Written by: Dianne Warren
The pattern, Florentine, is a design originally sold by Rittermere Craft Studio in Ontario in the 1980’s, and was purchased by Margaret Kavanagh of Conception Harbour. A few years ago, Margaret decided to give up rug hooking, although she continues to quilt with the Cabot Quilter’s Guild. In early 2008, the pattern was passed to a member of the Tamarack Branch rug hookers in St. John’s, Verna Hollett, with a request that it be hooked as a fundraiser, and henceforth offered to me as Director, Avalon Region to coordinate as a group project.
The pattern came with two colour schemes, neither of which was used when it came time to choose materials. As a group, it was decided the mat would be hooked with wool yarn, and colours that could be purchased without s pecial dyeing, as much as possible. Some recycled wools that had been donated from Betty Hill, a Guild member from Arlington, Virginia, were sold to pay for some of the yarns used. Other wools were added, and sales totalled $120, enough to cover the cost of 22 skeins and some trim. The large oak frame, built about 30 years ago, but never previously used, acquired by Maxine Benson just before Christmas 2010, was borrowed, a perfect size for the 6’ x 3 ½’ pattern. By mid-January of 2011 the burlap had been attached to the frame, legs had been built by my ever-so-handy husband John for support, and hooking had begun. At a rough estimate of 500+ hours, hooking was completed by the end of July. Large mats are not very portable, so the project was located in my living room for seven months, and hooked on most days. Since I was doing the majority of the work, it was important that the style of hooking be maintained throughout, and each person was asked to hook to the height and density of my own so that no section of the mat stood out as unique.
As a note, before the burlap was put on the frame, it was washed to remove any dust or loose fibre, then ironed. The edge was serged, and a wide twill tape sewn carefully around the perimeter to reduce hand-sewing at the end. Upon completion of the hooking, Betty Lou Whelan and myself removed the rug from the frame and worked on the “holidays”. A few days later, Heather Wareham donated the use of her steamer, and we gave the rug a good steaming. By mid-August, the rug was delivered to Betty Lou, who very promptly completed the whipping and attached the inner edge of the twill. The rug was returned in late August for a final steaming and label. A carrying bag was sewn, a bundle of yarn (for future repairs if necessary) bagged, and the story of the mat was written. We had a celebration, wine and cheese, to view the final product, and the mat was delivered to Barbara Barry, Event Manager for Health Care Foundation, as an auction item for their gala fundraiser this October.
The mat backing is good quality burlap; the pile is 2-ply wool yarn from Briggs & Little and MacAuslands Woolen Mills. Stock colours were used, with the exception of yellow and gold which were hand-dyed. Although the pattern will have been hooked by others in the past, this is, no doubt, a one-of-a-kind rug, unique in its colours.
Contributors: Betty Lou Whelan, Anne Sampson, Carol Leonard, Heather Wareham, Maxine Benson, Amy Burden, Diane Hodder, Alice Moyst, Diana Dove, Jennifer Archer, Linda Kliem, Sheila Swet