Challenging Yourself

lady unicorn photo for webI love rug hooking. It isn’t at all unusual for me to knock out a small, simple rug in a month, and I never get tired of it. But sometimes, you really want to  challenge yourself, to take on a project that will force you to summon up all your skill and creativity. I’m finally ready to tackle the Lady and the Unicorn.

You will no doubt remember these iconic images, from a series of Flemish tapestries created around the year 1500, and now on display in the Musee national du Moyen Age (forgive my spelling!) in Paris. My daughter and I had the great good fortune to view them in person, an experience I will never forget.

They are on display in the museum in a small room in relatively low light, to preserve their vibrant colors. It’s a little like walking into a chapel. The six wool and silk, hand-woven tapestries fill the walls of this circular room, from floor to ceiling. By some lucky chance, we were fortunate to view them all by ourselves.

They were woven in a style called mille-fleurs (thousand flowers), and five of the tapestries depict the five senses, sight, taste, hearing, smell and touch. I decided to focus my project on the sight tapestry, where the unicorn is sitting in the lady’s lap, while she holds up a mirror, showing the unicorn’s reflection.

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Lady and the Unicorn, 35″x44″, drawn out on linen. My first crack at it!

Rug hooking for me is all about trial and error. I have to hook something before I know if it’s going to work. I decided to start with the unicorn, because believe it or not, it’s the easiest part of the whole design! I’ll keep experimenting with the shading until I get something close to the photo, then I’ll move on to the lovely lady. Stay tuned!

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Love on the Run, 27″x53″ Designed and hooked by Heidi Wulfraat

This month’s featured rug at Little House Rugs is Love on the Run, designed and hooked by Heidi Wulfraat. You will be amazed to learn that this was her first attempt at hooking with yarn, and she used her own handspun yarn to boot! Her story is so inspiring, please check it out at

This month I’ll be at the Oregon Flock and Fiber in Canby, OR ( I’ll be teaching a beginner class on rug hooking, as well as having my booth. If you’re in the area, come and say hi!

Paradise Fibers is having a sale on Cascade Yarns this weekend. Look for Cascade Eco, bulky and any other offerings that are worsted weight-bulky for your rug hooking! Use the code CASCADING30 to get the discount.

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Irish Terrier rug, re-hooked with new background

Don’t forget that for every $50 you spend with Little House Rugs between now and November 25, 2016, you will be entered to win the Good Dog Rug (a $385 value!). To read the story on this interesting project, go to

Happy hooking everyone!

Judy Taylor


Who Let The Dogs Out?

Dogs do seem to be the perfect subject for hooked rugs somehow. Is it because they are always found on the floor, so when we gaze at the portrait, it’s like we’re looking lovingly at our dear pet? The rug can be a depiction of a favorite photo of Fido being particularly cute, or the memoriam of a departed darling. Either way, dogs and rugs seem to go together.

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Buster, 19.5″29″ Designed and hooked by Judy Taylor

I like to take a photograph to the copy place and have them blow the picture up to something rug-sized, which can take many attempts. As soon as I have something in the size I want, I begin to outline the features with a sharpie pen on the paper copy. I can then transfer those exact details to a window screen by laying it on top of the paper copy and redrawing all the lines again with the permanent marker. Then I put the window screen over my linen, and re-draw all the lines again with the sharpie. Last, I go over my lines directly on the linen backing so they’re clear and easy to follow. It’s the most fool-proof way I know to transfer exactly what I had on paper to the linen backing.

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Lenore, 15.5″x18.5″ Designed and hooked by Judy Taylor

Then I need to gather the colors. I go first to natural colors, that is, undyed wool in natural shades of black, white, brown, red and grey. Since sheep and dogs pretty much come in the same range of colors, I can usually find shades that will work in my stash. If I need to dye colors, sometimes it helps to start with a grey or light brown yarn, because I tend to get something that looks more natural.

