The Old Tattered Flag

Monday, March 12, 2018

A very special prize

As you may know, we returned from the Searsport Hook-in, in Punta Gorda just two weeks ago.  I've been wanting to write about this since we got back but life gets in the way and I have not been able to find the time to properly write about it.  
So, prior to leaving here for the hook-in, I saw on Searsports facebook page that they were raffling off two rugs, one hooked by Polly Minick and one by a woman named Barbara Brown.  
Here is what Searsport wrote about Barbara's rug: *I have since learned that Diane Stoffel is the one who helped in adapting the pattern to a Halloween design*

"Originally this rug was a tapestry type design from Fraser rugs. Barbra Brown started the rug a few years ago after having it redesigned into a Halloween design by, I THINK Gail Dufrance. (I will check on that fact and fix it.) to say Barb loved Halloween was an understatement!! When barb died the rug was about 1/3 done. Polly Minick worked with us on getting it into as many hands as we could to complete it. Chris here at Searsport hooked about 1/2 of what was left to do. And bound it off. The money raised will go to an animal rescue group in Arcadia, Canine Cast Aways, where Barb lived and Semper Fi wounded warrior fund. This is a large rug, 50x70! "

What an amazing raffle and tribute to Barbara! From talking to the ladies we learned that Barbara was loved and I'm sure that finishing the rug was a great form of therapy for her friends in dealing with their grief.  As you can see above in Searsport's comments, the rug was adapted from a pattern as Barbara loved Halloween.  It really is quite an amazing piece of folk art and a true labor of love.  
The hook-in was a 3 day event and the drawings were held at the very end of the last day.  Mom and I always buy tickets for the raffles, not so much hoping to win, but because we like to donate to the cause and the Canine Cast Aways and Semper Fi fund are both phenomenal organizations.  Mom bought a couple tickets and I bought quite a few.
When it came time for the drawing, Chris, the mother part of the Searsport team came over to Mom to have her draw the winning ticket.  Well, the thing is, Chris is quite tall and Mom is not, plus she has shoulder issues so I could see that when she reached her hand in the bag that was being held up that it was killing her shoulders.  So, Mom pulled a ticket and Chris handed the ticket to Julie and Julie says...."and the winner".  Yup, Mom drew her own name!  A moment of awkwardness ensued as, first her name is hard to pronounce, but at the beginning of Julie saying it, Mom knew, because that's how everyone pronounces or tries to pronounce it.  I believe my mother looked at me and said "shit".....yes, she has a bit of a potty mouth.  Julie and Chris looked at us, we looked at them, there was slight applause, then laughter.  Mom says her knees buckled when they called her name and you can see in the picture below that she just can't believe it!

Just check out the amazing detail in this rug.  Every time we look at it we find something that we hadn't seen before. Halloween couples on each side, pumpkins, spooky cats, skeletons, witche's, fall leaves, poisonous apples, graveyards, a spooky night sky, so much to look at!!

To the Searsport ladies and all the ladies who finished this beauty, Mom would like you to know how honored she is to own this rug.  The fact that it has such a beautiful back story makes it even more special.  This is a treasure and she is very grateful.  She has proudly shown several people the rug and told the story.  She wants you to know that this rug has a good home and will be appreciated for the labor of love that it was.

Until next time.......

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Searsport Hook-In

 Now that the vacation was over it was time to go to work.  My family flew home as they all had to get back to work and Mom and I pulled the trailer over to the West coast of Florida to Punta Gorda.  The Searsport hook in was held at the Port Charlotte Convention center and it was a lovely venue with an exceptional, very friendly staff.  Julie and Chris, the owners of Searsport were amazing and ran the event like the pro's in this business that they are.  It was a nice relaxed atmosphere and all the attendees had smiling faces for a solid 3 days.  

So it was time to get to work and set up our booth.  We had to do it without our roadie (or my husband) and, well, it was hard......but I think we did ok!

When time permitted I walked around to see the wonderful goodies the other vendors had.  Check out this gigantic rug that Betsy from Heavens to Betsy is working on.  I don't even know how big it was but it was huge.  She had only been working on it for two weeks!!!  She was using torn strips.  

