The Old Tattered Flag

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Welcoming the holiday season with a touch of nostalgia...

I can’t believe it is already that time of year again.  I took out the good family dishes and silver feeling like I had only just done it a couple months ago.  My goodness this year has flown.  I haven’t blogged as much as I would like to, time just doesn’t permit.  The intention is always there but then sleep wins out over blogging.
So, here we are again, the beginning of the holiday season.  I’m always filled with such nostalgia during the holidays.  As I took the silver out of the drawer, I thought of my grandparents Harley and Kay.  My grandfather absolutely loved stuffing, or dressing as some of you call it, but would never eat until everyone else had loaded their plates.  He would always say “I’ll wait to see if there’s enough for everyone”. Of course the bowls of food were overflowing, but I think it was part of the tradition.  Every year I use my Grandmothers silver with an “S” for her family name Smith.
  All the grandparents would come to our house for the holiday meals. My memory of my maternal grandparents is that they would always stop at the local town store, Dudleys, and come in with fresh Vermont cheddar cheese wrapped in brown paper.  My grandfather Harry was the cook and always brought his delicious Waldorf salad.
  My mother would spend hours making everything from scratch only to have to turn around after a half hour of eating to have to clean everything up.....that is of course until the adults would get into a lively discussion, usually about religion or politics.  After dinner, the men could usually be found asleep on the couch while us ladies would clean up. 
(Why was that?).
Then of course there was my Dad.  I miss Dad every day, but it is intensified at the holidays.  He was always a quiet man, but he did enjoy the holidays.  Dad would always shop for my Mother on Christmas Eve, then bring her gifts home for my sister and I to wrap.  We often wondered what he would do when we moved out, thankfully it was right around that time that gift bags came out.  Nostalgia is a part of the holidays.  It’s how we choose to handle it that is the thing.  Though you always have those memories that sting a bit because those family members are no longer around, you can also smile because you have those happy memories with them and you in turn are making memories for your children.  Tradition and nostalgia are important.

Happy Thanksgiving from my family to your and yours!

Until next time.....

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Rug Kit making at The Old Tattered Flag

If you've followed my blog for any time at all, you know I normally like to write about the goings on in and around my home and business.  When I started my blog a few years ago I was an Army wife who was just starting a business....or starting it seriously I should say, as I dabbled for years in crafts, painting, hooking, punching, etc.  Before I knew it, my hobby turned into a legitimate business.  
In 2012 my oldest son told me that if I was going to be in business I was going to have to have a facebook page.  He was right, that I can not deny.  It is my belief that facebook is what caused our business to grow and it continues, daily, to introduce people to our business and the world of rug hooking and punch needle. 
So, I have my personal facebook page, my business page (The Old Tattered Flag) and I belong to many Rug hooking and Punch needle groups on facebook that allow me to share new patterns, ideas, see what is going on in "our" world.  I love being able to see the excitement when someone is new to hooking or punching.  They are like a sponge and want to soak in everything they can about this wonderful new venture.  It's fun to see....and it's also fun to see seasoned hookers and punchers share their beautiful works of art.  
A couple weeks ago someone posted a question about buying Rug Kits in one of the groups.  Since I own a business that sells rug hooking kits I kept an eye on the post to see what the feedback was.  I was surprised that most of the comments were negative.  Now, let me tell you, these comments were not directed at our business, but rather each person's own personal experience.  
So, after thinking about that post (which has since been removed by the person who posted it) for a couple weeks, I wanted to write about Kit making from the perspective of the business owner.  I don't know what the barometer of success is for sales in kits but I will share with you that we have sold close to 600 Rug Hooking kits from our website this year alone and many more from ebay so I do feel like I can give a somewhat educated idea of what goes into kit making.  

On our website we allow the buyer to choose to have their pattern drawn on monks cloth or primitive linen.  There is a slight price increase for primitive linen as it is more expensive than monks cloth.  We use quality monks cloth and primitive linen from a reputable rug hooking supply business.  Our patterns are all drawn by hand paying close attention to drawing on the straight of the fabric.

