Wool Is Hot

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Starting the 15 strand row.

Christine here. It has been subtly (and once, overtly) suggested by a couple of readers in private emails to me that perhaps I have a touch of seasonal affective disorder, due to the extremity of my despair and isolationism and irritability in the winters. Well, are they wrong: I get that way in the summers, too.

My only solace right now is that we have central air conditioning. When we first moved into this house, 9 years ago, we did not have air conditioning. It was July, there was an unexpected heat wave, and we were carrying boxes of books up to the third floor, where all the heat had clustered and it was triple the temperature outdoors. I distinctly remember sitting down on a chair, trying to avoid having any piece of skin touch another in the sticky heat, and absolutely refusing to move another box until there was air conditioning. In an amazing and rare display of responsiveness to my complaints, my husband contacted the AC company and 5 days later we had central air – probably a record for workmen’s (and husband’s) activity in this household.

So, despite the fact that we battle over the exact temperature to which the thermostat is set, the house is reasonably comfortable, even though it’s 90+ degrees and really, awfully, humid outside. But, wool is still very warm, even in a 73 degree house, and it is just darned hot to work with right now.

I often lace on my lap (although, when I am teaching, I yell at anyone else who doesn’t lace on a table). In the summers, I can’t lace on my lap at all: the hot wool rug on my legs is stifling.

Many of us take breaks from braiding and guild meetings in the summers for this very reason… and of course, because a lot of people are away on vacation. My guild doesn’t meet again until mid-September, and I am missing talking with other braiders and friends terribly.

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Better Homes and Gardens, May 1949

But, with some alterations in technique, I am still braiding. I have that book to write, after all. I am up to 15 strands on my circular multistrand.

Norma Sturges helpfully told me the source of the pattern for this sort of circular multistrand rug: a 1949 Better Homes and Gardens magazine. There is one entire page of instructions for how to braid a rug, and few sidebar comments about making a “whirring wheel” variation. (I always find it fascinating what skilled seamstresses our female forebears were, that they could intuit all of the steps of braiding a rug from reading just a few paragraphs at most). Working with wool makes our “warp” strands large enough that the wool “weft” can’t be packed over top of them, so we see a strand’s path as a zigzag rather than a single direction. I am hypothesizing that the whirring wheel in the photo used cotton fabrics, which could be packed firmly to give the unidirectional “whirring” effect.

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Photo from magazine above, p. 195.

Norma found one of these rugs and has a photo of it in the front of her book, The Braided Rug book. Thanks to Norma for letting me know about the magazine article – I love collecting old references to braid instructions and patterns.

I am altering the directions from the magazine slightly; I wanted to go higher than 13 strands at once so that I could get experience working with higher-numbered braids and be able to write about their attendant difficulties. I’m on a row with 15 strands at the moment, and I’m planning on getting up to 17 before I start tapering. I know that Maxine Ward has worked with up to 23 strands at once… I think I might have to let her record stand.

Stay cool, and I miss seeing all the guild members and my far-flung braiding friends…

 

 

4 thoughts on “Wool Is Hot

  1. Christine- I relate to your feelings about this hot summer. The fans help but the air conditioning is great abiet we only have it in t he bedrooms. Set on 63.
    I just finished demonstrating rug braiding at the Allegany County Fair the past 3 days 10am-7:30pm.. Hot wasn’t the word. But it’s a great time to promote rug braiding. About 5 new sign ups for the fall beginners class.
    But even better than that – Theo Bullock who was a new student last year won 4 blue ribbons at the Fair. I am so proud of her. So that makes it worth while putting up with the heat at times. Peggyann

  2. Peggyann here again – Christine have you ever tried braiding on your lap using a Lucite cutting board on your lap? It gives a flat surface to work on and it is also cooler on your lap.

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