Braided Rug Exhibit at Schwenkfelder’s

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Judy Hartzell’s braided rug On exhibit at Schwenkfelder Museum

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Debra Weinhold’s Braided Round with Multistrand Border

Christine here:  I promised part 3 of my Combination Rugs series… but I’m putting that post off for a bit while I rave about the exhibit currently showing (through March 1, 2015) at the Schwenkfelder Museum in Pennsburg, PA.

Last weekend we had a braid guild meeting, and we adjourned early to go over to the museum and see the exhibit.  52 of our guild’s braided rugs are on display!  I can’t tell you how wonderful it felt to walk in the large exhibit space with with braided rugs hung all over the walls as art pieces.  I felt that our medium was finally receiving the recognition it deserves as a form of art.

Yes, I know… there have been a few art exhibits of braided rugs before… two that I can think of:  one centered around Norma Sturges, the author of the braided rug book, in Wyoming; and one in the Colorado area centered around the Rocky Mountain Rug Braiders.  But THIS exhibit has my rugs and my friends’ rugs, so it’s more personal and meaningful to me.

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Debbie Wykosky’s Chair Pad with Fancy Border

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Multistrand Braided Rug by Dorothy Pepe

I want to thank the curator, Candace Perry, for doing such a wonderful job on the rug arrangements to make an effective display.

While I was there last Saturday, I got to meet fiber artist Susan Feller, who partnered with the museum on the “From Garden to Table” exhibit on the first floor of the museum.  It features historic Schwenkfelder pieces, as well as contemporary hooked rugs, centered around the theme of fruits and vegetables.  One of my friend Kris McDermet’s rugs is on display there, as well as some very visually interesting pieces by Susan Feller, and the historic pieces are truly amazing.  There’s a floral bouquet made entirely of feathers that looked shockingly real from a few feet away.  There is one floral framed piece composed entirely of pieces of felt that is just gorgeous.  Really, really fun to see.

If you’re in the greater Philadelphia area around the Thanksgiving or Christmas holidays, it is truly worth a trip!

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Susan Feller, with one of her rugs on display at the Schwenkfelder Museum

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Floral Bouquet constructed entirely of feathers

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Princess and the Pea, Christine Manges

Alpaca Rug

Dianne here….and in addition to not knowing how else to show it is me, I have lost the long draft I made for this blog post!  Grrrr.

Anyway, I have shipped the alpaca rug that I have been working on for the last month or so, working on it on our fiber trip and it is as close to 3’x5′ as a rug can get and still be handmade so it is done! 01fcd29aec4021ce1757f57aa7abf53f2da5738fed

Several of you have asked about the alpaca and about the rug commission, so here is the story.

Several years ago I was at the Pendleton Woolen Mill outlet in Portland, located in one of their old mills. They get weekly shipments of scrap wool and selvages from their two operating NW mills. I asked if they had any wool and the young man looked and said, no wool, just this box of alpaca….I said ‘let’s see’. 

He brought out the box and I saw there was a jumble of three plaid patterns, woven from the same brown and white alpaca fiber, probably left-overs from alpaca lap blankets or throws.photo

It was reasonable by the pound so I made ‘three bags full’ of the three patterns, thinking I could use it for beginning students. I wish you could feel it; it is so soft, but you can see it has a fringe on each side which adds to the plumpness of the braid, but added to the softness of the fiber, makes it frustrating for beginners, so I have made several baskets, this one with the white plaid, matching the plaid on the butted rows.

And an alpaca bed for our 8# fox terrier, Cisco.01e61713dc83e6cea5297e65f8fe833c84afe9396a01506e28c43b072d404bf5a9ac5de1a5f3e3092e1f

01250f470b6bf81f2685d68a7230fe67817644d0dcLast summer my youngest daughter was going to a baby shower for her friend who lives in TN. Two days before she asks me to make a small basket with the baby room colors (green, brown, white!). I got busy and used the white plaid, again matching the plaids on the butted rows, and introducing green wool with matched alpaca plaid on the last row. I did not get a pix of the finished basket as I was a little rushed!

The friend was thrilled and in the Fall the husband called my daughter and asked if he could commission me to make a 3’x5′ rug to match for the baby’s room as a surprise for his wife. I started a continuous with the 2 white alpaca plaid strands and one green wool and tapered before beginning to butt all the subsequent rows, starting with the darker alpaca plaid and brown wool. I ran out of the green, but remembered Christine and I had bought from the same source several years ago and she agreed to bring her green on our fiber trip. Alas it was a different green but we made it ‘work’ by using both.

