Val Galvin’s Bird Rugs

Christine here.  First, thank all of you who wrote to me and wished my mother well.  She did so beautifully after her knee replacement that I couldn’t believe it!  For an 80 year old lady with heart disease and poor circulation, she is healing up very well and  already striding around with a (hopefully temporary) walker.  She’s sharp as a tack and still beating me at word games… that’s the part I was worried about; in my former life I saw some post-op strokes.  And, I watched my grandmother become demented at 80, so I always fear the loss of my mother’s intellect and personality.

Enough of that.  This post is about something else entirely!  This post is about a collection of rugs that are so sweet and so pretty that I got permission from Val Galvin to write about them.  I meant to put them in the newsletter, but I had trouble with fitting everything in, so I decided the blog here would be best.

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Val Galvin’s hooked chickadees and leaves surrounded by braiding.

Aren’t these birds just adorable?  The chickadees are my favorite birds, with their little black caps above white feathers.  Val has hooked them to look very cute, but I think the frame of braiding makes this a really beautiful rug.


More Chickadees surrounded by lovely blue braids, by Val Galvin.

The next in the chickadee series has a cream background with blue leaves.  I like the way the braids transition from the cream color to the vibrant blues.

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More Chickadees and leaves in a wonderful “poison green” background, surrounded by a woodsy green and brown. By Val Galvin.

I think this one might be my favorite, in part because I love that yellow-green or “poison green” of the hooking background.  The birds turn topsy turvy, and the green and brown evoke the forest.


Robins in a Row, and the middle one got the worm! by Val Galvin.

We leave chickadees and go to robins, all lined up.  Look at how the rusty braids point out the proud red breasts of these birds. While I love the hooking, I think the braided frame is what really “makes” this rug.

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Val Galvin’s hooked and braided rug with quail family

Here Val branches into quail — a family of quail with two little chicks.  You can’t help but laugh at the ridiculous top feathers these birds wear.  The brown and teal braids are a perfect frame.


Val Galvin’s hooked birds and braids

OK, my parents (avid birdwatchers) would be embarrassed by my being unable to name what bird this is, but I can tell you that they are pretty in this rug!


Hooked seabird (black oystercatcher?) in a serene coastal scene, surrounded by soft grays in the braids. By Val Galvin.

Here’s the last one:  isn’t this a calm rug?  The soft grays and greens make you almost hear the waves against the rocks and the fog over the water.  An oystercatcher hops along the rocks looking for mollusks.

I really enjoy seeing when an artist is so captivated by a subject that they explore it again and again, tweaking this aspect or that, changing colors to change the mood of the piece, and bettering their arrangement or portrayal each time.  Val has clearly done that in this Bird Series.

Val has a studio, “Renditions in Rags,” on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada.  I’ve heard about Val for years from my friends Dianne Tobias and Kris McDermet, who I believe met her at the Thetis Island fiber gathering, but I haven’t yet met her myself.  Please take a look at her Facebook page, Renditions in Rags.  She offers classes in both hooking and braiding there and seems to have a lot of fun at whatever she’s doing!

Finally, let me just say that here I am in just an absolute disaster of a house, running back and forth between Lancaster (Mom) and Pittsburgh, trying to get a newsletter and handouts done and teach a class last weekend and everything else…. and Dianne taunts me by sending a photo of where she was on Thetis Island.  Makes me wish I had Star Trek’s transporter up and running.


Dianne Tobias sent me a photo from Thetis Island, British Columbia, Canada






I Am Not OK!


My Kitchen Right Now

Christine here.  OK, I have alluded to the fact that perhaps I am not the best housekeeper. I tend not to notice when the place needs to be cleaned up, because I am easily distracted by much more interesting things like braiding a rug.

But this week has been really weird, and I have figured out what my limit is on mess… the degree of disorder required before even I am compelled just to pick up the spray cleaner and a piece of old T-shirt and get to it.

A bit of history: over 10 years ago, when we were looking at houses, I saw my future kitchen and I said, “Ugh. First thing we do is get a new kitchen. This place is horrible.” John agreed… but life and other expenses intervened.

So, 10 years later, after we paid for a new driveway, a new water heater, central air, a new bathroom due to a leak, serious plasterwork due to a continued leak, and finally fixing the leak, and I could continue on for another paragraph…. before the kitchen ceiling fell down.

Last spring, while gazing at the mess in horror, and checking to see that no cats had been impaled (they were safe), I was secretly dancing inside. If nothing else, we had to get a new kitchen now, right? Hurray, hurray, now we could justify the very frightening expense of getting a new kitchen: there was no alternative with the ceiling down.

Then my nosy neighbor who happens to be an architectural history professor pointed out that the kitchen bumps out onto our back porch, which is one cement flight of stairs off the ground, and that the cement back porch was crumbling. So, we should really get THAT fixed before the kitchen.


See how dark the stuff between the wood is? That’s were all the black dust was hiding.

Fast forward beyond a tetanus shot (one of the pieces of lath that fell down had a nail that pierced through my shoe to the skin) and 40 phone calls to cement contractors and a total of only 5 people bothering to show up to give estimates… and all of them looking at the job, shaking their heads, and saying, “Yeah, we don’t really do this kind of work.”