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Charlie, 12″x17″ Designed and hooked by Judy Taylor

The eyes first. It is nice if you can get a really pure black for the eyes (if the pet’s eyes are black) as opposed to a charcoal grey. Commercial yarns can get much closer to pure black, and if you find a yarn with a bit of luster, like Halcyon Botanica, you can make the eye seem shinier than the other colors in the body. A loop or two of bombyx silk for the reflective dot in the eyes provides the finishing touch. You have to get the eyes right, then the face. Once you get the expression right, the rest of the animal usually comes pretty easily.

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Tess, 19.5″x29″ Designed and hooked by Judy Taylor

Think about how much detail you want to include. If you want to do lots of realistic shading, consider making the dog larger.

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Penny, Pasha & Jezebel, 19.5″x29″ Designed and hooked by Judy Taylor

I can help you with every step in the process, from enlarging and transferring your photo to linen, designing the yarns so you can hook the rug yourself, or I can create the rug for you. Blog subscribers can save 20% on custom designs, custom kits or custom hand-hooked rugs if you order during the month of August. Email me for more info.

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Lady Teasle, 18″x18″ Designed and hooked by Judy Taylor

What? We love our cats too!

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Irish Terrier rug, re-hooked with new background

Don’t forget that for every $50 you spend with Little House Rugs between now and November 25, 2016, you will be entered to win the Good Dog rug (a $385.00 value)!

Happy Hooking everyone!

Judy Taylor


Optical Illusion?

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Tree of Life/Green Man 22″x30″ Designed and hooked by Judy Taylor

I just got done with the Wedgewood Arts Festival, and am now looking forward to a blissful nine weeks of no shows or classes! Time to tidy up the farm and get caught up on projects.

The latest project, Tree of Life/Green Man is my attempt to create an optical illusion in a rug. I got the idea from a ring I used to wear. From the point of view of the other person, the ring looked like the Tree of Life, but from my vantage point, it looked like a bearded old man.

For the Tree of Life, I used a range of colors for the leaves, symbolizing all the greens in nature. Then from the other point of view, I tried to create Green Man, the character in Celtic mythology, who symbolizes the connection between man and nature, and is often depicted in carvings in buildings, gardens and woods. The trick was to make the grassy area look like a forehead. That took many re-hookings, but I settled on adding some grey to the “eyebrows” like the color of bark. Don’t know if it did the trick, but it was a shot!

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Green Man/Tree of Life 22″x30″ Designed and hooked by Judy Taylor

Blog subscribers can order the Tree of Life/Green Man pattern on linen for 20% off at

Registration is now open for my beginning rug hooking class at Oregon Flock and Fiber in Canby, OR on September 23, 9:00-noon.

Registration for my classes at Columbia Gorge Fiber Festival (October 28 and 29) will begin July 13. Click here to sign up:

Remember that for every $50 you spend with Little House Rugs (including taking a class!) you will be entered to win the Good Dog rug.

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Good Dog, Refurbished by Judy Taylor 22.5″x36″

Happy Hooking everyone!



How Long Does it Take to Hook a Rug?

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Celtic Love Knot, 48″x52″ Designed and hooked by Judy Taylor

When I demonstrate rug hooking, this is the first question people want to know. The above rug, Celtic Love Knot is one of the largest rugs I’ve made, and this is the fifth time I’ve hooked the design, so I have a pretty good idea of how long it takes to make it.

(Drumroll, please…) It takes me approximately 100 hours to hook a rug of this size (around 14 square feet), and at about 81 loops per square inch, that comes to around 72,500-some individual loops!

What do members of the public do with that info? Understandably, some walk away shaking their heads, remembering a root canal they meant to do that day. Others hear that and gain an appreciation for the prices I charge for my work. Still others are mesmerized by the hypnotic rhythm in the process, the tactile experience of drawing fiber through your fingers and creating patterns of color and texture.

Hooking rugs with yarn is not unlike the coloring books for adults that are all the rage these days. Many people love to lose themselves in color and design, not just for the end product, but for the pure satisfaction of the doing of it.

