In this post I hope I can encourage you to help someone with special needs learn to hook a rug.
Memorial Day weekend is traditionally my family’s time to head to the cemetery to remember those in our family who have already passed. One of those is my brother Robbie (Robin Jones). He had Downs Syndrome and I adored all of our 30 years together. His birthday was May 2, so I always think a lot about him during the entire month of May. He attended schools for special needs children. During his time at one of these schools, they taught the kids how to do latch hooking. Robbie loved latch hooking! He continued what he was taught over the course of many years at home. He always had a project going. Our mom supported it by keeping him in supplies. But there was one downfall. His store-bought kits were often short a few strands of any given color. The ability to match those missing strands with yarn purchases was not that easy.
I started rug hooking when he was about 28 or 29. One of my mentors gifted him a spare Snoopy pattern and all the wool to construct the project and I went about teaching him the hooking technique. I thought this could be the answer to not having to find him those missing yarn pieces for latch hooking, as long as I could “hook” him in. And I was excited for the
possibilities of having a rug hooking hobby together. He said he did not like traditional rug hooking as much, but he persevered through his first project. I tried numerous times to teach him a smooth stitch at no avail. Then, just toward the end of his snoopy project, I harped on that subject again. This time, he understood, and he finished the project out with the smooth stitch. (You can see the smooth stitch in the upper right of his pillow.) The two different stitch styles did not match on the rug, but I am always of the frame of mind that it doesn’t matter on your first piece. Use it to experiment and learn, then focus on details on the next piece.
Unfortunately, Robbie did not get a chance at a next piece. He died suddenly of unknown causes following a foot surgery. I was fortunate to have his Snoopy pillow as a reminder of him and the times we worked on it together. His personality is portrayed in the piece most predominantly with the outlining of the bird. I always told him to not to
move on to new sections until I had time to give him instructions. But he decided one day to put in the bird while I was at work. When I came home the bird was finished and had dark outlining. I was so happy that he was confident enough not only to move on to hook the bird, but to put that bold outlining on without anyone teaching him that. I wouldn’t have had him do that outlining, but if he liked it, so it must be. After all, it was his pillow, his artwork. He was proud of himself.
I will always be left with that dream in my head that he and I would have had a lot of hooking hours together, enjoying a common hobby. Darnit, it just wasn’t meant to be. But I am grateful that we had that one project together. It was somehow fate that he finished it for me just before he died, like a little parting gift. I will always treasure that pillow until the day I die.
So I encourage you: if you have a special needs person in your life, consider teaching them rug hooking. It is a great outlet for them, and you might find great rewards from reaching out to them. Special needs children were put on this earth to teach us things we are not able to experience with relationships of so-called “normal” people. I promise you. Your time with them will be invaluable.