Completed Multistrand Rug

13-strand braid around rectangle.

13-strand braid around rectangle.

Christine here.  Yay!  I finally finished the rectangular rug that I found abandoned in my wool room.  My husband had admired it, so even though it was made of substandard wool and had some imperfections in the corners, I decided to resurrect it and do my best.

The first thing that I had to tackle was the waviness.  I had started braiding with very thin wool, and then had switched to thicker stuff.  The result was  a rippled edge to the rectangle.  Never being a fan of undoing and re-doing work, I decided that I just had to move forward.  If I started to undo everything, I was going to get disgusted and abandon it again.

I made decreases in the next row as I laced on the new braid.  I made 8 on the long sides, and 3 or 4 on the short sides, and I also made double corners instead of triple corners, to decrease the too-pointy-ness of the corners from when I had incorrectly laced them.

I think you can tell from looking at the above photo that the decreases were effective.  As it is now, before I press it overnight, there is still a little bit of a ripple, but it isn’t much and I’m confident that it will press flat.

I used up the navy wool that I had laying around, and ran out a couple times (I’m not a fan of navy) so that’s why the outer braids have  so many different blues.

Multistrand Corner

Multistrand Corner

Finally, I was ready to put a multistrand on.  I decided I wanted a fairly large braid (13 strands) so I laid out my wool and made a simple zig zag ribbon pattern.  I pre-pressed the strands instead of using the braid-aids that I typically use for a multistrand.  I think it was easier overall…. and neater.  The only problem was the lightest strand, which is cheap stuff that needed to be stuffed or overfolded in order to get its size equal to the other wools in the braid.  I finally decided just to overfold and pressed the wool overfolded.  It was a bit awkward but still doable.

In my earlier post, I detailed how I figured out the number of multistrand sets (pattern repeats) that I needed on both sides.  I had to pull pull the braid in a bit on the short sides, and stretch it on the long sides by a few loops, but a large multistrand is pretty malleable so it worked.

Even with tightening up the mulitstrand as much as I could without wrinkling the strands, I still found that my multistrand loops were a bit longer than my braid loops, despite using the same material.  17 braid loops equalled 1 set or 13 multistrand loops.

I think you can see from the photo below that I used the lightest strand as the “pivot” strand for the corner.  By doubling back on itself, the pivot strand turns the braid 90 degrees in a new direction.  The next strand, which is a medium turquoise, goes horizontally across the corner before resuming its zig zag path but in a new direction.

Multistrand Corner Close-up

Multistrand Corner Close-up

When lacing the multistrand corner to the 3-strand braid, it looked best when I laced the first pivot strand loop between loops 1 & 2 of the triple corner, and the doubled-back pivot loop between loops 2 & 3 of the triple corner.  I think you just have to experiment a bit and see what works.

Note:  never lace the horizontal strand (that is after the pivot strand in braid order) when lacing the multistrand to a 3-strand corner.  The horizontal loop functions like the crossover loop in a regular braid corner, and remains unlaced.  In the photo above, it is the medium turquoise loop found between the pivot loops.

I debated about adding one more dark turquoise 3-strand braid to finish off the rug, but finally decided — in the immortal words of Civil War quilter Jane A. Stickle, as quoted by Brenda Manges Papadakis in her “Dear Jane” book — “Finished is better than perfect.”

Braiding challenge

Dianne here….

I have just made a small mat for a gift.

imageLook carefully…..the salmon is wool, cut about 1″ wide but the blue is what Pendleton calls ‘wooly worms’.

imageI believe they are by products of their blanket manufacture as most of them are kind of fluffy blanket weight, vary a little in width and sometimes have a smidge of color running down the length, as in the blue I used in the mat, then picking up on the smidge color for the salmon wool.

The story is kind of funny; I was in the Pendleton Woolen Mill Outlet in Portland a year or so ago and talked to the manager about possibly having braiding lessons and/or carrying our book in the store when she asked if I had ever braided with their wooly worms; I kind of scoffed (maybe why they still don’t carry the book!) yet it gave me an idea to try so I bought a little pile of them; they are very reasonable.

Of course you can’t fold them and braid; you just braid as is and hope for the best. I do an enclosed end start and butt the traditional way.  You can probably tell this is a continuous center with 3 butted rows ending with a triple picot. Because of the fluffy nature of the worms the picot is not as defined as with traditional wool but does add a little variation to the last row.

I have shown a couple of bowls braided with the worms in a Dec blog post (if I knew how to link to a previous post I would). For those I have come to ‘felt’ them by dunking them in very hot water and dryer over a plastic bowl. Felting in the washer did not work well.  For this mat, I just pressed it.

I forgot to mention that I did a ‘demo’ with these wooly worms last October at the New England Braids camp and sold some to some braiders.  Anyone out there make anything with them yet?

I find working with them a nice break from the precise braiding we usually do. They won’t and can’t be perfect, they are a little fluffy and funky and I like the look.  Hope my friend does too!

Be happy for snow: a good way to clean rugs!

Dianne here

I live in Northern California where a snow dusting happens about every 20 years. But I have heard for years of using snow to clean braided rugs….tho never doing it myself, alas.

Mary Rango, a blog reader from MA has sent the following photos illustrating the technique. She reports it brightens and cleans the rugs quite well and makes winter a little more palatable….well, maybe that’s a stretch.