I don’t usually hook such large rugs, most are around 6 square feet in size, and it’s not unusual for me to hook an entire small rug during a weekend show, while sitting in my booth. People who are at the show for the whole weekend (other vendors, usually) get to see a rug hooked from start to finish during that time. Rug hooking is something I can do while doing other things, so I can answer questions and help customers without a break in the rhythm. I can also watch TV or attend meetings where a different part of my brain is required.

You might be wondering how I could do something over and over, even 72 thousand times, and still be excited about the next rug I’m going to make. It’s just the process, it is gosh-darned theraputic, without the assistance of pharmaceuticals or psychiatrist fees, plus I have something to show for it at the end of all this meditative grooving.

If you would like to try your hand at the hypnotic benefits of hooking the Celtic Love Knot rug, blog subscribers can save 20% off the price of the pattern on linen, at,html

The Featured Rug of the Month at Little House Rugs for June is a set of two rugs hooked by Phyllis Fitzgerald of Valley, WA. Both are hooked with handspun yarn, including some of her own camel’s wool (she has her own CAMEL!). You can find the link for that page at

This month I will be down in Eugene, OR for the Black Sheep Gathering (June 24-26). I will have my booth the whole weekend, and I will also be teaching a Beginning Rug Hooking class on Sunday morning. For info on the class, go to

I will also be teaching a class in Seattle on June 30 at the Weaving Works. You can sign up for that at

Both of these classes are filling up fast, so grab a spot if you can and I’ll see you there!

Happy Hooking Everyone!



Why I Am A Hooker

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So Much Yarn/So Little Time, 31″x22″ Designed and hooked by Judy Taylor

I hook rugs with yarn, which makes me kind of weird. In a country where most hookers hook with fabric strips, I tend to get some curious but skeptical looks. “Traditional Rug Hooking,” the craft of hooking rugs with fabric strips is a bit of a misnomer, because it tends to suggest that hooking rugs with yarn is somehow non-traditional. But everything to do with rug hooking, going back hundreds of years, has maintained that the two materials (yarn and fabric strips) go hand in hand to make beautiful, long lasting rugs.

According to antique historian William Winthrop Kent, it was weavers who first started the craft, not with their woven cloth, but with the ‘thrums,’ the short pieces of yarn that were cut off the loom when the fabric was woven. In fact, the idea that in the 1700’s, someone would buy whole cloth and cut it up into tiny strips to make rugs, as we do today, would be preposterous and wasteful. But what about the remnants left over after the garment had been cut out? Those could be cut into strips. What about when the garment gets worn out? Those could be hooked into rugs. The craft was begun as a way to make use of whatever was at hand. Yarn was plentiful, there was a spinning wheel in practically every home, and wool scraps would never go to waste.

Rug hooking has evolved because of its practicality, and also by way of fashion. It got its biggest boost as a craft in the 18th and 19th centuries, when Europeans began to settle in North America, because they needed to be able to furnish their new homes with everything they could make from scratch, and all they needed to carry over on the boat was a small hook. By the late 1800’s, manufactured household goods were cheap and easy to get, so the fashion of hooking rugs, like many home arts, began to lose popularity.

Then in WW II, there was a tremendous movement to reuse and recycle precious raw materials. Plus, people needed to keep their hands busy to keep their minds off loved ones who were away at the front. So rug hooking got popular again, but in the 1940’s, good wool yarn was in demand for other things and so the preference for hooking with recycled garments gained favor. After the war, acrylic yarns came out and became a cheap alternative to wool yarn, so it’s no wonder that the hookers of the day eschewed the cheap stuff, and happily continued to hook with wool fabric.

But fashions change. Today, you would be very hard pressed to find 100% wool fabric in the fabric stores, because people prefer the ease and convenience of wool blends (which don’t work for rug hooking). You can find good rug hooking wool in rug hooking shops (mostly on the East coast and online), and sometimes in recycled garments at thrift stores.

