All those blues!

Dianne here….

I am out at our CA coastal vacation rental and only brought knitting and denim rolls. I have recently made two medium (~25″) round rugs out of denim jeans for our master bath to replace a large oval from towels I made as a new braider  The towel rugs did not age well and so the denim ones hope to be a good replacement.

I was lucky to buy 11 pairs of denim jeans at our thrift store during their periodic $1 pant sale and then Colleen Blaisdell offered a number of jeans she had been saving when we’re both at the Valley Forge Braid In last year.  Bonanza!

I brought several rolls of the denim to the coast this trip planning to make a round or rectangular rug for the area going into the garage, but once I got here I realized a denim rug would not go with a couple of wool rugs I had made for nearby areas.

What to do on a cold day? Why not braid some denim baskets to sell at a rug hooking show next summer. I have found that rug hookers are impressed with small, non-rug items especially if braided with other fibers and/or narrow strips. As I began the first base, I was reminded how unforgiving denim is in terms of tweaks and how hard braiding and lacing is on the hands. The thought of tapering then butting a last row and side rows for each basket began to depress me, so I decided to make continuous mats in various sizes…..for trivets or for table center mats or even mats for under house plants.

I have always loved the way braiding brings out the various blues and textures of jeans . So here they are…..what do you think?

 

Ruffled Candle Mat

 

IMG_0762

Christine here.  This is a candle mat — the center perfectly fits one of those scented candle jars that my daughter loves.   There are two rows of ruffling, and some yellow “pollen” loops.

I was thinking about teaching this as a class.  Is there any interest?  I can’t recall when we’ve made anything ruffled before.  And using the braids as a hooking foundation for the pollen was kind of fun.

 

Rambling Worries

Three-Pink-Daisies-Facebook-CoverIMG_0749 (1)

 

 

 

 

 

Above:  a Gerber daisy and my attempt to recreate this in braids, in progress.  I’m lacing a second row of braids onto an already-laced row, which is a trick I learned from Kris McDermet and Peggyann Watts, both of whom have made “footed” baskets like this.  My plan is to add several more rows both to the row in progress and to the outside row, but to put in so many increases that there will be two incredibly ruffled petal rows.  Then a black 9-loop center and some loopy rug hooking strips around it to get that pollen area.

In my mind’s eye, it will be perfect.  We’ll have to see what happens, though.

On the home front:  my son actually texted me the other day. Since he’s been off at college, it’s been difficult to communicate with him.

In contrast, we hear from our daughter just about every day. If nothing else, she calls to request more money — although that’s improved somewhat since I had a series of discussions with her and my enabling, “Yes, Princess, whatever you want” husband. Clearly, it’s in everyone’s best interest to have her learn how to budget, and if I occasionally have to scream at everyone to get them to recognize that… well, so be it.

My son, however, is impervious to manipulation via money. We gave him a set amount to last him all semester (having learned to do so because of our daughter) and it has sat there untouched so far except for $5. Apparently he eats at the cafeteria and doesn’t have a girlfriend, so his expenses are minimal.

The result, though, is that he doesn’t often talk to us. I text him to ask him how he’s doing, and he texts back, “fine.” I send him photos of the dogs doing stupid things, and he sometimes will respond “cute.” I demand that he call us that evening and… nothing.  About the longest communication I’ve heard from him is:  “Did you change your Netflix password? What is it?”

I am aggravated with him, and just a bit scared. Is this how families become estranged? It seems that everyone has a family member who has just dropped off the face of the planet, and you never see or hear from them again. I haven’t seen one of my cousins in more than a decade (of course, I don’t really miss him, either – he was a sarcastic jerk with no sense of humor at all.  But I still worry about him).

And I worry about my son and his lack of communication with us. He sees himself as an independent loner, but he’s a loner as long as there are people around him. If he actually severed ties with everyone, I’m pretty sure he would spiral downward pretty quickly. Despite feeling like a loner, he really isn’t.

Yesterday, he actually texted me on his own. He was having bad hand pain, and he was struck by the thought that maybe he was getting arthritis like his sister. She has inflammatory arthritis (think “rheumatoid” and it’s close), which started with terrible joint swelling and pain in her hands and feet and knees and elbows in the summer after graduating from high school. She had to go on steroids for awhile just to be able to write or type. She’s now maintained on Plaquenil and only complains when it’s raining outside.

