Fiber Souls

Dianne here:  So I am back in California, the braiding desert….with few braiders to interact with. But lots of wonderful memories of the fiber trip. What I want to write about today is how wonderful it is to connect with fellow fiber enthusiasts….or more generically, how wonderful it is to connect with others who share similar interests and passions. These are truly our kindred spirits I think.

The trip afforded that what with visiting the Green Mountain Rug Show, teaching and visiting at New England Braids and finally chilling with Christine and Kris McDermet in Boston. In some ways the last was the best, sharing our love for braiding and hooking (Kris and me) and our friendship which has grown from the time I met Christine in 2006 to when we met Kris in probably 2008, through the writing of the book and now, sharing ideas for projects, troubleshooting problems as they arise and relating stories of our teaching experiences. 

I feel so fortunate to have met Christine and Kris and all the other braiders and rug hookers. They have expanded my friend pool both in numbers and in depth. I would imagine I am not alone in feeling this way, even in areas which are not braiding deserts. Am I right? 

imageHere is a selfie we took at the Shelburne Museum and then a pix of the alpaca rug I worked on while on the trip. Three more rows of the alpaca and brown and it will be 3 x 5′, the desired size. image

As you can see, I started it as a continuous, then tapered before changing to the brown and butted all rows since the taper. I think that is a nice compromise, faster with the beginning being continuous, yet a sharper look with the butted rows, especially with new colors.  I will post a completed pix with better color when done!

The End of the Fiber Trip

Dianne and Christine here in Boston, leaving for home tomorrow. What is it about anticipating good times, they happen and end too fast. That is our feeling about this trip. It seemed so luxuriously long at the front end and now it has ended.
The New England Braids weekend in Methuen, MA provided time with braider friends, old and new; lots of time for braiding and other fiber activities and several opportunities for classes. We each taught a class; Christine a zig zag braided bag with two braids going at once and Dianne braiding around hooking.
One nice aspect of the Methuen weekend is the site: sleeping, eating and braiding all done in the same building allows for early morning and late night braiding and conversation; much preferred to separate hotel and braiding sites.
imageThis year Pam Rowan organized a new event: braided fashion show which included such items as braided bags, braided boa, hats, LL Bean boots, mittens and slippers and finally ended with a braided bikini. Who knew braiders could strut their stuff so enthusiastically?

We have been in Boston for the past couple of days, mainly braiding and rug hooking, taking time for walks and meals, but mainly braiding….what could be better?

We saw this jack ‘o lantern on a Boston step on one of those walks.


Fiber Travels Continued

imageChristine and Dianne:  We are continuing our fiber adventures in New England.  We spent 2 days at Shelburne Museum in Vermont.  What an enjoyable place!  We toured a display of Civil War quilts, visited the Stencil House, saw wonderful collections of weathervanes and ship figureheads, dolls, glassware, pewter, etc.  Especially nice for Dianne was the exhibit of Patty Yoder’s Ewe Alphabet Rugs, many of which were very colorful and whimsical.  Sorry we didn’t get any pictures of any.  We enjoyed speaking with the docents, all of whom were knowledgable and nice.  A delightful visit.

Then we went to Johnson Woolen Mill in Johnson, Vermont.  It was an impulsive visit as we saw a brochure in a rack at the museum (and we didn’t need to convince any husbands to drive the extra miles!).  We were intrigued because they described themselves as one of only 5 extant woolen fabric mills in the U.S. (Woolrich, Pendleton, Faribault, Johnson, and….???)  For rug braiders…. this wasn’t a great place.  The wool fabrics were beautiful, especially the plaids…. but a bit too heavy for our taste.  The remnants (irregular strips) were $15.95 a pound !- — and the fabrics started at $29.95 and went up.  Way up.  We wandered around, checked out the prices, and decided we could do a whole lot better shopping for wool at other places.  Well, check that one off the list.

On the way to The New England Braids Weekend in Methuen, MA, we stopped at Country Braid House in Tilton NH and visited with Jan Jurta.  We had a great time!  Jan has beautiful remnants for $10/pound and she has some bolts that were very reasonable from a recent source.  We bought exquisite wool at wonderful prices!!  After our experience at Johnson, it was pure delight to see so many options in so many beautiful (and affordable) plaids and solids.  I can’t wait to get started on my next project.

shopJan’s business (what a cool job) uses braiding machines designed by her father-in-law to make the braids.  Then she and a client design a rug, and with the help of talented women who work at her shop, the braids are laced into rugs.  She showed us photos of a few very contemporary recent rugs.  They make incredibly varied shapes and patterns in any conceivable color.

Finally, we went on to Methuen, where we had a braided fashion show arranged by Pam Rowan that had us all holding our sides with laughter.  But more about that later!

Christine and Dianne

Fiber Travels

Christine & Dianne together:  We are in Vermont!  We have an entire week planned with braiding and hooking events.

