Perhaps “addiction” or “obsession” rather than “devotion” would be more appropriate in this post’s title! While I planned on filling our new house with hand made rugs, since meeting Una Walker of Wooly Walkers on the first day of at last weekend’s Black Sheep Gathering (Friday), I knew I would have to make at least one of those rugs in the punch needle method.
Under Una’s instruction, I made a mug coaster at Una’s booth. I left her booth with a finished coaster, a hank of differently colored strands of wool yarn, a 24 inch square piece of monk’s cloth and a punch needle and started practicing the technique that very night. On Saturday and Sunday I popped by her booth again for input on my progress. She was so very helpful and informative – a gracious teacher.
Here’s a picture of the coasters/trivets I punched on the piece of monk’s cloth over the weekend. I punched on both sides of the cloth, so you are looking at the undersides of some (e.g., the bottom right and top right coasters), and the topsides of others (e.g., the middle horizontal row).
The more I punched, the more I was determined that Thor and I should have our very own (made by me!) punch needle rug. Of course, after Sunday Una returned to California, so I had to find a substitute punch needle information source.
As is my wont when I enter a new field, I started to do more research. I had to learn more about punch needle rug hooking art – its tradition, history and usages. I ordered Amy Oxford’s Punch Needle Rug Hooking: Techniques and Designs and started reading as soon as it arrived. (I am glad I hadn’t started immediately on the large piece of monk’s cloth I bought from Una while at the BSG for my rug; I need to practice more.)
Filled with wonderful pictures, Oxford’s 157 page book is a sort of A to Z approach to punch needle rug hooking.
Did you know that punch needle rug hooking originated in the late 19th century? The tradition is thought to have come from the Canadian Maritime Provinces and the New England region of the U.S. (Pic source)
The first chapter is on the history of the punch needle, and from there she moves to George Wells (whom she describes as “the patriarch of punch needle rug hooking). Wells described his work thusly: “The stage setting is the room, and the rug must suit the setting and the characters who live in that setting. Above all, the characters must enjoy the rugs.”
After reading the chapter on McAddo rugs, I found this article about the enterprise from the NY Times (March 5, 1987). Oxford’s book includes an excellent chapter called “A Private Lesson – How to Make Punch Needle Rugs” and an equally useful chapter on FAQs (aka Frequently Asked Questions).
After reading Oxford’s instructions on what to do once the rug maker removes the piece from its frame or hoop, I began the steps to turn my creations into usable trivets. First I cut them apart, leaving fabric for seaming. Yikes! They rolled into little cloth tacos. But from Oxford’s book I learned that’s normal!
Here’s a picture of my coasters all steamed and pressed. With a needle and thread and working from the under side, I stitched each one to a piece of wool felt. As you can see, these trivets suggest the need for more practice.
But I will make a punch needle rug for our new house – after I finish reading Oxford’s book and after I finish another practice piece. (Earlier today I ordered a yard of monk’s cloth from Wooly Walkers … I’m thinking I will make a larger trivet on which I can place hot pots or plates when serving a meal.)