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Apr '14

Students Report

I hope you have enjoyed all the posts this week about rugs made by IRgC members in classes with Elizabeth Black.  Fortunately, I have one more post to make.


Gene – I started this rug with Elizabeth in 2011 and continued 2012 in Woodstock. VA. It is a photo from the British Wool Board in England (with permission) and is a breed of sheep that Beatirix Potter saved from extinction. Tup is the old English word for ram. There were people in the class that say they never hooked better than when they were in Elizabeth’s classes … and I have to agree. Elziabeth has the ultimate patience and helps hookers bring out their best effort.  Marian Hall


Hi Gene  – This hooking of my son’s dog (now the late-great) Tucker was done in a class with EB at Shelburne in (I think) 2004. It was my first attempt at anything remotely “realistic”. Quite a challenge then — but a fun and informative class. I included his tongue, even though EB advised against it. Jeri Laskowski


My first Cambria Rug Camp June 2006. “Joe’s Dog Gang IV”. Elizabeth was wonderful. I had never hooked with a 3 cut before. But by the time I left her class I had all 5 dog heads hooked and the white Jack Russell completely hooked. What a wonderful teacher!  Fran Rendon


This rug, “Wild Baby Bunch” (1 of 200) was designed by Elizabeth Black and hooked by Madonna Shelly in 2005. Some of the wool was dyed by Gail Dufresne.


Hello Gene, I’ve attached 2 patterns I’ve hooked with Elizabeth Black.  The first is “Snack Time.”  A funny note on this rug concerns the carrot, which I sculpted in a bright orange.  She dubbed it the “atomic carrot”!  She did like what I hooked even thougt it was outside the box, so to speak, for her.


The second rug I did with her is “Baby Olivia.”  Elizabeth was there to instruct me on both of these beautiful rugs.  She taught me how to hook animals and in particular animal faces and eyes and not be afraid!

She is a wonderful person and teacher and I valued my time with her while in her class.  I have always admired Elizabeth since she was self taught and an artist. I was basically self taught as well.  She never makes you feel like a hooking project is not possible even if you aren’t a skilled hooker.

I have her “Flying Pig” pattern which I intend on starting this fall.
This rug will honor my Father, who passed away on 3/21/13, who was all about planes, model and full size.

Regards – Joan Wray


Dear Gene, I have known Elizabeth for many years and have had her as my teacher at various hooking camps. She is one of the finest and best persons that I have ever known. I have always enjoyed her dry or should I say wry sense of humor and of course her hooking and designs are superb. I have done three of her designs. Two of them I am sending with this note. The trout was especially designed for me and was in Celebrations XVII (2007) Issue. The moose rug was done in class later at Gail Dufresne’s home in NJ.  Sincerely, Georgia Prosser


Elizabeth helped me capture my best friend on linen. This was my first attempt at fine cut….SCARRY. Elizabeth was the most patient person on the planet. Love her! Love her work!  Martha Reynolds


Hi Gene:  This was started at Cambria in Elizabeth’s class, she drew the pattern of my cat Maya….. I think it was 2012.     It was my 1st time working with her and what a pleasure.  She is truly a class act!

Judith McReynolds

I am sure you will join me in saying a big Thank You to all those who sent in rugs and reports as well as sending a big Thank You to that great teacher – Elizabeth Black.


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Apr '14

Sarah & Elizabeth

The average student report has been coming in with one or two examples that people have worked on in class with Elizabeth Black.  My friend Sarah Province has several more than that!

Gene: Elizabeth Black is one of my favorite teachers.  I like the way she teaches – she inspires, guides, observes, and unobtrusively directs what is inside us to manifest itself on the backing!


“Claudia”s Duck Rug” based on the children’s book “Make Way for Ducklings” made for my granddaughter, was the first time I took a class from Elizabeth, as far as I can remember.  It was sponsored by our ATHA Chapter, Mason-Dixon, as she helped me get started with the mama duck and ducklings.


