Pittsburgh Knit & Crochet Festival


Two Students at the Skills for Round Rug Braiding Class

Yesterday I taught my first class at the Pittsburgh Knit, Crochet, & Fiber Festival, and thank goodness, it was a much better experience than my last class!


Since many of you are called on to teach small braided rounds at events such as this, I thought I would share some of the teaching tips that I think made it successful. If you’re not a teacher, these tips will be too detailed and precise to bother reading! I really enjoy figuring out the details, and I lay them all out.

But first, I want to brag about my city a little bit. Yes, I know, I usually can’t bring up Pittsburgh without talking about the lake effect giving us 287 cloud-covered days per year (I still miss the sunshine that I grew up with on the eastern part of the state) …but today I’m going to focus on something good about Pittsburgh.


One of my great students at the conference yesterday

When people think of Pittsburgh, those of my generation and older grew up thinking of it as a “dirty city.” An older lady told me that after going to school and running outside as a child, she would come home with her white Peter Pan collars gray from the pollution from the steel mills. And many remember how the center city region was always “dark,” because the pollution blocked the sun.

But in the 1970’s and ‘80’s, all of that started to transform. The steel industry in the US was collapsing (surprise: foreign-made steel is much cheaper) and people were losing jobs like crazy. The city was dying. Many families were supported by the steel industry, and now the income-earners were being laid off. As the steel struggled to survive, it was cheaper to have a machine perform a job than an employee, so a lot of the job losses were due to mechanization. Eventually, Pittsburgh eliminated all steel mills from the city (a few still exist just outside the city) and focused on cleaning up and building up its other assets.

Today, the major employers in the city are colleges/universities, the healthcare industry, technology – importantly, green technology — and banking. The U. of Pittburgh Medical Center is the largest private employer in the city (I used to work at one of their hospitals: Magee Womens Hospital). Whatever your political orientation, most people I’ve talked to in Pittsburgh roll their eyes about “bringing back the steel industry” the way Trump talked about when he spoke here – it’s ridiculous. You’d have to first eliminate all the foreign competition, and all of modern automation, to get the well-paid blue collar jobs that people want back again.


The David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh

In any case, the Pittsburgh Knit Crochet and Fiber festival was held at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. This is a really cool place. It sits right on the edge of the Allegheny River, and when the 1,500,000 square foot area opened in 2003, it was the largest “green” building in the world. It got a “gold” certification from “LEED,” Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, which is a worldwide rating program developed by the US Green Building Council.  Interestingly, 4 states in the US have effectively banned use of LEED certification because those states consider the rating system to be too stringent (Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Maine). But, here in Pittsburgh, with our new “clean and green” focus, we like it.

The coolest thing about the convention center is its roof: its curves remind me of white sails that are billowing in the wind. As I drive home from the north hills of Pittsburgh, my route takes me across the Allegheny River and I see the convention center at the river’s edge, with the city’s skyscrapers in the background. My class yesterday was held in one of the rooms off a hallway next to the River, with large glass windows in the hallway slanting diagonally outward over the water.


Continuous Round Rug example with butted border (in progress)

But now to braiding. Yesterday, I taught 12 women “Skills for Round Rug Braiding.” One of the conference organizers told me that I couldn’t call it a “mug rug” class, because she had found that classes with “mug rug” in their title were “out.” So I focused the class on the fact that when you start a … ahem, coffee mat… you can add more strips and end up with a round chair pad, and with more strips, a room-sized round rug. I think it’s a good point, and there was one student who decided not to finish her coffee mat, but bought 1.5 yards of fabric and said she would add on strips and continue braiding.

Some of my tips for teaching this 2.5 hour class:

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“Coffee Mat” Class Project

Kit prep. The kit contains: 3 strips of wool, each 72” long, and pre-pressed and rolled up. The 3 strands are sewn into a T-start, all of which I do on a machine because otherwise it’s too tedious. I include 80” of lacing thread wrapped on a cardboard spool that I cut from pretty cardboard tissue boxes. When I teach at other venues, I also include a #16 tapestry needle, a clothespin clamp, a safety pin for marking the row change site, and a plastic 6” ruler cut from gridded template plastic (for measuring fringe). And a handout.