Through a series of texts, Jack clarified with me: it was his right index finger only. No other joints were hurting. There was no redness or other signs of infection other than sharp pain. He has had no recent injuries to his hand. He has done nothing out of the ordinary. Wait for it: he’s maintaining his usual regimen of playing his guitar for 4 to 5 hours every day.

Yes: 4 to 5 hours every day.

Having the benefit of only texting him, I was able to laugh out loud and not have him get angry with me. So I laughed and texted him that maybe, just maybe, he needed to do something else besides play guitar for a few days, and see if his finger felt any better.

Sigh. I found myself hoping for more aches and pains on his part just so the boy would communicate with me.

But it made me think a bit about my braiding. I’m afraid that Jack gets his ability to stay on task for hours on end from me. We are both the opposite of ADD: we can focus on one thing almost forever, if we want to.

I’ve never had any hand pain from braiding or lacing – except once when I was working with some really stiff and thick coat weight wool and finger-folding. Then, I had some thumb-achiness, and I switched to using braid-aids for that wool.

But I have heard stories from people with repetitive motion injuries that seriously impaired their ability to do what they wanted due to tendonitis, which can in some people take a long, long time to heal up. One of my rug punching acquaintances couldn’t punch with her right hand for a whole year. Another friend had a tendonitis episode that limited her ability to hook rugs for many months.

Summary of today’s worries: that my daughter will be financially irresponsible and tap us for money the rest of our lives, that my son will become estranged from us at some point, that my cousin is homeless or in prison somewhere, that I will become unable to braid someday due to tendonitis… or because I lose my eyesight… or have a stroke and lose function in a hand…

There’s always something you can worry about, right? I can take on the best of them with worrying.

4-Braid Spiral

IMG_0484

4-braid spiral; tapered and surrounded by butted borders of the pattern “Stacked Picot.”

Christine here.  Just finished a rug I’m really pleased with.  I figured out a way to end my tapers without those little spikes of the wrong color into the row below, and I even have a second way to try a la Peggyann Watts, from her advice and photos, thank you!  Next rug.

Of course, I’ve been having so much fun braiding, that I haven’t yet managed to write up the whole process for the upcoming newsletter on Spirals.  So I’ve got to put my braids down and start drawing diagrams — when at the moment, moving on to the next one I have planned (which is 6 braids) is what I really want to do.

But the good things are:  it’s fall and cooling off, so I have fewer hot flashes already; I have no relatives or property in Florida (what a nightmare it’s been for Texas and Florida); my introverted son has actually made friends at college; my daughter is doing okay at her school.  My husband and I seem to be muddling along quite well by ourselves at home… in fact, it’s quite peaceful.

n_a-2

Anna Wilks’ 6-braid Spiral with blunt endings

I dredged up an old photo of a rug made by Anna Wilks that she had posted on the Yahoo rug braiding group, which I cannot even find anymore.  It has a 6-braid spiral, and I figure I’ll make something along the lines of this:

 

Spiked Tapers

IMG_0465

This 3-braid spiral has 3 tapers; the tapers intrude into the rows below. See 6:00, where the blue intrudes into the navy.

Christine here.  In the photo left, you can see a spiral made with three braids.  (I’m working on pieces for the next newsletter, which will come out in October, on making spirals with more than one braid).  I have plenty of two braid spirals, and so I started on this 3-braid piece a few days ago.

I like it… except for the fact that I hate how little spikes of color intrude into the braid below as the taper loses its strands. See 6:00 for the worst example, where the medium blue intrudes into the navy.

You might be able to make out something similar at 10 or 11:00, where the dark blue invades the light braid, and at 1-2:00, where the light braid invades the blue.  The remainder of the braids are butted, so there are no taper spikes.

I am stating here firmly, so that I can’t weasel out of it, that I am figuring out how to make a taper that keeps its hands to itself and doesn’t intrude into the rows below.  I know it will involve some hand sewing, so some of you won’t be enamored of the technique, but I will be happier with it.  I hate the spikes.  They destroy the “line” of the spiral and are unattractive.  I am going to figure out how to fix this.

That’s all.