Next I took a class with her at our Buckeystown, Maryland,  workshop and started my “Rosalie’s Carousel Ride” with her in2001. We worked on the carousel horses and even though they were only wooden horses, she was a great help.

sarah3In 2004, I attended the Cambria Pines Rug School in California, and began a hooking of my neighbor’s dog, Gabriel with Elizabeth.  She is an excellent teacher and helped me to make that dog so real for those owners.  I am especially proud of that hooking because the neighbor is now deceased and his wife finds great comfort with the dog and my hooking!


In 2008, I again attended Elizabeth’s class at Cambria Pines and hooked my grandson with his kitten.  In her quiet way, she manages to help a student figure out how to transform the linen and wool strips into life-like images.


In 2009, I hooked “Tai Shan” the panda baby with her mother, in our National Zoo in DC for my granddaughter, Cecilia, in Elizabeth’s class at Cambria.  These two pictures are of the hooking at the zoo with Tai Shan in the background and


This second one is of my granddaughters standing by the truck that was to take Tai Shan on his way back to China.

Dear Sarah – That is a great body of work, noticeable for its variety.  Thank you so much for taking the time to send it in.  GRS

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Apr '14

Students Report, Part 1

At long last, we get to see reports from  some of Elizabeth Black’s students.


Gene – I completed “Cookie” after a 3 day class with Elizabeth in 2011.  I am a wide cut hooker and never thought I could do the #3’s and #4 required for the detail of a lifelike piece.  Elizabeth kept encouraging me with hints (always start with the eyes) and more, and you can see the results.  I gave the finished product to my pastor (who owns Cookie) in honor of the 5th anniversary of her ordination.  Regards, Anne Geiger

Sterling, VA – Member of ATHA Chapters: Goose Creek Ruggers, Leesburg, VA, Colonial Rug Hookers of No. VA & Hornets’ Nest Rug Hookers, Charlotte, NC

Anne – Great job!  Since I have been ordained for 40 years, would that qualify me for a room sized rug?  Cookie looks a lot like my Maisy.  Your piece has a lot of personality.


Gene – I had the privilege of attending Elizabeth Black’s class at Cambria Pines Rug Camp. I was a fairly new rug hooker and I have to admit I was very nervous to hooking in her class. She was kind enough to draw a pattern of my cat BB for me.  She told me exactly where to start and what colors to use to create shading and bring out small details. Her attention to detail is amazing but of course that is evident in her awesome rugs. She was very patient with me and I very much appreciate all she taught me.

Gail Edwards –  Siloam Springs, Arkansas

Gail – I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard students make similar comments.  In fact, I often kid Elizabeth asking what she does to strike fear in the hearts of potential students?  As everyone knows who has studied with her, she is an old softie who works very hard to create a relaxed atmosphere where students of all levels can be successful.  My wife, who has seen a lot of close of camp Show and Tells once remarked that Elizabeth gets more out of her students than any other teacher she has seen. Apparently, that wet noodle she whips everyone with works pretty well!  Good job Gail –  See you soon in Siloam.


Gene – Attached is a picture of the Maggie Sue pillow I did in Elizabeth Black’s class at Cambria.  Carla Jensen

Here is a report from Donna Bleam

Dear Gene,  I have been so blessed with rug hooking teachers who have patiently shared their talents and knowledge. At the top of that list is Elizabeth Black.  First, she taught me to love a four cut.  Then she urged me to fly across the country to attend Cambria Pines.  Both of those things were eye opening to me.


My First Elizabeth project was my dog Bandit’s portrait.  She even encouraged me when I wanted  to use yarn as part of.  I will never forget her telling me that I could “move up to a 5 for the background”  Wee – a treat!    Bandit hangs above my bed.


My Second Elizabeth Project was a piece that she custom designed and drew for me based on a picture I took.   Donna Bleam

Donna – I particularly like the cows and the way you two worked out the vegetation.