The pre-pressing is really critical, and really awful. It’s terribly time-consuming, but the hardest step to braiding is getting those raw side edges folded inward. I’ve thought of just having people borrow braid-aids, but I make up so many kits ahead of time and with the T-starts already sewn… the braid aids would have to be on the strips already. If I have 30 kits ready, I’d have to have 30 sets of braid aids… that’s a lot of money hanging out in a box for my next class. So… I pre-press.


Another one of my talented students

Teaching Steps. The first thing I do is NOT to start with the double corners in a round. Instead, I have students: 1. Make the initial flip-turn to get all of the strands facing left and, 2. Straight braid for 6-8”. I have found that orienting people to straight braiding, correcting all of the plait-ers, and tightening up the too-loosies, is necessary. Warn people not to go to far, though, or there’s always someone who will braid the entire length while you’re not looking, and they get mad when they have to unbraid the whole thing.

3.  Practice braiding the right-right-left double corners. 4. Unbraid back to the Start, make the flip-turn, and then make 5 double corners. 5. Straight braid to the end. 6. Put a Row Change Marker safety pin horizontally through the second outside loop of the 5th double corner (loop #10 on the outside of the braid).

7.  Lacing. Everyone laces a round center differently, but what I do is to bury the knot in the 5th inside loop, and then lace a draw-string through the flip at the Start and the next 6 loops. This takes them around the center and 2 loops beyond the initial loop where the knot was buried. After tightening, they can then start lacing back and forth between the outside loops of Row 1 and the inside loops of Row 2.

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Chair Pad made with rows based on a count of 10 rather than 9 loops per row

Two tips for this process: a. I don’t express row counts in terms of 9’s and its multiples, as those who are experienced braiders do. When talking to experienced braiders, I say that Row 1 is 9 loops and Row 2 is 18 and Row 3 is 27… this is the standard for butted rows, certainly, but we’re teaching a continuous round. I thought it would be easier for beginners to understand if Row 1 were 10 loops, Row 2 were 20 loops, Row 3 were 30, and on up logically like that.  I braided a chair pad based on a row-change marker at loop #10 and changing my lacing style (skip every 3rd loop in Row 3… to skip every 4th loop in Row 4) at the 10-loop row change. It worked just fine – no rippling. So, because it’s easier to comprehend, I’m changing to rows of 10’s for beginners.


b.  I found there was a little greater comprehension of the correct direction for the needle to lace under loops if I changed how I described it. I used to describe it as coming down from the rug and up from the new braid, but students always mixed up which part was up and which was down. Then I tried describing it as “into the crevice between the rug and the new braid”, which helped orient people because “into the crevice” described the direction without saying up or down. Yesterday I tried saying, “lace from the inside OUT and from the outside IN,” and I think I had a little more comprehension than usual. So I’m going to stick with that.

8.  Finishing. It’s not possible to also teach a taper in 2.5 hours. So, I finish by wrapping the braid 10 times with lacing thread, turning to the back of the work, lacing once under a few of the wraps, and tying a knot between a loop of not-pulled-all-the-way-through-lacing thread and the end of the lacing thread. Trim the ends. Unbraid back to the wraps, and fringe the strands. I do try to make time to demonstrate a taper.

Finally, I have chair pad kits for purchase that are fabric only: three, ½ yard pieces of wool and wool blends, torn selvage to selvage, with snips every 1.5 inches for tearing, which will result in 12 strips of each of three colors. I thought about putting all of the accessories (table clamp, hemostat, braidkin, braid aids, lacing cord, etc) in a kit, but it became too expensive, and some people have one item or another already. So I sold everything individually and students chose what they wanted.