I am pretty pleased with it and it is on its way to TN. Should arrive in a couple days. I hope it will wear well, but it will sure be soft on the feet!

More Combination Rugs

Christine here.  I’m continuing to work on my presentation on November 18 for the Mason Dixon rug hooking guild in Baltimore.  I have been having so much fun researching all of the early wool and cotton textile mills in New England, the skullduggery of textile machinery plans stolen from Britain, and the early ventures into corporate capitalism, all spurred by the very essential need to make cloth.

Yes, I know, the topic of my talk is supposed to be Combination Rugs — rugs that combine at least 2 techniques in their making — but I keep getting pulled off into these interesting tangents.  (Did you know that the first US patent issued to a woman was issued to Hannah Wilkinson Slater, who invented a 2-ply cotton sewing thread?)

These tangents are part of the reason the talk is taking me so long.  At best, I’d say I’m only 1/3 done and I have a very full week in front of me… but, I do my best work under pressure!

Here are a few Combination Rugs that specifically are knit and braided rugs.

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Combination Knit and Multistrand Braided Rug: Stella Rubin Antiques,  Circa 1930, Pennsylvania

The above rug (cited with permission for the talk, so I’m sliding that permission to the blog about the talk) is actually listed as a braided and crocheted rug, but I think you can see that it’s actually knit.  (It continually frustrates me when people misidentify techniques, as if needlework skills are all lumped together into the same big generic category and it doesn’t really matter what you call it.) There are 3 long hit-and-miss knit strips that are brought together by stitching them to 5-strand braids — although, for some reason, the left center braid is actually a 4-strand.  What an interesting way to make a rug!

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Shaker oval knitted rug, Hancock Shaker Village, MA, attributed to Elvira C. Hulett. Circa 1892

 David A. Schorsch & Eileen Smiles, Antiques.

The resolution is poor on the above photo, so it’s a bit hard to tell… (this is the photo I got permission to use in my talk) but these are colorful knit bands that are united and surrounded with braids.  The rug is attributed to Elvira C. Hulett, a Shaker woman who was an amazingly creative rugmaker in the late 1800s.  Here’s another example of her work:

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Shaker Knitted and Braided Rug, Elvira C. Hulett (1805-1895. 43″ diameter, Hancock Shaker Village, MA, circa 1893. Courtesy of Shaker Museum and Library, Old Chatham, NY. Taken from Combining Rug Hooking and Braiding, p. 9.

Here’s a close-up of the same rug:

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Look at the complexity of patterns that Hulett knit into her rugs!  Then, in a manner characteristic of Shaker work, there are multiple borders, often of different techniques.  Here, a 5-strand braid is the inner border, and a 3-strand the outer border.  The braids are actually plaits, but this distinction is not of great significance.

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Lancaster County, PA Amish Braided and Knit Rug Stella Rubin Antique Quilts and Decorative Arts circa 1930

The above rug is beautiful, isn’t it?  A 7-strand braid forms a pretty ribbon across the center, and rows of braid (plait) are found between a rainbow of knit fabric strips.  Some of you may recognize this rug as similar to those of Judi Boisson, a home collection designer, who has a line of rugs that are very close to the above (except for the 7-strand in the middle).  But, I think she must have patterned her designs after some of the rugs made by Amish women as above.  Still, it’s worth a visit to her site:  she has some exquisite reproduction rugs.

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From my own collection, a plaited and knit rug obtained from a Lancaster PA estate sale.

Here, finally, is a rug that I actually own!!  So many of these interesting rugs are just unaffordable to your standard fiber addict like myself, but I did manage to snatch this one up.  It features the most even and neatly sewn plaits that I have ever sean, and a colorful and evenly knit fabric-strip border.  I’m estimating that it’s 1940 or ’50s era, since it’s pretty well-preserved.

One observation about the last 2 rugs is that the technique that is MORE subject to wear and unravelling than braiding is placed at the outside of the rug.  I think this is interesting to note; it means that the braids were not being used simply for their edge-protective qualities, but were appreciated for their beauty independent of pure durability.  In an era where currently braided rugs don’t have the same status as, for example, hooked rugs, because braids lack imagery, it’s nice to note some examples in which braids were appreciated as enhancing the loveliness of a design.