Gene:  This is the piece I wrote you about that Elizabeth Black somehow got me to hook and then encouraged me to submit to Celebrations.   It was accepted for this summer’s edition!   I will also be showing it at Sauder Village.  None of this would have happened without her.  Since I don’t have any animals the piece is from a photo of my granddaughter.  Thanks for the ooppertunity of making this report. Elizabeth is a wonderful teacher.  Stephanie Stokes

Stephanie – I am glad you sent in this project report as it illustrates Elizabeth’s broad range of skills.

From Lubbock, TX

Hi Gene – Here’s some pictures of the animals I worked on with Elizabeth Black.  We sure had a fun time.


The tea cozy is called “Cambria Kitty”.  The little cat came by every day and fell asleep on my pile of wool.  I took his picture and made a tea cozy out of it.


“Dog and Cat” is the name of this portrait.  They are of Merlin, our Golden Retriever and Watson, our tabby cat.  Both of the pieces are done on rug warp with a #3 cut.

Happy Hooking – Teresa Heinze

Dear Teresa:  Thank you for not going into detail about all the fun that takes place up in the “Tree Top” room where Elizabeth holds court at Cambria.  As we do have that policy What happens at Cambria stays at Cambria, we best refrain from printing the particulars.


Gene:  Here is a photo of a pillow that I made with the course that I took with Elizabeth Black here in P.E.I. This was our cat “Snowy”. I sold this piece at a local art gallery where I demonstrate and sell my rug hooking each summer. Elizabeth was a very patient teacher and often told us to refer to our visual. I really enjoyed learning from a master!

Sue-Anne Jay – Montague, Prince Edward Island, Canada

Sue-Anne:  If I have heard her say it once, I have heard her say it a hundred times:  Get the best visual you can and blow it up to the size of your piece and then look at it all the time! Single color animals are the hardest to do, in my opinion.  This one looks real!  I will continue this student report tomorrow.

Although not about a class with Elizabeth Black, I think you will like this photo and report.

mary lynn

Hi Gene – Completely unprovoked by me, our 2 yr old nephew handed me my glasses and my hook and said, “Do your work, do your work!” He wanted to see what my ‘work’ was, sat in my chair with me and started right in hooking.

I thought this was quite timely considering the age of your current students.

Hope all is well in your world.

Take care – Mary Lynn

Mary Lynn:  My world is always a little better when I get reports from kids who want to hook.   It won’t be long before he will be ready to sign up for one of Elizabeth’s classes.   Great photo.

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Mar '14

The Artistry of Elizabeth Black

One name is sure to make my short list of favorite rug hooking artists:  Elizabeth Black.


I met Elizabeth on the first day of my first rug camp experience at Cambria.  Although she was not my teacher, at the close of that first day, she stopped by my classroom to check out that man who showed up out of the blue. She was personally encouraging to me then and has been so ever since.  Of the 18 years that Cambria Pines Rug Camp has been in existence, she has taught there at least 14 times because her classes always fill.   While I never like to pigeon hole teachers as only being good to do one kind of rug, almost everyone who takes a class from Elizabeth ends up doing some sort of animal.  There is, of course, a good reason for that.  When it comes to animals, she is the consumate pro!

Although the next few posts will be focusing on the work of her many students, I thought it only right to kick off this series with a few examples of her artistry.

According to the Introduction her book, Hooked On The Wild Side, one of Rug Hooking Magazine’s books in their Frameworks series, Elizabeth started hooking in the mid 1960’s when her 18-month old daughter discovered her oil paints during a time when she was talking on the telephone.  Because she had attended a local arts festival and saw an exhibition of rug hooking, she quickly decided that this medium had definite possibilities for her artistic expression.  I think you will agree that she was right!


None of us were surprised when her rug “Inside the Ark” ( 60″ x 36,” #2 and #3 wool on rug warp) was chosen as a  Celelbration winner for 1999, as well as the “Reader’s Choice” for that year.  She told me once that she had thought about doing an ark rug for a long time but did not want it to be the typical thing that everyone else did on this topic.  So, she finally decided that she would just depict them all “hanging out.”