Soap making class I’m taking today from teacher Lori Chandler at the Pgh Knit Crochet & Fiber Festival

I was so pleased: a few of my students went and told one of the conference organizers that I was a great teacher and please have me back for next year! What a relief after all the frustration when I taught in Harrisburg and had that awful woman I wouldn’t fit into the class rant about me to everyone. After the class, I signed up for a soap-making class for me and my braid-buddy Wanda this afternoon, and the organizer gave me a discount on the cost of the class as a thank-you for being a good teacher.  How nice!





Teachers and Criticism

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Mug Rug Class Project

In the past, I’ve gotten praise for my teaching.  I work hard at trying to present things clearly.  I spend a lot of time drawing diagrams and re-writing captions and trying to present things as clearly as possible in handouts and my newsletter, and also in classes.

I recognize that I’m not perfect in this endeavor; sometimes my attempts to explain things fall flat and I have to figure out another way to present a skill.  I’ve had some failures…which have made me feel pretty bad.  Not everyone grasps a technique in a quick class that I’ve sometimes spent days (literally) working on and figuring out.  And sometimes I haven’t realized when I’ve done something that isn’t generalizable to other circumstances, and present it to students as if it is.

And, sometimes I’ve been “nice” and let too many people into a class, and then I don’t catch students’ mistakes early enough because I don’t have time to visit each person after each step.  When students realize that they’ve made a big mistake early in the class… and have to undo a lot of work to make it right… they get frustrated.  So do I.  I’ve made a commitment to keep class sizes limited.

But I try, I really do.  I try very hard to be a good teacher.  Nothing makes me happier than when I see someone use a technique that I taught them and then branch out and figure out their own way to make it a beautiful braided project.

This past weekend I worked with Carolyn Newcomer and Pat Beltz on the Gathering of the Guilds in Harrisburg.  They’ve renamed it Fiber Fest or something but I still call it the Gathering of the Guilds.  Mary Emrich also helped us out (thank you).  We taught two classes, utilizing a rather time-consuming-to-make little mug rug kit, and most although not all people finished the project in the class.  I briefly got to see some of the other guilds that were there (basket-makers, wheat-weavers, knitters, crocheters, quilters, rug hookers, embroiderers, etc).


Trivet that I’ve decided to sell at the Fort Hunter Museum needlework exhibit in May.

There was one woman who showed up just as the morning class was starting.  She was very disappointed that the class was full and asked if she could be squeezed in.  Because we already had squeezed in one other person, and had 11 students, I said no, but that there were plenty of spots open in the afternoon class; maybe she could take it then.  She said she couldn’t take it in the afternoon because she had already signed up for an afternoon class.  She left very angrily, muttering loudly that she had skipped a funeral in order to come and learn rug braiding.

She then proceeded to go up and down the hallway, telling everyone she encountered about what a b—- I was.  The students in the afternoon class (which also filled) all had heard her angry descriptions of our interaction, which was presented a bit differently from how I just presented it.  Even the next day, Carolyn continued to hear about how awful I had been from people this woman had talked to.


Another trivet that I’ll be selling

I wrote to the woman who runs the Gathering of the Guilds, and she essentially told me not to worry about it:  you can’t please all of the people all of the time, and she knows that Carolyn and I have a good history with teaching there; she hinted that maybe this woman wasn’t the easiest for her to deal with either.

My Dad — I stayed with my folks this past weekend — quoted our old minister from growing up, Pastor Spiegelholder.  I’m not a particularly religious person these days, but he was a big figure in my life when I was a kid and he was one of those terribly kind but firm men who could make you feel okay, even when he told you that you were screwing up or just plain wrong.  I don’t think I ever heard him raise his voice, even when he was clarifying arguments and settling them.  In my childhood mind, he and Abraham Lincoln and Mr. Rogers were all mixed together in my mind as just about the same person:  tall, slender, reasonable, moral, kind, and intelligent.

