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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 Tuesday, Sept 2, the 245th day of 2014. There are 120 days left in the year.

1864 — 150 years ago: It is estimated that 300,000 people attended the recent Democratic convention in Chicago when Gen. George B. McClellan of New Jersey was nominated as a candidate for president of the United States.
1889 — 125 years ago: Alderman Frank Ill, Winslow Howard and Captain J.M. Montgomery returned from Milwaukee, where they attended the national Grand Army of the Republic encampment.
1914 — 100 years ago: Three members of the Rock Island YMCA accepted positions as physical directors of other associations. Albert Cook went to Kewanee, C.D. Curtis to Canton and Willis Woods to Leavenworth, Kan.
1939 — 75 years ago: Former President Herbert Hoover appealed for national support of President F.D. Roosevelt and Congress in every effort to keep the United States out of war.
1964 — 50 years ago: The Rock Island Junior chamber pf Commerce has received answers to about 65 % of the 600 questionnaires mailed out recently in a "Community Attitude Survey" to analyze sentiments of citizens towards their city's various recreational, educational, and civic service programs.
1989 — 25 years ago: The two thunderstorms passing through the Quad Cities last night and early today left some area residents reaching for their flashlights.






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