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Have You Hooked a Good Song Lately?

The Song Challenge

By: Story by Debbie Ballard; Photography by the artists

Paula Weiss, Saint John, New Brunswick
Seven Women on My Mind, 20 ½" x 16 ½”. Hooked with wool strips, various yarns, silk, velvet and glittery fabric on linen, embellished with beads. Designed and hooked by Paula Weiss, 2018.

It all started with Paula Weiss. She was hooking a mat for a friend, as a birthday present. The mat was based on an Eagles song, “Take it Easy” as her friend is a big Eagles fan. What a great idea, to give not just a hooked mat but one that connects to a favorite song!

Paula is a member of the Wooly Mason Jar Rug Hooking page on Facebook (curated and started by Lucy Richard). She posted a progress picture on that page.

We’re hookers. You know what we’re like. Supportive, enthusiastic, sharing. When she posted her first progress picture, someone suggested a song challenge, inviting everyone to interpret their favorite song. The response was immediate. Ideas began pouring in.

I’ve really only e-met Paula but a more exuberant, supportive person would be hard to find. She is easy-going and so is Lucy Richard, so the stipulations and rules for the Song Challenge were pretty loose. Hook whatever you want, however you like, with whatever materials suit your fancy. Didn’t matter if someone else was doing the same song. A completion date of December 31, 2018 was set. You didn’t even have to start a new mat; if you had one already hooked, post it.

Kay LeFevre, a truly gifted, creative and tech savvy hooker, created a video of all the pieces with their songs playing as the pictures were shown. Once that video was posted, enthusiasm for the Song Challenge seemed to grow even more.

I was one of those clueless people who had missed the whole thing until it was almost over. Once I found out about it, it took me all of ten seconds to post my music piece Here’s to Song.  I cheated a bit because it’s a piece I did years ago but I really wanted to be in on the Song Challenge! What fun to see all the pictures and stories behind the rugs.

The Song Challenge is an excellent example of just how all-inclusive rug hooking is: the hookers themselves sharing, supporting, and inviting; the craft/art itself adapting to any style, any taste, any fiber. You’ll also notice where the participants of the Song Challenge come from. This wasn’t something that a group of friends did, this was a challenge that brought together hooking artists from all over Canada and the U.S. Many, many great friendships have been made through rug hooking.

So here they are, the mats and their stories. Due to space limitations, some of the stories can be seen only online at our website, and other stories have been condensed. But all are available to read in their entirety on the RHM website. Look for information at the end of this article.

Each hooked mat is a glimpse into a different time and place. Each is an original design, a testament to the creative minds of hooking artists. Each evokes memories and will have you humming along. If you’re like me you’ll think of where you were and what you were doing when the song was popular.

Hats off to everyone for sharing their designs, their stories, and their songs.

Song Challenge Rugs:

  1. Paula Weiss, Saint John, New Brunswick
    Seven Women on My Mind, 20 ½" x 16 ½”. Hooked with wool strips, various yarns, silk, velvet and glittery fabric on linen, embellished with beads. Designed and hooked by Paula Weiss, 2018.

    “My friend’s 60th birthday was approaching and I needed to come up with a “hookable” song. He’s a huge Eagles fan. I went through a ton of Eagles songs and picked “Seven women on my mind” from “Take it Easy” and went from there.

    Five of my girlfriends and I visit him at his cottage every summer. We’ve been friends for over 40 years. I hooked the sunset that we see every evening from the beach. The frolicking women are randomly hooked to be left to his imagination. The neck of the guitar represents him sitting on the beach playing, as he does. I know that he will recognize the place immediately.”

  2. Toni Jette, Ocala, Florida
    Polka Dots and Moonbeams, 22" x 26". #4- and 5-cut wool on linen. Designed and hooked by Toni Jette, 2018. Mostly hand dyed wool, the background is a wonderful dark navy/purple with colored flecks that the polka dots pick up the colors. It was dyed by Karen Duncklee.  Some polka dots are sculpted, some are quillies, some regular hooking.

    “A country dance was being held in a garden” is the opening lyric of “Polka Dots and Moonbeams”, written and first published in 1940. I know those lyrics well as my dad played that vinyl 33 record at least 500 times. We’d listen to Frank Sinatra singing it in the early 1950s on Saturday mornings when he did not have to go to work. I rediscovered the song when John Denver performed it in 1976 and it has remained one of my favorite songs.” The background is a wonderful dark navy/purple with colored flecks. It was dyed by Karen Duncklee.  Some polka dots are sculpted, some are quillies, some are regular hooking.

  3. Rita Hood, Marionville, Missouri
    The Lion Sleeps Tonight, 41" x 53”, wool, yarn, and roving on linen. Hooked, sculpted and needle felted. Designed and hooked by Rita Hood, 2018.

