Braid Craft

Braid Craft Kit by Shirley Botsford

Braid Craft Kit by Shirley Botsford

Christine here.  Does anyone remember those Braid Craft kits that were found in every fabric and craft store in the 1980’s and ’90’s?  I was, in those years, either a college student working at an awful work-study job, or graduated and working as a mental health social worker for a salary that could barely pay my college loans, let alone my rent.  Due to financial realities, I eventually left that field and re-trained in another.  But at the time, I would see those Braid Craft kits and I would think, I would really like to learn how to do that.  And then… assessing the contents of my purse… I’d have to walk away.

Years later, after being rather intensely focused on rug braiding with wool since 2006, I thought about those kits and bought one from eBay.

I was surprised at how thoughtfully put together the kits were.  Even the illustrations (and I’m picky about illustrations) were pretty detailed and clear.  This kit was not something hastily thrown together but was meant to clearly convey the pleasure of making something with braids.

I got to thinking about the woman who had put these kits together.  I googled Shirley Botsford and found her.  She is living and working in Beacon, NY.  She owns and runs a bed and breakfast (Botsford Briar Inn), designs for Simplicity Patterns, teaches classes on crafting in the Hudson Valley region of New York, and is a frequently-published author in the craft world.  (Side comment:  crafty people are always so interesting:  they always delve into so many different areas at once).  Looking up her books, one of them really intrigued me, called “Daddy’s Ties.”  It presents a wide range of things that you can do with a loved one’s ties after his passing away.  One of her projects with ties was a beautiful dress.  This topic particularly interested me because I recently braided a “Memory Basket” of ties for a former co-worker after her husband died.

I contacted Shirley and she graciously agreed to an interview for my newsletter on braiding, The Revolutionary Rug Braider.  She told me about her life in the world of textile design, from designing fabrics to working with magazines and pattern companies to publishing her books and booklets.  She mentioned that she had once, after a friend challenged her to do so, made a braided wedding gown.  I almost jumped up and down in excitement while trying to ask her calmly if she had any pictures.  She said she wasn’t sure where the pictures were but she could find the gown and take some new ones for me.

Here, then, is one of the photos that she sent me, of Shirley with her 1987 entry to the Fairfield Fashion Show, “The Braided Bride.”  It’s made of satins and sheers and other fancy fabrics, braided together in strips for the bodice and jacket sleeves and headpiece.  The skirt then is made of the braid strands serged together.  I have more photos in the newsletter, but here is one:

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Shirley Botsford and “The Braided Bride,” which was her 1987 entry into the Fairfield Fashion Show.

Shirley says she went through bottles of fray check while working on the dress, because those fabrics would start to fray if you looked at them.

I had the greatest time talking to her, and hope to visit her at some point as I’m traveling through that region of New York!

9 thoughts on “Braid Craft

  1. Really interesting Christine. Thanks for all of your research on this interesting topic. The dress looks beautiful and I’d love to see it in person. Would she speak at the VF Hook in? I don’t remember seeing the kits.

  2. I have seen her books, but I guess all the kits are gone by now. The dress is amazing, it’s giving me ideas!!!! Fashion show anyone!!!!!

  3. Shirley may have spoken at the Lehigh Valley Couturier Society years ago when I was a member. Interestingly, that is where I first met Nancy Young when she gave a talk to the group. Shirley is originally from Bethlehem. She may be willing to speak at the 2016 VFRBG braid in.

  4. I remember the kits and have a few of the braid patterns around here somewhere. I always thought they were so interesting. Being young with a husband in the military and a baby didn’t usually leave much money for fun things like hobby things, but I did buy a few of the braid patterns with dreams of “someday”! That dress is beautiful! Thanks Christine for stirring up the brain tonight!
    Jackie

  5. The article in the Revolutionary Rug Braider was terrific! As always, Christine, you find the most interesting people and subjects for the newsletter.

    I too was interested in the kits after first starting to braid, especially the different shapes and practical baskets. My first teacher was an oval/round only. Anything else was out of her realm, which made no difference. She inspired and encouraged all her students.

    It would be wonderful to have Shirley as a speaker/presenter. It would also be great to see her creations in person. Again, inspiration and encouragement – “you can do this”!

  6. Christine,I do remember Shirley Botsford.if you look at the picture on the kit, I believe she followed my heart pattern directions. I had heart pattern directions before my book was published and she ordered some patterns. I remember the wedding dress and the tie book. I was working on my first braiding book and was worried that she was coming out with a braiding book too, but she didn’t. My best,Norma

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