Hi Eric (from Heavens to Betsy)

Attic Heirlooms from Maine, Trish Harriman

 Two Old Crows from New Jersey, Jeannine Happe

Anne and Nancy from Visions of Ewe, Michigan

Nancy Jewett from Fluff and Peachy Bean from Vermont

The Beeskep

Our hosts, Searsport Rug Hooking

My Sister's booth, Folk For All Seasons

Prairie Road Designs, Kansas

Several of the vendors gave free 1/2 hour demo's of a certain topic.  I talked about Punch Needle finishes and Mom did Color planning.  She purchased a pattern from Searsport and she, my sister and I all chose a color palette for her to show.  

Hook, hook, hook

I have to say, the best part of a hook-in for Mom and I is actually getting out from our day to day work and actually meet the people we see over the computer screen.  We met so many people here in Florida, from Donna's sweet smiling face, Ellens bear hugs and Tammi, what a sweetie.....when she heard that we hadn't had breakfast she showed up the next day with these cinnamon rolls.  You really can't imagine the warmth we feel when we leave a hook-in, having met so many friendly ladies that enjoy what we do and our silly antics.  Thank you ladies for saying hello to us!

Nothing gets 'em going like a colorful Valdani rack.

 Beyond those windows was the ocean!  What a beautiful view and again, a great venue and staff. 

The night before we headed back home we ate dinner right on the beach and I snapped this picture.  What a great picture to look back on to remember such an amazing week.

Until next time......

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Good times!!!

Please indulge me for a moment while I veer away from all things Rug Hooking or Punch Needle to share a few photos from the last couple of weeks with family.  What a wonderful time we had all together.  Mom and I decided to venture past our normal 1 day drive for a hook-in and decided to take part in the Searsport Hook-in, being held in Punta Gorda, Florida.  So, I persuaded my husband that we could roll it into a mini vacation and that we did.  

We took off and re-lived lots of memories as, being an Army family, we had lived in quite a few states along the drive.  "Remember the great times at West Point?", "Remember that great restaurant called the Shrimp Docks in Georgia?"....we reminisced the whole way.  

We knew that 13 of us would be gathering in Orlando for a few days of fun and sun so we rented a large house on Homeaway.  It's so much more economical then putting everyone up in a hotel.  I'm always a little nervous doing this because you just never know what your going to get, but I must say, each time we've done this I have been very happy.  The place was amazing and what a great time we had!

My husband rarely got out of the pool and hot tub.

Mom relaxed.....

We watched movies in the theatre room.

When our kids were younger, my Sister and I would often get together and shop, craft, you name it, while the kids played, but over the years everyone gets older, personalities change and you just never know how it will be when you all gather.  Well, I can honestly say that from minute one everyone kind of fell into the same old routines.  Below you will see my son Jeremy with "the talking pencil".  My family is not one that is short on opinions and voice so we decided to have a symbol for the person who has the floor.  Hey, it worked!!

The fun continued while 13 of us headed to Universal for a couple days....

...and even enjoyed a Mardi Gras parade.  Nothing brings out the savage like a woman trying to get those plastic beads they throw from the floats!

One big happy family (Mom had stayed home on day 2 to spend the day with my older brother, granddaughter and great granddaughters )

Mom and Joe (my older brother)

Mom and her Grandchildren and Great Grandchildren!

After a busy few days everyone dispersed and went back to their lives and Mom, Lisa and I prepared to go to work at the Searsport Hook-In.  (more on this in tomorrow's post).

Of course we had to get a bit more shopping in before heading home.

And then home sweet home to my buddy Baxter.  I sure did miss him. 

My nephew Mitch is getting married this fall and I know my whole family will agree that we that maybe we shouldn't let so much time pass between gatherings.  Things get more complicated when everyone grows up...schedules get in the way, but I'm so glad we were able to all make this work. 
Come back tomorrow when I'll show some highlights from the Searsport Hook-in.

Until next time......

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Let's learn how to Punch!

I've been noticing a lot of people on facebook lately struggling to understand punch needle.  Though I made a tutorial video many years ago I thought I'd take time to delve into a bit more and start from the very beginning.  
**Please understand that these recommendations and opinions are mine.  I have been punching for 15 years and these tips are what work best for me.  I encourage you to do all the homework and watch as many videos as you can.  This is a wonderful craft and lots of people have great tips.

