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Renaissance woman at Tallgrass Creek

Dee McGlashon shares her talents with neighbors

Created date

December 21st, 2010

In the 1980s, Dee McGlashon went to a state fair in Nebraska where she encountered a woman who was exhibiting handmade rugs. McGlashon was instantly inspired to try rug hooking, an old folk art particularly popular in the northeastern U.S. So she bought a starter s kit from the fair and taught herself how to craft rugs by hand. Rug hookers weave strips of dyed wool through burlap or some other kind of mesh to create designs that range from simple to painstakingly complex. To create a very detailed and lifelike image, a rug hooker might use five different shades of red wool to create a single rose, McGlashon says. It looks like a painting when you are finished, she says. Over the years, McGlashon has used both the traditional method of rug hooking, which uses strips of wool as thin as a piece of yarn, and the primitive method, which uses wider strips. At times, she has worked with a friend because rug hooking is so labor intensive and can require two pairs of hands. It s a relaxing hobby, McGlashon says. It s not as exact as quilting, and it s very easy to alter your design.

Gifts from the heart

To date, McGlashon has made more rugs than she can even count and she s making more every day. Last February, she moved from Manhattan, Kan., toTallgrass Creek, anErickson Living communityin Overland Park, where she lives in a two-bedroom apartment home. She uses her second bedroom as a studio space to store her supplies and work on her elaborate rugs. My closets are not full of clothes; they are full of wool, she jokes. McGlashon says she gives most of her rugs away to family and friends as gifts. However, she periodically sells them, but only upon special request from friends or acquaintances. She is currently working on a rug for herself that will be a portrait of her Boston terrier, and she is also braiding a rug for a friend. In 2011, some of McGlashon s creations will be on display in the on-site art studio at Tallgrass Creek.

Pursuing a lifelong dream

McGlashon is a woman of many talents. In addition to her dedication to rug hooking, she is also a published novelist. In the early 1980s, after her last child left home, McGlashon started to think about what she d like to do with the rest of her life. She was trained in creative writing and journalism and worked as a writer and editor at Kansas State University. But she says the demands of motherhood and a career didn t leave her time to achieve one of her lifelong goals. I had always wanted to write a novel, McGlashon says. But writing a novel has to take over your life or you ll never get it finished. So McGlashon decided to take a leave of absence from her job at the university to pursue her dream. She immersed herself in the all-consuming process of writing a novel, and in 1987, Shadow of a Bird was published. The book is written under her maiden name, D.M. Toliver, and is still available for purchase online. Shadow of a Bird takes place on a Kansas horse farm, McGlashon says. She describes it as a coming of age story about a man who has a lot of responsibility in his family and decides to move out on his own. McGlashon says that writing a novel is gratifying but tremendously consuming. The first draft you get down as fast as you can; it s like a fire in the belly, she says. Then you have to put on your editor s hat and go through several rounds of rewriting. Her neighbors at Tallgrass Creek were so excited to have a novelist in residence that McGlashon was invited to give a presentation on publishing a book. About 100 people attended the talk, and many of them were obviously impressed. The book has kind of had a second birth because several people ordered it over eBay, McGlashon says. You can get it quite reasonably online.