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Made in St. Louis: Rug hooking creates art with animals, presidents

Made in St. Louis: Rug hooking creates art with animals, presidents

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Nola Heidbreder

Age • 54

Home • Glendale

Family • Husband Paul, married 28 years, and son Benjamin of Cape Girardeau, Mo.

What she makes • Traditional hooked art and rugs, supplies, pattern books and instructional guides

How to buy • Shop original art pieces at Tiadaghton House in Lebanon, Ill., or contact her to arrange a studio visit, find out about classes or attend her next demonstration or showing at or 314-640-6344.

Knitting knowledge • Heidbreder has written books on knitting and crocheting rugs with her sister Linda Pietz, who lives in Foresthill, Calif., that are available at major craft supply outlets, including Michaels, Hancock Fabrics, Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores and The siblings are now collaborating on a book of knitted and crocheted baskets due to hit stores in March 2017. “Our two styles are so different, but we work really well together,” Heidbreder said.

Outsized animals • If she could do anything, Heidbreder said, she’d follow her natural inclination to craft animals. She likes to give them personalities and to portray her favorite people, including herself and her husband as animal characters. “I really enjoy hooking animals and houses and my style is folk art, so the animals are out of proportion and the dog might be bigger than the house,” Heidbreder said. “My style kind of looks like children’s art — so naive, folky and primitive. But my sister is from a graphic arts background” and has a degree in art from Washington University. She said her sister refines her style and that typically means bringing the proportion of Heidbreder’s animals closer to reality.

Early influences • “My sister and I grew up in a house of antiques, so we always appreciated antiques and crotchet and hand-hooked rugs,” Heidbreder said. “It’s something I always wanted to know how to do, and there was no teacher for traditional rug hooking, which is what I do, so I taught myself and have taught nationally for 20 years.” She receives invites for demonstrations, lessons and lectures across the country.

Not your ’60s rug • “People assume that it’s latch hooking, you know like they were doing in the ’60s and ’70s and perhaps are still doing, but it’s definitely not latch hooking,” she explained. Traditional hooking is much older and provides a more polished finish. Latch typically incorporates yarn and relies on knots, but the traditional style uses strips of fabric that are looped through a linen base. The format is better suited to refined designs and even portraiture. She said that if you shop a hand-hooked rug at a major retailer, you’re most likely getting something that’s punch hooked with a machine that’s handheld. But she cuts, dyes, finishes and designs every strip of fabric and every aspect of her work using traditional tools for something that’s truly handmade.

Presidents series • This project started with her sister’s knitting club. The group was competing at a state fair (and won) for its display of the 44 dolls representing each of the United States presidents in 2012. Each was embellished with “fun historical facts” that distinguished each likeness. After the fair, her sister got the idea of reproducing the project with hooked rug wall art pieces. “I thought it was great, especially including facts about each president that they don’t necessarily teach in schools.”

Hidden details • You can purchase a book with patterns for the presidents’ project on Heidbreder’s website; it also includes an explanation of the project and notes on each of the details included for each president. President Barack Obama’s image includes Spider-man because he’s the only president who collected comic books and his likeness has also been featured in a comic book. President Theodore Roosevelt’s rug features all the pets “he actually owned because although he was a hunter, he loved animals and he also had a lot of plants.” Meanwhile, President Warren Harding is identified with objects associated with being “the bad boy president of the time. He played cards and drank and so there are cards and a bottle of whiskey on his rug. He also ran around (with other women) and his wife got fed up with it, and it’s said she might have poisoned him in the hotel” where he died suddenly.

Let Nola Do It • “I wasn’t always doing this. I used to do whatever people needed to have done, you know running errands,” Heidbreder said. Her company name Let Nola Do It LLC is a holdover from that enterprise. “I don’t do that anymore, but the name is something that really sticks in people’s minds.”

Debra D. Bass • 314-340-8236

Fashion editor

@debrabass on Twitter

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