Punch needle embroidery is the art of creating a design out of thousands of tiny loops of thread.  Punch needle designs are on the smaller side and many people ask what they use them for.  Well, they are pretty decorative accents for your home, but you can also make coasters, ornaments, pictures, etc.  The most important thing is that this wonderful craft becomes our friend.  We look forward to seeing this friend at the end of a long day, or maybe it greets us early in the morning.  We gain comfort from our punch needle and you can feel the stress of your day just melt away when that needle goes in your hand.

So, let's get started. 
The needle.......
There are many punch needles out there are the market.  The main reliable three are the Ultra or Cameo punch needle (left), CTR Punch Needles (Middle) or the Iglochky Russian Punch Needles. (Right)

All three punch needles are very good and reliable.  I started off many years ago with the Russian punch needles.  There are actually 3 to a set, much like the CTR, a 1 strand, 3 strand, and 6 strand or small, medium and large.  For me, though I used this punch needle for many years, it hurt my hand.  The other inconvenience for me was that you need to insert a rubber piece onto the shaft of the Russian and CTR needles to regulate your loop height. 

You can see in the pictures below the way you hold each needle.

For me, I have big fingers, the Russian Punch Needle was just way too small, it caused my hands to cramp.  (yes, I do bite my nails)

The CTR needle feels a bit better, but is still too small for me..

The Ultra Cameo is just perfect for my hand.  I like to hold my punch needle like a pencil.

I was introduced to the Ultra (Cameo) quite a few years ago and fell in love with it.  This pencil type punch needle comes with all three tips that are interchangeable on the needle with a simple twist and your loop heights are controlled by the number adjusters on the side.  The Ultra is my go to needle.

In picture one below you can see that once you easily twist off the top level of the needle you are met with your needle with a spring on it.  This spring is for use with the small and medium needle.  (see how it is tapered at the top).  When you purchase the 3 set needle you will receive a large spring for use with the large tip. 

Slide off the spring....

 Twist off the needle.  See the slot where the needle simply fits in.  Twist to set in. 

Now on to threading.  This, for most, is the hardest part of learning how to punch.  When you purchase your punch needle you will be provided with two very long threaders.  Let me warn you, cats love these things and they are hard to find once they are gone.  Keep your threaders in a safe place (we do however have replacements at our website...all links will be at the end of this blog.)
So, you want to insert the tip of your threader into the tip of the punch needle.  The needle is essentially a long, hollow shaft of metal.  Insert the threader all the way down the shaft so that it comes out the bottom of the needle.  

Boop!!  There it is! 

Insert your strand of thread/floss into the threader and pull it back up the needle.  

When you pull it back up, you will see it come out at the tip, right where you started with your threader.  

 You are not done, now you need to actually thread the needle.  See how the thread came right up that shaft?  Now you want to continue the thread on out the eye.  I do not need a threader to do this.  I simply moisten the thread and pull it through, but if you need the threader, remember to insert the threader into the eye from the back.  The back of your needle is the straight edge, not the beveled end.  
So, to recap, up the shoot and out the eye.  

There we go!

 Side view of your threaded needle.  The thread comes out to the back.

~ Threads ~ 
So, you want to punch and you know how to thread the needle.  What threads should you use.  Well, this is the fun part.  Most punchers use DMC and Valdani, but the sky is the limit.  This is where you get to experiment.  Try everything!  The important thing to remember is the thickness of your thread.  If you are using a fine thread you will want to use the small tip.  If you are middle of the road, using 3 or 6 strands of DMC or a 3 strand of Valdani or the #8 Valdani you will want to use your medium tip.  You can run fingering weight sock yarn through your large tip and other thicker threads.  This is the experimental and fun part.  

Most of use have skeins and skeins of DMC around the house.  We use a lot of it at The Old Tattered Flag (our house thread is actually called Sullivans a sister thread to DMC).  I use all 6 strands and run it through my medium tip.  Some ladies prefer to use the large tip.  Try both to feel what is best for your hand.  

