Braided Baskets and Bowls

Dianne here…..Mary has asked for some input on teaching braided baskets/bowls as she is scheduled to teach a class in the spring.

Christine may well have more advice on this (and I encourage you all to contribute)…

I have somewhat specialized in baskets because in the West, braided rugs are not as popular as in the East (tho you wouldn’t know it from my house) and they are small projects to work on when I travel to Eastern braiding events. I make homemade jams/jellies and a braided basket with a jar of jam makes for a nice hostess gift….so that’s my history. 

Our book (Combining Rug Hooking and Braiding. Basics, Borders and Beyond, Schiffer 2011 and available from Amazon) has a chapter on “beyond” which is primarily baskets and I encourage you to look at it (see if it is in your library).  I began with continuous baskets and indeed all but one basket in the book is a continuous with only one an all butted basket.  

Continuous baskets have an uneven ending which can be minimized various ways: pulled through and fringed; hidden behind on the inside of the basket; or hidden with a button or even a hooked button. The book chapter and this pix shows some ways:MEMO0020

I now primarily make a continuous base and butt up the sides. The value of this is two-fold: Faster base than butting from the start; butted sides allow for a flat ending as each row is a ring. You can change colors of all strands every row if you want as each row is discrete. Also, if you have a repeating pattern in a fabric, you can match the designs going up the basket as you won’t be increasing as on the base, although this is true with continuous or butted.photo501250f470b6bf81f2685d68a7230fe67817644d0dc

I have made baskets with handles as shown in the book, either ‘Easter basket’ handles or ‘cassarole’ handles but I find with butted sides I prefer no handles.

camera roll 084Another variation which Kris McDermet and I have started, is hooked/braided bowls which have a hooked bottom and attached to a butted braid base then butted braided rows up the sides.

The newest variation is with ‘wooly worms’ which are a by-product of Pendleton’s weaving roll 142 I have experimented with braiding with them; they are too narrow to fold and give a very rustic look, but I kind of like it. 01679207dc66442d76bfb177a41440acf9d9eaa7b4_00001Here is one and here is one I did with kind of Christmas colors; it is felting on a bowl to give it a sturdier shape.

Comments?  Hope everyone had a nice holiday!  Dianne

Yet More Combination Rugs

Christine here.  Returning to the topic of Combination Rugs — rugs that combine more than one technique in their making — we’ve already covered knit/braid rugs and some early Shaker rugs.  This week, we’ll look at some more unusual combinations:  penny/braid, crochet/braid, lamb’s tongue/ravel, lamb’s tongue/crochet.

1.  Penny Rug with Braids


Penny Rug with Braided Border. From Combining Rug Hooking and Braiding, p 8. Artist unknown, Lancaster County, PA.

The above rug was purchased from Lancaster County, PA.  The “pennies” have 3 concentric layers of fabric sewn together onto a simple cotton fabric backing.  Two rows of braids surround the edge.  I doubt this piece was actually used as a rug; most of the penny “rugs” were apparently used as table toppers.

2.  Crochet/braid

Similar in style to a few of the knit/braid rugs from Lancaster County that I showed a few weeks ago, this rug from Lebanon County, PA combines a crocheted center and border with multistrand braids.  The braids are 7 strands of cotton.  I think this rug must have been made within the last 20 years, or else was never used at all from a few years before that, because there is very little wear.


Crocheted and Multistrand-braided Rug. Lebanon County, PA. Border and center panel are crocheted of cotton rag strips; multistrand (7) braid makes up the rest.


Close up of crocheted rag border sewn onto 7-strand braids.

It’s interesting that the oval rugs from this general region of PA have about the same look, even when different techniques are chosen for the making:  the center panel and border of one method, and the remainder made from another method.

3.  Lamb’s Tongue/Ravel Rug

I’m quite proud of having found this rug on eBay, provenance unknown, a few years back. The center is a technique that the Shakers were known for:  “ravel” rugs.  Strips of old knit sweaters, knit blankets, and knit underwear that were too worn to use were cut up.  One edge was basted down to a piece of fabric, and the other edge was encouraged to unravel.  The patterns were generally geometric in nature.  Here’s the rug I found with a lovely lamb’s tongue border sewn around the edge:


Ravel rug with Lamb’s Tongue Border.


Close up of ravel: see gray ravel peeled back to reveal orange ravel layer stitched down to backing.

I think this rug shows a fascinating combination of techniques… but I’m a bit obsessed when it comes to lamb’s tongues, which I think are beautiful.  The tongues on this one are made of very stiff and thick upholstery-weight wool, and finished with coarse thread in a blanket stitch and then a decorative star or other design in the middle.