 

Freedom and Spirals

Lately, since dropping both kids off at college (Katie is a senior, Jack is a freshman) I’ve been getting phone calls from old friends: women I haven’t talked to in a few years, whose kids went to the same local daycare. Although initially these women were my only friends here in Pittsburgh, our lives have gone in different directions over the years. All or most of us from that era have recently sent kids to college. In the last week, there’s an email, or a text, or a phone call: “How are YOU doing?”

I think I’ve mentioned a few times that I’ve been greatly looking forward to the kids both going off to school. I’ve justified this attitude by saying that if we’ve done a good job as parents, then college is where they should be as they forge their own lives in that protected atmosphere.

I had visions of spending happy hours braiding away with my interruptions more limited: husband + dogs, rather than husband + dogs + kids. That’s a big difference.

Instead, it seems … well, weird. Not unpleasant. When my husband and I dropped off the second kid, we gave Jack a hug, told him we loved him, and walked by ourselves down to the parking lot. My husband swung his arms over his head and shook them out from all the heavy boxes and lifting, then commented, “I feel… free, somehow. Don’t you?”

It has been a very long time since we have been just partners instead of parents. These first few days of being partners again have required a little pleasant negotiation. It’s made me realize just how overwhelming – (even when the kids are recluses up in their room and try not to talk to you) – the sense of responsibility of a parent is. It’s a defining characteristic of one’s life. Now, for a brief time while they’re both off at college, that sense is lessened significantly.

And I have less stress about making dinner for my picky-eaters.

And the milk cartons don’t disappear as rapidly.

And the car is always available.

And… I feel a little weird. I’ve been wandering around, emptying out their rooms of the trash they left, throwing their dirty laundry into bins for washing, and delighting in sitting down on the couch with a cup of coffee to read my email, knowing that I won’t be bothered for awhile. I like it, but… it’s hard to let go of wondering when I have to get the car back for Jack to drive it to a guitar lesson. That watchfulness and concern suddenly have no direction.

I love it! And… it’s weird.

Enough of that. I have finally decided on my topic for the next newsletter: spirals. Two-braid spirals, three-braid spirals, 4-braid spirals, and 6-braid spirals. Adding strands, subtracting strands, staggered finishes and overlapping finishes and shaped finishes. Now that I have all these different ideas of things to make, how am I possibly going to finish all the samples that I want to make?  Luckily I’ve made a few over the years.

Braid In 42812 (12)
Pittsburgh Skies, 2011, made for the “Skies/Weather/Sunset” challenge of the Valley Forge Guild.

Part of my decision for making spirals is that I recently pulled out my old “Pittsburgh Skies” rug, made for the 2011 Skies/Weather/Sunset challenge from the Valley Forge Guild. The VF Spring Braid in was held at Bally Springs that year.  At the time of making this one, I had just recently figured out how to make 2-braid spirals, and I experimented a bit with adding additional braids into the spirals to widen the distance between the bands.  I also was experimenting with different ways to stack and to end the spirals.  I’m not wild about some of the things that go on in this rug, and in other ways I’m inordinately proud of this rug.  It taught me a lot about putting shapes together.

In any case, I’ll be working on writing up and diagramming  different ways to start all the spiral braids at once, or add in more as one goes along, over the next month, for the October issue of the newsletter.

More baskets…..taper in, taper out

Dianne here….

Many of you know I love making baskets….and I have evolved from the continuous method of a spiral which of course ends up with ‘an end’ to hide, flair, etc. to all butted to what I call a hybrid where the base is spiral, tapered then all butted sides.  Butted sides provide opportunity to change fabric by row without joins, have separate rings, and a flat top row without an end to hide.

With a continuous spiral there is a bump where the lacing begins to go up the sides. Depending on the fabric it may be minimal or really show. And you have to choose between having your ‘better braided side’ be on the inside of your basket OR on the outside of the sides. You can’t have both….that is why I like the hybrid so much. You can have your better side on the basket inside base AND on the outside since the sides are butted.

IMG_1945

a small wool and velvet oval basket with a fringe. I use it for my hooks and hooking scissors.

Continuous basket with fringe

With an all butted basket, there are many possibilities. No taper, no long end to hide, but time consuming!

all butted

With the hybrid there is some bumping at the point where the taper occurs and this can affect the evenness of the sides. With soft wool and velvet this is less apparent; with cotton more apparent because it is stiff.

continuous base, note taper then butted sides

hybrid velvet basket using hand dyed velvet pattern to advantage

Hybrid wooly worm basket. Continuous base and butted sides.

