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.

6 thoughts on “Braided Spirals

  1. I really like the triangular spiral. I wonder how it was started. It looks as if it has a triangle at the very beginning. Looks as if this might be a great class.

    • As to whether it would make an interesting class… I think the answer depends on whether you could make this with quadruple (4-over) corners or not. 4-overs are pretty easy to “stack” in successive rows, so that would work. But 5-overs, like triple corners, require that careful alternation in placement between rows that frustrates and stymies many students. If I hear of more interest in this shape/technique before the Valley Forge braid in next year, I’ll figure it out and let you know.

    • Yes, it’s a rather meticulous thing to braid: you have to be perfect about counting each side as you braid, and about lacing each corner correctly. It requires a bit more attention to detail than other, zone out and relax kind of pieces. But, you end up with a really cool rug!

  2. Wonderful display of geometric styled rugs. The possibilities of multiple designs are seeing fruitation in the braiding world. Thanks Christine for the article.

  3. To Christine and post, A question came up regarding the Origen of swirl/spiral/Multistrand rug. I subscribed to Nancy’s newsletter for many years. One issue showed a woman and a boy braiding a rug.It was from a Better Homes and Garden magazine dated May 1949.The article also gave directions for a whirring wheel variation. These directions produce a spiral/swirl rug like I made.In Nancy’s newsletter she reported experimenting with a swirl/ spiral directions. I decided to try this method too. It became my first Multistrand rug!

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