Comfort Braiding

Christine here.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

While the pumpkin pie is baking early this morning, I thought I’d finally get a post written.

OK, we’ve all been there. Someone is sick or not doing well, you have to hang out, your presence is all that is required… but the hours are long. You sit there and worry, and worry, and worry, and there’s really nothing that you can do to remedy the situation: it’s just the way it is. You’re the support, and your presence is helpful, but there’s nothing you can really do except be there.

In this situation, you need to distract your mind and fill your hands with work. You need Comfort Braiding!

Many people have commented on the “therapeutic” nature of braiding and other types of handwork. They are quiet activities that give your mind something to focus on while you are upset or anxious. Instead of sitting there and worrying, you are able to focus on your hands as they execute the maneuvers of braiding, the feel of the wool sliding through your fingers, the juxtaposition of the colors in the braids. You create something useful, pretty, and productive.


Sinuous Rug (haven’t finished yet)

These projects aren’t suitable in all situations: when you’re upset, if there is something you can do to remedy it, then by all means get up and set to work on fixing things. But there are many times when there is nothing you can do at all. I am now an experienced comfort braider, and I have the following recommendations:

When you’re in need of Comfort Braiding, only the buttery softest wools will do. Don’t reach for any wool that hasn’t been washed and felted enough to feel like a furry teddy bear. I actually chose a wool that didn’t quite go with what I had braided so far simply because I wanted the warm softness of that particular wool.

You need colors that please you. If you hate grass green, this is not the time to work with it. I chose butterscotch yellows and browns and heathered rusty oranges – not a palette that everyone would choose, but I like it. It reminds me of the fallen leaves that I kick through as I walk.


Close-up of the hit-and-miss wools

I suggest a hit or miss project that incorporates different colors and patterned wools from earlier projects. The play of different colors is intriguing, and you can reminisce about when you last used that fabric while you work. And, you don’t have to fuss with making your color changes at the right place. Just work with the colors that you like to look at.

Don’t choose projects that requires graph paper planning to execute, or that are just too difficult and potentially frustrating. Don’t choose projects with corners and angles, or that require a lot of butting. You need something that requires just a bit of thought to distract you, but not challenge you. Choose projects such as continuous ovals or rounds: they require just enough attention to occupy your mind, without being difficult or frustrating.

Make something for someone else – choose a person who has helped you out in the past, and might need a special project as a thank you. You can think about the person for whom you are making the rug while you work.

The only problem is when the darned rug gets too big to lug back and forth. Fortunately, one can always start another project that is more portable and get back to the bigger one later. The quiet reflection and productivity of comfort braiding is very gratifying and peaceful.  Thank heavens for braiding!DSC_3240

Three Bags Full…….

Dianne here….This is a story about finishing a long-ago started project for someone else. It is about braiding, but I have recently seen several rug hooking friends finishing hooked projects for elderly friends or strangers whose partially hooked rugs have ended up in flea markets and thrift shops. What a kindness to the creator to have a modern rug hooker finish and sometimes repair  the original. I may have one of my own as payment for the story I am going to tell today. I am sure as I hook, I will be thinking of the creator of the piece, wondering how and where and what she thought as she hooked.

But to the story. A rug hooking friend who is in my hooking guild approached me a year or more ago, asking if I would do something with her grandmother’s braids. Her grandmother was very special to her and was a braider. She left a number of varying length braids and my friend originally wanted to put them under hooked chair pads, not around, but under so the pads would be reversible. Note, the braids are straight braids, pinned at the start and rubber-banded at the end. About a year ago, I did create a start,  jerryrigged the spiral without having doubles and butted the last row, but the finished chair pad was not very attractive-the colors didn’t go with the hooking, etc. I also made a small mat and small basket. She was happy with all.

Then about 2 months ago she came to me with 3 bags of braids she had arranged by color and asked if I would make 3 ‘rugs’ for her 3 daughters so they could have something from their great grandmother. She said whateIMG_0569ver I could do would be fine, as large as the braids went, etc.

So I began…braiders will appreciate how lacing someone else’s braids is less than satisfying. They aren’t your colors, nor your desired width nor tension. In this case, all this was true: 2″ wide strips, fairly loosely braided, again straight braids AND as I started to make enclosed ends and repin to approximate a ‘start’ it appeared she was a right-opening braider. BUT because she was a good braider, and the wool weights were very similar, I flipped the braids over and laced them as though they were left-opening. And because the braids were loose, I could begin my lacing as though there were doubles (I prefer the enclosed end start which forces a tight spiral beginning), not perfect but with steam, they worked. I suppose I could have unbraided everything and rebraided to the left, but to me that would have made it ‘my’ rug and not the grandmother’s (plus I didn’t want to).

IMG_0557 (1)Here’s the center of the first ‘rug’. You can enlarge it I think. See the center? Lacing was a little wonky because it was on the ‘wrong’ side, and a number of seams showed, but I plowed ahead. When I came to the end of the first braid, I had to butt it to the second braid and continue as a continuous rug. Annie’s Fanny again came to the rescue and I continued. My mistake with the first ‘rug’ was not to lay out all the braids (think there may have been 5 in two variations) to see the lengths of each. When I was about 2/3 done with the braids, I realized that the last length of braid would not be long enough to be the last row. So I tapered where I was, making sure I had enough of the current braid to be the last braid, began a butted row with the short braid and butted the last row. Here’s the result. Don’t look too carefully! I didn’t measure and have given it to her but think it is about 18-20″ in diameter. IMG_0572

 The second ‘rug’ was easier and I did spread out the braids at the beginning. I added a butted row of my own navy which makes it bigger and adds some contrast. The angle of the pix is not true; it is more circular than it appears. 