Here is her version of Peaceable Kingdom, 49″ x 35,” #3 cut wool on rug warp, 1997.


Uninvited Guest, 48″ by 36,” #3 cut wool on rug warp, 2003, is another great example of both Elizabeth’s artistry and her subtle sense of humor.


As the Internet Rug Camp Video interview with Elizabeth Black will verify always start with the eyes.


She also spends quite  a lot of time on noses.  In fact, there is a whole section on noses in her book.


Whether it is the Kind of the jungle –


Parrot Tulips, Flying Pigs or


The Girls at the Beach, if it is one of our furred, feathered or coated friends, Elizabeth has probably hooked it … or taught someone how to hook it, at one time or another.

Beginning tomorrow, I will start sharing reports from several of Elizabeth’s students.

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Feb '14

Start Them Young

I had another one of those Saturdays where the studio was full of rug hooking students.   Only this time, they were a little different than my normal crowd.


I had a great group of 5th and 6th grade kids.  (One 3rd grader had a fake ID that got her past security.)  This class is a part of a multi-week project I am doing called Teaching Kids To Hook Rugs. It’s a multi-week event because it will not conclude until the end of March when we are going to shoot an hour long video called (you guessed it) Teaching Kids to Hook! As I do not want to spend an hour just shooting a bunch of kids who are grappeling with the pulling of their first loops, I had this introductory class so we could get started with the project.   I limited the class to 5th and 6th graders because I find that age group, generally speaking, to be the best age to begin teaching kids.  As I just happen to be a master storyteller for 5th and 6th grade kids at my church (1st EV Free, Fullerton, CA) I had a ready made group of kids from which to draw.


An initial class will also allow me to find out where each kid shines within the format of what will be covered in the video, show projects at various stages of completion and make it possible for the kids to achieve some comfort level with the topic before the cameras start rolling.

My local ATHA Chapter, the Orange Coast Classics, partnered with me for this beginner’s class.  In fact, they partner with me for any beginner’s class that I can teach, by providing a simple beginner’s kit to anyone who wants to learn.


Barbara Holden, OCC President, worked all morning as my helper.  Boy, am I glad she did!  While my kids were very well behaved, it was all I could do to teach the 3 hour class. I would have been lost without her.


The first order of business, of course, was getting down to rug hooking #101.


I guess I could tell you everything we discussed but then, you would not learn anything new when you see the video for the first time.


As you can tell, this group was focused on their work.

While the project is about hooking, we didn’t just sit there and hook the whole time.  My goal was/is to provide them with a rich fiber experience and I brought in more big guns to help me do it.


Since we hook strips of fabric through a woven backing, I always think it is rather helpful for kids to understand a little bit about how fabric is made.  My friend Gretchen happily agreed to stop in with her spinning wheel for a little tutorial on this topic.  As she spun yarn, she talked about all the effort it takes to make a single spool of thread or yarn.

I followed up with the process I go through, using several of those spools of thread, to warp a loom for the weaving of cloth.  Besides building an increased appreciation for the worth of fabric, such a discussion also gives kids a better understanding of rug hooking terms like ditches and holes.


After our little side tutorial, any kid that wanted, got to have a one on one lesson with Gretchen.


As she said:  If you can walk and chew gum at the same time, you can spin. I wish I had known this earlier as I would have had lots of gum in the studio for this class.


While the spinners were spinning, over on the other side of the studio, I was supervising those that were interested in trying their luck at weaving on a foot powered loom.


When the class started, each kid got a pattern, a hook and enough cut wool to do their piece.  However, I strongly urged them to pick out wool in colors that they preferred.  At the beginning, no one was very interested in doing that. However, about mid-way through the morning, that all changed.


