Someone recently asked a rug hooking group I was in how we decide our next project. I answered, but felt my answer was inadequate for the seemingly simple question.  In a way I feel totally inadequate to answer this question.  But then having moved a couple of years ago and feeling a need for a change of direction with my hooking, maybe I’m not as unqualified as I think. In fact, there is a lot of complexity and nuance to this question.

A lot depends.

On what?  Well, whether you are interested in many art forms or hobbies, whether you are trying set up an exhibit to be a professional artist or just creating for pleasure, whether you need a break…or more inspiration, what your physical environment is like, how your finances are for art making, whether you are looking for a change in direction of your work, etc.

I think it’s important to have goals in life, even if it’s “just a hobby”.  Otherwise, for me at least, I find I have too many unfinished projects. I have a “Someday Maybe” list of all the ideas and projects I’d like to do someday. Then I pick a few at a time to work on over the course of a year.  This is the theory. Truth be told, I have a few unfinished projects.

Sometimes the item on the list can be as simple as “learn something new”.  It doesn’t matter.  As long as everything you want to ever do gets put on the list. it’s like a master “To Do” list, BUT there are significant differences.

This list, basically, is a running list. I don’t create a new one every day, week, month or even year.  It is looked at every few months to:

  • check off what’s been accomplished,
  • cross off what is no longer relevant,
  • cross off what I no longer want to do,
  • add anything new, and
  • plan for the next three months or so.

If you’re not a list maker, but you are an artist, you probably have a lot of creative ideas and maybe even sketchbooks. It’s a good idea to put your creative ideas on paper, somewhere where you can’t lose them.  When the end of one project nears, pull out your sketches and develop an idea that speaks to you.

If nothing speaks to you, try something new. A new tool, a new technique, a new subject.  Take an online class or real life class if time and money permit.  If not, go to YouTube and the Internet to learn something new.

Consider working in series. Look at what you just hooked and think of other pieces that might hang with it. If you are a budding artist be aware that 10 to 20 pieces make an exhibit for most galleries or shows. I usually spend time with my sketchbook designing patterns in series as a break between hooking rug. Basically, I take a subject and play with it.  I often start with photographs I’ve taken, or some other inspiration piece.

A word about inspiration pieces. Make sure, whatever it is, you have permission to use it…and get it in writing!  I’ve spent years basing my hooking on poetry, only to have one poet tell me recently she didn’t want her work published.  As the rugs are meaningless without the poetry, it means those wall hangings will not be part of any public exhibit it the future.

Why was I negligent in this?  It was a close family member who had previously given verbal consent for me to base my work on hers, but it never occurred to me to ask permission to post her poems alongside the wall hangings. It never occurred to me that would be a concern.  But life happens. People change their minds. Get it in writing.

If you are hooking for yourself, look around your home to see if you have any situations where rug hooking or your creativity could be the solution.  For example, I made a hot pad rather than buy one.  I’ve hooked table runners and mats for tables, tops of bookcases and side tables.

Art too expensive?  You can hook a rug for the wall from leftover scraps from another project.  Need a floor mat?  Hook one!  A doorstop?  Hook a cover for a brick.  A footstool cover?  A tea cozy? A purse? A tote bag?  All these can be hooked.

Which one to start with?  Pick one at your skill level.  Pick one you have the tools and equipment for if you are on a budget.  Decide if you want to do a small or large project.  How much time do you have?  How long does it take you to hook an area the size of your hand?  How good are you at putting off instant gratification?

Plan a colour scheme that uses your leftover “worms” and supplies.  Decide whether you will do a project that needs dyeing or not.  Depending where you live, the time of year, and how you dye, this could be an unpleasant experience.  For example. think of dyeing during winter when your windows are frozen shut.  You need proper ventilation for dyeing.

If you are looking for a major change in direction of your work, take a week and your camera and sketchbook and head on a retreat.  Book a friend’s cottage, go traveling, focus on something totally different than what you normally do.  Eventually you’ll find a natural focus in your sketchbook or photos.

All these questions and more go into deciding what your next project is going to be.

For me personally, it’s a question of going to my sketchbook and picking out a subject I think will hold my interest long term.  I aim for ten wall hangings that are related somehow.  I’m a slow hooker, so I pick designs no bigger than 24”x36”, and often a lot smaller.  If I find nothing in my sketchbook, I head to my photos and spend some time sketching from them.  Or I’ll head out in real life with my sketchbook and camera to look for ideas. I then put a design on backing and colour plan it. Then, if I need it, I dye fibre. Finally I get to work hooking!

For those of you who have made it this far, whether you’re a rug hooker or not, please add your thoughts in the comments section below.  How do you decide which project to work on next?

If you have been, thanks for reading!  Have a great weekend everyone!



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