Meanwhile, little bits of plaster continued to plink down onto me or the floor from the remaining kitchen ceiling.

I finally found a cement contractor through the borough office, and he said YES he would do the job…just after he got back from wintering in sunny Florida.

Four months later, Cement Guy is now tanned, rested, and ready, and the Kitchen Guy almost botches up the whole plan by calling him up to ask him how he’s supporting the kitchen bump-out while tearing off the back porch. They exchange words, and the Cement Guy almost quits. After some smoothing of feathers on my part, Cement Guy agrees to wait a week before starting, because Kitchen Guy wants to demolish the kitchen and put in additional structural supports before the back porch goes out from under the bump out.


A newsletter project (if I ever get it finished): an octagonal trivet.

What that means is that within 24 hours of the phone call, I had to clear out ALL of my kitchen. It took all day and most of a night, and stuff is now stacked everywhere in the house. You have perhaps surmised that I am a bit of a packrat, and I had 10 years to fill every kitchen drawer and cupboard and cabinet with… stuff. You have to weave through boxes containing my bundt pan with the sculpted braid on the bottom and the pie crust cut-outs and the box containing the other rarely used utensils in order to get anywhere in the house now. We are eating take-out and microwave dinners. And, since this is industrial Pittsburgh, a fine layer of black dust has now been released from the confines of the kitchen walls and has settled over each and every flat surface in my house, even up to the second floor. (Yes, they did put up plastic sheeting… but it didn’t help).

The black dust is very fine: you can’t even feel it. When you wipe it away, it seems a little oily, and requires about 5 swipes to get it clean.

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From “Red Clay Tile Works,” this squirrel is one of the hand-crafted tiles that I’m going to have in my new kitchen.

In the past week I have met with: a hand-crafted tile maker, gone to a granite show room, picked out hardware, picked out a stone veneer for the cement columns, gone to the window-replacement place, and met with the kitchen designer three times.

In addition to that, I got ready for and taught a lovely 2-day class on attaching braids to square and rectangular hooked pieces (the class was great – more about that in a future post) and tried not to freak out about the fact that my 80 year old mom who is in poor health is getting her knee replaced today (it was either wheelchair or knee replacement, so she chose knee replacement).

And, yes, I still haven’t finished the braiding newsletter that was due out earlier this month.


One of the newsletter projects: an octagonal maze chair pad

And I have to finish the class handouts and samples for the Valley Forge Guild’s braid in that starts in less than two weeks.

And of all the unusual things, I have been obsessively cleaning because even I have reached my limit of disorder.

A couple hours from now, I am driving 4 hours to go sit with my dad in the hospital to wait for my mom to get out of surgery, and then staying out with them for a week so I can buy donuts and flowers for the nursing staff and keep an eye on my mom’s care and keep my dad company.

Frankly, I am looking forward to being away from my disaster of a home for a week!!!

I’ve been telling my mom to “just visualize 6 months from now, when you’re healed up and physical-therapied, and striding around again.”  I’m also telling myself to visualize 6 months from now… when my mom is healed up, my kitchen is done, the back porch is done, and I can braid again without wondering which box something is hidden in first.

One of Those Days



Jack’s Easter Basket: I meant to add more rows, but when I finished the chevron braid around the top, I liked the way it looked.

This is one of “those” days. One of the days where every single little thing that one’s spouse says is irritating. One of those days where the children really can’t do anything without assistance and they need you right in the middle of something careful that you have to pay attention to. One of those days when the dogs won’t stop barking at every passerby walking a dog and I think someone with a dog must be walking back and forth in front of the house.

This is one of those days where I really should be alone by myself so that I don’t say the things that I feel like saying to everyone, like, “Just shut up, John” or “Does NPR really have to be on ALL DAY?” and “Can’t you do anything by yourself, Katie?” or “How hard is it to set your own alarm for school, Jack?” At least I can say whatever I want to the dogs and they’ll still love me: I have already informed Rowdy and Gracie that they are barking way too loudly and too often.


In progress, from the guild meeting: Marjorie Kauffman’s heart with a multi strand border. Can’t wait to see it finished!

At times, I imagine a quiet place for myself. It’s a small-ish house that is way the heck out in the country: a small clearing around the house to let in sunlight, but trees everywhere out back. Maybe on a hill so that there’s a vista of the nearby farm fields and mountains in the distance. Despite the small size, there is an immense fabric room, with a sewing machine that is permanently set up and plugged in. There is wonderful lighting, both natural and artificial, and a table so large for spreading out multiple rugs that I can work on 5 at once without having to put any of the others away. And NO ONE else is there, for miles and miles and miles.


In progress, from guild meeting: Deb Weinhold’s oval rug (it’s probably twice this size now, she works so fast!)

Multiple authors have commented on the need for a special place away from others. Virginia Woolf wrote the book, “A Room of One’s Own,” and in that she famously said, “A woman must have money and a room of her own to write fiction.” Part of a Stephen King quote: “Write with the door closed…” And Ingmar Bergman wrote about an artist’s need for solitude.

I adore my family, even my eternally barking dogs, and I love being with them… mostly….

But not right now.