Comment on combining knitting and braiding:  our great grandmothers could do everything that related to fabric skills.  In an era where clothing was made and mended at home, and one’s needlework skills were necessary and not just a pleasant hobby like today, women combined techniques simply for the beauty of it.  It made their rugs just a little different from everyone else’s, and showed off their creativity.

Next week:  more combination rugs, but this time with other techniques (penny rugs, crochet, felting, etc).  Christine

Combination Rugs

Christine here.  What I’m working on now is a presentation for the Mason Dixon Rug Hooking Guild in Baltimore.  The talk and slide show will focus on combination rugs, which to this group will primarily be rug hooking and braiding.  (Since I’m a braider and not a rug hooker, they’ll have to hear about rug hooking combined with crafts other than braiding from someone else!)

I’ve been collecting photos from the websites of antique textile dealers, and eBay, and Etsy, and also some unusual sites.  I’m not really clear on the protocols for stealing photos — certainly everyone does it; there are whole sites like Pinterest devoted to “borrowed” pictures — so I’ve been writing to a lot of places and asking for permission to use their photos as long as I cite the source.  For the most part, I’ve heard back from everyone saying that it’s fine to use their photo as long as I list their contact data.  So I list all the contact info at the bottom of this post.

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The photo left shows the simplest way that braiding and hooking can be combined:  braids act as a frame to the hooking.  Often just one row of braiding is used in old rugs; this one is a little more unusual for using several rows of braid.  Braiding is often cited as a protective frame to the hooking if the rug is used on the floor, where the edges are often the first place of wear and raveling.  But clearly the braiding in this rug is more than just a frame; it’s an integral part of the art of the piece.

timthumb.phpThis lovely rug has 3 different techniques in it:  braided circles, hooked portions between the braids, and then a lamb’s tongue/penny rug border.  Found in New England, it’s date is estimated at 1890-1910, with maker unknown.  I like the way both the braided circles and the hooked inserts are duplicated in pattern at many sites through the rug.

Ok_bky5pPSd_457Z0rpvVF8Pb9NawVpyE9yslMY1bE8The next rug is one that I found from Intercourse, PA (Lancaster County).  It’s now owned by Kris McDermet.  It also has braided circles surrounded by intervening hooking.  I like the balance between the two elements:  the braiding and the hooking are both equally scrappy, equally pretty, and of equal importance in this rug.

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Hancock Shaker Village Rug, late 19th century, courtesy of Shaker Museum and Library, Old Chatham, NY.

The rug above is a beautiful example of combining a rug hooked center, a knitted inner border, and a braided outer border.  I show it just because it’s an interesting combination of 3 techniques, but the braiding portion is pretty limited and obviously just for the protection of the inner knitted border.  This photo was taken for our book, Combining Rug Hooking and Braiding, and is found on page 10.

4p1G_snSmoTAwnfh3mMaNyJHshm4Y8S6P_OqVyT2vpA,K7wgpKM7ZZjMY25DlevMIeYZytFgbaJG8swk2fXMa10Finally, I can’t talk about Combining Rug Hooking and Braiding without showing the work of our friend and co-author, Kris McDermet.  The interesting thing about her work is how she combines both arts — the braids aren’t just a frame, but are integrated as central aspects of the piece.  Here’s her “Leaves of Grace,” 2010, which is adapted from the Tree of Life painting by Hannah Cohoon (1788-1864).  Permission obtained from the Hancock Shaker Village.  This rug is found on both our book’s cover and page 148.  Note the tree’s flowers which are 9-loop braided centers, and that the braided and hooked leaves at the border are a unique trait of many of Kris’ rugs.

Wish me luck on the presentation — I’m trying to remember how to set up a Power Point Presentation, which I haven’t done in many years…. Christine

First hooked rug with braids around it:  http://www.hiltpewter.com/  $900 Wayne & Phyllis Hilt.

Second braided circled with hooked inserts and penny rug border:  Old Hope Antiques, for sale $16,000.

Third rug with braided circles with hooked inserts:  Antique Combination Hooked and Braided Rug. Owned by Kris McDermet. Age and Artist unknown.  Combining Hooked and Braided Rugs, p. 150.

4th and 5th rugs from Combining Rug Hooking and Braiding as cited above.