As I continue my new fascination with braiding cotton (“oh no, you never want to braid with cotton”), hybrid baskets became less enjoyable because butting the sides was tough. Cotton is just so much less flexible, forgiving and stretchable than wool. And braided cotton has tweaks, especially if you use more than one thickness. So I began to think…..how about a continuous base, taper as with a hybrid, but instead of butting the sides, begin the sides with a taper and create a continuous side so finish with an end to hide. Kind of best of both worlds? I checked with my muse, Christine…..and began.

I took some embossed cotton I was given and folded 3.5″ i

embossed cotton fabric

n half to braid 1.75″ strips to give the cotton more body.

I tapered the base then tapered 3 strips, folded in the raw edges, pinned them and began braiding. When I braided a few inches I pulled the tapers through to the inside of the basket at the point of the base taper and secured them then started lacing.

New glossy cotton basket tapered base and tapered sides ended with a reverse double corners to create a rosette.

Next time I will make the side tapers longer to have more room to work with at the end when I tacked down the tapers to the inside. Because the cotton was so stiff I was able to push down the area that had the base and side tapers so it is pretty even. For working with cotton, I am pleased. I like the rosette and no butting! 

One of my braiding students is a seamstress and she has given me cotton scraps so I am onto the next Taper In, Taper Out Basket:             The Tobias Taper!

PS: For years, non-braiders have joked that my baskets look like hats and my kids have even paraded around with them on their heads; I have too come to think of it when we had a braiding fashion show at the Methuen Braid In.  I have a friend in town who loves hats and I have given her several of my old continuous baskets and she wears them. She is as short as I am tall and her hair is as short as mine is long. She looks great in hats. She is going to France this week and wanted a black hat. Here are the two I made her. The mottled velvet one is more grey/blue than black despite using alot of black dye, it . It is my stretch hand dyed velvet so it hugs her head; she looks like a flapper!

Wool and velvet hat with flower

Hand dyed velvet hat with bow

Coffee Time & Rug Planning

IMG_0308            We have fallen into a daily routine, finally, for the summer. I get up first, walk and feed the dogs, feed the indoor and outdoor cats, and then finally get to make coffee. I use old-fashioned cone-shaped melittas and filters because I think it tastes better and there is less machinery on my limited counter space.   My cup: Tasmanian devil drinking coffee, or Maleficent (evil witch from Sleeping Beauty), or the snowflake cup. My daughter’s cup: a wolf howling at the moon, or the one with pink and purple hearts all over it, or the smiling kitty cat. My husband’s: The NASA cup, or the one with equations all over it relating to rocketry, or the JFK library one.

During my first cup of coffee, the house is quiet and serene. The dogs sigh on their respective chair and couch, already back to sleep. Maybe there is the hum of the dishwasher doing the dishes from last night, or the chug of the clothes dryer, but otherwise the house is silent. I get to sit, read my email, make my list of things to do that day (the sub-list, drawn from the 3 page master list, that includes only the absolute essentials) and contemplate the morning a bit, basking in the quiet and peace.

Then, abruptly, all hell breaks loose. My daughter never seems to come awake slowly. Her bedroom door opens with a bang. She stomps down the steps, clanks 4 to 5 cups and bowls from her room onto the clean counter, and sleepily demands, ”Did you make me coffee?” before banging open the refrigerator door and getting milk. My husband quickly follows, although a little more quietly, and everyone fights for counter space to pour cereal, make toast, pour milk into coffee, and whine about who ate up all the blueberries or raspberries or whatever.

My son tries to avoid mornings … but his work schedule sometimes demands an early start, and he does his best to inflict his misery on everyone around him when this happens.

I wish I could stretch out that lovely quiet that exists for about 10 minutes every morning before everyone else is awake. This morning, there was a gentle rain that I could hear through the open window in the kitchen. An occasional excited dog bark sounded from the twenty or so dogs that get walked every morning in my neighborhood. The oppressive heat and humidity of midday hadn’t yet descended. It was a happy time.

