Sunday, April 29, 2007

Rugs at the Ross Museum

In posting photos of our group, the Quoddy Loopers, I drew mostly on photos from our room at the Ross Museum Open House, 2006, as those are the ones I have handy.

Every year, the residents of St Andrews pick rooms in the beautiful Ross Memorial Museum in town, and decorate according to that year's theme. The Quoddy Loopers brought out mats, rugs, ornaments and equipment to illustrate how "The Spirit of Christmas warms our hearts as the hand hooked mats of yesteryear warmed the homes of our forebears". Several members also took turns throughout that weekend to sit in the parlour amongst our mats and holiday decorations and do what we love to do -- hook rugs! These demonstrations were well-received and attracted a couple of new members. The open house is always the first weekend in December, a much-loved part of the local winter festival, "A Season of Lights & Wonder".

Friday, April 27, 2007

Hooks, loops, stitches and mats

The Quoddy Loopers [formerly known as SeasideHookers, until we noticed another group by the same name] come from St Andrews and St Stephen, two of the communities in the "Quoddy Loop", which includes communities in Charlotte County, New Brunswick and Maine that surround the marvellous Bay of Fundy. There is a standing invitation to others to join our little group; we meet Wednesday evenings at the Catholic Church of St Andrew lower hall, through winter and summer, unless a scheduling conflict arises. These are rare. Generally, there will be anywhere from 5 to 15 of us meeting each week, sharing stories, advice [when sought], expertise and enthusiasm for this wonderful craft. Rughooking is a terrific stress-reliever and a very adaptable, forgiving method, creating functional and artistic pieces of amazing diversity.

Loops are what makes a rughooked mat -- a simple stitch, making the craft an easy one to learn, yet giving an astonishing breadth of expression and individuality to each person's design. Most of our group uses strips of wool, cut by ingenious Bliss, Fraser or Rigby slitters into various thicknesses, from #2 [VERY fine] to #8 [1/4" or 8/32nds of an inch, commonly called 'primitive'] or handcut strips that may be even wider than a #8 cut. Wool yarn is also a good material for rughooking; it has the dual advantages of being readily available in many colours and thicknesses and also ready to hook immediately, not requiring prewashing to shrink or 'full' the wool fabric so that it does not unravel in the process of pulling up loops with a hook. Woollen cloth, on the other hand, comes in many weights and colours and takes dye beautifully. New wool fabric or recycled wool clothing or blankets -- making beauty from cast-offs appeals to my thrifty nature. I can't bear to think of something going to overstuffed landfills, or up in smoke, if it has another useful purpose. There is so much to learn and experience; dyeing your own fabric is exciting!

Back to the Quoddy Loop... it is a breathtaking voyage by land and sea around and on the Bay of Fundy, which boasts the highest tides in the world and some of the most beautiful scenery that you will find anywhere. The area has many qualities to recommend it as a place to play, work, visit and live, aside from its abundant natural beauty: people care about each other, the tradition of handcrafting is strong, the weather is moderate and heritage is rich and respected. Communities on the mainland and numerous islands yield fascinating stories and rambles, bringing history to glorious life. Ste Croix Island, just up the coast from St Andrews, bears the distinction of being the first European settlement in North America [north of Florida], due to Samuel de Champlain's bitter winter on that island in 1604. The survivors then decamped to Annapolis Royal in Nova Scotia, across the Bay of Fundy, making it the oldest continuous settlement north of St Augustine. This was also the beginning of l'Acadie, still a thriving presence in Canada, adding a strong French thread to our country's tapestry. Loyalists fled the United States and some even floated their homes on barges across to St Andrews, on the more tolerant shores of Canada. Evidence of these settlers, especially the shipbuilders, is plentiful in the area's architecture.

So, we hook and chat, following the traditions of ages, while bringing modern ideas and methods to this ancient and enduring craft. Every week we follow each others' progress and marvel at the output of a small group of women, truly 'hooked' on this wonderful art form!