My favourite Student-Marge Crueger and my weekly progress Report

When I look back over my years of teaching, I think that Marge is the student that I like, enjoy and admire the most of all my students. She never gives up and always finds laughter in problems and getting old. Every week I look forward to seeing her and teaching her. I am not even sure who is teaching whom. In the last year mostly I nudge her into doing what she already knows and helping her to remember her skills that she already has.

Marge is my all time favourite student in almost 30 years of teaching tapestry. Marge has been a weaver since the the very late 30’s and early 40’s. Marge is slightly over 90 years old and extremely frail. She is a member of my Wednesday class that I teach at in an assisted care facility in Corvallis. She tells the most wonderful stories of living in Alaska in Sitka during World War2. She decided to take up tapestry about 10 years ago. She studied originally with such weavers as Collingwood, Nancy Hoskins, and Marta Rogoska. She was an incredible weaver, but age creeps up and things change.
We have had to make many adaptations to tools and technique so that she could continue to weave. The Hagen loom is a great loom for positioning in to place for arthritic shoulders and necks. We don’t use the shedding device because of problems with reaching and the strength it takes to move the shedding device. The loom is warped with the ties on at the top for ease of adjustment and keeping the visual confusion down that often resulted when the ends were tied at the bottom. The biggest problems is she’s not very strong, has shoulder pain and tires extremely easy. Some days we only weave a pass or two. A square inch is considered to be a gargantuan amount for a days weaving. Weaving with a tight warp has been impossible. The tighter warps abraded her fragile skin. Because of the loose warp we are constantly pulling the tapestry out with ties to the sides and working on slit control. On some days we work with short term memory problems and directional problems.
The penguins are for her less then 2 year old granddaughter-an Alaskan Native American who lives in Alaska. We joke about confusing the poor kid. Penguins don’t live in Alaska, but she’s little and won’t know for a few years.
I hadn’t realized how colourful penguins actually are until Marge started weaving her tapestry. Their heads and beaks have the most incredible colour- oranges and gold. We used silk and rayon in the extreme whites and white colour areas on the adult to contrast with the woolen wefts.. The babies are mostly greys with white and black colouration on the head and around the bill. The area in the back are the Northern Lights which I have never seen and Marge is doing from memory. We are using sparkly multicoloured embroidery floss for the Northern lights.
My progress report for the week
The crocheted lace is really fun to weave. I had to figure out how to make it seem to float in front of the images. I changed the ratio of the weft in the soumack bundles in relationship to the weft bundles. Usually, I like a really flat surface to my tapestries-no added texture so that the soumack texture disappears in to the base weft. I (usually) don’t like the shadow that can be created when the light hits the soumack. The soumack bundle or twiners are usually about 50 percent of the size of the weft bundle. This time I doubled the size of the the soumack bundle so that it appears to lay on the surface, creating shadowing and floating on the surface of the base weft or tapestry.
What wasn’t fun was discovering I had mis-measured my cartoon and it was over the 14.5 inches. I usually try and keep my tapestry under 15 square inches because several small format shows that I enjoy entering have that as a size requirement. Many have have 10 x 10 inches, so I try and do both sizes with my small format weaving. I had to redo the top of the cartoon and subtract 2 inches. Evidently I added wrong when I was using my 12 inch ruler and measured an extra 2 inches onto the cartoon I was drawing.
The mask I am weaving in the right hand corner is a masque of becoming. The masque represents the chances we take as we try and evolve and control our existence. One side is crying and the other is laughing. The Lakota, according to my grandmother, said that the way to tell if tears are from laughter or crying is that tears that fall close to the nose are crying tears. Tears that fall from the corners of the eyes are tears of laughter. I have also started the spine of the feather. The feather will be black. It lies against dark hills and trees in the background. The water under the lace is sparked with orange as the water catches the last light.
The Connections catalogue is great. Kathy Spoering and all did a great job. I am so glad that I am going to the Connections show in San Jose and the Small Expressions show in at Hartnell. I am really looking forward to seeing Maximo Laura’s work up close. The bad news for me is that I am hearing rumours that they have cameliad fibers in them of which I am extremely allergic and won’t be able to get as close as I would like.
One thing I was left wondering is why people who do small format often let the rib structure overwhelm the design. I am also amazed at the choices that judges make in choosing pieces for small format shows. Then again I am also amazed that Lurcat is still influencing how people think about small format tapestry or tapestry in general.(Yes, I know I left out the tail on the c. I can’t figure out how to make this program add it.) I sometimes wonder why we are even concerned with what he said so many years ago. As far as I am concerned there is so much that he was so wrong about. I thing that Lurcat has probably caused more harm to the tapestry world-especially small format tapestry then any other tapestry weaver/designer. Someday I would like to write or be involved with a discussion of Lurcat and his contributions to the tapestry world.
Better go the day is getting shorter and I still need to weave for a couple of hours.


  1. Jeri Mettler on January 18, 2018 at 3:00 pm

    I can’t begin to explain how special this story is to me… My daughter was Marge’s “Alaska Baby”. She is 10 now, and though she knows about Granny Crueger, she only knows her from pictures. We were fortunate to be able to visit her before she passed away. She was a remarkable woman.

    My daughter LOVES her Penguins– and Winnie-the-Pooh and Eeyore! I printed your page so that she could see just how much love and hard work went into making them. Thank you so much for documenting the details…

    I wish that we had one more day to spend with Marge. I bet she had some amazing stories. 😉

    • kathetoddhooker on February 16, 2018 at 6:36 pm

      Marge was so special to me. She was one of favourite people. She was one of my best friends. Chene and I were with her the day before she died. I have really been missing her. She did have amazing stories and was a great mentor to me. I assume your Alaska baby received the bracelets that were so special to her. I loved her bracelets so much. When I went to Sitka I bought to bracelets 5 years apart from the same family that made hers. I wear them in her memory and for the story they tell. I would love to have a pix or even update that particular blog. Please contact me again some time. Cheers and all, Tell your Alaska baby she was well loved by Marge.

  2. DeAnna on October 27, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    This is wonderful. I love her tapestry. Makes me realize how my little pains in my neck and back when weaving aren't really that bad after all. I sure hope I can do as well at her age. Inspiring.

  3. T Scanlin on May 2, 2009 at 6:58 am

    Wonderful post, Kathe! What an inspiration your elder student is for us all. If we only have world enough and time to get to her place, too. And, when there, if only there will be someone like you to encourage and enable.