Category Archives: Fraktur Design

Finishing work 17 years later

I learned an artistic textile technique, rughooking, in 1994 and stepped into the pattern making (line drawings) by interpreting traditional folk motifs on frakturs. In other words using someone else’s visual design (centuries old and out of copyright infringement) and composing with an expected balance. I mastered skills, materials and tools and became proficient in the craft.

Adam and Eve, Susan L Feller 2000

Adam and Eve, Susan L Feller 2000

By 1999 I wanted to grow into my own style and enrolled in a workshop “Balancing Act” lead by Rae Harrell at Green Mountain Rug Hooking Guild in Shelburne, VT. With an open mind and no planning lines were directly drawn on the foundation material, my colors selected from a comfort pile and friends contributions, and I began to hook breaking “rules” I did not even know I had adhered to when I saw others using different widths of strips in one piece! The result was Adam and Eve, completed in 2000 and juried by Mary Sheppard Burton into an exhibit Hooked Art in the 21st Century at the Textile Center, Minneapolis, MN.

I have continued this journey making patterns and more regularly creating artwork depicting the natural wonder around me in West Virginia, and communicating social and economic issues. All the while a panel hung in the studio labeled “work in progress-Adam and Eve weave”.

base, woven wool from Adam and Eve, Susan L Feller 2000-2016

base, woven wool from Adam and Eve, Susan L Feller 2000-2016

I had pinned onto muslin strips of the fabrics used to hook Adam and Eve with intentions to stabilize them either subtly or with embroidery stitches and attach to the hooked piece creating a large pillow (22 x 24).  A year of exploring past and new skills (Year Study), five years researching textile craftsmen from West Virginia (McDonalds), a source for discontinued upholstery samples and a conscious pull back to slow stitching with thrums from weaver Wendy Clark I finally felt it was the right time.

I enjoy composing, selecting materials and techniques each step interacting with the others until work can begin. There is a point of frustration when an idea can not be accomplished with existing materials or skills ….. the hunt for those takes away from the creative process but is essential if the work is going to be great instead of just good. I always have too many ingredients and need to simplify too.

upholstery samples, motifs from Design in a Box-Frakturs, Susan L Feller

upholstery samples, motifs from Design in a Box-Frakturs, Susan L Feller

The two figures came out of my Design in a Box-Frakturs. Until the organic leaf with blue color upholstery was added, my design was ok but too equal in values, shapes and colors. I decided the figures did not need to have facial details for us to know who they were. By us looking at their backs and the plants layered over the bodies the title made sense. They are going into the garden where the serpent rises up on the hooked side.

The tools needed were simple: embroidery needle, threads, sharp scissors, and a few embroidery stitches from my past (satin, long and short, and back stitching) with my studio frame by Townsend Industries and Bob the supervising cat. By stretching the piece on a 14″ square frame I often used the left hand as precisely as my dominant right one. I involved people in the process using Instagram and Facebook postings (the images show my left hand holding tools often staged for the shot).

Construction problems needed to be solved: selecting and installing a zipper (pillow form needs to be pulled out for transporting shell to workshops), anchoring edge with layers of wool and muslin and eliminating bulk for pillow, hand stitching two together when one was slightly larger than the other (measured but design grew, wool is a flexible material) but it all came together on January 16, 2017.

Into the Garden, Adam and Eve

Into the Garden, Adam and Eve

The proverbial question asked of a craftsman “How long did it take you?” can be answered this time with “Seventeen years!”


History at Penn Dry Goods

As one of 11 national speakers this year at Penn Dry Goods Market at the Schwenkfelder Library & Heritage Center, Pennsburg, PA my topic of rughooking was well represented in the antique dealers’ collections.  The lecture presented an overview timeline of rughooking techniques from sailors using their tools to pull yarns through canvas for riggings, handsewn coverings to creations that evolved into rugs as an open weave material in burlap became available in the mid 1860’s. Here is the handout listing the resources I used to create this historical background. History of Rughooking from an Artist’s Frame

