Colleges, Patterns, and Time

Christine here.  My 17-year old son Jack has started the process of looking at colleges.

Let me retract that statement. Here’s a better description:

We, Jack’s parents, have started the process of dragging our child by the ear out of bed at ungodly hours like 10 am and forcing him to talk to people about his future.

On the way to the first college in the car, we prepped him about the college, so that he at least would appear to have taken an interest in the place. We talked about his potential major (History), about his extracurricular interests (Guitar), and highlighted aspects about the college that we thought would be good for him. Then, because he was going to have an interview, we asked what we thought might be sample questions and gave him sample answers.

Me, acting as Interviewer: “Jack, what makes you interested in Juniata College?”

My husband, acting as Jack: “Look, my parents dragged me here. I’m not awake yet so leave me alone.”

Me: “What do you think you might be interested in majoring in here?”

My husband: “History, but I don’t want to teach stupid kids about it or anything, so that’s probably bogus.”

Me: “We have over 50 different clubs to participate in at Juniata. What kind of extracurricular activities are you interested in at college?”

My husband, “Look, I just want to play my guitar and play video games. That’s it. I don’t want to sit in a circle or have to talk to people or anything.”

You get an idea of what we’re working with here.  Jack didn’t even laugh about his father’s rather accurate depiction of what his honest answers would be.

Anyway, we’ve got three more interviews scheduled this week, and then two more the following week, so you can tell we’re all having a delightful time.

The one good thing is that we’ve been through the process before, so we’ve learned a few things. One thing we learned is that our kid might not do well at college, so it’s better to keep him within a 3-hour driving radius if possible for emergency pick ups. The other is that we’re pretty sure Jack is like our daughter in needing a smaller college and not a big university. These items limit our college options a bit, so we’re not running all over the country to see places. I figure we’ll look at 6 or 7 places total and call it done.

But, in the meantime, all of these interviews are taking up my braiding time!! And, of course, my book-writing time.  I am trying, each day, to work on at least something related to the book on multistrands. Sometimes I spend a few hours, sometimes it’s a couple minutes.


Blank 6-strand braid



6-strand braid after grouped by strand

Today, I’ve been working on defining patterns that might be fun to make in multistrand braids. It’s a royal pain in the butt to group little blocks together so that I can change strand colors all at once, but once I have a template ready, it goes faster.

As an example: Here’s my blank 6-strand braid (left).

I click on each little “square” and “side loop” representing the path of one strand, and put them into the same “Group” within my drawing program. Then I change the color so I know what I’ve already done:  see braid to the right.

After all the paths are grouped, with one click I can change each strand to any color I want, so the process is a faster once these templates are set up. At the moment I’m working with a 6-strand braid. Since 6 is divisible by 2 and 3, I chose patterns that were multiples of two or three. For example, coloring every other loop the same color, or making each half one color, or rotating through 3 colors, or changing color every two loops for 3 sets of color.

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 4.18.14 PM

Braiding patterns for 6-strand braids


I plan on going through this process for each number of multistrand braids… although some numbers aren’t as exciting as others (7, for example, has fewer interesting options). 20 is a good one: divisible by 2, 4, 5, and 10, it has some cool patterns.

I’m coloring everything red white and blue today for the upcoming 4th of July. (Went to see the Independence Day: Resurgence movie on opening night because I LOVE the old one… the new one wasn’t as good. Still fun, but I admit to being lukewarm about the new characters).

Anyway, I am trying to do some work every day on the book… interspersed between college visits to Allegheny, Dickinson, and Gettysburg this week with my pleasant teenage son.

Braided Spirals


Spiral Square rug, in progress

Okay, I can finally breathe again: only one workman will be in the house today to repair the racks in my new dishwasher (my luck: I buy a new one, and it’s broken) and he’ll only be here briefly. Then I have a break from home invasion for a week, during which time my kitchen’s tile will be finished, and so will the glass for the cabinets. After the tile backsplash and glass are installed, there will then be a whole month where NO workmen will be in the house AT ALL. I feel as if I was trapped in a cage for a couple months and have suddenly been set free!

Unfortunately when they tore my kitchen back to the studs, all of the electrical wiring was revealed and, despite assurances from the previous owners that all knob and tube wiring had been torn out… well, you guessed it, the whole house is knob and tube. So, in a month or so, some complicated and prolonged electrical work will resume, in which attempts are made to run new electrical wires up to my second and third floors. I’m not looking forward to it, but I’m really frightened of the idea of a fire in my centenarian house, so we’ll do it and get it over with.

But, enough of that: at the moment, I have a few days of blessedly uninterrupted time in store for me. In the way that, when you’ve been in pain for awhile, like having a migraine for three days, and suddenly you wake up pain free, I have that sense of excitement and euphoria. I feel that world of possibility, even as I simply sit here. I can do anything, I can make anything! I can even start work on my multistrand book and see my way to finishing a whole chapter today. Today, I could make a whole rug if I needed to, I have so much time and focus and energy.