I recently have added these fabulous Velvet and Alpaca threads to our website.  I find that the large tip works best with the velvet thread and oh my, it's so lush and gorgeous.  The Alpaca thread runs through the medium tip nicely and is equally gorgeous, great for sheep!

 But my favorite thread is Valdani!  A lot of punchers use the 3 strand ball (right).  I started out punching with 6 strands of DMC so when I started using Valdani I wasn't comfortable with how thin it was.  I use Valdani #8 Perle cotton.  I like the look it gives my pieces and it is a better value than the three strand.  Most of my designs are large so value matters when putting kits together. 

Every once in awhile I'll play with a fingering yarn.  There are some beautiful sock yarns out there.  Experiment with these, you won't be sorry.

So, I mentioned that Valdani is my "go to" thread, but in truth the #8 was still not quite the thickness I loved, so one day I thought, "I wonder if you can double it" and sure enough, you can.  I simply pull the strand from the center of the ball (the hole at the bottom of the ball) and grab the strand from the outside of the ball.  I match them up and thread my needle as usual, threading both strands through the medium tip.  You could also use the large tip if you prefer. 

 This is how it looks when it's double threaded.

Oh, and then I stick the ball down the front of my shirt and into my bra for nice safe keeping.  When I need more thread I simply pull both strands.  Another interesting story is about all the Valdani discs I find in my bra at the end of the night.....I digress!

Ok, so you have your needle, you know how to thread it and you know what thread you want to use.  Now......the fabric.  I hear a lot of chatter about this on facebook and it makes me nervous because I hear people recommend muslin.  Please, don't do it!  I speak from experience.  You can be punching along happily then all of a sudden a big tear and you have a hole in your project.  And there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. 
You want to use Weavers cloth.  

Please, use it.....find it!  Many people are selling it.  We have it on our website, you can sometimes find it at Joann's.  All punch needle designers draw/print on weavers cloth.  Weavers cloth is a finely woven fabric that has enough give in it for your needle.  It can handle a lot.  But, that said, don't pull your work out a lot.  Even the best fabric cannot withstand repeatedly punching and pulling out and will eventually tear.  Think about it, you are essentially punching knife through fabric repeatedly.  You want a good strong fabric.  Start with weavers cloth.........then experiment.  After you have learned the feel of the fabric you can then try other fabrics.  You will know the correct feel of the needle going through the fabric.  You will know if a fabric can handle it.  I have used feedsack fabric before with wonderful results and punching through wool......oh, it's like punching through butter!  (with the large tip)
So, now you have the needle, the thread and the fabric.  Do you need a hoop?  Yes you do, but not just any hoop.  You need a locking hoop or a gripper frame.

I recommend and sell the Morgan telescoping hoop 7/9 in.  It's a nice size for most punchers.  It holds your fabric tight........

.....but not as tight as a gripper frame.  I use to say to people, oh try the hoop first, and though I still do, I tell them that they are not going to get the honest feel until they try punching on a gripper frame.  (We have two kinds on our website.)
This one below is wonderful because it provides a large working area and, on the bottom is a swivel so it will spin while you are working.  I am a directional puncher.  I learned to punch in the direction you are going.  Try as I might I cannot go all over the place.  So, I love this spinner frame.  We also have a "Peekaboo" gripper frame on our website that has a cut out window underneath.  Lots of ladies like to constantly look at their work while they are punching.  The Peekaboo is nice for that. 

**If your pattern is too small for your gripper frame simply sew some scrap fabric on the sides of your pattern to make it fit.

The reason I prefer a gripper frame is because you want your fabric to be as taut as possible, tight like a drum.  In the hoops it has a tendency to loosen.  It will not loosen with the gripper frame and your needle will slide in and out of the fabric with ease. have your needle, your threads, your fabric and your hoop/gripper frame.  You are ready to start.  Hopefully you have chosen a pattern that you love, or maybe you have decided to draw your own.  I recommend buying a piece of weavers cloth along with your first pattern to practice on, or draw some shapes on the side of the pattern to practice on.  A straight line is the way to start.  
You will be punching from the back.....did you know that?  Yes, the design as drawn on the fabric should be backwards because it is the back of the design.  Your loops will be coming out underneath.  

