Thursday, October 17, 2002
Steamboat Springs The first snow had just touched the valley. It was a blizzard on the tops of the mountains and damp, cold air, laced with occasional snowflakes, chilled bones on the valley floor.
From a conference room at the Snowflower condos last week, a chilly view of the clouds touching hay fields in the south Yampa Valley dominated the window.
Meanwhile, 17 women were cozily covered with unfinished wool rugs. They were rug hooking; using tools called hand hooks to hook long scraps of wool into a pattern to make the rugs, and the weather was perfect.
The Wool Hookers' camp is an event the group holds once or twice a year. Members hire a professional this time it was Sandra Cheverie to aid in design and color-picking techniques. They hang out all week and make rugs.
"It's the perfect craft for the winter, when it's snowing and you're stowed away, pretending to be a pioneer woman," Kathy Borland said.
Primitive rug hooking is considered a true American folk art.
Though a few rug-hooking books say the art first appeared between the third and seventh century in Egypt, most historians deny that claim and say it actually is one of America's indigenous folk arts, according to Rug Hooking Online.
Dixie Coyle, of the Wool Hookers, said most likely the first rugs constructed by the unique hooking technique were made from old clothes and were used as bed covers and to warm cold floors.
"We still use recycled clothes," Borland said while working on a pattern with a horse. "This horse here is a pair of old pants."
For the most part, rug hookers buy their own fabric and cut it in the long, skinny strips needed to hook it into the pattern.
"Picking the colors is the challenge," Coyle said.
Several people dye wool the right colors to fit with their pattern. The pattern and color design are the most essential parts of the art.
"It's like painting with wool," Coyle said. "Once you learn the technique, 98 percent of the rest is design."
Laurie Milne rug hooks as much as she can and has been doing it for a long time.
"We decided that it was too expensive to buy antique rugs," she said.
Therefore, she thought it was better to master the traditional technique of rug hooking and make her own rugs. She eventually started a business selling her work, Get Hooked by Laurie.
Other members just hook a little.
"I only hook when the weather is bad," Chris Stanko said.
When it's nice, she's riding horses. But rug hooking provides satisfaction of a job well done.
"It's just fun to do the final project," she said.
Though everyone in the Wool Hookers loves the craft, it's not just the work they enjoy. That was obvious during the snowy afternoon of the camp, as the ladies yelled out jokes and kept a running conversation going. They meet on a regular basis to work on their projects and get new ideas from each other. But a lot of the pleasure the members get from the group is from hanging out with each other.
"We hook, we eat and we talk," Coyle said.