I will catch you up on the extremely limited amount of work that I have been able to accomplish in the past couple months.


Multistrand placemat, in progress.

First, I have been working on Project #1 for the Multistrand Book. I chose to make a strip placemat with 5-strand braids, each strand a different color. I figured this placemat would be a good first choice because it would teach the basic skills, and yet not be too big or too challenging. Although it’s really pretty quick to braid up, I’ve just been so distracted and miserable these past couple months of kitchen renovation that I haven’t even managed to finish it… maybe today.

Second, whenever I visit with my braiding friend Wanda, I’ve been working on the spiral squares for that baby rug I talked about (see photo at beginning). It’s not as baby blue as I had originally intended, so it may not end up being a “baby rug” after all, but I’m still enjoying it. Wanda’s husband passed recently, so she wasn’t up to braiding or anything else for awhile, but she’s doing better now, and we’ve gotten together the past couple weeks and had a nice time. Eventually I’ll finish the rug and post it.

Something about spirals – round or square or otherwise – really appeals to me. Maybe it’s memories of flinging your arms out wide and spinning around as a kid until you were dizzy. Maybe it’s just that I love symmetric geometry. Whatever the reason, I have a real delight in spiral forms. Here are some others that I found in my photo files:


Pam Landry’s 2-braid spiral pumpkin

Pam Landry made this adorable pumpkin spiral a few years ago.


Debra Weinhold’s 2-braid spiral flower

Here’s a flower spiral that Debra Weinhold made a few years ago. I like the way the slight asymmetry to the shape makes it look intriguing.

I’m not 100% certain, but I think this spiral flower was made by Pat Beltz. It’s interesting to see the way that she used a different color in one row to bring out the flower shape.


Pat Beltz’s flower. Notice the effective use of white in one row only to highlight the flower petals.

And finally, look at this gorgeous beginning to a triangular spiral that Karen Drevyanko started a few years ago. I spoke to her about it some time ago and she told me she had abandoned it, at least for now. I think she was probably experiencing some frustration with the corners… she has triple corners on the triangle, and I think she needs either quadruple or even quintuple corners to maintain this sort of shape. I hope she picks it up again! If not, I am totally going to steal her idea and make one myself at some point.Can’t you just see a series of large triangular spirals made into a hall runner or something? This is what I have in mind:


Karen Drevyanko started working on this triangular spiral


Sketch for a runner of 4 triangular spirals

I can’t talk about spirals (while writing a book on multistrands) without showing the rugs from a class on multistrand spirals that I taught a few years ago. Here is Pam Rowan’s version:


Multistrand Spiral flower by Pam Rowan

I first saw this design in a rug made by Nancy Young, but Norma Sturges has also made several lovely multi strand spirals, so I don’t know whether one of them developed the design or made their rugs based on an older rug.

It starts with a 3-strand round center, and increases strand count all the way up to 13 before decreasing back down to 3 and then tapering. While this spiral is made by only one braid and the others by two, I still think it fits in with the spiral category.  Part of the fun is that a secondary “petal” pattern develops from the dark strands against the light and medium strands, which really adds to the dahlia look.

Finally, I can’t talk about spirals without plugging my own take on a flower, in which I have spiral diamonds and leaf shapes:


Starburst Lily by Christine Manges

I made this rug for the 2010 Flower Challenge, and it remains one of my favorite rugs. Although it didn’t work out perfectly (I didn’t mean to have the yellow stars in the center: they are totally back-fill due to an error in corner judgment) it remains one of the rugs that makes me the happiest. Aren’t spirals fascinating?  I just love them.

Striking Out

Dianne here….it has been awhile since I have posted on the blog and you may have thought clever Christine was the sole author of the blog, but no, here I am.

It has been a blurry spring for me, in some ways hurried, in some ways sluggish as I adjust to the death of my 95 year old father in February   (leap year day, and as my brother said, does that mean it didn’t happen?). So the days have been mixed with memories, mostly good except the very end, furniture reassignment, financial coordination and adjustment to the fact that my days are not arranged around when I will visit as we were lucky to have him in our town for the past 14 years.