IMG_0579The third bag full will need to wait for another day!  Anyone have a similar experience working with someone else’s braids?  

I am hoping to receive an older rug hooking pattern and hand dyed wool in exchange for the braided mats. The pattern is called Persian Melody and the colors include beautiful salmon and teal in a small cut to be able to capture the detail of the pattern. With luck it may be one that has been started by someone years ago!

Hit OR Miss?

Dianne here…

So I want to tell you about a large (101″ diameter) Hit and Miss round rug I have just finished….it has been ‘installed’ at our vacation rental on the Northern California coast near Mendocino (VRBO #615198, with friends and family rates!). We were fortunate to be able to buy the house about a year+ ago and it came fully furnished, really beautifully furnished. I have slowly begun to personalize the house by decluttering and adding a few braided items such as a stacked patterned basket for the TV remotes:IMG_0563

And a braided basket and mat from wooly worms for candy mints: IMG_0564


The great room had an abstract rectangular rug which tied many of the room’s colors together: chairs, sectional, etc.    Great Room rug  Some have called it perfect for the room, others saying it was ‘decorator’ and undoubtedly expensive. It is all those things, but it doesn’t feel like me. And it was wearing, tho that is somewhat a rationalization.

So I began a hit and miss, making it round because I like round rugs and rectangular that big would have taken forever. We figured it needed to be at least 100″ in diameter.  I have made two other hit and miss rugs, both having one dark standard (black in one, navy in the other) and 2 strands of odds/ends. This rug I wanted to be more subtle so I used one grey, one grey tweed and one odds/ends. Thanks to some gifting of the greys from some rug hooking friends (‘too heavy for hooking, can you use it?’), I began. As we all know as the rug grew, it began to inhale wool. Thanks to friends such as Christine, Kris, Mary, Anne, and Debra who shared their greys, I was able to finish.

IMG_0560IMG_0561As it is round, it covers a different area of the floor, and not as much as the rectangle, but in a way it offers a more centered conversation area for the sectional and chairs (?rationalization).

Anyway here is a close up. After starting and braiding probably 50″ of continuous rug, I tapered and began to braid off the rug so it was portable and then butt on the rug. It gave me a lot of practice on the new butt we described in an earlier post, Annie’s Fanny.

I am pretty pleased and I know I will enjoy remembering where I got much of the wool.

So, what do you think: Hit OR Miss? !IMG_0562

TIGHR and Beyond

Dianne here….Christine has been keeping you up on our joint fiber travels, but one trip she did not take was the Triennial TIGHR (International Guild of Handhooking Rugmakers) conference in Victoria, BC. in early October.  As the name implies, the conference is held every 3 years and the location and hosting changes with each conference. It was last in Australia and next (2018) will be in Yorkshire, UK.

Our friend and co-author Kris McDermet had gone to the last conference and we both were asked to teach and demonstrate at the recent one. She flew out from VT and we packed the Prius to the gills and headed north to Victoria, making stops in Portland to visit my favorite Pendleton outlet locations. Kris had heard of these from me over the years so was interested in seeing them. We made it across the border, no mean feat since laws are strict about bringing things to sell over the border. I had had an uncomfortable experience a few years ago when bringing 3 of our books back into the US so have always been wary of the border….in fact Kris took the wheel and answered all the questions (Kris and my husband think I answer more than is necessary when talking to border guards).

There were about 200 conference attendees, mainly from Canada and the US, but Australia, Japan and UK were represented also. It was very interesting hearing how rug hooking is done in other countries and especially what materials are used, e.g., in Australia despite all the sheep, there is little wool so other fibers are used! We had panel discussions, short classes, a visit to the Royal Museum to see very old rugs and lectures about Cowichan Sweaters and a remarkable Canadian painter, Emily Carr. As is the tradition, participants were asked to bring a hooked friendship mat to share and if you wanted, a hooked piece for the rug show, either with a “Back to Nature” theme or an interpretation of one of Emily Carr’s paintings. I did my friendship mat of a starfish, hooked and braided in velvet and wool and tried my hand at hooking (and of course braiding) an Emily Carr painting I found online. I loved the painting but must say I did not enjoy ‘copying’ it. As I hope you can see, the braid and some of the hooking is done in velvet.

Friendship Mat

Friendship Mat

Emily Carr's Painting Autumn Trees

Emily Carr’s Painting Autumn Trees

My intrepretation; can you see the velvet?

My interpretation; can you see the velvet?

Our good friend Jane LeBaron hooked a stunning interpretation of an Emily Carr…see how she captured the movement of the sky? And here is an original Emily Carr painting we saw at the museum along with a picture of an old rug they showed us.

Jane LeBaron's Emily Carr rendition.

Jane LeBaron’s Emily Carr rendition.

An original Emily Carr

An original Emily Carr

Very old hooked or twined rug

Very old hooked or twined rug

After the conference I taught one of three post TIGHR workshops. Mine was a 3 day “Beautiful Braiding” with Braiding around Hooking and Chair Pad. I had students from the Yukon and Newfoundland among others. Here is a picture of their projects:

Class Projects!

Class Projects!