Spreading through the Maritime Provinces of Canada and New England where winters were long and wool fabric available, I mentioned the people along this journey from pattern makers, authors, collectors, teachers and the artists in every home.  The talk encouraged all to think of the individuals pulling or poking fabric into designs which pleased the maker and now are purchased (or made) to decorate our own homes. This list is just the beginning referring to fine artists who use the technique of rughooking History People who used technique as art

Look at the variety of rugs, mats, framed work the dealers brought.  Interested in one contact the vendor directly, see this list.   I would recommend this event  May 19-20, 2017 with another lineup of presenters and dealers. Exhibits in the museum are interesting anytime. Featured now is Within and Without: the Art of the Book in the Fraktur Gallery

Ani DiFazio Antiques

Ani DiFazio Antiques – hooked on linen pillowcase novelty yarns early 1900’s

Rug published in Hooked Rug Treasury, by Jessie Turbayne now available

Rug published in Hooked Rug Treasury, by Jessie Turbayne now available

David Tuttle  sold

David Tuttle

Gatchellville Store

Gatchellville Store – Madonna hooked in PA early 1900’s

Cat Lady Antiques

Cat Lady Antiques – Mother and children Esther, Philip probably from New England

Nailor Antiques half of a runner, black is heart design

Nailor Antiques
half of a runner, black is heart design

Neverbird Antiques

Neverbird Antiques – Hannah L Hale, Newburyport, MA 1845-1849 sheered yarn

Rose B. Berry

Rose B. Berry


Setting up an Exhibit

Ever wonder how an exhibit comes together for opening day?  Here are some behind the scenes shots as we set up ‘Garden to Table: hooked rugs and art from the collection at the Schwenkfelder Library and Heritage Center, 105 Seminary Street, Pennsburg, PA.

Delivery of hooked, sculpted and braided pieces

Delivery of hooked, sculpted and braided pieces

Works from Indiana, New Hampshire, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia were collected by me complimenting the theme ‘Garden to Table’.  I brought them into the Fraktur Gallery at the Schwenkfelder on Thursday and the fun began.  The previous exhibit was off the walls but still in the room including a wooden cradle, cases and a cart filled with stuffing.

One exhibit down another going up

One exhibit down another going up

Candace Perry, Curator of Collections showed me items from their archives already on the walls including a flower wreath of feathers in a manner not known to her to be made in the 21st Century.  We discussed adding redware flower pots, hand painted china from early 20th C, an oil painting by Walter Baum, Berlin work and Frakturs representing the 19th and 18th Centuries.  Off she went into the archives and I began to intermingle the fiber work with the objects.

Why did one item end up next to another?  Sometimes it is color, could be shapes, maybe subject perhaps it is traffic flow.  All of these options came into play today.  The following two images show how moving an object slightly to the left and on an angle gives more space to the rug and flower arrangement.

Tomorrow we hang the rest of the work, bring in the large display case with four domed wax fruit compotes!, label the objects, sweep the floor and redirect the lighting just in time for the official opening on Saturday.  This exhibit will be up through March 1.  The Heritage Center is open Tuesday through Sunday visit for directions, exhibit descriptions, and hours.

Thanks to Darlene York Trout, Patsy Jones, Kris McDermet, Mary Jane Peabody, and Carolyn Boutilier for contributing hooked work to the collection.

Portrait transformation

Realism is the quest in my current studies.  I decided to work a self-portrait close to life size using #3 strips (3/32″ wide) for detail.  A group in Harrisonburg, VA brought instructor Donna Hrkman in for three days and I took advantage of her expertise to start the project.   The lesson which stayed with me was to use line of pronounced value to infer shape, attitude, texture, form. Our brain will finish the picture based on its knowledge.

Susan L. Feller 2014

Susan L. Feller 2014

Lesson 1: PREPARE  I sent this photo to Donna who  created a pattern using a grid to enlarge the details.  I also ran the photo through an app for iPad called uSketch and selected a washed out version with strong main lines.

Sketch for self-portrait

Sketch for self-portrait

This image was enlarged to fit a 12 x 16 format and directly sketched  using a lightbox.  I then drew the portrait by eye (ending up with softer features than the direct sketch.) By drawing the pattern myself several times I was prepared to notice nuances and hook the shapes and lines.

