Saturday, May 07, 2011

Taking a short break from diaries......

........because I've been thinking about something.

A baby shower for my daughter-in-law was held last week, and one of my gifts to my expected grandchild was this small hooked rug—actually, a wall hanging. I belong to an active rug hooking group online, but I don't know even one other rug hooker in real life. I learned how to do it from a book 30 years ago, and I'm still learning from books and the Internet.

When I tell people other than my friends that these mats are made from recycled wool (old clothing I find at the Salvation Army), the reaction isn't always positive. Some think it's great that one can make "something from nothing," but I've caught a flicker of what might be distaste on a couple of faces. (For the record, everything goes into the washing machine first.) And when I add that I like to dye the wool myself, I can tell more than a few wonder why anyone would want to spend their time in this way. (After all, I could be watching reality TV.)

Compared to the women (and men) who began this craft, my efforts take little time. I order my hooks, linen backing, and dyes from online vendors, and for this rug I bought the bright colored wool for the turtle online, too. When I decided to treat myself to a lap frame this year, I did the transaction via email. My rug binding tape comes to me through eBay. This rug was my original design except for the turtle, which was a free online quilt pattern.

The first hooked rugs, made in the early 19th century, often used burlap feed bags for backing. But even much later, the process was primitive for some. I recently read about a woman who described hooking rugs in the first decades of the 20th century. She gathered her best woolens (mostly from underwear) for two years before she had enough to start a rug. She set up a big floor frame in her farmhouse kitchen and sewed the burlap to it. Beside her at the frame was a wooden cradle; she rocked her infant daughter as she hooked her rugs by the light of a kerosene lamp. She dyed some of her wool with onion skins and goldenrod.

Lately I've been posting some of my journal entries here. Most of them were written with ball-point pens in red, hardbound Daily Reminder books. Later I started a computer journal, plus many of the letters I've written over the years—journal entries of sorts—are saved on my hard drive. Consider these entries from diaries kept by women on the Oregon and California trails in the mid-1800's:

I didn't write in my diary yesterday. I hate to miss a day, but I just couldn't do it yesterday. It was dark by the time we found a place to camp and both George (her husband) and I were too tired to build a fire to melt the ink.


The color of the ink in my journal will be changing all the time from now on. I thought I brought enough ink for the entire journey, but have completely run out. From now on I''m going to pick berries and squeeze the juice out of them and use it for ink. The color of my writing will depend on the kind of berries I'm able to find.

When some early diarists ran out of paper, they wrote vertically over the same sheet they'd already covered horizontally. All these women, most of whom were raising children, went to such lengths to tell us about our country's past.

So this is what I've been thinking about: the resourcefulness of women and the documented history of their passion to create something beautiful and to leave something of themselves behind. They inspire me to write more regularly in my current journal. And to keep hooking, rug after rug.


Dona said...

First of all, the rug is lovely! Again I'm tempted to learn how to hook rugs (but probably not dye my own wool at first).

Secondly, I love the way you intertwined the story of your rug hooking with the diaries you and others have written and the differences from then and now.

Sometimes I'm so humbled by your activities. I do so little and you do so much.

Congratulations on the grandchild. I don't remember -- is this the first?

Susan said...

Thank you, Dona. It's almost like a first grandchild--because the first is 20 years old! We're all excited.

As for me doing so much, I suspect the only difference between you and me is that I talk about everything I do. :-)

Another way of looking at it is that my interests are so scattered. I've often thought I'd do better if I focused my efforts on fewer things.

Bridgett said...

Beautiful. Stunningly so. I have braided my own rugs from recycled wool like you say, and I too have gotten suspicious looks, as if wool purchased as used clothing is radioactive.

And the ink thing. Wow. I'd read the vertical-horizontal writing thing in a Little House book and was shocked by it, how anyone could read anything written that way!

I understand the smattering of activities problem, too--I've often considered myself a jill of all trades, master of none.

crystal said...

Beautiful rug! Your granddaughter is 20? I keep thinking of her as about 12 :)

My grandmother used to make hooked rugs. She sewed too and knittedand embroidered and crocheted. My mom made many of my clothes when i was a kid. My sis and I learned to sew too and I've made a couple of quilts. I really like the combination of sewing and art. Maybe I should learn to be a hooker too :)

The Cookbook Junkie said...

Well I actually buy and wear used clothes. I buy used clothes for my children too! I don't give a mouse's hiney what anyone thinks of that. I think there are plenty of people who see the value of recycling. You can't please everyone.

I sure hope your DIL appreciates that rug.

Susan said...

I know what you mean, CJ....I buy most of my clothes at the Salvation Army. Better that than new from Walmart, although I've been known to get my jeans there. My DIL loves the rug, as does my son.

Bridgett the Braider! Braided rugs are beautiful. I inherited some braiding wool decades ago, and recently sold it on eBay. Had I known you could use it.....

Crystal, if you decide to become a hooker, be sure to let me know!

Indigo Bunting said...

Beautiful rug, lucky grandchild. I have a friend who hooks rugs (when she has time), and they are beautiful too...

Susan said...

Thanks, IB. Old-fashioned rug hooking (like the kind I do) is most popular in New England and Canada, I think. When we made plans to move to NH years ago (it never panned out), I was excited to think I'd be able to meet other rug hookers.

Indigo Bunting said...

Susan, my rug hooker friend, now living in Vermont, was born in New Hampshire. You must be right!

Amanda said...