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What Grows in the Ditch

Canadian Connection: Weeds, flowers, rugs, and pottery

Black Poplar Leaves, 33" x 28", hand-cut wool and cotton fabric on linen. Designed and hooked by Donna Brunner, Westerose, Alberta, 2013.

As a child, I thought my grandmother’s hooked rugs were wonderful. Unfortunately, my mother did not share my enthusiasm for them and either never learned or never passed on the technique to me. It was not until my mid-life that my then eighty-year-old aunt Winifred asked if I could help her design and set up a rug. What a wonderful opportunity to learn!

I had no computer then and didn’t know any other rug hookers, so finding supplies for my own projects was problematic. My first hook was made from a stubby-handled flat head screwdriver patterned after my grandmother’s hook. The same friend who made the hook constructed a frame that consisted of two locking metal rollers mounted 18 inches apart. The hook worked wonderfully; the frame not as well.

I hooked rugs for my home, and because I enjoyed it so much, I kept hooking. The lessons from Aunt Winifred and from some second-hand books I found were basic and traditional. I made my own designs and played with some variations in fabric, but I was not overly adventurous until 2010. That year, a friend brought me a brochure advertising the Vancouver Guild of Fibre Art’s fortieth anniversary retreat. A rug hooking class taught by Michelle Sirois-Silver caught my attention, so I enrolled and made the trip to Vancouver. The class was everything I had hoped for—exciting, informative, inspiring. Added to that experience were the quilters, weavers, and doll makers at the conference. Never before had I had the opportunity to be exposed to fabric art in this concentrated way. I felt that I found my perfect medium, and it wasn’t oils, acrylics, watercolour, or encaustics. It was fabric...hooked fabric. I came home motivated and eager to explore.

Donna Brunner graduated from Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in photographic technology. She attended numerous fine art classes through the University of Alberta and has attended a number of short courses in other disciplines including potting, rug hooking, and fabric dyeing. She enjoys working in her straw-bale studio in rural Alberta.

This article excerpt is from the September/October 2016 issue. For more information on our issues, check out our issues page.

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