Reflections on Teaching at the Braid In


Braiding Teachers at the 2015 Valley Forge Spring Braid In: Deb Weinhold, Dottie Pepe, Nancy Young, Christine Manges, Pat Beltz, Dianne Tobias, Bobbi Mahler, Pam Rowan, Kris McDermet

Christine here.  OK, after a long silence, I am returning to the braiding post.

What kept me busy (and not blogging) for a long time was the preparation for the Spring Valley Forge Braid In, which I think was especially wonderful this year.  Those of us who are interested in teaching met early on Thursday night and went over a handout on short to long teaching topics.  Pam Rowan and Bobbi Mahler brought some of their one-day and shorter classprojects for us to view.  We reviewed syllabuses for several week long classes, such as tote bag or chair pad or oval rug.  And we (tried to ) talk about teaching left-handed (not left-opening, but left-handed) braiders, which I think everyone still left a little confused about!


One-hour Braiding Class: Pam Rowan’s door-hanger: braided strands with embellishments

I bring up that session on teaching first because I think teaching braiding to others is really important to keeping our craft alive and flourishing.

photo 1

5-strand Strip Rug by Peggyann Watts

My other classes — Beginners (although Dottie Pepe and Deb Weinhold taught more of that) and Continuous Square and Multistrand Strip — went well overall (check out student project photos!) although I hadn’t quite realized just how fussy and meticulous the C. Square is.  Several people made early braiding or lacing mistakes (braiding a quadruple corner instead of a triple; lacing a crossover loop, or miscounting a side) that affected each and every row thereafter.  I think in the future, I have to seriously limit the class size for this shape, and insist that after each row of braiding, and each row of lacing, I check the square before people move on.  Well, at least I know that for next time!

photo 2

Continuous Square made by Peggyann Watts

The final class that I taught was on butting, and I don’t think I should have left it to Sunday morning.  The class centered on the new Annie’s Fanny butt, which Anne Morton Caldwell came up with and which I find clear, simpler than many butts, and I’ve never made a mistake with it yet, which is saying something!  I think everyone found it interesting, but not many people stayed to try it after I demonstrated how easily it came together… I think many were just thinking about the long drive home and packing up.

Many people did buy the booklet with full diagrams of butting straight braids, same-color braids, and butting in tight spaces, so hopefully that will be useful.  (Butt Booklet:  $15 postage paid, contact me at

If there’s one thing that I always remember after teaching at braid ins, it’s the difficulty of working with braiders who have their openings on the other side from me.  I braid with left openings, a fact that I blame on Norma Sturges for her excellent and informative book The Braided Rug Book — because we all are “victims” of our first rug braiding instructor’s preference for openings.  Our brains settle into an immutable pathway and we’re stuck, comfortable only with the first way we learned to braid.  As I progressed to more complex shapes in my braiding, I also used Verna Cox’s Illustrated Guide to Rug Braiding — also a left-opening braider.  Then I got to know Dianne Tobias and later Kris McDermet — both left-opening as well, so clearly the Force is with us LO people, right?

Unfortunately, when it comes to braid ins, people come from all over and from a history of being taught not only by LO, but also RO, teachers.


5-Strand Strip Rug with Diamond Pattern, by Colleen Blaisdell

Pam Rowan and Bobbi Mahler both are right-opening braiders who helped me out in classes.  I think, from now on, that any advanced class that I teach should be taught in cooperation with a right-opening braider.  There are too many of them out there, and my mind just doesn’t bend that way.  So, I need the assistance of RO teachers — particularly for hearts or squares — or anything with corners.  RO braiders lace on the back of the rug, and things MOVE back there.  Corners change location by one loop on the back, so you can’t just mirror-image LO diagrams with corners and have them still correct for RO braiders.

Well, with each experience, we learn a bit more, and how to do things better in the future.

In the next posts, I’ll put up images from the fashion show (which was HYSTERICAL) and the rug challenge (Just for Kids) and Show and Tell — all of which were truly wonderful.


8 thoughts on “Reflections on Teaching at the Braid In

  1. What a wonderful day I had. So many nice people all willing to help in any way they could. I learned many new things as I begin to learn how to braid. Cannot express my Thank You enough. Oh yea the fashion show. I was glad it stayed P.G. 😀 as I was one of very few men.

    • Dianne here: It was nice to meet you and have you join us. The fabric you brought (hall store) was a wonderful addition….thanks so much for bringing it!

  2. As a former attendee of the Methuen braiding classes, I hope there is more attention paid to the plight of left-handed beginners. I am not only left handed but seem to be deprived of a right brain, and having a left-handed teacher would have made a big difference to me. I gave up attending because braiding is secondary to gardening in my life, but I encourage teachers to learn how to deal with us poor left handers a bit better!

    • Christine here. Yes, you lefties were the subject of a good bit of discussion at our teaching session. The braiding is the same of course — everyone uses 2 hands to braid so it doesn’t matter whether someone is left- or right-handed for braiding. Where the difficulties come in are with the lacing. We concluded (or I did at least) that left-handed people should, if LO (left opening): lace on the BACK of the rug. If RO, they should lace on the FRONT of the rug. This is opposite from the way right-handed people do it: the LO’s lace on the front and RO’s lace on the back.
      The lacing will also look different from the way LO or RO teachers usually lace, just to make it more interesting.
      But, those of us who have taught a bunch of people should be able to guide lefties to lacing correctly for whichever opening they are… or at least, direct them to another leftie! (Pat Beltz and Jenn Kiarsis and Kris McDermet are all skilled and beautiful braiders who are lefties, just off the top of my head).

    • Bev! I too am a left handed braider and we are a different. I would be willing to ask Carol Broadbent if a left-handed “workshop” – sort of like the butting presentation at PA – could be worked into the program for the Fall. We “lefties” could get together and hash out our differences. Sound good?

      • A workshop for left handers would be great; unfortunately I am tied to a year’s service on a grand jury which curtails my travel to special vacations! But it’s a wonderful idea!

  3. It sounds as if everyone had a wonderful time. I wish I could have been there. Are your booklets on sale via the internet and snail mail? I love the 5strand strip rugs. Will have to try one.

    • Dianne here: Missed you too Carol, Methuen for sure! Yes Christine has the booklet for sale, $12 plus shipping, contact her at She is too modest, but I’m not – it is great. The new butt is marvelous for several reasons and Christine’s diagrams make it even more so. Lots of other info about butts in there too. I plan to do a blog post on it from my perspective soon.

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