Working a little beyond my comfort level

Finished project: "Ribbons Over Albuquerque."

Finished project: “Ribbons Over Albuquerque.”

Between my arthritis and my newest rug, I’ve been spending some time hooking beyond my comfort level. The project for the Albuquerque Fiber Arts Council’s Colors of the Southwest exhibit – you know, the one I’ve been going on and on about – was due early this week, and late last week I hadn’t even finished the hooking! That meant that Thursday and Friday I hooked during the day, an unusual event for me. I generally work in the evening for two to three hours while I watch television. So far that’s not taxed my RA too much.

Friday I was able to start finishing the main body of “Ribbons Over Albuquerque” (more on that in another post) and preparing its little “outrigger” piece. This is precisely where we approached and then zoomed by the comfort level. First and foremost was the physical. The main part of the rug is approximately 13″x39″.

Time to sew on the binding!

Time to sew on the binding. Ouch!


Now I really don’t mind the hand-stitching involved: tacking down the monks’ cloth backing and then sewing up the twill tape nice and pretty like. It’s easy when I use wool strips and/or yarn. Needles flow into those fibers like a knife into butter. Not so t-shirts. It’s tough getting even an itty bitty needle to pierce tightly packed t-shirt loops. But I did it, finished it late Saturday afternoon. My knuckles are still recovering.

The little outrigger part of the rug constituted the weekend’s other challenge. When I initially designed the project, I intended for the bows, i.e., the “ribbons over Albuquerque,” to all be hooked into the one piece. Preparing the pattern, though, I realized that one of the bows, the very top one, needed to “sail off” into the air, as it were. How to do that?

Luckily for me, Lucy Richard of the Wooly Mason Jar sparked some conversation on Facebook by posting something about finishing rugs. This led to talk about the Doris Eaton Edge – her method of sewing binding tape to the rug before she hooks it (as I do) and reverse hooking the row immediately next to the tape which I have never done. Until now. Because the bow was to be hooked from a white, “crepey,” diaphonous fabric, I needed to beef it up, you know, make it bulky enough so that it would stand “up” and be visible next to the much bigger and much more colorful part of the project.

Various thoughts came to mind. I needed something with more body than twill tape to edge the little bow. And it couldn’t be black like the twill tape on the big piece because it would be visible. What to use??? I’d edged the other bows in the piece with a lightweight silver ribbon, but was afraid to use that as binding tape; figured stitches would rip right out of that sucker.

Sudden lightbulb moment!

Stitching the binding - wired ribbon - to the design.

Stitching the binding – wired ribbon – to the design.

I had a roll of wired silver ribbon in-house. I could easily stitch backing to a wire edge. It worked like a charm. I was able to boost the ribbon’s inherent bulk by using Doris’s reverse-hooked first row. Sure, it was a little wonky pulling those loops. In the end, I decided not to attach the two pieces, to hang them separately, but the exaggerated, almost 3-D effect of the white bow allows it to hold its own next to the big piece.

Binding all stitched on and first row of loops hoooked a la Doris Eaton.

“Binding” all stitched on and first row of loops hooked a la Doris Eaton. (I.e., you’re seeing the back of those loops.)


All hooked and trimmed. Ready to sew down "binding."

All hooked and trimmed. Ready to sew down “binding.”









Thank you to my Adobe Wool Arts Guild members, Mary Ramsey and Melinda Lamott, for their support Saturday while I was working on the little white bow. We participated in the Albuquerque Biopark‘s Winter Wool Festival giving demos and helping little kids pull loops. I love doing that stuff. sharing our passion. So what if I wasn’t using wool?

Is rug hooking easy for you, your safe, happy place? Or do you spice it up trying new techniques or use fibers other than wool? How’s it feel going beyond your comfort level? Share your experiences. 


For those interested, here is the YouTube link for the Doris Eaton Edge:
The Doris Eaton Edge


Melinda Lamott and a young rug hooking disciple. "Drink the Cool Aid, Padawan."

Melinda Lamott and a young rug hooking disciple. “Drink the Cool Aid, Padawan.”


11 thoughts on “Working a little beyond my comfort level

  1. Angela

    beautiful rug Laura – absolutely beautiful. And great MacGyver moment with the wired ribbon – you should be proud 🙂

  2. Cindy

    I can’t wait to see this rug finished – it’s going to be beautiful! I too have RA and am wondering if the warm dry temps of New Mexico have helped?! I find sore finger and wrist joints hold me back from working or at least slow progress. Some days working in 15 minute intervals with my heat pad on joints during shirt breaks helps. Rug hooking is still my happy place – I just need to adjust how/when/for how long I do it when things are flaring.

    1. Laura S Post author

      Thank you, Cindy. So far I’ve been lucky with actual hooking; my hands don’t bother me too much other than some localized thumb or wrist pain now and then. Sewing into the t-shirt loops is the worst of it for me. Not sure if NM has been good for me. I moved here last summer after finally being diagnosed in May. (Not that I was surprised; my mother has RA.) Certainly, I feel like a shorter and warmer winter – versus Massachusetts – has been better, but I’ve had issues like having to be off meds for months at a time because of sinus infections. (They’re chronic for me.) The one thing that I love so far for all the aches and pains, though, is my new hot tub! We just got it a couple of weeks ago. Ahhhh…..

  3. Debbie Moyes

    Lovely piece Laura! Though I love to play with color and dyeing, I’m a pretty traditional hooker. Not primitive mind you! I love hooking with wool though I do have some sari ribbon to play with…
    What is it about getting things done by the deadline that can be so hard? I’m very last minute too and racing to meet deadlines.

    1. Laura S Post author

      You know, Deb, I thought that I’d be done in plenty of time but then designing the damn thing took me longer than I hoped it would. Lots of time mocking it up in my mind while standing in the shower which is where I do my best work! Large vertical tiles finally gave me the shape and size.

      I love working with sari ribbon!

  4. Mary Ramsey

    Your rug lifts my spirit, Laura. Very moving! And I so enjoy your enthusiasm for trying new things!

  5. Pingback: Refilling the creativity tank - HIGH ON HOOKING