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Davenport teacher helps others get hooked on crafting rugs
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DAVENPORT -- In 1959, when Beth Anne Smiley was a child, a runner on the stairwell in the home of a family friend caught her eye. It was made of vintage wool -- the friend had cut all of the wool by hand out of her husband's good wool pants and used a technique called "hooking" to create the runner.

While Ms. Smiley tried many fiber arts over the years, cross-stitching, weaving, knitting and basket making, she never forgot that handmade runner. She was, as they say in the rug business, hooked.

Hand-hooked rugs have been relatively common since the 1800s, when they started appearing in New England and the Canadian Maritime provinces. Colonial women, who couldn't afford the rugs shipped over from Europe, started repurposing rags and wool into rugs they crafted by hand to make their new homes more comfortable.

Ms. Smiley, a second-grade teacher at Adams Elementary in Davenport, started hooking without the help of a teacher. She ordered a kit for her first rug, using yarn, but wasn't sure if she was doing it right, so she set it aside. Eventually she finished that rug, but she knew that hooking with yarn was not the look she wanted.

Rugs are generally hooked in two styles: fine cut and primitive. Ms. Smiley hooks only in the primitive style, and she prefers using textured wool because of the depth it gives to the rug's appearance.

"I first learned about primitive rug hooking at a lovely camp in the mountains, at a beautiful 100-year-old inn called The Summit," she recalled. "There were five teachers at this camp, who all had different areas of expertise. I saw people hooking fine-cut rugs, traditional rugs, primitive rugs and artsy rugs. We worked with our teacher in a beautiful ballroom all day."

In 2012, Ms. Smiley attended another rug-hooking camp in Pennsylvania, where she met two new teachers, both of whom encouraged her to become a rug-hooking teacher herself. Over the course of the week, she asked questions about teaching, and she kept the idea in mind when she returned home to Davenport.

"In the Midwest, there are very few teachers of rug hooking and places to buy the supplies," she explained. "I created Wheaten Woolens in our 1860 stone barn with the help of my carpenter husband, and now it makes a beautiful studio for rug hooking."

Wheaten Woolens, which was named for her beloved soft-coated wheaten terriers, Murphy and Abby, is where Ms. Smiley teaches people the craft of hooking rugs, and she guides others with color planning of their next project.

While the studio has limited hours because she hasn't given up her teaching career, she also offers weekend workshops. "I have people of all ages hooking. In fact, I have three generations in one family hooking, and all loving it," Ms. Smiley said.

In addition to her studio activities, Ms. Smiley has taken her love of rug hooking into the Quad-Cities community. She has offered an evening class for beginners at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport.

"Taking a class is the best way to learn, because you really need the experience of a good teacher to guide you," she said. "By taking a class, you learn so much more about rug hooking, faster than you would on your own."

Ms. Smiley clearly loves rug hooking. You can see her personality shine though in both her rugs and the atmosphere she's built into Wheaten Woolens. She says, "I've been fortunate to work with inspiring rug teachers, and have made wonderful friendships that are born in a creative environment."







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  Today is Thursday, Oct. 2, the 275th day of 2014. There are 90 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: The ladies have adopted the fashion of wearing representations of insects in the flowers on their bonnets. Some look very natural.
1889 -- 125 years ago: T.F. Cary, former Rock Island alderman, has accepted a position as salesman for a Chicago wallpaper house and plans to move to that city.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Work on the new telephone building on 18th Street between 6th and 7th avenues is progressing rapidly.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Rock Island's new theater at 3rd Avenue and 19th Street will have a name significant of its location. The "Rocket" is scheduled to open Thanksgiving Day.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Two of Rock Island's newest water towers were vandalized last night, including the one at 38th Street and 31st Avenue, where police took five Moline boys into custody about 9 p.m..
1989 -- 25 years ago: Some of us who live in the Quad-Cities take the Mississippi River for granted, or at least we used to. But the river is not taken for granted by our visitors. And most Quad-Citians are realizing the importance of the river to this area as increased emphasis is placed on tourism.







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