So that’s where I’ve been but that’s not striking out….that happened last weekend when I spent the weekend going to a reunion of 1960/1970 high school classes in my hometown, a smallish town in Northern California Bay Area. I had missed my HS 50 year reunion last October as I had committed to teaching at TIGHR (tri annual  international hooking conference in Victoria, BC) long before the reunion dates were chosen. So I thought this multi year reunion would be a good idea. I spent the weekend with my daughter and a bonus was going to both grandsons’ baseball games. The first was called for rain (yes in CA!) but it had stopped by the second 2pm game (yes in CA, when it rains, it doesn’t rain enough) and the second was the oldest (8 years) and a playoff game, do or die so to speak. The striking out refers to watching my grandson strike out 3 times in the game and how excruciating that was for both of us. It painfully and quickly brought me back (a real deja vu) to the days of watching my son in the batter’s box, striking out and worse than that, unable to contain his tears. He soon realized baseball was not his sport and soccer more to his liking so that was fine, but the short ‘season’ of tears was heart wrenching for me….and there I was again watching my grandson, tho there were no tears on his end. I guess my point here is that we as parents and often as friends, wish we could take the burden away from our loved ones; I would have happily taken the strikeouts rather than watch him suffer….is there a moral to this?

I have posted before about how braiding (hooking and knitting too) are comfort foods to me. Interestingly, that was reinforced in a couple of ways recently. Shortly after my dad’s passing we helped his wife dispose of his clothes and I took 2 scarves of his and immediately stripped them and began braiding! IMG_0917 Almost without thinking, the scarves turned into a small chairpad, not my best but so satisfying to make!  And several weeks ago, a rug hooking friend passed away suddenly and I was gifted a small colorful, non-wool remnant. I immediately began braiding a small mat for a friend who has a garden room and bordered it in pink velvet. I thought so much about both friends as I braided and laced.IMG_0916 In a way it gave some closure as I was out of town during her memorial (and subsequent stash sale).

And lastly, a story about my next big rug….it starts with Christine gifting me with 3 yards of luscious maroon Dorr wool after my dad passed. She said it was better than flowers and I would benefit from the braiding….and when she visited we talked about my making a large (6’6′) quarter pie rug for a corner at our coast vacation rental. I had been given 2 other large pieces of check and tweed and the rug idea was born. Christine did her magic on the computer to come up with a way (we hope) to make the shape in braiding with some hooking which will be perfect for me. I began braiding a 44″ diameter round with a goal of it being done by the time we saw each other (and Kris) at the Valley Forge Braid In to lay out the dimensions and continue braiding to create the pie slice space. The round did its ‘magic’ and I began to focus both on the rug and the grieving and I came out better for both!  I will give you a better idea of the rug and its progress in the next post. Let’s hope IT is not a strike out! Thanks for listening.


More Baby Rugs

And Baby Makes Three 015

Jenn Kiarsis made this braided rug for a friend’s first grandchild

My friend Jenn Kiarsis sent me some photos of two baby rugs she braided for a friend of hers when the friend’s first grandchild was born. Aren’t they adorable?

I am – intermittently – working on my own “baby rug”… although I put that in quotes because, as often happens, my rugs tend to wander a bit from their original intentions. I have completed 3 of the 6 braided square spirals, but now I’m liking it enough that maybe I want to make something a bit bigger? Maybe a hall runner? I like the idea of braiding these smaller pieces and putting them together to make a bigger rug. And, as usual, I am leaning toward bright turquoises and greens and less toward baby blue, so it’s becoming less of a baby rug, and more of just a rug.

Baby Steps 001

Anther baby rug braided by Jenn Kiarsis

The only problem with the square spirals is that they seem to take forever to lace. I’m sure it’s not that the shape has any extra lacing to do, though… it’s just that right now my life is an endless stream of being interrupted, again and again, and again, by workmen. There are incessant questions and adjustments and additional invoices and unexpected quirks to my house that require alterations to plans. The kitchen is nowhere near being finished: still no sink, no countertop, and only half the cabinets are in. The refrigerator and non-working stove are still in the dining room with the microwave.

This kitchen/back porch renovation is just interminable.

People have told me to just take the long view: in another month or so (probably the “or so” is more accurate) I will have a nice new kitchen and everything will be in its place.

It’s just really difficult to even be happy about that future, though. Right now I am detesting the whole process so keenly that I kind of long for the days when I had my old kitchen: I’m nostalgic even for the ceiling with the hole in it that plinked bits of plaster down on me when I was washing dishes at the sink. At least the place was my own, and had not yet been invaded by all of these men in dusty boots parading through my house, demanding my decisions and my compromises, and yet another check for additional expenses.

The continual disruption has made it difficult to focus on any one thing, and difficult to settle down and braid, or even to write.  In the midst of writing this one page, I have:  gotten the kitchen guys to plug an extension cord in for the back porch cement guys, been called out to view the siding and approve something weird about where the kitchen bump-out joins the house, and decided to have a strange piece of plumbing in the kitchen ceiling boxed in rather than having the beam slant outward to cover it.  (Have you ever seen a straight beam that then slants?) All three things were separate questions and separate interruptions… which shows you why I can’t keep a coherent thought in my head these days.

In fact, the one thing that does stay in my mind is something that I don’t want:  that Snow White song:  “Some day my prince will come, some day we’ll meet again, and away to his castle we’ll go, to be happy forever I know…”  Now why would I have that bit of nonsense stuck in my head?