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Rug Hooking in the Scottish Highlands

Inspirations from the land


Updated May 16, 2017
Photography by Seoris Mcgillivray

Flowers in Vase, 14" x 20", #4-, 5-, and 6-cut wool on linen. Designed and hooked by Brigitte Webb, Dingwall, Scotland, 2015.

People ask what inspires me to hook and design a rug. The answer is as varied as life itself. Almost anything can and does inspire me—the color of the fields, trees, and mountains; a memory; seasons; wools gathered or gifted; and other artists’ and rug hookers’ work. Here in the Scottish Highlands, I am never short of inspiration.

Needless to say, I am influenced by the magnificent highlands of Scotland where I live. This rug is my tribute to the work of artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh. I find his work to be beautifully stylized, with a wonderfully deceptive simplicity, often featuring flowers and geometric elements. I wanted to create my own design that would be recognized as being influenced by him, but in no way copied. Most of my designs are drawn directly onto my backing material, but in this instance, I drew freehand onto red dot, then transferred onto linen. I confess I did make alterations as I hooked from the first draft pattern.

I admire people that color plan their work before they start, but I am not one of them. I use my stash, choosing colors, textures, and shades that I have on hand. I am not afraid to change my mind or take out something that does not work for me.

This is how I hooked my version. Adapt your colors and hooking techniques to suit your own vision.

1. Tulips: The tulips in this piece were a good place for me to start, as I love reds. In keeping with my Scottish theme, I used plaids and tartans in these flowers.

2. Roses: I originally hooked the roses in a bright purple, but on advice from Susan Feller, who pointed out that the values were too close to other elements and did not have enough contrast, I changed them to hand-dyed orange spot wools.  

3. Other flowers: The smaller flowers gave me the chance to use some hand dyed purple wools.

4. Outlines: Mackintosh used strong outlines in his work, so I followed his lead and used dark greens for the leaf outlines, a mixture of dark greys and dull blacks for the flowers, and navy for the vase. I did this partly to stay true to his designs, but largely to make this design pop.

5. Vase: I hooked the simple vase shape in shades of blue spot-dyed wool to compliment the orange roses. As I hooked the vase I noticed it had no depth, so I added a bit on one side to make it more three dimensional. I hooked horizontally for strength and to direct the eyes to the flowers. It is reminiscent of hit-or-miss style, but in this case I hooked horizontally to make it look more geometric.

6. Background: I did not want to detract from or overshadow the simple floral elements with the background. Since I hooked the vase in a geometric Mackintosh style, I used a subtle repeat of that design in light soft beiges and tans. I did not draw in the background sections; I hooked in a semi-random manner, as I looked ahead and visually planned each section. My large selection of close values of wool allowed me to choose values that sat well next to each other. I kept the block shapes and sizes in mind, creating balance as I worked. This is a nod to Charles Rennie Mackintosh, as he often used shapes and colors in a similar fashion.  It works well because of the subtle changes in the color shades, and this faux geometric background acts as a foil to the vase. The background is my favorite part of the design.

7. Tablecloth: The tablecloth echoes the leaves, adding weight and grounding to the vase of flowers. The dots in the design pick up colors in the flowers. I used a duller green to create a bit of a grounding shadow where the vase sits on the tablecloth.

8. Beaded edge: I hooked a beaded edge, used a combination of a plain red and a red plaid (my Scottish influence again!), repeating the reds of the roses. Incorporating the red plaid with a similar red fabric makes the beading much more subtle than it would be with a different color choice. This beading treatment created a unity to this design.

How to Add a Beaded Border

1.  Start with two strips of wool in different colors or textures. In this design, I used a #8-cut plain red and a strong red plaid for the beading.

2.  Bring the two strips up together, through the same hole in the backing, to the top of your design.

3.  Beneath the backing, hold the two strips of wool in one hand; hold your hook in other hand above the backing.

4.  Stick your hook through the backing where you want to begin the beading line.

5.  Pick up and place first color onto hook. Pull it up through the backing, creating the first loop.

6.  Under your backing, drop this wool strip and pick up the other color. Place this second strip on your hook and pull it up to create a loop.

7.  Repeat this process, alternating the colors so you get a boxed or beaded effect.

8.  When a strip runs out, bring the end to top of the rug and pull the end of a new strip of that color to top, through the same hole, and proceed as before.
Flowers in Vase, © 2015 Brigitte Webb. Enlarge this pattern to your desired size; for one-time personal use only.

See two more of Brigitte’s hookings inspired by her gardens and love of flowers in “Torn Blooms,” which begins on page 26.

Brigitte Webb lives in the Highlands of Scotland in the town of Dingwall. She began rug hooking in 2005 after her youngest son fell in love with a Nova Scotia girl and that girl’s mother, Gayle Wynn, introduced Brigitte to the craft. She has exhibited her collection of work twice, has been in Celebration, and works to spread the word about rug hooking wherever she goes.

This article is from the March/April/May 2017 issue. For more information on our issues, check out our issues page.



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