Yesterday we went to the “Hooked in the Mountains” Rug Hooking Show put on by the Green Mountain Rug Hooking Guild.  There were several featured artists, which were amazing, but I (Christine) have to say that I enjoyed seeing the rugs submitted by the guild members more than the featured artists!  Seeing the different techniques, different color palettes, and incredibly varied imagery in the rugs was great.

photo 4Kris McDermet’s Labyrinth

We enjoyed stopping by our friend Kris McDermet’s class, where she was teaching how to braid around hooking and make 9-loop centers.  The class was very friendly, and they were clearly enjoying the class.  Kris has several rugs on display; my favorite is her new rug Labyrinth, a large round 7-circuit labyrinth.  The walls are out of braids; the path is hooked and shows images of the bugs, leaves, flowers, paw- and hoof-prints that are found in the labyrinth in the woods near her home.

imageSome of the other rugs we liked:  this one is called Mariner’s Compass by Gail Duclose Lapierre.  There are 7 hooked elements that are united by surrounding braids.


imageAnother really neat rug is hooked only:  this one is by Beth McDermet and designed by Margaret Mackenzie. The rug is called Cranberry Bog. The light was a little dim in the display room, so the colors are more vibrant than shown here in the photo.

Although you can’t see it clearly in the picture, the background wool in this piece was very interesting; a pale yellow shot through with a reddish thread.





imageThe last rug that I wanted to comment on is “From the Porch” by Lanci Valentine.  I like the plants shown in dark silhouette against the vibrant sky.


There were many, many more rugs that were just fascinating to see.  Well worth a visit!  The show is located at Champlain Valley Exposition Center in Essex Junction, Vermont.  The show continues through Saturday.

Today we went to Shelburne museum and the Johnson Woolen Mill Store… but more about that later!  –Christine and Dianne


Great Newsletter!

Dianne blogging: The latest edition of the Valley Forge Rug Braiding Guild’s newsletter, The Revolutionary Rug Braider came out yesterday and once again I am overwhelmed with the amount of informative, instructive, and interesting content that is included! My co-blogger Christine Manges is the editor and single-handedly puts this amazing newsletter out quarterly for $15/year. Each issue is 25-30 pages and includes color photos and diagrams. Just outstanding!  I know Christine would not plug it, so I am!
Not only does it include basic and more advanced instruction (this and last issue on continuous and butted square rugs complete with Christine’s wonderful diagrams) but also instruction on making baskets with silk ties, using a curved needle/hemostat to alleviate hand pain, methods to hang large rugs for display AND news and pictures from the Valley Forge Guild members’ meetings, field trips AND interviews AND a calendar of classes around the US AND web sites of braiders AND pictures to inspire us….whew, those of us who know her get to listen to some of the minor whining during the newsletter writing and the occasional computer crash and sometimes are cajoled into writing short pieces…
If you want to download a sample of a newsletter, go to the Valley Forge site: and click on newsletters. I know you will be impressed. Look forward to comments!

Fiber Trip

Dianne here….still trying to figure out how Christine and I can have our own identities on the blog yet both be ‘administrators’. Until then we are joined at the hip and need to remember to identify ourselves. If anyone out there understands wordpress and can help, please contact us at

If you want to follow this blog and get notification of new posts, go to the bottom of the this or the About page and click on “Follow”.

If you want to add a comment, go to the bottom of this page. We like comments, makes us feel there is someone other than the two of us reading this….

So, next Tuesday I fly to Albany NY from CA and Christine will pick me up on her way from PA and we will continue to Burlington VT to take in the first days of the Green Mountain Rug Show where our third co-author Kris McDermet will be teaching. We also plan to visit the Shelburne Museum then head down to New England Braids in Methuen, MA where we both will be teaching. This braiding weekend is organized to be a combination of classes, open time and terrific networking at a reasonable price. The site is a seminary where the sleeping rooms are in the same building as the classes so early birds and late birds can get in more work and not have to travel from a hotel. Google New England Braids for contact info about next year. We will post a blog from the weekend with photos from creative braiders.

Alpaca rug has about 6 rows now and am thinking of tapering then butting each additional row to allow for pleasing color changes….as luck would have it, Christine thinks she has the same green I am using and will bring to MA….


What’s your favorite shape?

Dianne here….I am making a 3×5′ oval rug for a friend of my daughters. I had made her a basket for her baby shower with the baby room colors (white, brown, green!) out of some alpaca strips I had bought at Pendleton in Portland a year or so ago. Here is the unfinished basket. I neglected to take a pix of the finished row which had two green wool strips and the alpaca and I matched the plaid part on the last row….imageApparently it was a hit because the husband has asked my daughter to ‘commission’ me to make a matching rug for the baby room….

Here are the strips imageI had thought I could have students use them for making baskets but they are a little difficult to braid so have not tried that. I have made a number of baskets myself including one for our 8# fox terrier Cisco.


But now the oval rug….I much prefer making round rugs to oval. There are many reasons for this; some negative (I don’t like lacing the center braid; I don’t  like the straight lacing for the sides; I don’t like running out of fabric half way down a row) and some positive to rounds (I like the challenge of increasing just the right amount to have a flat rug; I like the ‘blossoming’ of the rug as it grows from a small coil to a round rug; you can change colors just about anywhere without worry) but alas they want an oval rug and so I will make one with the two versions of alpaca, the green and some brown later on. I plan to braid/lace about 5-6 rows then taper and butt the rest of the rows so I can change colors more readily. It will be a pretty random rug because of the variations in the alpaca but I really prefer that look to more traditional banded rugs for myself and hopefully they will like that. Here it is so far. I am pleased it is laying flat and pretty straight. I will keep you informed.

imageWhat shape do you prefer and why?