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Backgrounds: A Difficult Design Challenge

Elements: Break out of the background blues.

By: Gail Dufresne

Goat Hill, designed and hooked by Gail Dufresne, Lambertville, New Jersey, 2004.

Backgrounds are often the most difficult design challenge that rug hookers face. Most of the time, we don't want the backgrounds of our rugs to overpower our motifs, but those backgrounds certainly don't have to be a vast sea of one flat color.
When I first started hooking back in 1984, backgrounds were the dirge of rug hooking. Why? Because whether the rug was a room-size masterpiece or a seat cover for a dining room chair, the entire background was always hooked with one wool—one very solid, very flat-colored wool, like maroon, eggplant, celery, ecru, or navy blue. Get the picture?

The sole purpose of the background in that era was to make the motifs "pop." Not only was the background wool a terribly drab color, but nothing else was done to give it a personality of its own. I remember washing background wool to fluff it up a little or giving it a quick simmer to mottle it—anything to make the wool a bit more interesting.
I also remember that the tedium of hooking one monotonous color often made me toss my almost-finished, nearly beautiful rugs into the pile of incomplete projects so that I could move on to something more interesting.

This article is from the January/February 2010 issue. For more information on our issues, check out our issues page.


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