But now as never before, yarn is plentiful! Almost every yarn company sells a brand of yarn that is in the range of worsted weight to bulky, which is perfect for rug hooking. Rug hooking is attracting yarn artists as a practical way to use up leftovers from knitting, crochet and weaving. As long as the yarn is not slippery, it can be hooked into a rug.

I have been teaching how to hook rugs with yarn for 26 years. In that time, I have taught thousands of people in person, and thousands more have visited my website and bought my books. Still, yarn hookers are in a minority. We just don’t have the hooking guilds, classes, or retreats that the fabric hookers have. So I say to you yarn hookers out there, share your craft with the world. Demonstrate in public, teach classes, do a blog or a website, write a book! If there is anything I can do to support you in that effort, let me know!

The Featured Rug of the Month at Little House Rugs is shown above. So Much Yarn/So Little Time is another fun rug for using up leftover yarns from other projects, because you only need 1.5 oz of the main colors, plus 6 oz for the background.

Subscribers to this blog will receive 20% off on the So Much Yarn pattern on linen and custom kit at

I have two classes scheduled in June. The first is at the Black Sheep Gathering in Eugene on June 26 and the second is at the Weaving Works in Seattle, on June 30. More info at

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Good Dog, Refurbished by Judy Taylor 22.5″x36″

And remember that for every $50.00 you spend with Little House Rugs between now and November 25, 2016, you will be entered to win this Good Dog rug (a $385.00 value!).

Happy Hooking everyone!


Show and class schedule for Little House Rugs

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Stash Sheep Kit

Most of us fiber addicts have a yarn stash. (I pause while you nod your head.) You may think you can hide from all that beautiful yarn you have stuffed into boxes and bags in the shadiest corner of your closet, but the reality persists. You feel guilty when you think about it. You know you should take it out and play with it. What to do with all that gorgeous fiber? Make a rug!

This year’s featured beginner kit is the Stash Sheep Kit. It includes a wide range of yarn types, including handspun yarn, Halcyon yarn, lopi, Peace Fleece, Cascade Ecological and many others. It is designed to give you a chance to hook with a variety of yarns, many of which are already in your stash.

Here are the scheduled classes for 2016 (see complete show schedule at the end of this post):

Black Sheep Gathering, June 26, 9-noon.

Weaving Works, Seattle, WA, June 30, 12-3

Oregon Flock and Fiber, Canby, OR  September 23, 9-noon

Columbia Gorge Fiber Festival, The Dalles, OR  Oct. 28 1:30-4:30, Oct. 29 8:30-11:30

Of course, you don’t need to take a class to learn the craft. If you cannot make it to a class, you can order the kit and do it yourself. The kit includes rug hooking instructions, but if you order the Special Package, you will get the book Joy of Hooking (With Yarn!) and a rug hook, which will provide you with everything you need to know about how to get started in this wonderful craft. Blog subscribers get 20% off the regular price. To subscribe, just click the ‘Follow’ button below. To order your kit, click here.

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Good Dog, Refurbished by Judy Taylor 22.5″x36″

Remember that for every $50.00 you spend with Little House Rugs between now and November 25, 2016, you will be entered to win this hand hooked Good Dog Rug!

Here are the shows I will be doing in 2016:

Best of the Northwest Spring Show, Magnuson Park, Seattle, WA  April 9-10

Western Washington Spring Fair, Puyallup, WA  April 14-17

OK Fiberfest, Omak, WA  May 7-8

Spring Hook-in and Rug Show, Bellingham, WA May 10, 10-2

Black Sheep Gathering, Eugene, OR  June 24-26

Wedgewood Art Festival, Seattle, WA  July 9-10

Oregon Flock and Fiber, Canby, OR  September 23-25

Schaefer Meadows Fiber Fest, Elma, WA  October 7-9

Fiber Fusion Northwest, Monroe, WA  October 15-16

Best of the Northwest Fall Show (tentative) Seattle, WA  October 21-23

Happy Hooking Everyone!





Dip-Dyeing to Create Shading in Hooked Rugs

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Close up of a peony, hooked using dip-dyed yarn

You will flip when you find out how easy it is to create realistic shading in hooked rugs! Dip-dyeing is the key and it is just too easy.

