Welcome to My Red Cape. Long ago in another time my husband Jack and I lived in a little old red house. It was the stuff of dreams to us for the few years that we were there. I live there still a number of hours every day in imagination, with old dolls and paintings and fabrics and feather trees. I draw inspiration and happiness from the memories of that space in time and share some of it here with friends who remember how to step with Alice through the looking glass and take delight in whimsies and antiquities.

For more than sixty years I have studied, collected, repaired, and bought and sold antique dolls. They have been back ground music in my life at every stage, sometimes louder, sometimes subdued, but always there with me. To see only the posts about dolls on this blog, click the banner on the right titled Dolls for My Red Cape. Keep clicking “Older Posts” to see more. Some of the posts featuring rug hooking are gathered under the banner For Cathy. From time to time items are offered for sale under the banner “O’Neill’s Antiques” which was our shop name for many years. ~Edyth O’Neill

Monday, January 27, 2014

For Cathy Thoughts on working with rummage wool.

It feels good to me to re use things and make something useful again.  Rug Hooking, as  I am familiar with it in this country, began as a recycling craft.  I like that.  Rugs were made from worn textiles of wool and other fibers. The Grenfell mats are made of stockings. Many old rugs have a lot of cotton knits. Yarn was sometimes used in among woven textiles. A wide variety of fibers have been used to hook rugs. Wool has proven to be a favorite for most ruggers over time.  To start with, wool sheds dirt rather than holding on to it as does cotton.  For another reason wool takes dye well, keeping it's color better than many fibers. And wool has that little tooth or burr to each fiber which helps felt the surface of a rug and hold  it together.  It is pleasant to work with and has a nice hand to it. So contemporary rug hookers overwhelmingly choose to work with wool.  This discussion is about wool therefore.

Looking at rugs in general, most of them have quiet backgrounds and livelier central motifs. Yes I know red backgrounds are beautiful and they happen!  but in general a large part of a rug is neutral or low key in color and just the center of interest has the higher accents.  It is possible to have a lot of rug wool at minimum cost by recycling.  Some of it can be over dyed to provide more exciting colors. Or that wool can be bought by the yard. A big advantage to dying your own is the intentional color variation of hand dyed wool.
The rooster rug was my first one. The background was made from swatches of three different short coats, and the bodies of the chickens were from a man's heavy dark overcoat. Only the reds had to be purchased of more expensive hand dyed wool which I had not then learned how to make for myself. So most of this rug was made from as is rummage wool.
Colors for the simple whale could be found from rummage wool without hand dying at all.  Adding rummage wool to your stash is time well spent for most of us and is fun besides.
Start with closets at home. A good Pendleton plaid skirt may turn up unworn for a year or so. Searching for good 100% wool garments in tag sales or thrift shops is a good next step.  Let friends know you are using these things so they will not toss them out when closets are cleaned this spring.
In selecting pieces to buy, blankets are too heavy and thick. Coats often are too.  (These items can be used for wool appliqué craft work.)  Skirts are better than shirts, because there is less work and larger pieces come from skirts than shirts or Jackets. Jackets are the least to be favored because of the small pieces and more work to take apart. Second to Skirts for me are wool trousers.  Do not get worsted found in a lot of wool men's wear. Desirable wool is a medium heavy flannel.  Beautiful Pendleton plaids make those shirts with their little darts and many seams still worth having. I do not use pure black. Dark brown or dark grey is as deep a value as I use.
Note here: Why not blends? Why do I say 100% wool only? One reason is the superiority of the wool after you have it in a rug. Another is the inability of many blends to take up the dye evenly. A huge reason is that the cutter blades on a strip cutter will dull in a single session if forced through blends!  Never put anything except wool through a conventional strip cutter that has blades. If you have a blended fabric you wish to use, hand cut it with scissors.  You will hear and feel the difference when you try to tear the fabric to make usable swatches.   The wool says th th softly. The blend says CRICK CRICK ack ack ack  harshly. Try it I am not exaggerating. 
When other fibers were used in some of our antique rugs, they were hand cut, not put through our expensive little strip cutting machines. 
When I bring home rummage wool, I take it straight from the plastic bag to the washing machine.  If any slight preparation is needed before washing,
like removing shoulder pads, I do that outside but generally do not like to handle someone's dirty clothing.  No chances must be taken that might bring in moths or silver fish bugs.  So into the washer it goes, on warm not hot and for a gentle cycle just a short time with normal laundry detergent. Too much agitation or hot water will result in hard felted wool, ruined as far as I am concerned.
Dry the wool with a gentle tumble on low heat and remove when you can and just let it be in the air, fluffy and soft we hope.   Now it is time to cut away seams and zippers and hem tape and waist bands, all of that can go in the trash.   By snipping along an edge, tear the big pieces of wool and make swatches about 4 inches wide and however long you can.  Do not shorten them, the length is desirable. Fold these swatches and stack them in a neat bundle tied with a bit of wool like a seam you have cut off.   They are ready now to be pulled out and put through your strip cutter for use in your next project.    E

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