On the Highway to … Braid

Some of you, I know, think it’s ridiculous for me to be a member of a guild in which I have to drive across the Great State of Pennsylvania to attend meetings. Six hours is how long it takes me to drive to a meeting.

Of course I stop at my parents’ home; they live about 4 hours away from me, so I stay overnight and only drive two hours in the morning to get to meetings. Ditto on the way back. And I only attend meetings about 4-6 times a year. Nonetheless, driving my 2003 Honda Odyssey van, (no plans for a new car until my son has had his license for a year), I get that sort of cross-country road trip feeling that reminds me of that Steppenwolf song,

Get your motor runnin’/ Head out on the highway/ Looking for adventure/ In whatever comes our way…

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Mary and Pat K at a guild meeting.

The community of people in the guild is very rewarding to me, so 6 hours out and 6 hours back is worth it. I like everyone in the guild, I like their perspectives, I like their amusing stories about going on The Hunt for Good Cheap Wool, and I like to see what they are working on. We plan future events, catch everyone up on gossip, we all try to help each other out with problem rugs, and I get to complain about my NRB (non-rug-braiding) family and their inexplicable annoyance with stacks of wool covering every surface in the house.

I tried, with repeated beginner rug braiding courses in the Pittsburgh area where I live, to create a community of braiders here. It remains a great disappointment to me that I never really got it off the ground. There is one loyal buddy with whom I braid regularly: Wanda, and a second braider, Lucy, who drives across the city (a good hour) to join us when she’s in town, but that’s it. While that’s fun, and I enjoy it, my braiding sessions on Thursday aren’t the same as meeting with a big group of rowdy rug-braiding-obsessed people like the guild.

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Judy and Pat B at a meeting

One of my theories about Pittsburgh, which is ethnically different from the eastern part of the state where I grew up, is that there just isn’t the tradition of rug braiding out here that resonates with childhood experience. When I was a kid, my grandmother’s braided rugs were all over the house. We called them “rag rugs,” a nonspecific term applied to any technique of assembling worn-out clothing into a floor covering…but in my family it just meant braided rugs. I think part of why I like braided rugs so much is because to me, they speak of “home,” just by their very presence. For people who didn’t grow up with braided rugs, they just may not evoke that same warm feeling of comfort and home that they do for me.

So, about every two months, I pack up some overnight things, too much wool for me to ever finish braiding in a weekend, and my red and black Darth Vader toothbrush and head off into the sunset. Along the way, I listen to mystery thriller spy stories (better yet if they have a time travel element: just listened to “Signal” by Patrick Lee, what a great book) and eat way too much air-popped popcorn just to stay awake while driving.

The next guild meeting is April 2nd. If you’re in the Philadelphia area… look us up! We meet at Arbour Square Retirement Community, 695 Main Street, Harleysville, PA.

5 thoughts on “On the Highway to … Braid

  1. Christine – you make my 2 1/2 hrs to my rug hooking group in Vestal seem minimal. I’ll h ave to try much harder to attend. It sounds like your trip is worth while. I hope we can get more and more people to enjoy rug braiding. Peggyann

  2. Hey, Hey!! Maggie and I are still braiding. In fact, she is probably the youngest among your old Wilkins School group.

  3. Christine, As you know I grew up in Pittsburgh, though I now live in Bucks County PA (if you went any further east you would be in New Jersey) and have so for almost 27 years. Growing up in Pittsburgh I don’t ever really remember seeing a braided rug anywhere in my childhood, and if I recall correctly my first encounter with a braided rug was when I met Nancy Young at the Mercer Museum in Doylestown. Maybe the excess material or the wool used to make these rugs, just wasn’t available. It would something to consider. Then again, I have always felt that Pittsburgh was a uniquely different town, and way of speaking that I have not yet found anywhere else in my travels. It seems I will miss you at the next meeting as well as it is prime planting season and I have to be at the farm on weekends till June. Lynn

  4. Hi Christine,
    We have a similiar problem here! Just can’t get people interested in braiding. We had a special showing at our local Civic Center, people brought in things they make and sell. So, my braiding teacher and I went down, set up a wonderful booth, sat and braided. Everyone walked by said, “I remember those on my grandmas floors!” We had some people sign up for the class, half cancelled and only one showed up! Many people quilt here, but it’s like you said, disappointing on the braiding part!
    Jackie

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