We also offer a cutting option, which is a necessary service to offer for new hookers who may not have a cutter yet.  We cut our kits in the same cut (usually a #8 or 1/4 inch strip) that we have hooked the rug in, unless another size is requested.  

On our website, probably 99% of the rug patterns are shown already hooked.  We like to provide a pretty finished picture of the design.  When Mom hooks a design she keeps track of how much wool she uses.  

The rule of thumb for figuring your wool usage for a pattern is between 4 and 6 ply.  That means you should fold your wool over to that ply and however big that piece of fabric is at that ply is the area on your rug that it will cover when hooked.  We provide enough wool in our kits for 6 ply.  This method works well for us.  Mom is a tight hooker and likes to fill most holes, though she is a low hooker.  Usually after she is done hooking her rugs she will take her figures and add a bit to those figures to ensure that she has provided 
enough wool.  
When you receive a kit from us, each piece of wool in the kit will be labeled with it's color and where it should be used.  For instance "Ollie Green ~ Leaves".  Those little tags should always be kept, and even attached to a strip of that particular wool so you can order more if you like it or run low.  
Our kits come with all the woolens ready to go.  That means even "As is" woolens are washed and ready to go.  "As is" woolens are basically woolens that are off the bolt and untouched by us, meaning we have not dyed them; a nice plaid or texture or beautiful shade.  

Dyed woolens are more costly as wool dyeing is labor intensive and uses dyes, vinegar or synthrapol, electricity or gas, washing, drying, etc.  We make our kits with a combination of hand dyed and as is woolens.  All woolens, whether hand dyed or As Is, come washed and ready to hook.

In our shop and on our website our woolens are available for purchase at a minimum of a 1/4 yd. piece, but when we put kits together, a certain element may not need 1/4 yd. so naturally we only provide the amount needed; 1/16th or 1/8th.  
Pricing for a kit takes into consideration the amount of wool, hand dyed or As Is, packaging and labor.  Notice I said packaging and labor, yes, kits do not make themselves.  Contrary to popular opinion, the wool does not just sit on the shelves.....wink, wink.  Mom assembles ALL our kits.

They are very hands on.....the kits have to be put together with the appropriate amounts, labeled with color and where to use and if it is a more detailed pattern, it will include a diagram.  If the average user was to buy one of our patterns and then bought 1/4 yd pieces of all the colors in that pattern they would spend more than the cost of the kit, even with the added cost of packaging and labor.  What is not included in the cost of our kits is my Mothers color expertise.  She has done the hard work for you.  Color planning is her thing.  If you have a large wool stash and have those particular colors then you would only need to buy the pattern of course.  But most people who buy kits from us see it, love it, want it, just the way we have done it.  It's a beautiful thing.

I'd like to address a few of the comments I saw on that post.  

"There is never enough wool in kits" ~ Well, I've just explained how we do it.  However, out of those 600 kits we sold this year, I would venture to guess that I've heard from less than 8%  who have run low.  You might think 8% is a high number, but consider this, those 8% might be a high hooker or a tight hooker and may consistently use more wool.  Should I penalize the other 92% of people who have bought kits from us by charging a higher price to accommodate the few who need more wool? That really wouldn't be fair, would it?  All our kits come with a quality control card that lists the number of woolens that should be in your kit and states that if you run out more may be purchased.  We are not completely unreasonable though, if someone is short only a few strips we will gladly send them out, but if someone needs a significant amount of many colors, they can order more.  We would not be in business for long if we made a habit of giving out free wool.
I have quite a few customers who order a kit and say, please add in and charge me for more wool because I'm going to need it.  

"They hook their rugs with the good stuff then put crap in the kits" ~ Well, I cannot speak for other business, but we do not do that.  We buy our wool from the 3 main quality wool suppliers in the country.  We put the same wool in our kits that we have used to hook the rug that you see in the picture.  We do many "hook-ins" a year.  How would it be received if we are featuring a rug but have put different wool in the kit?  Now, as far as different colors...yes, that can sometimes happen.  Many of the rugs we show have been hooked years ago.  Woolens are available to us in certain quantities at a time and though we do order several bolts at a time, we will run out eventually.  A disclaimer on our website says that woolens might not be the same as in the photo, but will be the same basic color and of course quality as the original version.  