    I heard this song on a 1070s station and could not get it out of my head. So when I got home I sat down at my design table and started drawing. I looked at pictures of lions and researched tropical plants of Africa and my rug started to come to life. I used five colors of roving to needle felt the mane. Then I went into the dye pot and dyed his body colors. With careful thinning and trimming here and there, his mane developed. I found a great yarn in my stash to use on the fluffy purple flowers on the bottom right of the rug. The red berries are Waldoboro to give them some height so they would not get lost next to Leo. For the background, I developed a great black, green, and blue spot dye. When the lighting is just right one can see the sparkles, like little fireflies, flying all around in the night sky.

  4. Terry Mills, Linden, Nova Scotia
    Eye of the Tiger, 16" in diameter, #4-cut wool and yarn on linen. Designed and hooked by Terry Mills, 2018.

    I love animals. I’ve painted some before and wanted to hook an animal (especially after getting Judy Carter’s book). I was intrigued by the song challenge and it didn’t take long for the idea of Eye of the Tiger to form. I wanted it to look like a record. On the outside edge I used the up and down technique to imitate the ridges of a vinyl record.

  5. Pat Neill, Rothesay New Brunswick.
    It’s Raining Men, 19 1/2" x 35", #3- to 8-cut wool, yarns, silks, roving, and glitz on linen. Designed and hooked by Pat Neill, 2018.

    This song has always made me want to jump up, dance, and sing.  I just hooked the image that has always come to mind when I hear the lyrics and hooking it was just plain fun!

  6. Kay LeFevre, Oshawa, Ontario
    Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, 30" x 26", yarn on rug warp. Designed and hooked by Kay LeFevre, 2018.

    “I’ve always been fascinated by the imagery in this song, and the story that Julian Lennon inspired it when he was a child. The color scheme reflects the tangerine trees and marmalade sky. I added a little caricature of Paul in the newspaper taxi for fun, as well as adding Lucy Ball in the hot air balloon with a diamond pattern.”

  7. Kathryn Rutherford, Quispamsis, New Brunswick
    Hotel California by The Eagles, 32" x 39", #3 - 8.5-cut wool on linen, finished with a cord and wool yarn whipped perimeter. Designed and hooked by Kathryn Rutherford, 2018.

    “My son suggested I hook Hotel California. It was my go-to song while house cleaning early on Saturday mornings and he awoke to it on many weekends. It’s a song that warns of addiction so I incorporated marijuana, poppies, alcohol, etc. It was compared to the warnings of Old Testament prophet Isaiah, so he was included too. It was the first time that I recorded how much time a project took to just hook (200 hours plus binding and bracing the back).”

  8. Tina Hayes, Rocky Harbour, Newfoundland
    Let it Snow, 14" x 14", yarn on cotton rug warp. Designed and hooked by Tina Hayes, 2018.

    “My mat is based on is “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”, written by Sammy Cahn.

    I visited my aunt in Gander, Newfoundland, during the summer of 2018. I learned, while there, that she had been rug hooking for many years. I had visited her before, but the discussion never came up because I had not begun hooking myself. So, my aunt showed me several of her rugs and it gave me lots of ideas, including the template of the Snowman. I fell in love with it immediately! I added buttons, a tassel, snowflakes, fringes on the scarf, and an extra border.”

  9. Tracey Kinsella, Airdrie, Alberta
    Signs, 20 ½" x 27", hooked on linen, with wool, wool yarn, t- shirts, velour, roving, and panty hose. Designed and hooked by Tracey Kinsella, 2018.

    “And the sign said long-haired freaky people need not apply.” Originally recorded in the 1970s, I think even after all this time the lyrics are still relevant today. I had originally designed a peace sign on his t- shirt but changed it to a Canadian flag bearing a marijuana leaf as I was hooking this on October 17, the day Canada legalized marijuana—a present day “sign of the times.” I used to dance to this song with utter abandon and felt free.”

  10. Tammy Gill, Kodak, Tennessee
    King of the Road, 20" x 24", #4-, #6-, and #8-cut wool fine linen. Designed and hooked by Tammy Gill, 2018.

    “When I was young my parents would take us on Sunday drives. The radio in our car never worked so my mom would sing to us, old country songs. This was my favorite. I had to think outside the box and challenge my skills to try something new, like landscapes. I have been hooking rugs for 4 years and I do not belong to a rug hooking group; I taught myself with the help of online videos. The groups of women in my Facebook groups have been very encouraging, helpful, and kind. So for the love of rug hooking, Sunday drives, old country music, camping, and Mom, I created this mat.”

  11. Beth Soucie, Maricopa, Arizona
    While My Guitar Gently Weeps, 21 ½" x 16", #4- through 7-cut wool on rug warp.

    “I have been a Beatles fan since I was 13 years old. I had a huge crush on George Harrison, the ‘quiet’ Beatle. His compelling arrangements are haunting in their loveliness. While My Guitar Gently Weeps expresses my mourning for the loss of his musical genius because his life was cut short by cancer.”

  12. Jane Anderson, Clinton, New Jersey
    Woodstock, 24" x 36", #2-to 6-cut wool on linen. Includes floral rickrack (in flower child’s hair and as dress belt), Swarovski crystals in clear and shades of blue attached as star centers. Designed and hooked by Jane Anderson, 2018.