Finally getting around to the topic of braiding: I am allowing myself a brief diversion from the multistrand book. I had an idea (this morning, during coffee)  to make a strip rug that isn’t really a strip rug: it’s a series of zigzag shapes that are assembled together lengthwise, like this:

zigzag-unit-rug

Sketch for rug of assembled zigzag units

Why would you want to make a rug out of smaller units that are laced together? For one thing, it’s a lot easier to travel with smaller units. We’re headed up to “the camp” that my husband owns up on the St. Lawrence River this Friday, so I have to think ahead as to what I can reasonably pack.

The problem with assembling a rug of smaller units is that you have to make sure that your fabrics for each unit are EXACTLY the same size/weight when braided up. If you try to fit in a unit that’s too big, or too small, it just won’t work. So identical weight fabrics are key.

Many people have made granny square rugs, which are assembled square units. This sort of rug is also possible with hexagons. I tried to figure out a rug of puzzle-shaped pieces, but I never managed to get the corners to fit together neatly.

Usually units such as this are e-laced or shoe-laced together. Sometimes you can figure out a way to avoid this – if you make a unit “backward” – with the folds to the outside, and corners turning in the opposite direction. If you look carefully at the above diagram, you’ll see that this is the way I plan to make the 2 pink and 1 center black units: the Start and Finish are on opposite sides compared to the other units. This way, I can lace regularly between units.

So, this is a good challenge for me to try to figure out while I’m up at the camp: what lengths between quadruple corners will look good, how to adjust for the sides, how to flip directions and still keep everything fitting together… looking forward to it!

 

 

Summer of My Discontent

Lincoln mother rug

This 21′ diameter beautiful — but very worn — 4-strand braided rug from 1943 is found at the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial.  It is in the hall honoring his mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln.  I have a big article in the newsletter about its history, and Country Braid House is making a new one for this site.

Christine here.  The summer is always one of my most difficult times. The kids are home and need chauffeuring around Pittsburgh to things where there is no parking; my husband doesn’t teach during the summer and inconveniently invites family and friends to come stay for awhile; and, in the division of marital labor, the mowing has fallen to my husband but the trimming, weeding, and planting have fallen to me. And we have a big yard (for a city, anyway).

This is an especially busy summer due to a bunch of other details – a car broke down and stranded me in Harrisburg for a week, then we had to shop for a new car. My husband had to consider every possible car option… before we went out and bought the exact same model we got 14 years ago. The one good thing is that the new vehicle has individualized temperature controls for the front passengers. At this time of life, I am only comfortable with the air conditioning set on Arctic Blast, and my husband takes issue with having to wear a winter coat in the summer just to ride in the car with me.

DSC_2405

Large Braided Star pattern is found in the current newsletter issue.

Some other Difficult Summer details: we are getting some carpentry work done on our exterior cedar shakes and a couple moldings, and we have taken to calling our carpenter “Annoying Man” because he either calls us 5 times a day with questions, comments, or excuses, or doesn’t show up at all. This is in preparation for exterior painting. The garage needs to be replaced, which will also be a lot of money. And, my Dad is sick with some unknown problem that has made him lose 20 lbs. in the past month. That worry underpins all my thoughts.

But, as John Lennon sang, Life is what happens to use when we’re busy making other plans.

It’s been making me think a lot lately about how we choose to spend our time. We all have a certain allotment of time in a day that is our own, and how we choose to occupy it is a big indication of our personality and our goals.

There are truly situations in which we simply “don’t have time” at all – raising small children comes to mind, or caring for someone who is sick, or having an insane job. Then, our time is not our own to choose what we will do and what we won’t – you simply move from one task to the next, marching forward, handling the next situation as it comes.

Many of us are beyond those demanding situations, and we have reached a point in our lives where we can have more freedom to choose how we spend our time. And yet, day to day, doesn’t it still feel that we’re rushing to get this or that or the other thing done? I have a “TO DO” list that I cross off every day, and it has grown to two tight pages. Sometimes my husband “helpfully” adds items to my list. More tick-off squares get added every day. How is this possible?

IMG_2528

A pattern for this small star ornament is also found in the current issue of the newsletter.

I’m reminded of that wonderful piece of satire written by Judy Brady back in 1972: “Why I Want a Wife.” She listed off all of the things that wives do, and said she wanted one for herself (Ms. Magazine, premiere issue, 1972). Think of how much more time we’d have if meals were never our responsibility, dishes washed themselves, and someone else figured out the mysteries of food shopping. Since my husband has shown no inclination toward changing his gender, I guess I’m stuck with my situation as it is.