Anyway, Dad said that several times he had heard Pastor S. say that if you weren’t being criticized, you probably hadn’t been doing much of anything lately.

That quote made me feel a little better, it really did.  We all are going to be criticized, no matter how hard we try.  We all are going to tick people off from time to time, even if it’s unintentional.  And we all are going to have some angry person tell everyone they know about how awful we are.


A 6-braid trivet that I also plan to sell

In the meantime, Carolyn and Pat and Mary and I taught 22 people how to braid this past weekend and I think a few students enjoyed it enough that they might pursue it further.  I’ll just have to focus on that.

Freedom and Twisted Centers


Friends Dianne and Kris, outside of Cushing’s Dye shop on a recent visit to Maine

I just dropped my husband off at the airport.

Let me repeat that statement, and this time as you read it, infuse the sentence with a strong sense of relief and joy and just maybe the tiniest bit of guilt:

I just dropped my husband off at the airport!!!

First, let me reassure you that 95% of the time, I am happily married. Both of us have our quirks, but I think we muddle along fairly well together, and we are tolerant of each others’ (mainly MY) foibles and flaws. He is a good and kind man and I love him.

BUT, he has this annoying tendency to become irritated when wool fabric covers every available surface in the house. I can’t imagine why. The other day as he cleared a space on the dining room table so that he could use his laptop, he dropped a stack of wool about 2 feet high into my lap. (I had just finished washing and folding it, so I had placed it on the table). Then he quietly and dramatically sat down in his chair and opened his laptop, and said nothing… but the criticism was heavy in the air:  I could feel it.

So every once in awhile, it’s nice to have all of the silent censures removed. I have 48 hours in which I am completely free from criticism and can cover every surface in the house with wool with impunity.

However, I think I will have to spend some of my censure-free time clearing off the dining room table.


Maple Leaf in Progress

In the meantime, I finished another twisted center flower sample for the class I’ll be teaching at the VF braid in. I have also been working on the maple leaf for the Rug Challenge “Four Seasons” this year. Yes, I know, my autumnal maple leaf represents only one season, but…it will have to do. In any case, I have been finding that the twisted center technique that I’ll be teaching is very useful for filling in strange little narrow spaces between some of the maple leaf edges. Here’s a small example, see photo below:


Twisted Center technique used to fill in the narrow and elongated triangle between braids

I am enjoying the colors in the leaf, and I’ve been looking forward to starting this heathery red/orange row. I am just a little nervous about having enough of this fabric to finish a row, so I’ve been filling in odd spaces between leaf veins with the prior orange color. Some of the spaces I’ve filled in have been very odd little triangles, and I’ve had to be a bit creative to get them filled. I have thought of allowing a few holes in the leaves… don’t bugs chew holes in leaves sometimes? But I decided there would be no hungry insects for this leaf, and that’s that. Besides, it’s sort of fun to figure out how to braid the weird shapes.


Weird triangular shape created to fill a space

The list of braid in attendees is up to 34! So if you’re thinking of going to the Valley Forge Spring Braid In, please sign up soon! We can accommodate up to 50 people. A couple classes have filled, but the majority of classes still have openings.


and about that velvet….

Dianne here….

I have often thought how lucky we braiders (and rug hookers) are in that we can pick up our projects with just a few minutes to spare and do a little more, enjoy a little more. Unlike pottery which is messy and needs a commitment of certain time. I have encouraged new braiders to look for a designated place in their homes where they can devote to their braiding so that it is out, visible and ready for those few minutes to spare.

Well, now that I have gotten into dyeing (first wool, but lately more and more stretch velvet) that is not the case. Unless we have dyeing studios (lucky few), we dyers take over spaces for periods of time. I had been dyeing velvet outside on the back porch since I don’t usually use the stove for velvet but do need multiple plugs for the assorted frypans, crockpots, prestopots, etc. which I use in the dyeing. And water to rinse.