    “I don’t know that I can say that I have a favorite song—I enjoy so many across a wide variety of genres. I looked at the choice from a different perspective: what new things can I do/learn?  Although I have dyed wool before, I had just purchased the Wooly Mason Jar dyeing system with Majic Carpet dyes and thought this would be a great chance to use/learn it. I wanted to do something colorful and I had never hooked any lettering, and that could be a natural element to incorporate. As I was musing over what song to choose, Woodstock (Joni Mitchell, 1969) come up in a play list. I realized the 50th anniversary of Woodstock was in 2019. I listened to the words and I couldn’t help but notice how the song seemed applicable again. So the design, based on the refrain, “We are stardust, we are golden, and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden,” popped into my head. As a nod to the upcoming 50th anniversary of Woodstock, the seemingly current relevancy of the song, and with the thought that I could create a wildly colorful 1960-70s tie-dye style psychedelic background, I knew I had found my inspiration in Joni Mitchell’s Woodstock song.”

  13. Marjorie Anderson, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
    How Much is that Doggie in the Window?, 20" x 22", #3- to 6=cut wool on linen. Includes some roving, a small gold heart on collar. Designed and hooked by Marjorie Anderson, 2018.

    “This catchy song was popular when I was in college in l952. I tried to make the pet store look like ones I remember from the 1970s and ‘80s, when there seemed to be one in every town. I included my last dog, Jiminy, as the doggie in the window. I also included my latest pet, a rescue cat named Pumpkin as the cat passing by in front of the pet store.”

  14. Lucy Richard, Moncton New Brunswick
    Imagine, 18 ½" diameter, 2-ply wool yarn, punched on rug warp. A herringbone yarn whipping was applied after finished. 100% hand dyed wool yarn punched on linen.

    “’Imagine all the people living life in peace.’ These words are as relevant today as they were in 1971. My favorite song in the whole world is ‘Imagine,’ co-written by John Lennon and wife Yoko Ono and recorded in 1971 with Plastic Ono band. I was in high school and this album almost wore out on my record player.”

  15. Dawn Langham, Pensacola, Florida
    Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini, 20 ½" x 17 ½”, #6-cut wool on monk’s cloth. Designed and hooked by Dawn Langham, 2019.

    “This is my first completed rug. My dad used to sing this song all the time when we were growing up. He would take us camping or for a day at Bear Lake in Milton, Florida, and sing the song. The song reminds me of my Dad and his carefree ways. He is 74 now and sometimes still breaks out in song just to entertain us.”

  16. Maureen McIlwain, Brockville, Ontario
    Hello Bluebird, #4- and #6-cut wool on linen. Need dimensions, Designed and hooked by Maureen McIlwain, year?

    I belonged to an online group called Wool Snippets and hooked this as part of a “New Life” challenge with that group. It was sparked by a Judy Garland song, and it spoke to me of new beginnings, love, and happiness. Bittersweet, of course, given the course of Judy Garland’s life.

  17. Susan Barnard, Northport, Maine 
    Puff the Magic Dragon, 37 ½” x 56", #5- and 8-cut wool on linen. Designed and hooked by Susan Barnard, 2018.

    This is truly my favorite song of all time.  The Peter, Paul, and Mary rendition was one of the first songs I sang in kindergarten back in 1962! I can still see the classroom and hear the music played on a 45-vinyl recording. I have a cat whose name is “Puff the Magic Kitten Who Lives by the Sea” as well! I used Adobe Lightroom to create and place parts of the design on a page and then printed the basic planned design. I added features onto the rug while hooking, particularly the fish and gulls, the umbrella Jackie Paper carries, and the dolphins.  This is a larger rug than I usually do. I used scraps for the hit-or-miss checker border.

  18. Debra Smith, Landisburg, Pennsylvania
    Hear Me Roar, #5- and 6-cut wool on linen. Designed and hooked by Debra Smith, 2019.

    As you see, I got bitten by the song lyric bug too. I made this for my sister who is going through some tough times right now. Our mom used to sing this Helen Reddy song to us whenever her daughters needed to be encouraged or needed determination. So in honor of our mom, the lioness is watching over my sister. Or maybe the lioness is my sister?

  19. Debbie Ballard, Fort Frances, Ontario.
    Here’s to Song, 18" x 34", #2- and 3-cut wool on linen. Designed and hooked by Debbie Ballard, International Falls, Minnesota, 2013.

    I designed this rug for my sister’s music room. She plays piano and guitar so I knew I wanted to include those motifs.  The final design features one of her favorite songs, a piano keyboard, and a guitar.

Author Bio

Debbie Ballard has been a maker of things all her life. When she was 12, her grandmother taught her how to hook and it seems that hooking has become her medium of choice, edging out knitting and sewing. She loves making something amazing out of a few basic materials. She has been hooking for over 40 years, teaching for about 20 years and is an OHCG certified teacher.


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