Jim Johnson was a Kansas City police officer for 25 years, and spent seven years of that quarter century working vice, but has no problems with his wife being a well respected hooker – a rug hooker.
Janis Johnson’s Wooly Woolen Wool Studio in Blue Springs attracts rug hookers from across the country, as they converge on her personal sanctuary that is lined with antiques, some of her most famous rug creationss and bolt after bolt of the most sought after dyed wool in the country.
“When I tell folks my wife is a hooker, they kind of give me this look,” quipped Johnson, who is nearly as famous as his wife for his Jimbo’s Big-Time BBQ that he often prepares as a lunchtime treat for the rug hookers.
“We get a kick out of it, we really do. But one day we were walking through Costco and Janis had a shirt on that said ‘ORIGINAL HOOKER’ and a little guy about 75 came walking by us and he saw the shirt. He stopped for a minute and smiled and gave Janis a big thumbs up. I told her, ‘Hon, I don’t think you better wear that shirt anymore.’”
When Janis hears that account from her husband, she throws her head back and laughs out loud.
“I do remember that, and I don’t wear that T-shirt anymore,” she said. “We do have a lot of fun with this and Jim has been so supportive. Not a lot of husbands would want their wife inviting 25 or 30 hookers into their home every week.”
On a gorgeous day, more than 25 women fill the Wooly Woolen Wool Studio and one patron from Lincoln, Neb., is asking Janis about a certain color to complete the background of her rug.
“I love coming here,” said Lori Curtis, a longtime patron turned friend of Janis. “She has everything – and I mean everything – when it comes to hooking. I don’t know if there is a place in the country that has more variety and no one knows more about hooking and working with colors than Janis.”
Although she didn’t know it at the time, Johnson’s love of color – which eventually paved its way to her love of wool and hooking – began when she was a child.
“When I was a little girl I would go to my grandma’s house and stir up Ivory Snow flakes with dye and make different colored stew. And looking back on that, that’s what led to my love of dying wool fabric and offering it here in my shop.
“I’d like to think that I could come up with just about any design or color someone is looking for.”
Johnson says she has always loved working with colors and she combines that with her passion for antiques and the soft, warm pastels that are often found in her rug creations.
“While my love of colors started when I was a child, I discovered rug hooking 20-plus years ago, back around 1996, when I was with my friend (and fellow rug hooker) Kathy Simmons and we went to the Liberty Quilt Shop.
“We decided to take a class and have been doing it ever since that day.”
She opened Wooly Woolen Wool Shop in 2003 and now teaches a class from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Tuesday, along with hosting weekend retreats, and has patrons from as far away as New York, Nebraska, Iowa, Texas and Washington state.
As she looks around her shop at the seemingly endless supply of wool, she grins.
“I’ve probably dyed about 40 percent of the wool in here in my little kitchen right over there,” she said, pointing to a kitchen area where her husband cooks up his popular lunches. “It’s all so therapeutic. I love it – and believe me, it’s cheaper than going to a psychiatrist.”