Whether it was due to the fact that their shyness wore off about that time or that Marsha loosened them up with a platter of rice crispy treats but, all of sudden, each one suddenly seemed to become a color specialist in need of just the right combo of colors & textures for their pieces.  Fortunately, I had loads of beautiful worms – some sent in by IRgC readers.


However, we did not just hook wool – we also hooked silk, courtesy of neck ties that had been donated by OCC members and my student’s fathers.


Once Gretchen whipped out her rotary cutter, everyone stood in line with the tie they needed to add that special bit of pazazz to their piece.

At the same time, Barbara was offering advice on values, contrasting colors, amounts needed and nylon selection.


Not that everyone needed all that much help.  Before you could snap your fingers, they were sorting through worms or cutting up fabric on Bee Line cutters like old pros.


While the morning was both focused and structured, I kept finding kids off doing the fiber related things that interested them the most.  I consider that a win/win situation.  While it would be nice if every single one became a life-long rug hooker, I would be happy if the project just helped everyone discover some sort of artistic vibe that enriched their lives.  I am pasionate about this because I was 11 when I started watching Miss Weigle hook rugs –  an experiance that ended up making a big impact on my life …  even though I waited 34 years before I got a hook and followed her example.


This leads me to believe that one of our jobs, as fiber artists, is to just exspose kids to as many rich artistic experiences as we can.  While they may percolate a month or a decade, if put “in” I know that someday they are bound to come “out” in a wonderful way.

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Jan '14

A Little Winter Color

Siince so much of the country is gripped by bleak winter weather, I thought it might be nice to put up a few colorful pictures of pieces I have hooked or wool I have dyed.

Hopefully, they will brighten your day.














































































































































































































































































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Dec '13

New Patterns And Options for 2014

Before I can get into full holiday mode, I have to finish up a few new design options so they will be ready for Buddy to put in the store by the first of the year.  This report is not a list of the things I offer in the store – it is just a tip-off of some new things that will be in the store this January.  If you and I have a rendezvous in a class sometime in 2014, you will want to consider these designs along with the other ones I have in the store.  Even if you and I aren’t going to be in the same room during the coming year, you can still order most of these things.


Although you may have seen me working on this particular pattern at various times for the past year, I have not made it available to the general public until now.  Lots of times, if developing something for a specific workshop or event, I delay that pattern’s entry into my cataloge for a while, to keep the project special until an event is over.  This 16″ design is such a pattern.  If it looks a little familiar, that is because all the elements in it come from my big, 3′ by 5′ rug design “Miss Weigle.”  As Miss Weigle’s first name was Betty, I call this smaller version the “Miss Betty 16 Inch Square” to keep it seperate from the original rug.   It will cost $50 and can come like this or in an elongated version (16 by 43 for $115) with more geometric squares, all divided with the Greek Key window shash borders.  While the longer version has several different elements from the original rug in the additional squares, I can also leave one or more of the squares blank in case a person would like to personalize the design with a geometric of their own.  Actually, I think that is a good assignment when people are doing this project in a class.  Additionally, Miss Betty can be increased incrementally in length with more squares and key sections.  I can also make it wider by adding a 3″ to 6″ border all around, etc.  I typically would not offer all those options in the store but do such things for students in camps and workshops.  All you have to do is ask.

“Miss Weigle” is the most popular design I have ever made … and it is the bain of my existence because it is such a bear to draw.  In fact, I only offer the full sized rug to people who take me as their teacher in a class or special workshop.  I love it … but my back does not.  However, by limiting it to special situations I can pace myself and stay up with that demand.


Carnival Paws was designed as a 11” X14” nylon project for the Long Beach Biennial and I kept it under wraps until then.  While I don’t regularly offer hand dyed nylons in the store, I can provide pattern and nylon kit for $95.  Many people, however, just hook the pattern with wool.  I also offer a floor rug size version of this pattern, 26″ by 35.5″ for $85 for those who want to hook it as a normal rug with wool.

You may remeber that I played around a lot with chevron designs in 2013.  Frankly, I still have not got them completely out of my system.


