Rug Hooking at the Folk School

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Last week I had the pleasure of returning to the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC for an intro to rug hooking course. This fascinating fiber art form is something I’ve wanted to learn for years, but I was having a hard time finding anyone locally who could teach me (or who had ever heard of rug hooking, for that matter). The history of traditional rug hooking is interesting, and the craft itself is quite remarkable, but I had a very specific reason for wanting to learn this new medium. I knew somehow, some way, I wanted to incorporate this dimensional texture into my existing needle felting work. Even though I could easily envision how I’d combine the two mediums, I had absolutely no idea where to start, so when I saw there was a rug hooking course coming up at the Folk School, I knew the stars had finally aligned and it was time to find out if this idea was possible.


 The Folk School is located in the misty Appalachian mountains, about as far west as you can go and still be in the state of North Carolina. It’s remote, it’s beautiful, and it has a special community that’s been teaching a variety of traditional handicrafts for nearly 100 years. You can learn blacksmithing, chair caning, felt making, book binding, metal smithing, pottery, glass bead making, photography, wood turning, and weaving, just to name a few. The class sizes are small, typically less than 10 students, and you learn by total immersion. By the end of my week, I had put in 40 hours in the fiber art studio! 


The first hour of class, we learned about the tools, materials, and techniques required for rug hooking, and then we were off to hook our first practice piece – a small coaster, using a simple log cabin pattern. Learning to hook a rug seems simple, but it’s not simple at all. After cutting thin strips of wool, you use a hooked hand tool and pull them through the open weave of a piece of fabric. It sounds so basic, but there’s a lot to it. You have to pull the loops through the fabric just so, and space them out enough, but not too much. You can work with a predetermined pattern, but after my first practice piece, I chose to make up my own or work free form. 


By day two, I was hooking away on my first large piece and finally had the chance to try out my idea of combining rug hooking and needle felting, and I’m thrilled to say – IT WORKED! I hooked a landscape, creating a foreground and mountains with little loops of wool, then I needle felted the sky with roving. I absolutely love how the two wool textures look together. I’m comfortable with landscapes, I make them almost daily (in felt), so this seemed liked a good place to start. 


The third day, I tried a more abstract piece, a longer tapestry wall hanging in a pale color palette, still experimenting with mixing roving with the wool “noodles” I was hooking through the linen background fabric. I also learned various ways to finish the pieces, like binding the edges with yarn.  My loops aren’t perfect, my edges aren’t straight, I ran out of wool so the finished piece is about an inch shorter than I had been planning, by I learned so much by the time this one was finished and I’m in love with the irregular pattern and soft earthy colors. 


 Towards the end of the week, I challenged myself to try hooking precise geometric shapes with curves and points, change colors more often, work with smaller scale fabric strips, and switch directions with my loops. I created two more pieces, both using scrap wool and remnants. I also went bold with my color choices and have no regrets about that! 


After my first 40 hours of rug hooking, all in one week, I’m only just starting to understand how it works. I’m a beginner and will be for quite some time, my work is far from perfect, but I’m so happy to be off on this new adventure in a different medium that compliments what I’m already doing. My fiber art is bound to change in the future, and that’s exciting in so many ways.


Check out this short 5 minute video showing highlights of the week, time-lapse footage of my first few hooking projects, and work from the other students in various classes.

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I would like to extend a special thanks to Metropolitan Arts Council (MAC) who made this educational undertaking possible by awarding me a grant to help fund my week at the Folk School plus the investment of the new tools and equipment required to continue to pursue a new dimension in my fiber art. Thank you thank you thank you!

This program is funded in part by the Metropolitan Arts Council which receives support from the City of Greenville, BMW Manufacturing Company, Michelin North America, Inc., SEW Eurodrive and the South Carolina Arts Commission.


Artist-in-Residence: Edisto Beach State Park

I recently had the incredible opportunity to be the artist-in-residence for a week at a South Carolina State Park and was thrilled to be assigned to Edisto Beach State Park. This is my second state park residency, but a new location, and although I expected beautiful things I was truly blown away by what I found when I arrived at the coast.