"Their wool was cut horribly or it was shreddy" ~ This one can get sticky.  First, let me tell you, all wool is not created equally.  There are some woolens that are "shreddier" than others, it's a fact.  Mom hooked this rug below with a beautiful wool, but man oh man did it shred.  She went ahead with it because that was the color and look she wanted.  It was meant to be nubby.  However, she decided not to offer that wool in our kits because it was difficult to use so we now offer a compatible color in that kit.  

Here's the part that gets sticky.....some people shred wool when they are hooking.  I'm sorry, but it is true.  It is most common with beginners.  We experience displeasure from time to time with a new hooker who is shredding her wool and thinks it is our fault.  Most hookers when they are starting out will pull too hard, or even put their hook in the middle of the strip or rock their hook back and forth making it fray.  We try to explain that this is part of being a new hooker and we try to teach them how to pull the loop correctly.  I would venture to say that everyone looks at their first rug with pride.  Pride because they can see how far they've come since they first started hooking.  
  Regarding cutting, I can, again only speak for ourselves. We use the Sizzix cutting system that cuts all strips perfectly even.  


The thing is, and again, sticky here, if you have hooked a rug and are not happy with the end result, you have to ask yourself does the rug look the way it does because of the person who gave you the materials or because of the person who is hooking it, especially when there is a finished picture of that very project with the exact same woolens. 

Phew, that last paragraph was a hard one to write, but I think it needed to be said.  
I wanted to write about this because as I mentioned above it is my belief that facebook is the reason our business has grown the way it has, but I also believe that facebook and most social media give people a sense of courage that they normally would not have.  I read each and every one of those comments with a sense of sadness.  I was a business owner at the other end of those comments.  They weren't directed to me, but I took it personally.  I wanted to explain the process of how "WE" do it and maybe remind you that there are people on the other end of that screen that work long, hard hours doing what we do and are so invested in our business that comments like those are bothersome and plain our hurtful.  We usually sit down at the end of a long day to see what everyone is up to, what people are working on, look at pretty things and to see nasty comments is certainly not what we signed on for.  It kind of takes the wind out of my sails for sure.  
 Until next time......

Sunday, September 24, 2017

September....Fall......are you there?

I have decided that September is my favorite month of the year.  I remembered that I felt this way last year but as we neared September I couldn't remember why.  Then it all came back to me.  September is that month where Summer struggles to hang on, so you have beautiful, warm sunny days and cooler nights.  The skies are crystal clear and a million stars shine at night.  And I think the #1 reason is...tomatoes.  Yes, I've heard that for many of you your gardens have been providing tomatoes for quite some time, but ours are just coming in now.  We've had a random one here and there, but this week....oh YES!! 

I do feel a little angst though....what will I do with them all....

It doesn't matter, they are so pretty I just love to look at them.  My sister started several heirloom plants and gave us a bunch with no rhyme or reason....we didn't know what we would get, but oh what a symphony of color!!

So, now is the time when you start to feel like Bubba in Forest Gump.  We'll have tomato sauce, roasted tomatoes with sausage, fried green tomatoes, tomato basil soup and the list goes on.  I'll try to make it so not one tomato goes to waste.  I love them!!

Sundays, as you know are my favorite day of the week.  It's when I have the time to be more "domestic", and to this busy girl that means, folding laundry, changing the sheets, spiffying the house and cooking.  So, it's only fitting that we have Lasagna on this "tomato Sunday".

And a nice Dump Cake for dessert.  That's probably the only time "nice" and "dump" will ever go in the same sentence.