I begin by making small skeins, around 6″ in length.  I find wrapping my yarn around a sharpie pen box or a paperback book works well.  Wrap around 40 times, then with a contrasting yarn, tie the top and bottom of the skein, while it is still on the box or book. Then slip the skein off and cross-tie it with the contrasting yarn.

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Wrapping skeins for dip-dyeing. On the left, the yarn has been wrapped 40 times and the top and bottom have been tied off with contrasting yarn. In the middle, the skein is cross-tied to keep it from getting tangled in the dyebath. On the left, three skeins have been bundled together.

Now to set up the dyebath.  I like to use a roasting pan with 8″ high sides, so I can see what is happening.  I fill the roasting pan with about 1″ of water, then I fill a mason jar with around 1″ of water and put it into the pan.  I bring the water to a boil, then I keep it at a simmer while I’m dyeing.

I add a smidge, a speck, a sprinkling of dye to the mason jar.  Remember, it is much easier to add more dye if you need it than it is to take it away, so start small.


A few grains of pink dye to add to the mason jar

I keep several small pieces of my yarn to use as samples, to test the dyebath.  Drop one small piece into your mason jar and let it sit for a couple of minutes.  You are aiming for the darkest value at this point, but it can be a bit paler to begin with.  Again, it’s easy to add more dye later.

For these pictures, I show the mason jar by itself, but in reality, it is sitting in the roasting pan.

Begin by lowering your bundle into the mason jar, so just the bottom end comes in contact with the dyebath (use a spoon to hold the yarn up so it doesn’t slip down too soon).  Let the yarn sit for around five minutes, then take away the spoon and let the bundle sink down a bit.

Keep pushing the yarn down gradually further until it is totally submerged.

At this point, I lift up my bundle and check the color.  It should look darker on the bottom and fade gradually to the top.  If your bottom color is not dark enough, you may now add a TINY AMOUNT of dye to the mason jar.  You might need to add more water to bring it up to 1″ again.  I take a bit of the hot water from the roasting pan if I need more, then I don’t need to reheat my dyebath.  Check the color with a sample piece.  If you’re happy with the color, dip the bundle back into the mason jar, dropping and lifting, dropping and lifting, until you have the gradation of color you’re looking for.


Finished bundle. When the yarn is dry, cut it at both ends and remove the cross-tie.

Now all you have to do is hook in the direction that you want the shading to go.  In other words, for this flower, I start hooking inside the petal, and hook outward, toward the outside edge of the petal.  The yarn changes color while you hook.

This method works best when there is regular, repeated shading, as in the many petals in a flower, or the highlights and lowlights in a leaf.

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This sample shows the hibiscus flower, hooked using three different dyeing methods. Left, dip-dyed yarn, in the middle, successive dyeing, and on the right, handspun yarn in shades of white and gray

You have choices as to how you want to approach shading.  For a flower like the hibiscus above, you can go with dip dyed, for an easy gradation of color.  You can also try successive dyeing and hook with the different shades as needed, or you can start with handspun yarn that has been blended in shades of white and gray.

Remember that you can always overdye your yarn when you want to do shading.  Below, I took the leftovers from the sample above and overdyed them in a light pumpkin dye.

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This sample shows how it would look if you overdyed your yarn. Left, dip-dyed yarn overdyed, middle, successive yarn overdyed and right, handspun white and greys overdyed

Blog subscribers can order this Hibiscus Sampler on burlap to practice shading at

This month’s Featured Rug at is a group of hand-hooked dollies.


Have fun with small projects like these dolls!

Read more about them at  If you have ever tried hooking dolls or stuffed animals, contact me.  You might get your project included in my next book!

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Good Dog, Refurbished by Judy Taylor 22.5″x36″

You can win this Good Dog Rug (a $385.00 value)!  For every $50.00 you spend at Little House Rugs, from now until November 25, 2016, you will be entered to win!

Happy hooking everyone!