This particular project, “Bold Chevron,” is a 13″ by 23″ traditional proddy rug that I custom made for my loom bench cover.  In my version made with selvedges, I worked really hard to blend a huge variety of colors to create the gradation of related values in each chevron.  Like many of my other favorite pieces, this piece is all about being creative with color.  Although the approach I used to prod it is not a very easy thing to do, I must admit that I had such a great time doing this design in proddy, I will soon be putting options of a bigger version, with 3 chevron repeats insted of just two (24″ by 40″ – $90), for those who want to do a simple traditional proddy design for their floor.  While I like my version, there are a variety of additional ways that one could approach this design that are much more simple than the way I did it.


When it was all said and done, however, I actually liked the back of my prodded rug better than I liked the shaggy top.  The back of a proddy rug looks a lot like a very wide cut hooked rug … and this one just keeps coming back to my thoughts as an inspiration for a new rug that needs to be hooked.  However, to recreate this look in a hooked version, it will take really special wool to get all those spots of mixed colors in a great gradation that will simplify the hooking process.


So, I have been playing around with varous techniques to come up with wool that I think would hook up looking very much like the back of my proddy rug.  I make it in both single value spotted strips and graded value strips.  Each 1/8 yard strip will do one section of a chevron.  So, for a double sided chevron shaped like this –  V – it would take two 1/8 yard pieces.  That means each row of chevrons – VV – would take 4 strips.  This sort of wool is a special order based on my consultation with students who want to do it in a class or in their home.  While I don’t talk about it much, I will happily consult with anyone who wants to buy a pattern and produce the right sort of wool that comes in the colors they like.  In other words, you don’t have to limit yourself to the limited wool I have in the store.  However, IF dyeing specialty wool for you, I will need something concrete (like a fabric or wall paper swatch) to go by.  You can’t just say:  “I like red.”  There are too many reds from which to choose.  That’s why I need an example.

Back to that chevron design –

When I finally hook my new chevron rug, I want a design that is a little bit differnt than just a simple repetative chevron pattern like the loom bench cover.


Therefore, I just finished this new pattern, 26″ by 50.” It will cost $110 and be available in the store early in January.  The pattern, at this time, is nameless.  Even so, it is calling out to me in the worst way.  Surely, before the New Year, it will reveal to me what to call it!  I am going to get right to it as soon as the Problem Persian and Pomegrande are all done … unless I need to hook just a section as an example …

For a complete list of patterns, go to my store at www.geneshepherd.com  All patterns are priced for bleached primitive linen.  I can also draw patterns on wide cut friendly cotton rug warp.

PS: There are 3 versions of Big Momma listed and priced in the store but only one that is shown – the big version.  The medium one has a 3 flower center but less “other” stuff than the big one.


Here is the narrow table runner – a nice alternative for people who want to do a quick wide cut.

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Oct '13

Schooled In The Art Form

** There is a new video on the IRgC today:  Parallel Spot Dyeing.  If you would like to be a member of the Internet Rug Camp go to www.internetrugcamp.com/

On Tuesday, I went to school to make a presentation on traditional rug hooking to the 1st grade class my niece teaches in Bloomington, Illinois.   As you can see, this is a very fine class of promising artists!


When teaching children, I always highlight the fact that traditional rug hooking was a very early form of recycling.  That gets their attention because recycling is a word and concept that they understand very well and they were very happy to learn about a new way to do it.

Since the class room screen was hooked up to the internet, we also watched my basic rug hooking “YouTube” video which is accessible on both my web page and You Tube.  Again, children like watching something that is filmed and shown on a TV screen.


Of course, I gave additional pointers.


I also had several fine examples of hooked rugs lined up on my computer screen.  The children enjoyed looking at all sorts of realistic and primitive animals, which included a few hooked parakeets as well as many of my friends special pets.


