Scenes from a Festival: Textile Traditions

Signage in Folk Craft & Foodways area

Entrance to folk craft area in Lucy Larcom Park

Kudos to all the textile artists who made the Folk Craft area of this year’s Lowell Folk Festival so vibrant! Here are some images from the two-day event.

Kathy Blake-Parker (far right) of the Cranberry Rug Hookers Guild
Kathy Blake-Parker (far right) of the Cranberry Rug Hookers Guild
Fatima Vejzovic of Hartford demonstrating Bosnian rug weaving
Fatima Vejzovic of Hartford demonstrating Bosnian rug weaving
Jonas Stundzia holding a frame with Lithuanian pick-up weaving
Jonas Stundzia holding a frame with Lithuanian pick-up weaving
Jonas Stundzia (right) with friend Irene Malasaukas, who demonstrated Lithuanian pickle making in the Foodways tent
Jonas Stundzia (right) with friend Irene Malasaukas, who demonstrated Lithuanian pickle making in the Foodways tent
Entrance to Foodways demonstration tent
Entrance to Foodways demonstration tent
David Blackburn serving pickes at the foodways demonstration tent
David Blackburn serving pickles at the foodways demonstration tent
Samples of torchon bobbin lace by Linda Lane
Samples of torchon bobbin lace by Linda Lane
Sisters 'n Stitches quilting guild members
Sisters ‘n Stitches quilting guild members enjoying the crowd
Melissa Dawson of Chelmsford Quilters' Guild
Melissa Dawson of Chelmsford Quilters’ Guild
Elizabeth James Perry discussing Wampanoag weaving traditions
Elizabeth James Perry discussing Wampanoag weaving traditions
LFF2015_Patrisiya Kayobera with festival goer
Patrisiya Kayobera holding one of her Rwandan coiled baskets
Rwandan coiled basket by Patrisiya Kayobera
Rwandan coiled basket by Patrisiya Kayobera
Qamaria Amatal-Wadud with examples of her Islamic hijab and abaya
Qamaria Amatal-Wadud with examples of her Islamic hijab and abaya
Rosaline Accam Awadjie (on right) with two festival goers that she has dressed in African headwraps and dress
Rosaline Accam Awadjie (on left, standing) with two festival goers that she has dressed in African headwraps and dress
Jaya Aiyer and Lakshmi Narayan displaying South Asian saris
Jaya Aiyer and Lakshmi Narayan displaying South Asian saris
LFF2015_attendance at unstitched garment tent copy
Visitors checking out the “unstitched garments” in the folk craft area

Cranberry Rug Hookers’ Guild coming to Lowell Folk Festival

Hooked rug by Susan Sharpe
Hooked rug in the primitive style by Susan Sharpe of Mashpee

Rug hooking fits into the “waste not, want not” mentality. Using recycled wool from clothing and remnants from textile mills, rug hooking was once common in households along the eastern seaboard in New England and Atlantic Canada. The technique is still used to create colorful floor rugs, table mats, pillows, and wall hangings.

In late March, Millie Rahn and I drove out to S. Dennis to attend a meeting of the Cranberry Rug Hookers’ Guild. The guild, which is a chapter of the Association of Traditional Hooking Artists ( ATHA), meets at bi-monthly “hook-ins” to work on individual rugs, learn from each other, and socialize.

When we arrived, guild president Kathy Blake-Parker welcomed us and invited to partake of the snacks in the kitchen – fresh fruit and vegetables, dip, baked goods, coffee and tea.  A group of about 25 women were busy working on their individual rugs or mats.

Cranberry Rug Hookers hooking
Cranberry Rug Hookers hooking

Some members were working on projects other than rug hooking, including knitting, felt applique, and punch cut embroidery.

Example of felting
Penny rug made for mat swap by Lucy Labor.

Rug hookers work on a small frame, using a hook to pull strips of cut wool or other fiber through a loose weave, such as burlap.

rug hooking frame  Rug hooking detail

Jacquelin Lee using hook

“It’s like coloring with wool,” says Kathy Blake Parker.

Unfinished hooked rug by Kathy Blake-Parker
“Moby” an unfinished hooked rug by Kathy Blake-Parker of West Harwich

About mid-way through the afternoon, the group did a show and tell. Each guild member held up what she was working on while one of their members took photos. Once this was done, they did what they called a “mat swap” – a version of the White Elephant game people play during Christmas time. Five women sat in a circle holding the mat (approximately 8 x 8 inches square) she had made specifically for the swap. Reading the text of Goodnight Moon, each would pass on the mat upon hearing a previously selected word. When the poem ended, each woman took home the mat she was holding.

After the rug hooking swap
Members holding up their rug swap results

We went around looking at each woman’s work, engaging some in conversation. Throughout the afternoon, members socialized, worked on their rugs, ate snacks, exchanged advice, and seemed to enjoy themselves. The variety of work was impressive. Some women use commercially produced patterns while others create patterns of their own design. Most everyone re-dyes their wool.

Rug hooking by Sylvia Doiron
“School Houses” a hooked rug by Sylvia Doiron of Barnstable.

In addition to the pleasure had in creating something of beauty, guild members commented on how comforting rug hooking can be during life’s changes, like a daughter going off to college. Guild member Mary Rita Labor, who has been hooking rugs for 15 years, shared this with us, ” I became a rug hooker after my three children, the last child went off to college. I was a little lonely, a little lost. I did have that emptiness syndrome, no question about it. And I took an adult education class and really fell in love with rug hooking. It’s been very relaxing, it’s been a good friend to me. Brought a lot of good people to my life. And was very comforting when I lost my mother. It comes in handy in more ways than one.”

The guild displays their work at the Barnstable County Fair every summer and also produces the Biennial Cranberry Rug Hookers Guild show in mid-May. Two members of the guild will be demonstrating in the F olk Craft area of this summer’s Lowell Folk Festival.  Come meet them.

Rug hooking by Jackie Lee
“Plaid Nation” rug hooked by Jacqueline Lee