Lesson 2: If the subject is close to you, draw the design yourself.  I used Donna’s pattern and my guides trying to replicate what I was seeing not my mind’s interpretation of the subject.  You will see the first image (worked on for two days) needs severe sculpting to become recognizable to my friends as me.

Day 2 Portrait Susan L. Feller, Donna Hrkman pattern

Day 2 Portrait Susan L. Feller, Donna Hrkman pattern

Lesson 3: Color can draw attention and lead the viewer to a conclusion.  Glasses, hair, and background elements are in strong recognizable colors depicting me in 2014. I had brought along the actual drapery fabric from the photo as background but Donna suggested I use symbols to highlight my rughooking journey.

Personality coming through

Personality coming through

I selected two award winning designs My Mountain State and Mountain Treeline. The abstract hooked blue/purple skyline reproduces the first and the appliquéd colored tree shapes infer the latter and my favorite season. One more element that describes me is living in a log home here in West Virginia.  I decided to take the right third behind the face to show that structure. Simple horizontal lines of dark texture and natural linen became the logs.

Lesson 4: Simplify but complete the story. I almost forgot a major element in Ruckman Mill Farm’s pattern line is FRAKTUR designs. What motifs could I insert into this natural setting that would read PA German folk art? Of course! The circle from Baptism Certificate which has my birth date, parents and my name was printed and laminated to become a pin on the shirt.  I signed the piece and added one more symbol all in one.

Symbols tell story Susan L. Feller

Symbols tell story Susan L. Feller

Lesson 5: If it is not right, fix it.  All along you will notice I got closer to a recognizable rendition of Susan Feller except for the LIPS. Donna said the lower lip usually is lighter because it protrudes slightly.  She suggested using one size larger cut for the lower lip and both larger than the #3 cuts for the face.  I looked at the photo and convinced myself the reverse would be true in my case.  Extreme light and dark values were chosen, wide cuts, narrower, slightly up turned, straight across all not quite right.  I pulled out Anne-Marie Littenberg’s book Hooked Rug Portraits by Stackpole Books and read through it.  There was one image similar to mine that used several different values to portray the light on lips.  Posted that version on Facebook and received accolades.  But it was not until I asked Roslyn Logsdon to critique the lips that I heard the answer: AGAIN—“the lower lip needs to be lighter!!!!!!”

Lesson 6: Use the right tools from your tool box.  My life has involved textiles since childhood. Hand sewing, embroidery, dying fabric and using found objects often shows up in the wall art I create.  No reason to restrict this historical portrait to just rughooking. I added my favorite linen shirt, sea glass jewelry, embroidery and appliqué to enhance the hooked features and intend to finish the piece with a tramp art frame. What fun!


Summer Bouquet in Wool

This design is finally finished in my eyes.  Thanks to several critique sessions this summer.

Summer Bouquet

Summer Bouquet

 The composition came together easily, an odd number of large motifs, connected with organic (curved) lines to a small vase placed within the outside border to anchor the design.  I used templates from ‘Design in a Box-Frakturs’ and the quirky principles of balance the PA German Fraktur artists had in their repetoire.

Then came bringing the lines to life.  I photographed each of the changes and will highlight some lessons.  Click on the first image and then you can see all in larger format by using the arrows.  During one workshop where I used the images as a lesson plan, a student commented in awe at the multitude of changes I had made.  To me that is what makes a project part of my process in learning.  Kits and following directions are for a goal… completed item.  Working on a design to achieve your knowledge of GOOD is growth.

Best of West Virginia 2013 at Tamarack

The summer show at Tamarack in Beckley, WV is titled “The Best of West Virginia”.  Juried, 400 pieces were reviewed and 140 selected with awards given for Best in Show, 1st-3rd and Honorable Mention.  The gallery exhibit and SALE is up through August 2.

This year I entered a traditional design inspired by floral Fraktur motifs.  It was selected and hangs as a stunning piece of art right next to the Best in Show photograph.  Guess that is good real estate.  Visit facebook Tamarack WV and look for the photos of opening to catch a glimpse of Caraway Garden Runner over the shoulder of the Best in Show winner.

