April DeConick is an award-winning hooked wool artist and master dyer. She has had her hooked rugs and mats featured in four of the Celebration of Hand-Hooked Rugs juried series, Rug Hooking Magazine, and the ATHA Newsletter.
I have completed the final ninth mat in the Zoo Zone series, the Mandrill. While I plan to hook more animal faces in the future and add to this collection, this is the original nine that I will be teaching at the ATHA Biennial in Denver this August. I will have patterns and instructions available in Denver for each of these faces for those who are in the class and for those who happen by my classroom and want to try to hook one if these charming animals. Even the mandrill is grinning! They are all show offs for sure, loving their picture taken.
ORIGINAL NINE ZOO ZONE SERIES 2018-19. 7” X 7” HOOKED MATS ON LINEN FOUNDATION. DESIGNED, DYED, AND HOOKED BY APRIL D. DECONICK
I have hooked now eight of the nine Zoo Zone faces for my upcoming class at ATHA Biennial. Meet Koala, Owl, and Big Horn. I need to settle on the final animal face. Any suggestions? These are small 7” x 7” squares.
Ashani the Lion 2019. April D. DeConick, photographer
Alexander and I had a great time at the Houston Zoo taking photos of the animals. We were so happy to see that a new lion is prowling there, and spent most of the day coming and going near his exhibit to see if we could get a good enough photo for me to create a companion rug for Satu the Tiger. On our last round of the zoo in the late afternoon, Ashani the lion decided to get up from his nap and climb the central rock where he sat there really looking sassy, the king of the animals. We go so many great shots it was hard to decide which to use for my inspiration. But here is the picture that well was picture perfect.
I spent two weeks creating the pattern, transferring it to linen, and getting all the wool cut and organized. This time I am trying something different with wool organization, using floss organizers in tight baskets. Each organizer has 8 different wool in one value. I have 8 warm wools and 8 cooler wools in order to help create the kind of shadows and light I hope to achieve.
My latest project is Zoo Faces, which I am teaching at the ATHA biennial in Denver in August. I plan to have as many 7 x 7 inch animal faces hooked as possible so that students have their choice of mats to hook themselves as they learn my Zonalism technique. I just finished five faces, and hope to add another five over the next two months. The faces are all hooked with #6-cut straps leftover from my larger projects.
If you are interested in the class, check back occasionally to my website to see new Zoo Faces posted as I finish them.
Also, if there is an animal you want me to create, leave me a comment or send me a message by email.
I have returned from vacation and a visit to Sauder Village Rug Exhibit where I was honored to be inducted into the first class of the Celebration Hall of Fame. Here a a couple of pictures of the event which I was able to share with my sister.
I have been hard at work on a new wool snapshots rug. This one is another panoramic but a little longer and wider than Joy Ride. I felt that I had to go with this bigger size because the children in the photo are quite small and I would loose all detail if I hooked a smaller piece.
This rug is based on a family photo taken in Galveston at the pier at Christmastime. I loved the photo immediately because it showed the pleasure of a carefree moment of childhood. For me, the rug is bittersweet because the moment captured also depicts the last of childhood for these three cousins who were on the brink of young adulthood, when such moments of childhood freedom would become part of their past.
Footloose and Fancy Free. 2018. 18" x 33". Designed, dyed, and hooked by April D. DeConick.
Jean Boeckeler sent me photos of her finished 7" by 7" pieces. She started both of them in the Green Mountain Rug Camp.
One is Max, her husband's devoted cat. What I love about this piece is Jean's choice of contrast and color with the purple blanket. The photo showed a cream blanket that didn't do much for the image. But wow the purple gives the whole mat a feeling of happiness. Note too the great plaid background hooked linearly and the whiskers embroidered on top of the hooking.
The other is her daughter as a bride at her wedding in 2013. Jean remembers how lovely her daughter looked with gorgeous flowers and a pearl headband that she grabbed at the last minute. Jean embellished the hair with simple pearl beads in memory of that moment.
The finished mats are coming in from the Wool Snapshots class at Green Mountain Rug Camp. Judy Shields is the first to send me her finished piece to share on my blog. She choose to hook a Christmas photo taken of her grandchildren last year. The baby girl is 14 months old and her brother is 9 years old. Judy wanted to make the mat extra special, so she cut some of the fabric from the actual dress that the baby wore and hooked with that. She embellished with a little red flower at her waist. She also textured the background with the basket weave stitch to set the children apart from their surroundings. I love the way she hooked the shadows in the boy's shirt. She framed it under glass.
I just returned from Green Mountain. Although I had a wonderful experience meeting and visiting with fellow rug hookers, I heard quite a bit of advice about dyeing wool that was inaccurate if not harmful. This dyeing advice has a long oral history among rug hookers going back to the 1950s when hookers wanted to reproduce the color they saw in expensive rugs sold in stores. Many of the techniques they developed came from their own experience, with little to no knowledge about how chemical dyes actually work or the health precautions that must be followed to keep us and our families safe.
