By Jackie Nelson
HESSTON – While quilting is a well-known and popular pastime, Ruth Vogt has endeavored on a different kind of textile – wool art.
“It’s so easy to work with. It’s all appliqued and you don’t have to turn it under. Wool doesn’t fray, so you can lay it on,” she said.
Vogt sources her wool from shops across the country, as well as recycling thrift store finds, using old wool jackets, “that make great backgrounds because they’re often tan, plaid or blue.” However, she said she tends to avoid sweaters, as they tend to shrink more after laundering.
Vogt said she is “still savoring” alpaca wool she acquired while visiting a nephew in South America, however.
“I wish I could have brought home suitcases full. I use a lot of black and I brought some back from there and it is absolutely beautiful,” she said. Vogt added the black Ecuadorian wool is a staple in the country.
Her enthusiasm for wool began after a demonstration in a quilting group and has now come full-circle with her teaching a wool art presentation for the Emma Creek Quilt Guild.
“It’s soft, for one thing and it’s very easy to stitch through,” she said. And, the stitching can be quite elaborate.
“I bought a book of a million different stitches and haven’t even begun to work with all of them, and the thread is beautiful,” she said.
Different thicknesses of thread, layers of wool and creative patterns make wool art three-dimensional, even in wall hangings and other traditionally flat pieces. The size of wool art also makes it easier to create and display a variety of pieces.
“I decorate by seasons in my house and so the smaller the pieces, the more I can decorate. There’s not a lot of large wool pieces,” she said.
As with any craft, Vogt said, “It takes practice.”
However, as she has expanded her technical skills, she is also pushing her own artistic boundaries.
“I’ve become more aware of color and what I could put with what. I never would have done that before. This has got me outside my box. It’s an accomplishment. It feels good to have accomplished something that’s beautiful,” she said.
With variations in thread thicknesses, color, layering and patterns, Vogt has seen the art evolve over the years.
“Some of it can be very primitive, which I’m not that wild about. Some you can do whatever you want and it’s just out there – more like what they did 40 and 50 years ago – they didn’t have all the beads,” she said.
In her own work, Vogt uses judicious beading to add depth, sparkle and additional detailing, particularly to animals.
In her years of creating wool art, Vogt has created a network of friends and fellow enthusiasts, sharing wool and pattern recommendations. However, to share the patterns themselves, she said, is taboo.
“We stay away from that because that’s how these small quilt shops make a living. If we want to keep them around, we better support them,” she said.
Getting started in wool art is as simple as heading to a local fabric store and getting wool and a pattern.
“Start with a larger design, you don’t want something small that’s too intricate,” she said. “Start with a piece like a snowman that’s eight-by-ten, so you can work on your stitches and see what you are doing. Get the basic stitches down, like a button hole stitch and decorate with buttons. Do something basic first, and go from there.”