As many of you know, the Valley Forge Rug Braiding Guild is the group that I belong to. We met this past Saturday and it was great to see everyone again after the summer off.
We spent a good bit of time discussing the very exciting opportunity for us: the local guild has been invited to exhibit our braided rugs at the Schwenkfelder Library and Heritage Center in Pennsburg, Pennsylvania. The Schwenkfelders were a group of immigrant Germans who, like the Amish, the Mennonites, the Hutterites, etc., came to the US seeking to practice their own religion and create their own community in PA/Ohio/New York and elsewhere. The curator, Candace Perry, manages the exhibits and obviously has a passion for the fiber arts, in addition to being very knowledgable about the illuminated manuscripts, fraktur designs, and painted chests that are featured in their displays.
How we got connected with this museum is a bit of an interesting story. The SLHC has a very interesting embroidered wool rug (penny rug) from the 1800s that was part of a huge rug display put on by the American Folk Art Museum in New York City in 2007. The curator of the that display was our Speaker at the 2013 braid in. One of our members, Dan Burmeister, knew about that museum and suggested that the guild go there for a visit and to see that penny rug specifically, as well as the other PA German arts on display.
Somehow I didn’t make it to that visit, but Nancy Young did and made a nice connection with the curator. We set up a guild meeting at the SLHC, and Candace took us around some of the exhibits. She saw the rugs that many of us had brought with us to work on, and suggested that we have an exhibit of the local guild’s braided rugs. That exhibit is now scheduled for Nov 8 – Feb ??, and the rugs will be selected for the exhibit October 4.
Isn’t this amazing?? I am so excited for everyone in the guild to have this opportunity! I have often felt that braided rugs are an under-appreciated form of art/craft. Just as scrap quilts used to be considered a peasant craft that was utilitarian and not necessarily beautiful… just as hooked rugs were notoriously thrown out to cover the wood pile…. I think braided rugs are a form of beauty that just has not received its proper attention just yet. We are on the cusp of having braided rugs become an important branch of fiber art.
The curator has told us she will select 30-40 rugs, depending on size. They will be hung on the walls and there will be no roped-off flat table display areas, so she has expressed a preference for smaller rugs.
Much of our guild meeting Saturday was spent discussing the practical issue of: how do we hang rugs for display?
A few solutions came up:
1. Lace a dowel onto the back. Lacing through the back loops and around the dowel, the lacing thread doesn’t show at all. Slight problem: the portion of the rug above the dowel might tilt forward a bit.
2. The museum suggested hanging the rugs on carpet tacking, which is those small strips of wood with the nails sticking out every which way. I think that might work for a chair pad or other very small item, but it makes me wince to even think about hanging a heavy braided rug this way — I think the nails might tear through the loops.
3. Marjorie K. suggested using a hanger, around which twist-ties are put through the back loops in multiple places and then twisted around the hanger. I think this sound like a great idea.
4. Many quilts and hooked rugs are hung with “sleeves” sews onto the back, which are an inch shy of the edges on either side. A dowel is inserted through the sleeve, and the dowel is hung by 2 nails on either side. It is important to make the sleeve looser on its outside aspect, so that the dowel doesn’t fit so tightly that it creates a ridge in the rug.
For really big rugs, the rug can be divided into thirds and 3 sleeves can support each third of the weight.
5. A tip from Delsie Hoyt of Kingdom Moon Rugs is to hang an unusually-shaped rug by cutting the shape out of foam core board, binding the edges with library tape or duct tape, and then making holes for lacing every few inches. She attached a triangular picture hanger(s) with a small screw through the foam core board. I’m wondering if just a taped-off window in the board might not be suitable for hanging on top of a nail.
6. Finally, for either the whole rug or for any part that is not laying flat against the display wall, small clean headed nails can be worked between the loops and, with the rug covered, nailed into the wall. A whole rug can be hung this way if enough nails, spaced about 3 inches apart, are used.
As I experiment with hanging several weirdly-shaped rugs over the next couple weeks in preparation for the October 4 selection day, I promise to have photos of my various attempts! –Christine