It's very important to remember to draw direction patterns backwards.  I cannot tell you how many times I've punched a flag backwards.....geez!

Your ready to punch that first loop.  It's going to be harder than you think.  When you punch down the fabric grabs the needle.  You are going to want to pull up fast and since the fabric is grabbing the needle it's going to pop right out.  Punching is a controlled movement.  Punch down.....

All the way down so that the blue part hits the fabric.

The punch needle is designed to work with the spring action by you punching it all the way down to the fabric.  PUNCH IT!  It should be loud, especially if your fabric is nice and tight.  Sometimes it drives my husband crazy.  I digress....  

I tell my students that this is the time to move in super slow motion.  There are no speed records in punching.  You want to pull that needle out super slow, because of the fabric grab and move it over to the next spot, which is right next to the first stitch you've just done.  Not too close and not too far.  If you punch your stitches too far you will see gaps in your work, if you punch it too close you could tear threads.  

You want your needle to work much like a sewing machine needle.  It's hard to find the rhythm at first.  You want your "stitches" to lay nice and flat.  You can see above where one of mine is higher, loopier...that is because I pulled up too high with my needle.  (I meant to do that...wink).  If this happens, and it will, you can pull those loops out and from the top of your needle where your thread is going in, just pull the thread back a bit.  Punch needle is very forgiving.

I have turned my frame and added another row to show you that you want to punch close to the previous row.  Again, not too close and not too far.  Practice, practice, practice to get this right.  It will come to you.

When you are ready to end a stitch, hold your finger on the thread, at the last loop and push down, pull your needle back.....

....and snip.  I have seen people who leave 1/4 inch tails all over the back of their work.  They think that they must do this because the thread will pull out.  It might.  But if it does all you have to do is trim it even with your loops.  All those 1/4 inch tails on your work can interfere with your punching and you might punch one through while your punching anyway.  (I'm a bit OCD on this one, those tails make me shutter) 

           You want to flip the fabric over, you know it....ok, let's look at those loops.....

Tada......lush loops.  I usually punch with my needle on a height of #2 (remember those numbers on the side of your needle).  Experiment with the heights.  Sometimes it's fun to set your height higher if you want fluffy grass or a sheep, etc.  Have fun with the heights.  Bigger height makes bigger loops.
I've also seen on facebook that a lot of ladies think they need to brush glue on the back or iron on stabilizer to hold the loops in place.  I don't and never have!  I'm not sure what these ladies intend to use their punch needle pieces for, but the loops aren't just going to pop out.  They are decorative, not footballs.  Think of a hooked rug, we don't put anything on the back of a rug to hold the loops into place.  It just isn't necessary.  
**One more thing, and I can't get the picture because I've been writing for a long time and I think the blog is telling me enough is enough, but sometimes my punch pieces are so large that they extend over the gripper strips.  I do it all the time and I've never had a loop come out.  You can do it.  You just have to be gentle.  If you follow me on facebook, check in my past videos and you will see me show how I do it. 

So, that's it, that's how to punch.  Once you have punched your first loops you are going to be a woman possessed.  Your going to love your new craft.  Learn all you can and try as many threads as you can, be adventurous.  Remember that none of our pieces were perfect when we first started punching.  Don't be hard on yourself and don't pull out your threads a lot.  You want to look back on that first project to see how far you've come.  

As I'm sure you know, I am Julie, the punching part of The Old Tattered Flag.  I design Hooked Rug and Punch Needle patterns.  We have over 200 punch needle patterns and kits on our website as well as all the supplies needed.  
To see our punch needle designs click here: Punch Needle patterns and Kits
For Punch Needle Supplies Click here: Supplies

Until next time.....

About Me

Thank you very much for taking the time to read my blog. I am married and just entering the second phase of my life as a Army retiree's wife. My husband and I did 25+ years in the Army. He is now officially a retired Colonel and has just entered the civilian workforce and I am happily settled in our 1830 Stone house. I (along with my Mom) operate www.theoldtatteredflag and currently we are building a small shop in the back part of the house. We live in Northern NY, right near the Canadian border. I have two handsome sons and 2 puggles. Life is busy for us, but I wouldn't have it any other way.