My time on Edisto was a combination of exploring the town, the surrounding natural areas, learning the history, and finding inspiration for my current body of art which happens to be needle felted wool landscape paintings featuring scenes from the state of SC. In addition to my work in wool, which was my primary medium during my stay, I also painted, sketched, and designed some new jewelry pieces for my handmade collection at Once Again Sam.

I was given a cabin at Edisto Beach State Park to use during my stay, and this became my base camp and studio away from home. I worked outside as much as possible, enjoying the screened-in porch with a breath-taking view of Scott Creek. Each day, I hiked several miles in the park, biked around the island, tried a new restaurant in search of the best seafood in town, watched the sun set, and created art inspired by what I saw all around me. I took time to notice the wildlife, the plants & trees, and appreciate how different the water looks depending on the hour.


Throughout the day, I’d come back to the cabin and work on a felted piece, then I’d go back out the next day and photograph the finished piece in the same location that inspired it to begin with. I quickly learned the time of day for returning to the same spot mattered because the tides made the beach and marsh look completely different!

I completed 12 wool landscapes during my 6 days in the park. Some pieces featured the beach, others the marsh, and several were inspired by Botany Bay Beach and it’s fascinating ever-changing driftwood sculpture garden. I returned to this beach several times – it’s so unlike any other beach I’ve seen before. I loved how visitors left the shells they found propped up on the downed trees or hung like Christmas ornaments from the upturned roots.


This being my first visit to Edisto, I asked around for recommendations beforehand, and so many people told me they’d been coming to the island for 20+ years. Now I can understand why! It’s remote enough to have a quiet charm where you can’t help but relax, but there’s enough to do that you can break up the day with various activities like boat tours, bike rentals, hikes, and shopping if you so choose.


Some of my favorite things from my time at Edisto:

Favorite meal: Fish tacos, street corn, and margarita from E & O Tacos

Favorite sunset spot: Beach access #31

Favorite hiking trail: Spanish Mouth Trail + Scott Creek Trail

Favorite place to bike: Jungle Shores Drive

Favorite excursion: Botany Bay Beach

Favorite place to watch pelicans: The marina

Favorite place to shop: With These Hands Gallery

Favorite Moment: Taking in all the details of low tide in the marsh. If you linger on the boardwalk on the Scott Creek Trail during low tide, you’ll smell the salty air, you’ll see the tiny snails clinging to the colorful grass and the shadows of the silent pelicans flying overhead, you’ll marvel at the appearance of hundreds of oysters that weren’t visible just a few hours ago, but what I enjoyed the most was the sounds. There’s a lot of life hidden in the tall grass and buried in those muddy banks, but you might not notice unless you stopped to listen for a moment. If you hear past the sound of the grass blowing you’ll also hear tiny clicking sounds from crabs scurrying around, and delicate little burps and popping sounds coming from under the mud.


My time on Edisto was the perfect balance of exploring, relaxing, and creating. I couldn’t have asked for better place to seek inspiration for my art. Although I’m back in Greenville, SC now and within view of the Blueridge Mountains, my future work will continue to showcase the coast, and I look forward to exhibiting my collection of 100 landscapes from all over the state, including the Edisto series, this summer at Greenville Center for Creative Arts.


All new video sharing a glimpse of the scenery, my process, and why I would go back in a heartbeat. Be sure to checkout my video from last year’s residency as well!

Top Picks for 2018

I go through a ton of content when I’m in the studio. I’m rarely just sitting there working in silence (although on occasion it can be nice). I have absolutely no idea how many hours of audible books, podcasts, movies, or music I’ve consumed over the last year, but I do know what I keep coming back to. Here’s a look at my top picks for 2018.