I always feel very content in September.  Though we are always busy and are just coming off two events where we traveled, we have made some small changes to our business and even more are coming that will both grow our business and make it more manageable.  I am a dreamer and for me and my business, the sky is the limit.  Have I teased you enough?  More on that later.
Anyway, back to my contentment.  In addition to the red of the tomatoes you see little bits of orange appear more and more in the decor.  We FINALLY have bittersweet.  Mom planted 3 bittersweet plants.  Yes, you need a male and a female bush......or in our case a bisexual.  Yup there is such a thing that that is what is yielding these pretty orange berries.

 In September I find that my creativity is in high gear.  I LOVE designing for Fall and Christmas.  We are in the final stages of Fall designs and will be rolling out Christmas very soon.  
I love that we are able to offer our customers versions of a design in both punch needle and rug hooking.

I hope you are all enjoying your September.  It is unusually hot here but that's the good thing about the last ditch effort of Summer in September.  It's just hot enough that it makes you look forward to those cooler days and hunkering down for the long winter. 
Have a great Sunday evening everyone!
Until next time......

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Finding some calm in the Zucchini patch...

There is one thing I have always been very good at and that is self diagnosing myself.  When I am down I can recognize my "funk" and pull myself out of it.  When I am angry I need to rant, sometimes for a few days (to my family's dismay) to get it out and figure out a situation and fix it.  When I am stressed I tell myself to step back and chill. (it doesn't always work but I do tell myself that)  One thing I have recognized is that my life has gotten way too busy.  Mom and I have created a successful business quite by wonderful accident.  In 2010 Mom asked me if I thought anyone in the area would like to learn how to rug hook.  So, she had me draw up some beginner patterns and a business was born.  I think you all know our story by not, check out my website, and you'll see what we're all about.  For the past 2-3 years I have felt like it was becoming a bit of a monster.  Don't get me wrong, I love every minute of what I do, however, when you look forward to getting away to fold that mountain of laundry that has been piled in your room for days you realize that you may need to shift gears.  

I need to STOP and literally smell the roses....or flowers in my own yard.....

Life had become so busy that I wasn't taking pictures anymore, or writing on my blog like I use to.

I use to stop dead in my tracks when I saw a busy little bee tucked in the flowers and snap a photo.

And I had forgotten just how magnificent that plain white flower actually was on it's own.

Before I knew it it was mid-August and the bittersweet berries were popping...

The black eyed susan's were starting to look a little tired....yet still beautiful.

Even Max knows how to take the time to stop and smell the "roses".

Mom and I decided to make some small changes to our business hours....changes that most won't even notice but that will allow us to get creative again, not just in our business but with our personal lives.  Changes that will allow us to maybe knock off work a little early so we can enjoy the beauty in our own yard.

We always say that in our next life we want to come back as one of our dogs.

Baxter certainly knows how to relax.

So, you may ask how I got to "finding some calm in the zucchini patch"?  I was in my office the other day, at the end of the day, and my husband was doing yard work.  I asked him if he'd like some help....sure I'll mow.  I love to mow...I love the smell of fresh cut grass and I get some of my best thinking done on the lawn mower.  So, I was mowing and lo and behold, 2 giant zucchini peeked out at me.  Little did I know that Mom had plunked a zucchini plant along the fence line.  So, I picked them and planned my Sunday.  I love Sunday!  I've talked about it before.  It's the day of the week I can take my time with a soup, baked good or a well thought out meal for my family, instead of a quick throw together.  I can "putter around" the house, re-arrange things, fold that mountain of laundry and actually take the time to put things away and even write on my blog.  

When I was a teenager, my friend Kelley's mother made the most delicious Cream of Zucchini soup so that was first on my list.

I don't really use recipes for soups.....though I did briefly glance at one.  I sautéed some onions, added 6 cups of shredded zucchini, water, parsley, S&P, chicken stock, boiled it down, then pureed it.  Made a roux with butter and flower, added 2 cups of milk and 1 cup of half and half. It was a bit thick so I added more chicken stock, about another cup.  
Usually with soup it's better the second day, but this one was so good right away that we had it for lunch.  Thankfully I made a double batch so there is plenty left over.

Then it was on to Zucchini bread.  Plain old Zucchini bread!  No chocolate chips, no banana.....ok, maybe a little cinnamon sugar in between the layers.