This weekend was stormy in California and so I decided to use the kitchen as I used to when I dye wool. I will blame my husband who was watching at least 10 football games in the same room, fixing a sardine(!) sandwich in ‘my dye kitchen’ then cleaning up etc. that made the dye experience less than pleasant. Perhaps it was also that I did not have enough velvet and am running out of dye AND had a small commission to try to dye some velvet for a hooking friend to hook car chrome silver, not as easy as it sounds. So I frenetically dyed, did all the cleanup and dried the dyed velvet.

I had an epiphany in the middle of the night: why not commander the unused upstairs bathroom for my dyeing…not permanently but could keep it set up for several days at least. Water in the sink, not a deep sink but will work; 4 plugs; and next to my upstairs laundry room for drying. So I checked it out with the sardine eater who I am sure is happy he won’t be barked at in the dye bathroom like yesterday in the dye kitchen and I began moving a card table and dye things upstairs.

I wasn’t too pleased with some of what I dyed yesterimg_1468day,  so set up some reds, yellows, browns in two pots and redyed some patches for an autumn hooked/braided piece I will start soon. It was wonderful!


Here are a couple of the pieces I dyedimg_1466 and a img_1467hat I am braiding from hand dyed velvet for a friend who loves hats. Velvet of course is not sturdy enough to use exclusively for walked on rugs but gives a unique shimmery contrast to wool in hooked and braided mats, baskets, hangings, etc. I have used velvet sparingly in floor rugs for emphasis and it is wearing well. Hooking and braiding only velvet is special too and can show off the randomness or patterns of the dyeing. Maybe it is my pharmacist background but I love dyeing!

I am giving a class at the Valley Forge Braid In in May called Venturing into Velvet with the project a basket braided from hand-dyed velvet. Check out the website or contact me for information.


Virginia and the Van


Nancy Young’s rug with a pretty 9-strand multistrand border.


Christine here.  When I was in college, I had brief aspirations of being an English major. I loved courses like, “Women of Talents,” in which we read works by Doris Lessing, the Bronte sisters, Jane Austen, Margaret Atwood, Mary Shelley, Toni Morrison, Iris Murdoch, and Virginia Woolf. (We jumped around in centuries a bit).  I could have continued with the major if it had involved only fiction….unfortunately there’s a thing called poetry that is also considered important.  After almost failing a course in 19th Century American Poetry, I called it quits with that major.

One of my favorite books from that time was Virginia Woolf’s, “A Room of One’s Own.” The author is famously quoted as saying, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” In my own (non-poetic) way I have been thinking about the minimum requirements for other creative activities lately… such as rug braiding. Money always helps; money helps in just about every situation, especially since Dorr’s prices just went up. A room of my own is certainly nice, although I don’t think it’s necessary; I tend to braid in the living room on the couch, where I can quickly respond to incessant interruptions and demands from my family.

However, a recent loss has helped me to understand one of my other minimum requirements for rug braiding: my minivan. I inherited the van from my father-in-law, who had toured the country in it one summer while my mother-in-law hadn’t yet quite fully descended into dementia. They travelled the country’s national parks, took a million photos that they made into a million slides, and stayed in hotels at night. Upon their return, he developed a bone infection that kept him hospitalized for two months, then rehab for another 3 months, while his wife went into assisted care and eventually the Alzheimer’s unit. My husband flew down to their home in South Carolina every Friday late afternoon and came back Monday mornings, and I took a leave of absence from work, because I simply couldn’t maintain my overnight “call” responsibilities, with little kids and a spouse home only Mon-Thurs.


A pattern for this continuous, double corner, tapered heart is in the recent newsletter.

In the meantime, the poor van sat lonely and unused in my father-in-law’s garage. We finally moved both in-laws up to Pittsburgh so that I could go back to work (still had over $100,000 in med school debt at that point) and my husband could visit them only 20 minutes’ drive away, rather than a plane ride. We had to bring the van up to Pittsburgh,too. At that point I was driving a 13-year old used Taurus station wagon that was on its last legs/wheels, so getting a 2003 van for free was very helpful.

