Hands at Home: Rug Hooker Patty Yoder

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If you love quilts and coverlets and samplers and hooked rugs, you NEED to make a trip to Shelburne Museum in Vermont. The museum provides a fascinating view of Vermont cultural history, with some of the most spectacular displays of antique American textiles you’ll ever find.

We went to Shelburne last week, spent the day, and just dipped our toes into their vast collection. They have 700 quilts, although they only have about 50 on display at any given time so it’s always an adventure to go back! I’ll write more about the antique quilts and other textiles at some point but today I want to focus on a current exhibition that is simply stunning—The Alphabet of Sheep series of hooked rugs, made by Patty Yoder.

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!


The exhibition features several 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.

Have you ever tried rug hooking? I have. I was awful at it! All those strips of wool sitting around, flat and uninteresting, and you need 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, 2013. While you’re there, be sure to visit the “Wyeth Vertigo” exhibit as well, with paintings and other works by 3 generations of the Wyeth family, N.C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth, and Jamie Wyeth. Not exactly “hands at home,” but a wonderful chance to see paintings of this American art dynasty all in one place!


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