Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Grenfell Style Hooking for Garnet Award

I am bouncing around to hook one of the projects of the Garnet award. One project is to hook a Grenfell style mat. I didn't know what that was so I had to look up a little background history on the Grenfell mats. (Brief History) Dr. Grenfell started a medical mission in the impoverished Labrador fishing region in 1882. He wanted to help the people supplement their income during the cold winter months when no fishing could occur by teaching them a trade. Jesse Luther came from America and helped Dr. Grenfell start a cottage industry by teaching the women to hook mats (or rugs) which in turn would be sold. (NOTE: we think of mats as being very small, however the Grenfell mat was a full size rug.) Most of the women already knew how to mat, but a matting club was started in 1908 and "the Industrial" began. It rose to a peak in the 1920's and 30's but fell during the Great Depression. CLICK ON PICTURES TO SEE A BIGGER VIEW.

The matting style is unique and simplistic. The canvas was burlap. They used flannels, wools, and when times got really tough Dr. Grenfell called for people to send their silk stockings to use as a hooking material. (For a facinating article on hooking with panty hose, and a view of a wonderful rug hooked using them, please read Judith Dallegret's blog "Just Go Hook It- Rug Hooking", How to Hook with Nylons, or click here.) Every hole of the burlap was hooked in straight lines and the strips that were used were cut very narrow (1/4 inch). The stockings were cut on the bias and then pulled tight so that the strip would roll up before hooking it. Designs were normally scenes found in the area; dog sleds, polar bears, boats, houses, or snowy scenes from the area. The finished mat looked as if it were a needlepoint and the back was as pretty as the front. This is mine from the back.

For me to achieve this look, I had to play around with various materials. I wanted to hook a mat as closely as possible to the way the Grenfell mats were hooked, so I decided to use burlap as the canvas. I played around with various fabrics and widths of those fabrics. Here are a few things I tried hooking on a sample piece. The first one (kelly green) is a felted wool sweater. It hooks up fabulously. Next 13 strips are flannel, next three strips are pantyhose, next is yarn, and the last one (turquoise) is fleece (another fabulous one).

This is a close up on the flannel. I didn't like the raw edges showing on some.

This one is panty hose that I cut up to see what it was like. Silk stockings are a premium and the places you have to buy them from . . . I don't visit often. Actually, pantyhose was fun to hook. It rolled up nicely and has a little stretch to it as I hooked.

After a week of playing around, I decided that the only way that I would achieve the Grenfell look was to use flannel. AND, the only way I could use flannel was to run it through a bias maker and iron it so that the raw edges would not show. Time consuming to say the least! I cut strips 1/2 inch wide on the straight of the grain and used a small bias maker to make the strips 1/4 inch. Cut the strips.

Pulled it thought the bias maker.

And ironed it as I pulled it through.

Hooking in every hole made my loops push together and the burlap spread out, so I hooked every other hole in the burlap, and every other (and sometimes every third) row. One would think that hooking in straight rows would be easy. The Grenfell style formed perfectly straight rows vertically and horizontally. I found that I would mess up occasionally, not matching up vertically. (Hooking in every hole would have resolved.)

After hooking the Grenfell style for a while, I can truly say how much I admire the Grenfell women. Their hooking looks so delicate and fine, mine is crude and primitive. They somehow mastered a technique of allowing the flannel to roll as they hooked, their strips being much thinner and the look of their hooking was smooth. They truly have my admiration for their diligence in creating a beautiful mat.

One more thing that I would like to mention. Instead of binding their mats, the Grenfell women would fold the burlap back at the edges twice and hook through all thicknesses to finish the edge.
UMMMM, I'm not going to be doing that! The next Grenfell mat I do will be using a different canvas and wool strips!