"Caraway Garden Runner" 18 x 52 designed & hooked by Susan L. Feller  2013

I decided to use a restricted palette of reds and oranges stretching this by including warm and cool members of each hue.  The foliage is dull sage greens, neutral to the flowers.  It has been some time since warm yellow was the background for a design but it lends a bright cheery mood to the feeling of “Caraway Garden Runner”. 

Working from one end to the other, and alternating light and dark values in motifs (sort of), this runner was a delight yet challenging piece.  I found the limiting palette needed some pick me ups and worked turquoise and purples into centers and the central motif.

Originally the edge was going to be a simple 1/4″ of red whipping yarn but that seemed too delicate for the raucous yellow.  Looking back at Frakturs (PA German illuminated manuscripts) I pulled from their border techniques a simple geometric repeat to edge and contain the organic shapes.  Using the yellows and greens I alternated pulling a loop which is a technique called “beading” in rughooking.  It looks as if there are contrasting beads strung around the border.  Still not satisfied that a thin red line would be enough, I played with widths of red fabric, settling on a 1 1/2″ wide one. 

The design is available as a pattern for fellow rughookers at Below are some detail images, Enjoy.  Click on the first image to view them larger in sequence.

Floral Message of Good Cheer

Caraway Garden Runner created using motifs from Design in a Box-Frakturs

Caraway Garden Runner created using motifs from Design in a Box-Frakturs


This design completed 2012 with a colorful BANG.  I approached the colorplan selecting my favorite analogous combination warm yellows, oranges and reds which also are traditional to the Frakturs (PA German illuminated manuscripts of 1740-1840’s) the motifs were inspired from.  With a wonderful pile of textured wools and spotted or solid hand dyes available, each flower is a bundle of contrasting values making the entire rug an exciting project.  The full rainbow can be found since blue and yellow greens and a wonderful turquoise just had to creap in along with a plaid with purples and cherry reds.

I hadn’t used the gold recipe which mimics a yellow glaze on redware in awhile and incorporated several different subtle textures and natural wool into the three different dye baths of varying values.  Hooking consistently in small puzzle shapes, the background hopefully sets the mood of a fun summer garden. Do you see the flowers all being thrown into a sunny sky?

The border technique of beading, (hooking contrasting strips in an alternating pattern) pays homage to a typical geometric border on Frakturs if the interior designs are all organic.  Bordering the rug with a full inch wide red plaid set off the riot of color and seems to settle it onto the table top or floor where we will enjoy the glow. 

I extend my wishes you will find beauty in every day and interpret these moods using your talents… in music, words, extending help, or artwork.  Look, see and show us your spirit in 2013.

Early American Life Directory 2012

  It has been a few years since the subject of hooked work I was creating warranted submission to Early American Life Directory of Traditional American Crafts. The requirements include the highest standards of period design, materials, and techniques along with documentation for all these fitting the Colonial period of America.  Well this year I was ready and the jurors thought so too.  I am honored to be included with several other rughooking artists representing our craft at this highly judged level.  A press release published in Hampshire Review details the criteria and jurors. Click here to read Hampshire Review EAL Directory Listing

Friedrich Bandel’s Potted Tree, design Susan L. Feller

 The Shenandoah Valley exhibit last winter inspired motifs and compositions by “new” fraktur artists, along with the documentation in a catalog produced by the Rockingham Historical Society of Dayton, VA. 

This image is a design, inspired by the pen and watercolors of the artist working between 1800-1820 in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

Tis the Season for Cheer

Fraktur Angel by Susan L. Feller

 Holiday Happiness to all!  The angel ornament was created to hang on one of the ARTISTREEs in West Virginia’s Governor’s Mansion in Charleston, WV this year. Our First Lady, Joanne Jaeger Tomblin invited artists throughout the state to contribute an ornament.  These will be cataloged and retained in the Mansion’s archives to be used as decorations during future events. 

  This is the logo developed to promote the First Lady’s interest in supporting the arts.    

Jim and Susan drove the five hours to Charleston, WV to a brunch hosted by the First Lady on Dec 11.  The dawn hours with a beautiful full moon poking out from the mountains kept us inspired, and the return trip in full daylight allowed the glory of our state to regale us.  Next year the invitation will be out again from the First Lady to all artists… contribute your best ornament.