I tried to teach myself to hook using an unfinished rug of my grandmother's, but the decade-old burlap shredded. Around that time, I saw a sign in Brandi's Shoe Store for the first Long Island Rug School to be held right here in Greenport. I signed up. I learned a lot that week and met some wonderful people. One of them was McGown teacher Helen Connelly, a soft-spoken, gracious woman dressed to the nines who was working on a stunning room-sized floral rug in a #3 cut. The colors in the rug were amazing -- and she had dyed them all herself.
Back then the norm was to chose a teacher and stick with her, but the next year I switched to Helen's class. She was a remarkable teacher, thoughtful and considerate even when confronted by the ugliest hooked flower in history. She never took the hook out of a student's hand, never ripped strips of wool out of an unsuccessful rug. She taught with positive energy and encouragement. After that year's school, she invited me to attend classes in her home and even gave me a couple of private dyeing lessons. What a treat.
She was an active member of the Long Island Guild of Rug Crafting Artists, who honored her at their show in 2007. Sadly, I can't find my photos of her rug display, but you can see a couple in A Rug Hooker's Garden published by Rug Hooking Magazine in 2000.
I will remember Helen fondly, poised and ever-encouraging, dressed in a favorite outfit: denim skirt, cowboy boots, and a fringed vest accented by her beautiful turquoise jewelry -- a color she could -- and often did -- replicate perfectly in her dye pot.