I remember when I was a kid that there was this idea of “leisure time.” That one day, in the future, we would all have jobs that only required about 25-30 hours a week, but we all would have enough money despite that, and leisure time. The image was of smiling families out together driving their big American cars toward some sunny golf course, or beach, or other vacation spot… all tanned, rested, and ready.

In the summers, I don’t have leisure. It’s supposed to be a more relaxed time of the year, but I feel as if I’m scrambling to keep up. There just doesn’t seem to be any time left at all for sitting, relaxing, and braiding.

And, do you know how long it’s been since I just sat and braided a rug????

No wonder I’m going crazy.

Braiding (and hooking) with other fibers

Dianne here…..

It has been awhile since I have blogged. To be truthful, I have been writing and responding more to the Rug Braiding Group on Facebook than blogging here. We are up to more than 470 members and the discussions can be lively with admiration for posted ‘rugs’ and advice and answers for questions by members. If you haven’t joined, suggest you give it a try: just search groups for Rug Braiding. FB will ask me to approve you and away you go. For those of you who do not want to get involved with FB, this is a pretty narrow way to do it. My understanding is that the group postings including yours only stay in the group and are not shared with your ‘regular’ FB friends unless you share.

Another reason I check FB frequently is that my youngest daughter is traveling in South America while on a leave of absence from her techy job. She is as unplanned as I am planned and so it is so nice to be able to talk and text through FB Messenger and (don’t tell her) I can tell when she was on last, so if less than 24 hours, I don’t worry as much!

Anyway, I was asked recently to write an article for my ATHA Hooking Guild on Hooking with Other Fibers. I pulled up a bunch of pictures and realized that I have experimented with quite a few other fabrics for both braiding and hooking. The article and pix for them will include a number of braided items and this post for you will include a few hooked items….so Kris McDermet can be extra proud that I am a combo….and just ask me sometime how difficult I was when Kris, an ultimate in rug hooking, offered to teach me and lead me along…..we often laugh about it now.

My first braiding with velvet was a tiny braid mat. I  found a velvet remnant that perfectly matched the wool combination I was using. I remember telling Christine what I was doing and she said “Oh velvet, that sounds great but isn’t velvet kind of fussy?” I have often laughed at the truth of her words, but I’ve grown to appreciate it anyway! I probably gave away that mat but enjoyed the texture contrast.

So I began to buy velvet remnants for possible non-rug braiding projects, first incorporating the velvet with wool and then using all velvet.  I tried to use all the colors in my everyday dishes for this table mat. You can see my stash of bought velvet was growing!

The first time I hooked with velvet was for this hanging

I was a little bored hooking the dark charcoal wool, so I tried some random black velvet on impulse; I liked the look and added maroon velvet as stems and in the braid. I wrote an article for Rug Hooking Magazine about incorporating velvet into hooking and got some good feedback, so kept going!

My friend Kris McDermet and I began to make ‘braid bowls’ with hooked bottoms and braided sides.

This velvet bowl is hooked with hand dyed velvet, wool and chenille and the braid is more of the velvet. By now I was dyeing the stretch velvet and trying to use it up so I could dye more.

We went to Iceland last year and I bought some unspun yarn and found it hard to knit but easy and fun to hook. This Difranza doorstop kit was in my UFO stash and I didn’t use the wool provided but finished it by hooking the cat outline with heavy black yarn, the grey unspun yarn and hand-dyed velvet for the

background which made it go so much faster.

The duck was another UFO. I had hooked the duck with the kit wool but left the background unfinished and when I saw it recently I didn’t like the yellow background wool so used some velvet. 

This heart was hooked with hand dyed velvet, unspun wool and ‘as is’ wool and braided with velvet.

I have braided with denim and am making a third jean rug for my blue bathroom. I think I have shared the second one in previous posts. The variety of blues in jeans is amazing and the rugs  will be washable.

As mentioned in my last post, I have recently experimented with braiding cotton for table mats. Here is the finished William Morris quilting jelly roll, a cotton and velvet mat made from scrap sheeting and an all cotton mat from retro cotton fabric and gingham.

So what’s your experience braiding (and hooking) with other fibers?