I didn’t like the van at first. I wasn’t used to being so high up off the road. I didn’t like how huge the van was – I felt as if I were driving a truck. It was white and I wouldn’t have chosen white. It was a pain to put the back seats up and down for extra kids and all the inevitable kid birthday parties and interminable Chuck-E-Cheese play-dates. The van just wasn’t my style.

Now, at 55, I don’t have any style to worry about, and I have come to treasure the van. It is absolutely perfect for warehousing several bags of wool fabric that I have bought until my husband isn’t home and I can sneak them into the house without explaining to him why I just bought more wool. My van is great for trips to and from braid-ins, where I can load up the back with everything I need… given my indecisiveness about exactly which braided project I’m going to work on at any one moment, that can mean a lot of projects to bring with me. And when I have teaching jobs, I always have a lot of stuff that I have to bring, so the dear old van is perfect.

I have an old GPS that I bought years ago, and have taped onto the dash with clear packing tape in what my daughter tells me is particularly unattractive (although very useful). To complement the look, my central column has a short and I can no longer see the numbers of the digital clock nor get my CD player to work. I now have an extension cord that plugs into the power adapter, and I plug a boombox CD player into that so that I can listen to my murder spy thrillers while I drive. Given how disastrous a housekeeper I am, it should come as no surprise that my car similarly has quite a few empty diet coke cans and other miscellany that my husband ostentatiously collects and puts into the recycling or trash before he rides with me (I have to drive or I get carsick, so I drive us everywhere).

The other evening, I needed something from Target and I went out in the van. As I was pulling into a parking spot, the van died. Just died. There I was half-in and half-out of a parking space, and the van was unresponsive and comatose. In my usual fashion, I had forgotten my phone (I hate all phones) and I had to stand in line behind 20 people at Customer Service before I could call my husband and Triple A. I had to leave a message on my husband’s phone, and I got through to Triple A, and they said an hour.

In the meantime, I went shopping for what I needed, then I hung out with the poor sick van. When it was long after my husband should have arrived, I went back in and waited in another line to use the phone. This time John answered, and it turns out he had gotten my message, and had gone to Target, and where was I? Well, when he had gotten my message, he hadn’t really listened to me, and he went to the Target he usually goes to instead of the one I told him to go to (we live equidistant between two Targets, and so I had been sure to specify). So I exercised great restraint and explained to him that No, Dear, I was at the other one, and could he please come wait with me in the dark creepy parking lot?


Another slightly larger double corner heart.

We got the van towed, and the mechanic couldn’t even look at the van for a couple days because he was so busy. In the meantime, I started catastrophizing and wondering how I was going to afford a new van (they start at $30,000) so that I could get one exactly like her as a replacement. I had to miss my weekly visit with my braiding buddy, Wanda. I started thinking unhappily of limited trunk spaces in more affordable sedans, and how would I ever manage to take everything I wanted to the braid in, in May.

Then, my husband walked in, and dropped the keys in my lap. The old girl was fixed! It had been a simple belt issue that had taken them about 15 minutes to correct. My 2003 van was running again.

But my brief, 48-hour stint of being van-less had been enough to make me realize just how much I depend on her for my braiding adventures (and the associated wool-gathering). So, bastardizing Virginia Woolf, “A woman needs money, a room of her own sure doesn’t hurt, and a 2003 white Honda minivan to braid rugs”… at least this woman, anyway!

In other news, we have 27 people signed up for the braid in!  Some of the classes are close to getting full, so if you have a specific class in mind, please register soon!  ValleyForgeRugBraidingGuild.com


Online Registration


Yay, the registration for the Spring Braid In (May 5-7, 2017) goes online today!  Go to:  ValleyForgeRugBraidingGuild.com to register after 8 am.

I hope that it’s a smooth process for everyone who registers.  But if it isn’t, please email me (ccmanges@gmail.com) and I’ll do my best to help you out… after I get back and recover from my Florida “vacation” with the family on Monday, January 2.


