Dyed and Gone to Heaven – An Online Magazine and Needlework Resource  


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Carolyn Hook

By Rita Vainius

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Carolyn Hook grew up in Melrose, MA, a characteristic New England town, not far from her present home in historic Salem, MA, widely known as the Halloween capital of the world. Carolyn's father made his living from the sea and her mother was a professional seamstress. As an experienced craftswoman, Carolyn's mother was called upon to sew and tailor clothes and also to fashion more formal garments such as wedding gowns, which she skillfully embellished with elaborate embroidery and other decoration. Thus was Carolyn exposed to quality in the needlearts at a very early age. As a young child, Carolyn watched her mother sewing and wanted to "make" something too. She learned some embroidery basics and stitched ever so diligently using her first hoop made from cardboard. Her enthusiasm for needlework has never subsided. She continued under the expert tutelage of her mother, which gave her a firm foundation on which to build. Experimenting on her own, she became self taught in various other stitching techniques. Carolyn went on to attend classes at the Elsa Williams School of Needle Art to fine tune techniques she was already adept in and expand into other forms of needlework. Under under the instruction of Shuji Tamura, Carolyn studied Japanese Embroidery and graduated the ten phases in 1988.

Twenty one years ago, Carolyn opened the needlework store, "It's a Crewel World," by which time she was well versed in many aspects of needlework. In addition to running the shop, she taught several classes in different techniques and was an accomplished designer in her own right. It's a Crewel World began as actually only half of a shop in Boston, sharing space with a knit shop. When the shop relocated to Salem, it was to another tiny space which quickly became crammed with every cross-stitch leaflet known to man or woman, as well as all the best handpainted needlepoint canvases. The next move was to a building with a staggering 10,000 square feet of space. This was the historic Gothic Revival Daniel Low and Co. structure.


"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven," (Book of Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3). So too, for Carolyn, the seasons are changing and it is time for her to move on. The most dramatic change she has made is closing her shop, It's a Crewel World, much to the dismay and chagrin of stitchers who have become accustomed to it being their "home away from home." She is embarking on a new phase of her life, one in which she plans to devote much more time to designing. She has also made herself available for creating stitch guides for handpainted needlepoint canvases. Many renowned handpainted designers are already queuing up to take advantage of her talents and expertise. Carolyn's original designs will be marketed under her own name and the name of her design business, Crewel and Unusual Designs. She is using her former retail space for her design work and continues to service her mail order clientele from there as well. How appropriate that her building actually housed the first mail order house in America!


The guest book of It's A Crewel World has, under Carolyn's stewardship, amassed names which constitute a "Who's Who" of the needlework world. Carolyn will always treasure the special memories associated with her retail adventure. But, right now her attention is riveted in a new direction, and once Carolyn decides on a course of action, her focus is on that goal, rather than looking back.

Carolyn's range of talents can not be easily defined just by the different hats she has worn as shop owner, teacher and designer. Her skills include a rare combination of technical expertise, creative talent and business savvy. Additionally, she is a reputed writer, having authored Fiber Fantasy, First and Second Editions. She is currently at work on the Third Edition, due out later this year. These are color comparison books for needlework threads on today's market and constitute an invaluable resource book for dedicated stitchers.


Because of her intuitive talent for understanding the qualities of different fibers and the use of color, Carolyn's mental imagery of a design evolves very closely to her initial design idea. Carolyn explains this ability, " Nearly always, I visualize the design in my mind and the end result is usually what I've envisioned, though it may vary slightly in a change of color value or perhaps a stitch." Her designs include many florals, which are realistic in expression, yet somewhat stylized and Jacobean in genre. They often are executed in traditional Japanese embroidery, of which she is a master craftswoman. Carolyn's florals tend to reflect realistic coloration corresponding to traditional Jacobean colors. She elaborates on her technique, "I use crewel embroidery, especially long and short stitch to achieve shading and to create the effect of "painting" on fabric with threads. I use various crewel stitches to create dimension."

Carolyn's design expertise covers a wide range of techniques, but she is best known for her work in crewel, Japanese embroidery, counted needlepoint and Hardanger. Crewel especially provides the most freedom for her creative artistry, allowing her to use her drawing and painting skills. She finds the creative expression which needlework affords to be endlessly inspiring, therapeutic and fulfilling. Carolyn's fervent wish is, " In this day of "high tech" that this art will pass on to our children so that they may pass it on to their children and keep it living for generations to come."



For more information on Carolyn Hook's work and Crewel and Unusual Designs, see your favorite needlework retailer or contact Carolyn at 231 Essex Street, Salem, MA 01970. A catalog of current designs is available for $3.50

Phone: (978) 745- 9696 / Fax: (978) 741- 7735

© 1999 The Caron Collection / Voice: (203) 381-9999, Fax: 203 381-9003

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