We also looked at several portrait rugs that I thought would interest them.  This particular shot is of Sarah & Phil P. standing in front of the hooked portrait that Sarah made!  They made the connection immediately and thought it was pretty special for a person to hook a picture of themselves.


During my show and tell time, everyone got to come over in small groups to get up close and personal with rug hooking.


After all, it does look different when you get close enough to look at what is going on top or on the bottom.


We also spent time picking out our favorite colors.


While I was working with each small group, the teacher supervised close inspection of “Wm. Pickering Oak.”


Believe it or not, for most of the them, it was the first time to see a rug hook.


Hopefully, it will be an encounter they remember for a long time.


The teacher even learned a little about hooking before the session was over.


For the last part of the presentation, my niece allowed me to give every student a pattern print out of the rug being shown.  Yes, they wanted it “signed” by the designer.


This allowed each budding artists the opportunity of experimenting with how they would add color to the design.


They worked really hard.


Some even came over for an artistic consult.


I think you will agree with me that they all show a real knack for color.

Here are several of them and their projects.










As you can see, they were quick learners.

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Oct '13

Hanging Out in Hannibal MO

Since I had to hang out in Hannibal MO for a few days, I decided I might as well pick a nice place to hang out.


Just on a whim, since my decision to go to Hannibal was list minuet, I contacted Garth Woodside Manor to see if they had any available rooms.  Much to my surprise, they had a couple of cancellations.  When I found out they had high speed internet access and that I could bring my rug hooking, I booked three nights.


Built in the 1870s, as a summer residence for a friend of Mark Twain, Garth Mansion is a fantastic painted lady full of original furnishings.  People staying at the mansion have the run of all 3 floors.


This was good news as I always get up fairly early and go  to a place where I won’t disturb anyone that is still sleeping.  The light colored chair in this front parlor was my early morning “tea” spot.  By 6 AM each day I was sitting there drinking tea and waiting  for the sun to rise.


Even when the sun wasn’t up yet, that vantage point provided a lot to look at.


I liked the room so much that I usually came back each evening to this parlor to do my internet “blog” work.  If one is going to blog, one might as well blog in style.


During the day, however, I moved to this room to do my rug hooking because the light was better.


It is a pity that I don’t play the piano better because I could have also spent time in the music room doing that.  Actually, the only song I can really play on the piano is “On the Banks of the Wabash.”  Since I was near the Mississippi River, not the Wabash, it just did not seem like the right sort of song to play, so I stayed away completely.


We did not eat in the dinning room except for one thing


Our Inn Keeper kept freshly baked cookies on the side board 24/7 and I took some regularly just to make them feel good about their cooking skills.


FYI:  All the food was great.


The only problem with our sleeping accommodations was the fact that we were not on the 1st floor.


We weren’t on the second floor either.


While an elegant stairwell to look at, it was a bit of a chore to navigate.  But, as Marsha said, “They did have a lot of padding under the carpet so it made it much easier to get to bounce up to our third floor bedroom.”


We decided, since it was just for 3 nights and days, that it was worth it.  (You can go to www.garthmansion.com to see all the elegant rooms available.)


However, it was a long way up and a long way down.  Since we only tried to do it once in the morning and once in the evening, it made us get very organized.


Truth be told, we did not spend that much time in our room as Garth Mansion had one lovely spot after another to enjoy.


From a fiber arts perspective, I will note that the estate also had several black walnut trees – all with piles of walnuts on the ground going to waste.  Since black walnuts are an excellent source of natural dye for wool, it made me contemplate several ways that I could get some of these nuts home for an IRgC dye experiment.  I was not successful, however, coming up with a solution.  Maybe Garth should be a fall Hook-In destination spot next year and we all bring a couple of extra carry ons?


They even had llamas … and no use for llama fleece!


It may not come as too much surprise to learn that Mark Twain, when he came back to Hannibal for visits, chose NOT to stay in his childhood home.  Instead, he went to Garth Mansion to stay with Mr. Garth, his childhood friend.  I think that was a good call.