We have a wonderful list of fun classes, a great speaker, and as always, my favorite part of every gathering is the “Show and Tell” of our beautiful hand braided rugs.

This year’s Rug Challenge is “The Four Seasons,” and every year people make amazing rugs around our challenge topics.  I can’t wait to see what everyone has made!

I hope the online registration process is all pretty self-explanatory but inevitably… the first few people who register are guinea pigs and may encounter some difficulties.  PLEASE email me with problems or complaints and I will do what I can to fix them!  Christine:  ccmanges@gmail.com

Registration Frustration


Christine Manges’ class on “Twisted Center Flower”

Christine here.  OK, this is one of my typical rants. Today, I am ranting about the obscurity of html code. I admit it, I have never taken a class on computers or information technology. I find all the < and / and src and img stuff completely mystifying. I don’t like being mystified. I don’t like feeling ignorant or clueless.

I’ve been realizing this as I’ve been trying to get the Valley Forge Rug Braiding Guild’s website to accommodate an online registration platform for the Spring Braid in. Wouldn’t it be nice, simply to click a button on classes you want to sign up for, and check out with Paypal, and be finished? No waiting to hear back after you send in a check and registration by mail, and wondering if the class was full and you’ve been wait-listed. It would all be there right away and clear. It would be more professional.

Well, I played with the free “event planner” and “event registration” plug-ins for WordPress, and while they may be interpretable and useable by people who have had classes in this, I just found myself confused and frustrated and ready to wing my laptop against the wall.


Pam Rowan’s Class on Braided Acorns

Kris McDermet introduced me to Barb, who runs “Iris Lines” web development and design, and who is a rug hooker who designed the registration platform for the Green Mountain Rug Hooking Guild’s show. The guild has hired her set up our registration, and I’ll just have to plug the information about classes into a standardized format (once she teaches me how).  Thank goodness for Barb.

I am feeling like I might actually need to become a college student again at the local community college, maybe this summer AFTER I finish my darned book, so that I can learn that html stuff that is ticking me off right now.

The class schedule and costs are posted on the http://www.ValleyForgeRugBraidingGuild.com website, as a link that you click on in the most recent post. Online registration for the Spring Braid In will, cross my fingers, be up and running on January 1.

If I haven’t destroyed my laptop by then.

Kris’ Exhibit

bwa2016-postcard-4x6wOK, sometimes we have friends who are entirely too modest and we have to do a little boasting for them, because they never do enough boasting on their own.  Kris McDermet is one of those people.

In a casual email she just sent me photos of her rug exhibit last weekend.  It is over now, so the only way you get to see it is by seeing these photos.

Her husband Stewart, dressed in top hat, acted as door man.


Kris’ husband Stewart acting as doorman

I saw the light green/purple rug’s beginnings at the 2016 Valley Forge Guild’s braid in, I think.  Pretty amazing!

Kris says she sold three of the pieces on display — yay!


Beautiful hooked and braided rugs by Kris McDermet

img_3809In the foreground of one of the photos are a few hex-weave baskets by Jackie Abrams.  Dianne and I were lucky enough to see some of her baskets in a gallery in Cambridge, MA.  What a vibrant Arts group Kris is involved with!img_3798







The Mother of Invention

Dianne here….Have you ever tried something out of necessity or desperation and found the solution to be useful or downright brilliant? Well, maybe not brilliant… but the other day I was finishing up a hooked/braided bowl, this one being square and out of my hand dyed stretch velvet and yarns. I had not done a square before and thanks to my friend and muse Christine, she reminded me that doing straight braids on the butted (or continuous) sides of the bowl are better/easier/saner than triples and alternating lacing positions.

I hooked the base, finished it and braided 2 flat butted rows of velvet with triples then went up the sides decreasing before each corner to bring in the row a little. If I do it again I would decrease twice. If you haven’t braided with stretch velvet, it is wonderful but  it has a tension all its own and you have to get used to it and then give up trying to make it as perfect as wool. I tell myself because it drapes less than uniformly, it is providing more elegant sheen!