4.  Lamb’s Tongue + Crochet

I’m not sure what to think of this rug… I purchased it because, as I indicated earlier, I love lamb’s tongues and this one has a combination of techniques so it was appropriate for this discussion.  The center is of rather delicate crochet, so it clearly was unsuited for use on the floor and must purely have been a display or table-top piece.

Screen shot 2014-11-08 at 3.20.01 PM

Lamb’s Tongue Rug with Crocheted Center. From Little Britain, Ontario, Canada. Artist unknown.

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Close up of Crocheted center surrounded by fabric-edged lamb’s tongues.

The lamb’s tongues are edged with bias tape fabric.  I like the look of embroidered edges better — maybe just because the first rugs I saw from this technique were made in that fashion.  I now have a few lamb’s tongue rugs with both finishing techniques and I still think I like the embroidered look better.  In any case, this shows you another interesting way that our talented forbears chose to mix two methods together in making rugs.

These days, so many of us are lucky if we are skilled in more than one needlework or rugmaking technique:  so few of our daughters or granddaughters are taking an interest in the traditional women’s arts.  My own daughter has zero interest in anything that involves a needle and thread.  She’s talented artistically, but it doesn’t even occur to her to work in fiber to express her artistic talent.  I’m glad she has the opportunity to work in whatever medium she’d like, but I still wish she had a little appreciation for the fiber arts that have brought me such joy in my own life.

What is it about velvet?

Dianne here….although my pix are not the best, I want to tell you about some Christmas mats and baskets I have been braiding….using velvet.

Several years ago, I emailed Christine about my starting to dabble in velvet.  She wrote back, that sounds great, but isn’t velvet kind of fussy? What a wise woman and I have chuckled and grimaced to myself a number of times since then, when the sewing machine slips, when I am vacuuming all the fuzz, etc. Undaunted, I began my love affair with velvet,both in braiding and in hooking. And in dyeing….that is still a work in progress.

I am going to teach a 2 day private ‘braiding around hooking’ class this week in Southern CA and the student asked me to make her a Christmas mat after seeing this mat I made017c2e08416166c21c94354bf0ee0b217576aa427e for a friend out of a luscious orange stretch velvet dress. I told the dress’ owner that if it didn’t fit me, would she be ok with it being braided! 


P1010180I won’t bore you with old pix of velvet pieces (unless you ask :)) but here is what I started with, actually two weights of non-stretch velvet (rayon backing) and two wool plaids: 

The first mat began with all red plaid and I thought I would add velvet later on; my idea was to make spokes as in a flower rug and add rounds to create an open, lacy look. My advice, count your loops more carefully than I did; as you can see the spokes are not identical.P1010184 I experimented with velvet at various times as the ‘wheel’ grew but I did not like the contrast of the flat matte look of the plaid with the shimmering velvet.  However when done, the wheel really looked flat so I added a ‘back and forth’ triple picot edge. As we describe in our book, if 01ab5e6d01714e2a9ed2017502e58de5bd842b5c2dyou position the contrasting (plaid here) fabric first on the enclosed end pin, it gives the impression of a ribbon woven between the triple corners (green velvet). I especially like this green velvet; it is very plush with a nice drape; for velvet pretty easy to work with.
Here it is ready to butt. Not my favorite of the mats but it will do and I think the velvet jazzed it up.

The second mat is all velvet with just 2 rows of Christmas plaid; continuous center and butted from the green row outward. The butting technique gives you the ability to completely change from row to row. The last row is the same back and forth triple picot. Nice mat but an error in the last row which I do not have time to fix 😦P1010181

The last mat uses the thicker wool plaid 01a037426f08e77f5be47d307dca9b644782d95f53with velvet; again the center is continuous and butted from the red rows outward ending with a picot row. 

These mats were braided with non-stretch velvet which tears easily, although you can also braid with stretch velvet.  I love the drape and feel of the velvet when braiding and the shimmery look when finished.

I also like to hook with velvet. In hooking I use stretch velvet because it doesn’t fray; it is cut with a rotary cutter and healing mat. I haven’t hooked anything for the holidays this year but here are a couple of examples of all velvet or part velvet pieces. The stretchiness is a nice contrast to wool.

We would love to hear your experiences in velvet and especially any questions you might have for us…..


sorry, stand on your head.


adapted from a McGowan pattern


Molly McCune pattern; windows and braid have the orange dress velvet


original design