So I am sharing this information with the hope that it will be shared widely among rug hookers and that the old wives' tales about dyeing will be put to rest. Most of us have heard these tales and have been responsible for transmitting them ourselves when we didn't know better. But no more!
Old Wives' Tale 1. It is safe to dye in our kitchens.
Truth: These dyes are poison if ingested. It is dangerous for us to assume that when we are dyeing in our kitchens that dye powders are not floating around our counters and stove tops and settling on our bananas, that we might not spill dye solution on a dish by accident, that we might confuse a wooden spoon we are using in the dye pot with the spaghetti spoon we use to make dinner. We shouldn't assume that the fumes coming from the cooking dye pots is something we want to continually expose ourselves and our families too.
Solution: Dye in your garage or on your porch using separate spoons, containers, jars, electric appliances, etc. that are stored in the garage and clearly marked for your dyes. Never ever use these items to cook with or eat off of. If you use them to dye with, they should never see food. You don't need a kitchen in your garage. All you need is a hot plate or better yet the biggest turkey roaster you can find and plug into the wall.
Old Wives' Tale 2. If dyes are safe enough to dye wool in our kitchens, we don't have to worry about taking precautions like wearing masks and gloves.
Truth: Acid dyes are chemical dyes which work through a chemical reaction that involves dyes, acid, and heat. Exposing these chemicals to our lungs is dangerous.
Solution: Follow all safety instructions on the dye labels, including wearing a mask, apron, and gloves. Closed toed shoes are a good idea too, since accidents with glass jars and boiling hot dye solution and water is known to occur.
Old Wives' Tale 3. It is necessary to pre-wash and then pre-soak your wool overnight before dyeing it.
Truth: Pre-washing your wool will only shrink it more. Pre-soaking your wool does nothing but make a total mess on your floor. Neither of these things has anything whatsoever to do with the chemical dye process.
Solution: In order to ensure even coloring and dye penetration, put two tinny squirts of synthrapol detergent into your jars or pot. Synthrapol (available at art stores or on Amazon) is a high concentrated fabric detergent that is used in the dye process as the wetting agent and pre-wash agent. It helps the dye penetrate the wool fibers and also helps even out the colors during the dye process. It also removes any starch or stiffening that might be on new wool. I never dye without it.
Old Wives' Tale 4. It is best to boil your water, dyes, and wool.
Truth: Not only is this a very good way to get burned, but boiling wool will ensure that you end up with thick wool that is felted. If you want dyed felt, then this is a good process. Otherwise, read on.
Solution: All dyes have a different heat for their individual reactions. Those with lower heat requirements take up into the wool sooner than those with higher heat requirements. I find working in a water bath in a turkey roaster to be most convenient because I can control the temperature (there is a dial on the side of the roaster). Once you have your dye, water, and wool in the jar or enamel insert, cover and turn the roaster on 400 degrees F. Let it go for 45 minutes before adding the acid.
Old Wives' Tale 5. Vinegar will give you brighter colors.
Truth: There is nothing special about vinegar. It has no special qualities to impart to your color. It is used as the acid necessary to bring about the chemical reaction in the dye process. Without acid, no dyeing will occur. But vinegar is bulky to store, heavy to lug around, and splashes when poured into the hot dyes.
Solution: Use citric acid (derived from citric fruit). It is a white powder and a teaspoon goes a long way. It is available on Amazon. To use, take the wool out from the jar, add the citric acid and put the wool back in. Make sure to stir it around since this is the moment that most of the dye will penetrate the wool (almost instantly). Cover the pot again and let it simmer on 400 degrees F for another 45 minutes. Stir twice during this time.
Old Wives' Tale 6. Take hot wool and rinse it immediately.
Truth: You can do this, but you run the risk of getting burned and felting the wool even more.
Solution: It makes more sense to turn the heat off, and leave the wool covered in the dye solution overnight. In the morning, when the wool has thoroughly cooled down to room temperature, remove it from the dye solution, run it through a rinse cycle with low spin, and then dry it in the dryer on delicate with a Bounce sheet.
I just finished a 10" x 20" panoramic snapshot rug of my sister and I riding bikes last summer on Mackinac Island. Wade snapped this photo of us with a long lens so that the photo would be candid. This picture is extra special to me because I had undergone surgery about six weeks prior, and the recovery was tough. So to be able to get on that bike and ride around the island felt like a miracle. All the more so because I shared that ride with my sister, but also my husband, son, and niece.
Joy Ride, 2018. 10" x 20", #6-cut wool on linen. Designed, dyed, and hooked by April. D. DeConick.