Anyway because of the two flat rows, my small hooked square was now a large base for the bowl and after 2 side rows I was running out of velvet. I currently dye the velvet in 1/3 yard pieces, one of a kind, so no more in the pantry. You can fudge with the width a bit to get more yardage, and I do, but this just wasn’t going to work. I cut the velvet normally 1.25″ wide so much narrower is nigh impossible to braid (though you can just fold over once in a pinch; I was already pinched).

I had used some of the unspun Icelandic wool I described in a recent post to hook some of the center as I thought the rusty wool complemented my mottled velvet fabric, so I thought, how about using a double strand of wool as the third strand in the last butted row? I could cobble together enough velvet for 2 strands….Well it worked, tho butting became a knot and don’t examine the butt site too closely as rebraiding with velvet and unspun yarn became a challenge!img_0667-1

As usual the velvet does not photograph as well as in person but I hope you can see how the velvet changes subtly with the mottling and the addition of the unspun (shown in corner) in the hooked base and the last row.


Here are the 4 wheels of unspun I bought in Iceland and now (because of necessity and that wonderful Mother) I know I can use them for BOTH hooking and braiding!

Classes So Far

Slowly, slowly, classes for the May 2017 braid in are starting to roll in.  (Deadline is December 10 for submitting classes…. see link http://valleyforgerugbraidingguild.com/class-proposal-form/).  Registration for classes opens January 1.

I have been having fun thinking about what I would like to teach.  I always sign myself up for teaching classes for which I have things only about half figured out, and hope that the deadline will sufficiently motivate me to clean up the details.  Most of the time this works!

After some discussion with some of my loyal students, I’m going to teach the following: 1.  Fun with Chevrons.  2.  Flower Petals with a Twist.  3.  Butting.

The Fun with Chevrons will be… fun.  Here’s a photo example of a chevron border from a shamrock rug a few years ago:

Chevron border on a Shamrock rug
Chevron border on a Shamrock rug

This shows a simple “chevron dot” pattern.  But there are other easy patterns to create with chevron braids.  We’ll make a small rectangular mat and explore patterns and corners and butting with these 4-strand braids.

For Flower Petals with a Twist… I don’t have a photo because I have only worked it out on small practice pieces so far.  I have to figure in some time for making a chair pad or doily-sized example.  It involves using one strand twisted around itself to create the center spoke of each petal, and this twisted strand enables you to avoid having to do any e-lacing or shoe-lacing to close the center of the petal.

Then I’ll probably offer Butting, just because it’s a good basic skill that has been made easier to get comfortable with, now that Anne Caldwell created the Annie’s Fanny Butt.

Other classes being offered are:

img_22484.  Beginner Rug Braiding:  Chair Pad.  Robin Kershaw volunteered to teach these sessions (although I’m sure she’ll appreciate some assistance from others).

indian-corn-25.  Braided Indian Corn with Peggyann Watts.  Peggy figured out how to make these delightful corn cobs (the corn fronds come with the class) in continuous fashion rather than 9-loop center after 9-loop center, so to my mind at least these will be much more interesting and fun.  How will she do a teeny tiny taper???  Can’t wait to find out.

6.  Braided Acorns with Pam Rowan.  (Indian corn… acorns… anyone say Autumn door arrangement?)  These little cuties are made with 9-loop centers so you’ll get plenty of practice for your all-butted chair pad or hexagon star centers.

img_2437 img_2438 img_2436

7.  img_3325Standing Wool Trivets with Jenn Kiarsis.  I made one of these in Jenn’s class at Methuen and had a great time.  My trivet was on my Thanksgiving table (although next time I’ll pick some colors other than turquoise, olive green, and bright orange).

If you’re thinking about submitting a class… please get moving on your project or technique, and don’t forget the deadline of December 10!