When not at the mansion, I literally hung out at my old favorite spots, just savoring the majestic scenes available to those who trek to Hannibal.  FYI:  Lover’s Leap is the very best vantage point from which to watch fireworks on the 4th of July.  As I look at this shot, I think it might also be a pretty good model for a hooked pictorial.

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Oct '13

Folk Art in Hannibal MO

As promised, we are taking a little surprise road trip today and tomorrow.


We’ll go down the mighty Mississippi River, stopping at my favorite spot – Hannibal, Missouri.  It is hard to find a more quintessential American town than Hannibal.


Perhaps, that is why hometown boy, Samuel Clemmens (Mark Twain) used it as the setting for his most popular book, The Adventures of  Tom Sawyer. Although Mark Twain has been gone for well over a hundred years, Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, Becky Thatcher, Aunt Polly and all the characters of that book (including the mighty Mississippi) seem to be everywhere.


In fact, I had not been at the annual Folk Art Festival more than 5 minuets when I ran into Becky and Tom.


Truth be told, I ran into Becky twice!


It was a perfectly beautiful fall day.


There were visual fall icons everywhere one looked.  Of course, since I write a blog about fiber art, you won’t be surprised to learn that I was particularly on the look out for fiber art at the Folk Art Festival.


Since I first learned to weave rag rugs when I lived in Hannibal, I was especially happy to run into some rag rug weavers.  (Hannibal was the site of my first ministry, 1973-1975.   The church had a group of quilters and weavers who were most happy to teach me how to weave.)


Actually, I ran into several rug weavers.


There were also shawl weavers


And chair weavers.


There was even one spinner


Plus lots of beautiful wool that she had spun.


Much to my surprise, I also encountered a speed sock knitter.


Using this vintage 1904 hand cranked sock knitting machine, she can turn out a pair of child’s knitted stockings in just a few minuets.  (You can watch her make one on You Tube – search for “Hilly + sock knitting machine”)


This would be the only way I think I could ever knit a sock.  (I say that fairly confidently knowing I will never find that wonderful vintage machine.)


There were a few knitters who did it the old fashioned way.  This was a cob web felted scarf.

Mid morning at the art fair, the strangest thing happened.  The wail of bag pipes created quite a sensation, also causing the crowds to part.


A piper came through leading a large parade of children.  Being aware of that other classic book, The Pied Piper of Hamelin, and being very close to a river I might add, I was rather alarmed by this turn of events.


My fears were quickly put to rest as the children started marching by and it became obvious that the parade had been staged by the Arts Council.


Of special interest to me was the large multi-fiber banner that the children had made for the event.  In talking with a member of the Art’s Council, I learned that the children had spent two Saturday’s getting everything ready for the Folk Art Festival.


Most of them had also used various kinds of fiber to make their own festive banners to wave during the parade.


Coupled with American Flags (also waved) they made quite a spectacle as they stopped at various intervals along the parade route to sing patriotic songs to the attendees.  Talk about a Norman Rockwell moment!  I told you Hannibal was the quintessential American town.  (If you think this was red, white and blue, you ought to come to Hannibal on the 4th of July!  There is no better place to be on the 4th.)


Everywhere I looked, I found classic examples of fiber art.


And I do mean everywhere.


Of course, fiber was just the tip of the festival’s art iceberg.  This young man told me he cut the holes in these lovely bird houses.


Although I have gone to many art fairs, I had never seen a stone carver up close and personal.


It was a real treat to watch him work.


Although I have seen black smiths before … it had been a very long time since I got to watch one up close and personal.


You name it


They had it at the Folk Art Festival.


While this shot proves that the ladies from the 1st Christian Church were there selling hot roasted peanuts, I could show similar shots of churches and special groups selling turkey legs, bratwursts, burgers, kettle corn, pie, cookies, cake, carmel apples, baked bread … and the list goes on and on.  So many stands … such a little stomach.


The 2013 Folk Art Festival had it all!

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