White Noise by Noah Gundersen

A Black Mile to the Surface by Manchester Orchestra

Nothing But Thieves by Nothing But Thieves

Sparrow by Jump Little Children

Loma Vista by Family of the Year


A Quiet Place

Captain Fantastic

Bohemian Rhapsody

Leave No Trace

Wish I Was Here


A Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell

Look Alive Out There by Sloane Crosley

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

My Heart & Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

Get Well Soon: A History of Plagues and the Heroes who Fought Them by Jennifer Wright


How I Built This with Guy Raz

Etsy Success Podcast

From the Front Porch

Creature Feature

The End of the World with Josh Clark


The Nineties Miniseries

Handmaid’s Tale

Queer Eye

Downton Abbey

Dark Tourist

10,000 Etsy Sales


It didn’t happen overnight. It happened over a decade.

I opened my Etsy shop on January 8th, 2009. Back then, this Once Again Sam thing was just a hobby and any money I made felt like easy money because I was doing something I enjoyed. I probably spent whatever I earned on shoes and yarn. I didn’t save it, I didn’t invest it back into my business. The whole point was creative fulfillment and a little extra spending money, both of which I received.

Things really started getting interesting in year four. By then, I was earning more on Etsy than in my full time interior design career. That was the year I realized this was way more than a side gig and I started getting serious about running a small handmade business. I didn’t know that was what I wanted to do until I was in the middle of doing it. I may have been a Maker long before Etsy came along, but I certainly wasn’t a small business owner. Thanks to Etsy, its easy-to-use interface, community full of support, and readily available self-paced education, I became an entrepreneur in my mid 20’s, something I never had the guts to daydream about prior to that.


As you can see in my sales bar graph, some years my Etsy sales plateaued, other years were so good they made the rest look bad (looking at you, 2016), but overall it’s been a slow and steady climb to this big milestone. I’m celebrating 10 years on Etsy soon, and today marks 10,000 sales with the platform that made Once Again Sam possible in the first place.

The reason I wanted to share my true story is because I think a lot of people have unrealistic expectations about how quickly they should be successful on Etsy (or other avenues). I’m sure it happens on occasion, but I have yet to personally meet a maker who’s had that elusive “overnight success.” What I HAVE seen over and over is makers, including myself, work their butts off for years and years, and slowly but surely see success, but at the same time see their definition of success change.


I hope my ordinary story, as undramatic as it may be, inspires someone out there to start something, pick back up, or keep at something. Decide for yourself what success means to you and go for it (and it’s okay if that changes in the process).

Every year I’ve been in business I’ve thought “I can’t believe how well this is going, there’s no way it can get any better than this” and every year I’m wrong.

Photo from 2013 when I was part of the Etsy section at the One of a Kind Show in Chicago, IL.

Photo from 2013 when I was part of the Etsy section at the One of a Kind Show in Chicago, IL.

Alpacas & Art

Yes, you've seen other Alpaca-related blog posts here if you've been a reader for awhile. Here's another one! I'm a little obsessed with these sweet-faced creatures, but it's not just because they're so stinking adorable. They're also part of my art. Literally. 


Recently, I visited my dad and his wife at their new home in Brandon, VT (it's actually a very old home - built in 1880 - but it's new to them). They recently retired there, and I can see why. It's such a beautiful place! Just down the country road from their horse farm was an unexpected surprise. Maple Creek Farms is home to a few dozen alpacas, which is already enough to get me excited, but then I learned they actually process all of the fiber onsite and have a mini-factory for making roving, batting, and even yarn. All the things I'm interested in! 


I've been a knitter and felt fiber artist for almost 10 years now, so I know my materials and I work with a variety of tools every single day, but I have never actually seen how fleece is processed before I get my hands on it. I always buy roving and yarn that's completely ready for use - I don't do any cleaning or dying myself, so seeing how the fiber gets from the alpaca's back to a ball of colorful roving in my living room was quite the treat. 

Needless to say, I took about 100 pictures of the baby alpacas, some of which were just a few weeks old, and I stuffed my suitcase full of colorful roving for my return trip. I love seeing how things are made, and truly understanding the process by seeing it for myself, so this whole pit stop was right up my alley. Now I have an even deeper appreciation for the material I use every day.