land to Daniel Shipman, who successfully developed the grist and sawmills, among numerous other ventures.  By 1870, Almonte boasted 30 stores and nearly 40 other businesses.  Chief among these were the textile mills that gave Almonte its reputations as the "Manchester of North America".

North Lanark Agriculture Hall
(c. 1910)
The rapid expansion of the nation rail system, combined with the emergence of an industrialized middle-class spurred the growth of Almonte's textile industry.  By the turn of the century, there were seven woolen mills in operation.  However, by the 1950s, competition from foreign producers had shut the flow of textiles from Almonte down to a trickle, and the mills closed or were converted to other uses.  The massive mansions (formerly belonging to mill owners and business men) lends to Almonte's historical past and demonstrates how lucrative and important the textiles industry was.  The village has incredible 19th century architecture.

The Running Stitch Kiosk
Almonte was the perfect location for Fibrefest 2010 which was held at the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum (MVTM) and the North Lanark Agriculture Hall.  MVTM is located in the annex of the former Rosamond Woolen Company.  Constructed in 1867, this National Historic Site of Canada now houses static and working displays of textile equipment, focusing on the region's heritage, culture, and the role of the textile industry in the development of Canada. 

The Running Stitch Kiosk
Fibrefest itself was quite the event.  There were demonstrations and textile art exhibitions of spinning, weaving, lacemaking, and smocking just to name a few.  William Hodge was the featured artist.  There were also a wide range of vendors (including The Running Stitch!) in attendance, and it made for a great weekend.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Mary Lajoie

Strippy Quilt
Mary was raised in the small town of Wallaceburg, Ontario.  In high school, she taught herself to sew in order to expand her wardrobe.  Her Aunt Marie taught her some of the finer details, and from there, her addiction to fabric was born.

Amelie's Table Runner
Mary went on to become a teacher, and by the end of her career, she was a Coordinator and a Principal.  Throughout her career, not only did Mary's interest in sewing hold fast, but it blossomed into a love of quilting.  It started with collecting antique quilts; Mary found them in flea markets, antique stores, and auctions.  She loved their uniqueness and wondered about the history of the maker and the designer.  Mary was especially intrigued by the variety of colours and shapes could all come together to make a masterpiece.

Le Jardin d'Amelie
Mary's professional career in quilting began to thrive in her retirement.  As an owner of a quilt shop in Brighton, Ontario, she became even more passionate about fabric and quilting.  After moving to Ottawa, she spent time teaching at Dragonfly Fabrics and working at The Running Stitch.  Her quilts have won awards at the Picton Quilt Show and the Ottawa Valley Quilt Show.

Blue Tulips
Now specializing in quilt patters, to date, Mary has created 5 which have been published under her company name of "Country Angel Designs".  Two of her patterns were named after her granddaughter Amelie (Le Jardine d'Amelie and Amelie's Table Runner), who has a special place in her heart.  Her other patterns to date are Strippy Quilt, Blue Tulips and Booty-ful.  She sees her future as being filled with more quilting, pattern designing and getting into computer software to expand her designing horizons.  The Running Stitch hopes to see more of Mary's patterns in store soon!

Mary plans to grow her pattern business to other locals through a greater network of distributors.  Her own website will be up and running soon, so do keep an eye out for it!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Judge Allan A. Fradsham's Quilt Canada 2010 Conference Speech

Judge Allan A. Fradsham is a Provincial Court Judge in Calgary, Alberta.  He delivered the following speech to a standing ovation on Saturday, May 1, 2010 as part of the final evening celebrations at Quilt Canada 2010 held in Calgary. A friend of mine, Sherida, shared this speech with me and I thought it was interesting and funny.  I hope you get a kick out of it as well!

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