So, I am a big believer in signs.  To me those zucchini's were telling me what I already knew.  Stop working so much and enjoy life.  If I had not hopped on that lawn mower I would not have seen those zucchini's and they may have rotted away.  Sometimes as women I think we take on so much....we don't say "no"......we are all about pleasing others so much that it can be a detriment to our own well being.  I know myself well, and I know when I need to stop and smell the zucchini bread.  Have a wonderful Sunday everyone and as usual,
Until next time......

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A very old rug......

A Couple weeks ago Mom and I traveled to Vermont for another quick trip.  This weekend had been planned for 2 years.  You see, 2 years prior we had joined my sister at the Orford antique and flea market in Orford, NH.  We were not able to go last year as we were preparing for Rug Hooking week at Sauder Village and we sure missed it because, wow, what a great flea market.  
You can see below, the deals are amazing.  We did not have a big enough car.

One of my goodies had a safe spot with Mom.  I use this old gumball machine in the shop to hold balls of Valdani thread.

And somehow, just somehow, we were able to fit it all in!!

One fabulous piece I came home with is this Eagle!!  Just look at this beauty.  It is not old, but sometimes if you just "feel" it, you don't care.  I collect eagles and this one was going to fit in just fine!

Just look at the patina!

Right now he is hanging over our TV, but it's just not right so he will be moving.  He will be proudly displayed over my large hooked American flag rug.  

Below is some gorgeous scenery from the village of Orford.

So, back to the flea market....I had intended to get more pictures of the goodies, but got so swept away with it all that I forgot to snap pictures.  I did happen to love how one vendor displayed 
their pieces of vintage jewelry.

This next fellow had a wonderful booth.  He had a couple of antique hooked rugs that I was eyeing...

This one was a nice example of hit or miss hooking and had a wonderful repair that the gentleman had done.

But then, all of a sudden....I swear to you, it was if the heavens opened up and a ray of light shone down.  The angels were singing and I spied this....

Yes, this beauty came home with me.  Tell me you see it!  Tell me you see the same thing I do...because my husband just doesn't get it.  Never mind the fact that I own a Rug Hooking business.....I think that ray of light would have still been there.  I knew I had found a treasure.  When he gave me the very reasonable price, I said quickly "I'll take it!!!!"  I believe that was the point my sister quietly said under her breath "you bitch". Said with love of course.  You have to understand the playful banter my sister and I have during a flea market.  The words "don't get ahead of me bitch" are said often as we are afraid one will see something before the other."  Of course we both know what the other is looking for and will usually concede if we must on something fabulous.  My sister did tell me that if I had hesitated at all that this beauty was going home with her.  

So, back to NY it went!

The wonderful thing about antique rugs is that you just never know what they are made from because women back then did not care that they were hooking with 100% wool that was cut perfectly.  They were making these rugs out of necessity, to block drafts and keep their homes warm.  You know that there was some creativity involved as you can see the naive designs.  You also know that at one time perhaps the color may have been more vibrant.  Over the years they dull and take on the look that many of us hookers now aspire to.

This particular rug looks to be made with several different materials, mostly nylons.  I love the tufts that appear here and there.  It's not perfect, yet it is perfect to me.

When they were done hooking, they probably did not steam them with an iron to make their loops lay flat.  

This rug is hooked in the wonky or hickety Pickety way that I would love to hook but just can't.  See the one strip of darker color amidst the light color....a repair, or intentional, or necessary...a last strip? 

I have made up several stories in my mind of the origin of this rug.  I like to envision a small woman, wearing an apron, sitting in front of a fire on a cold New Hampshire night.  All her chores for the day are done.  She sits to hook her rug most likely from a primitive tool, not the hooks we use today.  She's hooking it to block a particular draft in their small farmhouse, but the hooking brings a sense of calm after her long day.  She's tired but she has to  pull a few loops!

  I  was lucky to have found this rug already mounted.  It is not a perfect mounting job, yet, it seems just right for this rug.  It will hang proudly in our old stone house.   Do you see it's beauty?  I do!
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.