Patty Yoder’s Beautiful Sheep, Again

IMG_8479Just about a year ago, when I started my blog, I wrote about an exhibit of hooked rugs I had seen at Shelburne Museum, in Vermont. These rugs, made by Patty Yoder, are so beautiful and so successfully bring an new artistic vision to an old craft form that I was excited to share them.

The problem was, I had just started my blog and almost no one was reading it yet! So the delightful, sweet, hand-hooked sheep were enjoyed by only about 4 people.

We went back to Shelburne last week, and visited the sheep again–they are still splendid. I took some new photos and am refreshing what I wrote, with hope that you’ll find them as compelling as I do.

The Shelburne Museum website says the following about the rugs: “The Alphabet of Sheep series combines two of [Yoder’s] favorite things: the sheep on her farm and the alphabet. Her rugs incorporate her family, friends, or sheep as the subject matter, a joyous celebration of one woman’s life.” And joyous is the perfect word to describe these rugs!

IMG_8477The exhibition features about 20 of the 44 hooked rugs Yoder made in the 13 years between her retirement and her death in 2005. That’s a very short time to develop skill and a personal vision but these rugs are amazing in both ways.

IMG_8476Have you ever tried rug hooking? I have. It was hard! All those strips of wool sitting around, flat and uninteresting, and the maker needs to be able to envision how those pieces fit together, how to vary color, how to bring them through the backing fabric in a consistent manner. Yikes. My failed attempts at rug hooking made me much more appreciative of what Yoder accomplished with her work!

I wish my pictures were better. I wish Shelburne had more photos on their website. I wish you could see these in person, to appreciate the texture and color with your own eyes. Patty Yoder found her creative outlet, building on a traditional, utilitarian craft and, like so many other makers, finding a way to express herself and her passion with her own hands.

The Patty Yoder show is up through October 31, 2014. I know most of you will never be able to see these in person but I hope the photos give you a sense of how loving hands can transform strips of fabric into a whimsical farmyard of sheer delight!

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42 thoughts on “Patty Yoder’s Beautiful Sheep, Again

  1. As one of those who is unlikely to see these rugs in person, I thank you for bringing them to your blog. They are gorgeous. My grandfather used to hook rugs but very plain ones. Still, they were admired by his family and were very well used.

    • As much as I love Yoder’s rugs as art, I love the idea of people making rugs that are actually used on the floors! Do you still have any rugs made by grandfather?

      • Very sadly, no. Unless my mother has one tucked away in one of her boxes somewhere, but I don’t think so. My grandmother and grandfather worked on larger rugs together, as far as I can remember. My grandfather made the smaller ones by himself after my grandmother died.

      • I love that idea of your grandparents working together, My husband and I have been helping each other on weaving projects, although not weaving on the same project, and it’s such a nice way to connect.

  2. Thanks for sharing these images. I can’t help but think about that old adage “do what you love”. Patty loved sheep and loved to hook rugs and what an amazing result! I see that she published a book in 2003, The Alphabet of Sheep. It appears to be rather hard to find today and quite pricey.

    • I was impressed at how amazing her work was, especially when you consider how few years she had to achieve that level. I wish she’d had time to make many more rugs!

  3. Beautiful, Kerry, I tried rug hooking and appreciate and admire these works of art with the memory of sore hands, lots knots and uneven loops and more crumbling and finally picking my knitting needles again and became happy again ;0) It is very, very beautiful. Thanks for sharing and have a lovely Sunday!
    ps you lucky girl, a visit in Vermont. I love Vermont and in a little ‘artful’ cafe, a lovely woman once made the best gluten-free breakfast I ever had just for me. She wanted to experiment with creamy omelet and avocado salsa…ohmyohmy, I never felt so spoiled!!!

  4. I’m one of those peopple who didn’t read your early posts. Thanks for introducing us to such delightful sheep. I particularly like the one inspired by Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat.

    • Yes, the Joseph one seems to be the popular favorite–eye candy! But each sheep has its own personality, when you see them rugs in person, and I loved the all!

  5. These are just beautiful! Truly works of art. The only hooked rug I ever tried making was when I was a kid and I got one of those boxed kits where everything comes cut and ready for you… not the same as the ones featured here I gather.

    • I did one of those kits, too, and no, I think Yoder’s rugs are light years beyond what we did! But she devoted years of year life to it so I guess we can forgive ourselves for not measuring up. 😉

  6. I am most happy that you revisited this artist’s work! I love the opening piece best I think – the sentiment is wonderful and the multi-coloured coat just breath-taking. I am one of your readers who has tried rug hooking and my feeble attempt at making a pattern just ended as a random squiggle running the length of the 120 cm long rug! That was back in the 70’s when my motivation in beginning anything was to have it finished. Making a large floor rug out of individually hooked pure wool threads probably wasn’t the best idea I ever had and I never tried again 🙂

    • My only rug hooking experience (other than a crazy thing I did in a crafts course in college) was a kit from a museum store. It included everything and the design was printed on the backing. It was kind of fun to do but certainly didn’t make my heart sing! Did you finish your rug? Do you still have it?!

      • 🙂 I eschewed that kind of ‘paint by numbers’ rug making experience – apparently even back then I fancied myself as a bit of an artiste 😀 However, seeing the mess of my random squiggle rug I would now say that is a very good way to learn what is involved. Yes, I finished the rug. It lay for years in front of the hearth and annoyed me greatly every day. Eventually I gave it away 🙂 It was a very thick rug made with good quality carpet wool so is probably annoying someone to this very day 🙂

  7. These are amazing – what incredible talent!

    I made a couple of hooked rug projects as a child – but they were kits and I remember them being simple and fun. Nothing really creative but they were good projects to do in the wintertime when it was too cold for me to play outside.

  8. These rugs are beautiful art. I have never made a rug. I really like how she was inspired by her everyday life to make these rugs. I don’t have a favorite, I like every one you posted.

    • I like every one, too! And there’s another whole set of them that I haven’t seen yet. They belong to the museum and get rotated through so I’m waiting for the others to be displayed.

    • Each of the sheep has a name and the first letter of its name is hidden somewhere in the design. The designs have such layers of meaning and detail–they don’t get boring! By the way, at the same museum they have a working Jacquard loom–I had never seen such a thing and knew nothing about how they worked–fascinating!

  9. The first colourful sheep rug is my favourite, I love the mix of psychedelic colour and such a traditional art form. I’m not sure I really know what rug hooking is, but it sounds difficult! xx

    • Basic rug hooking isn’t so hard–you cut strips of fabric and pull loops from it up through a loosely-woven fabric, like burlap. But the kind of rug hooking Yoder did is another whole story–a real artist!

  10. I forgot! I did see some of her rugs at the Sauder (OH) rug hooking week. What I found interesting about her work was her variation in style. Some of the sheep were exquisitely realistc and then some of them were funky and folk artsy. I love sheep – I used to spin and worked on a sheep farm, so I am always drawn to them. I’ve found a painter in Greenville who does wonderful sheep and I am dying to buy a piece of his.

  11. Patty was my aunt—she was talented in many other things as well…..she was an amazing painter, and made these amazing dolls that she sewed with all different mismatched patterns of material…she also owned a unique retail shop of all her creations that was in Bath, Ohio where she lived for a long time…It was called My Friend and Me.

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