I had my 94 year old Dad over for dinner tonight and was explaining the technique. To a native Californian it DOES seem weird, but to a native Californian rug braider, I am jealous!  Thanks Mary…




Fitting Multistrand Borders Around Rugs

Christine here:  My husband comes from a family with no tradition of braided rugs.  In fact, his family has some stunning oriental rugs that now are in our house.  The story is:  his father was a surgeon in Philadelphia who was called in on a consult for a young girl who was very sick.  My father-in-law performed surgery on her and she recovered fully.  The girl’s family were oriental rug merchants, and, when they heard that my father-in-law was newly married and setting up a new home, they guided his purchases and gave him a good price on some beautiful rugs.

So, not only are these rugs beautiful, but they are the rugs that my husband grew up with and are associated with deep pride in his father’s work.

These rugs are all over our home.  The only rooms that don’t have orientals are my fabric room, the bathroom, and the 3rd floor that has wall-to-wall carpet left over from previous owners.  I’ve put down a bunch of my braided rugs on the wall-to-wall carpet, but otherwise they get given away or stacked up in a pile.

This is a long-winded justification for why I have recently been working on a rectangular rug and putting a multistrand around it.  I’ve been cleaning out my fabric room, trying to organize a mountain of various crafts, and I came upon a rug that I had started back early in my braiding.  It was a long rectangle made out of teals and blues.  In my inexperience, I had screwed up the triple corners and it was a bit lop-sided.  But, my husband walked past it and said, “Hey, I like those colors.  I like the rug.”

This comment stands out because my husband NEVER comments on my rugs.  I am not complaining about this:  we each are very independent people who have our own interests and muddle along quite happily together, and I understand his perspective on wanting the orientals all over the house given his history.  But, it also means that if he ever does comment on a rug of mine, I am seriously motivated to work on it.

This rug was a disaster.  Cheap wool that was a bit too thin and too polyester-y, wonky corners, and to make things worse, I had switched to heavier fabric about 10″ away from the center so that the edges were ruffling all around.

I am not a fan of re-work, ever.  If I am going to undo lacing or take out a row… well, I’d rather just figure out a way to work with my mistakes than undo anything.  So that’s what I did.

I liked the fabric that was heavier in the outer row, and decided I would just continue to work with that weight because I can’t stand working with thin stuff anymore.  I figured out that, to make that ruffled edge lay flat, I needed to decrease about 8 times on the long sides and about 3 times on the short sides.  I also made double corners for one row rather than triples to pull the too-pointy corners in.  Yes, I know you’re never supposed to decrease on straight sides.  But hey, it worked.  The ruffles pulled flat and the corners… improved.

Then, in honor of my multistrand book that I am eternally writing, I decided to put a nice zig zag multistrand around it with 13 strands.  I chose 13 because I had a short side with 39 braid loops, and I thought it would work out.  But, my multistrand loops are longer than my braid loops, so, after braiding about 5 sets… it didn’t work out.  One set on my multistrand (13 MS loops) corresponded to 17 braid loops, even with the multistrand tightened up nicely.  And, when I tried to figure out how to place the multistrand and have all the corners match up… it didn’t work.

This issue is not so much of a problem when you have a narrow multistrand, made of only 5 or 6 strands.  The malleability of the multistrand and the fact that you can tighten or loosen it a bit means that you have a bit of leeway in fitting multistrands around cornered shapes.


In the above diagram, you can see that there are two ways that a multistrand with sets that are 6″ long can fit around a 2′ X 3′ rectangle.  One has a miter line at each corner, and one has a box around each corner.  Measuring from the inner rectangle and counting points, there are 4 MS sets on the short sides, and 6 MS sets on the long sides.  (In the diagram right, they are displaced by 1/2 set, but it still ends up being 4 X 6 sets).

I tried to fit my 13-str multistrand around my own rug, but there was just no way that it would fit and have all of the corners the same.

Then I tried having the 2 corners different.  I added 1/2 set to the long side, making the rectangle 2′ X 3’3″.  MS-around-rectangle-2 I have a rather long rectangle in the real rug, so I tried to convince myself that corners being different on opposite ends wouldn’t be that obvious.  But, even this variation wouldn’t work out mathematically for my own rug (my sets are almost 9″, and even 4.5″ is a lot to have to “fudge.”)


Then I tried adding 1/2 set to both sides.  You end up with the diagram left, in which opposite corners are equal.  I finally got the real multistrand to fit, but… on my short side of my real rug, I can only get 3 sets, and having them off-center like that was really obvious.  It just didn’t look right.

So, finally, in desperation, I made a list.  I put the number of loops on short and long sides in a table, and added 3 to each figure for 6 rows, figuring out the number of loops on my short and long sides for each of the next 6 rows. (Three times six is 18, which is only 1 more loop than my set, so it covered the full range of possibilities).   I looked for a combination within a row that was within a few loops of multiples of my set, which was 17 braid loops.  After 3 more rows, I came up with a 3 X 6 set combination that was close enough that I can make it work.

So, once I finish my multistrand (half-way done at present), and 3 more rows around my rectangle, I will show you my poor rescued rug.  In the meantime, I had fun figuring out the math associated with placing a large multistrand around a cornered shape — hope you found the ideas for multistrand placement useful.