Sunday, September 24, 2017

Hooked rugs

"What ever happened to those rugs?" asked my friend Pat, after I shared stories of colorful hooked rugs created at my mother's request and enjoyed for so many years in Danvers, long ago. Although I hadn't seen those rugs for a decade, I knew exactly where they were stored – rolled in an old sheet, hidden behind rows of boxes, tucked away under the eaves on the third floor of my current home.

Pat was visiting me, an overnight guest in that same house. The next morning I surprised and delighted her with a display of those rugs. As I unrolled the bundle on the living room floor, I warned her that these old rugs were in sad shape, too worn and fragile to use (or to clean), but of such sentimental value to my sister and myself, that we couldn't throw them away.

One rug was made in 1942 (75 years ago!) and the second one in 1958.  Pat was impressed by how well preserved they were, and I had fun pointing out various designs and telling Pat what those images meant to me. We probably spent almost two hours examining those rugs, and taking photographs. The rugs won't last forever, but the photographs can help preserve the stories of these unique rugs, hand-hooked by Sadie May Morse of Marblehead, Massachusetts.

I have already written about my memories of these rugs, and how they came to be made. (Type "hooked rug" in the search box of this blog to find previous postings and old photos.)  Today my purpose is to share photographs of how the 75-year old rug looks now:

A Swedish "tree of life" design was one of the inspirations for this rug.  Sadie May Morse placed that design in the center.  If you look closely, note the letter R hidden behind that tree.  (Elsewhere she tucked other letters of her last name.)

In the 1950's my father loved to play Tiddly Winks Golf on this rug. He usually placed a dictionary between the 2 ovals seen above, challenging us to play the "wink" from one oval to the other by jumping it OVER the book in one move, or playing it around the book. I showed Pat the set-up:

My parents loved to play ice hockey

My mother loved horses; my father had a sail boat; and they lived in a tiny house (see above)
Although this 75-year old hooked rug looks remarkably good in the photos above, I took additional photos to illustrate problem areas. This rug was constructed of wool strips hooked through a burlap backing. The aging burlap has disintegrated in places, especially along one line where the rolled-up rug had once been stored on a damp cement floor.

My mother attempted repairs, adding patches of denim fabric (recycled from old "dungarees") on the back side. She also was always very cautious when using a vacuum cleaner, not wanting to suck broken pieces of wool into the machine. Her preferred cleaning technique was to bring the rug outdoors and sweep fresh powder snow across the surface. The moist snow, when swept off, carried away the dust and dirt – a good gentle technique for surface cleaning.

Deeper cleaning would be a challenge, even when the rug was new. My mother often told the sad tale of the house painter who dropped a can of white paint onto this rug, and her frantic efforts to clean off the paint. She succeeded to some extent. As a child, I couldn't see evidence of that awful spill. But as I grew up and the rug worn down with heavy use, the old white paint embedded lower in the wool began to be revealed.  See these photos: 

White paint from a 1940's accident is visible.

On September 13, 2017,  just days after I took these photographs, I happened to encounter an enthusiastic group of women hooking rugs. What a timely and welcome surprise!  (I had traveled to Star Island in the Isles of Shoals for a 5-day retreat, and they were staying on Star island for a rug-hooking retreat.)  I enjoyed watching them hook. I shared these photos (which were still on my cell phone) and learned that they call such rugs "Story rugs." An appropriate name!   Many more stories to tell...   I'll post photos of the second rug (made in 1958) on another day.

November 7, 2017 update.
I'm now adding photos of the 1958 rug, which was also hooked by Sadie May Morse. My mother was delighted that the SAME woman was still hooking rugs so many years later. We had moved into a larger house in 1957 and now had room for another rug. My mother commissioned one to match.

My initials (SMN) and my sister's (JCN) were designed into the corners, just as my parents' initials had been put in the corners of the 1942 rug.

In the photo, right, you can see an irregular patch just above my initials. A carpet cleaning company in 1995 washed this rug, without realizing how fragile the underlying burlap might be. A section broken apart and unravelled. They did their best to repair the problem before returning the rug to me. (It was my mistake to include this rug in with a batch of oriental rugs, which were all cleaned expertly. The company specialized in oriental rugs, and had NO experience with hooked rugs. Oops! That odd hand-sewn area is now just another story to tell; not a problem, really.)

The images in this rug were based on photographs and postcards from various family experiences, especially our six-week car-camping trip across the U.S. in summer 1958.  I think the airplane signifies my parents' 1954 trip to Switzerland; for my mother, who had so admired Amelia Earhart, the act of flying across the Atlantic in 1954 was an unexpected treat and adventure. The rug contains a few Swiss scenes (e.g., skiing) and emblems.

Our new house at 121 Nichols St, Danvers

Our dog "Heidi" and my pet raccoon "Daniel Coon"were included. Such memories!

And many, many scenes from our western trip, in which we visited great dams, and a dinosaur park. Also included was the quatrefoil symbol of our church in Salem, and the fancy yacht "Pelican" which belonged to one of my parents' friends in that church.  My parents crewed for them on the "Pelican" and enjoyed wonderful trips around Nova Scotia.  (Meanwhile, my sister and I were left with our cousin Annijay and her family in Maine, where we had a marvelous time.)

This story rug triggers so many memories, each of which could probably fill separate blog posts, someday.



I remember the second rug being made and talks of us having one. By that time I often came with Bomba the dog to see Miss Morse. I remember much more, your rug contributing to my interest in travel, leading to school in Switzerland. The sailing yacht Pelican rings Avery strong bell, but I cannot remember who owned it. Was it Mr B M Barton or Mr Green? As this is only the second time I have used this machine in this fashion- you also the first- I hope you get this message. Did you get the first one?


Now I undefrstand this tech system a little better, realizing you never saw my first communication to you. A short recap of it: Miss Morse was our neighbor and very frequent baby sitter cum companion/ nanny. She introduced me to looms which were in her glassed in front porch: mrHenry Benson would introduce me to to the merchant world of textiles. Such led with additional bits to my becoming a silk and textile merchant, all in a rather old SALEM way, that is one driven by distant travel to the East and to Europe to bring goods home. I have a picture of Miss Morse next to my telephone always. She is next to our tree . I went all over the Neck to find tall trees and reported back to her and Mom anDad. I was driven in tithe automobile pictured frequently and helped her feed her cats, she introducing me to that animal. I first knew Paris through her student pictures of that city, ones with nay an automobile in site. They were not invented yet ! Just a few memories of an elegant, charming women who was a wonderful part of my very happy childhood.

Sandy said...

Thank you Christopher Hyland for sharing your memories of Miss Morse. (I did also receive your email, which came to me privately). I'm glad you have commented here publicly, as other readers may enjoy the information you have added.

The Pelican was owned by Mr. Stephen Phillips of Salem. Mr. and Mrs. Phillips were good friends of my parents and I recall visits to their large home on Chestnut Street, Salem (next door to his father's home, which became a Museum.) In their large basement dining room, at a large dinner party for members of our church, I encountered my first lobster -- quite a challenge to figure out how to eat, in such a formal setting. My first sleigh ride was with Mrs. Phillips in N.H. Mr. Phillips skied often in Danvers at our local ski club where my father operated ski tows.