A Tisket, A Tasket……

Dianne here….
We are out at our vacation rental on the coast of Northern California. We aim to come out monthly as there are a myriad of maintenance issues to do and supplies to bring…and we enjoy it. We try for mid week so as to leave weekends free for renters (special Braider rate: VRBO #615198) and our lives allow for that flexibility. Even with the maintenance issues, I find it so restful and productive to braid and hook while here….

Readers know I made a hit and miss rug for the great room last year. It replaced a modern abstract rectangular rug which was probably a decorator choice and came with the house, but I love the hit and miss and that it makes the house more ours. Here is a shot from the loft where we slept last time we were out as the house was full of relatives:


Hit and Miss with Cisco looking up at us….Note wooly worm mat under coasters!


I should apologize right now in that I am trying to write this on my iPad and WordPress is not as friendly to iPads as it is to PCs….

I have made a small wall hanging in braids and several baskets for the remote and candy and we purchased and hung a felted painting made by a Canadian friend/artist so the house is becoming more ours…and with that some trepidation that things will be taken care of. So far so good.

The corner of the great room is the stunner, looking out to the Pacific Ocean and the Albion River Bridge, the largest wood trestle bridge left in CA (and there is controversy around relaxing it for seismic purposes but the wood is treated with arsenic so that might save our bridge!


The window facing the view has a piece of pie shaped shag rug under 2 upholstered chairs. I don’t mind the shag but my husband uncharateristically thinks it’s outdated and has been lobbying for a rug….that story is for another blog but suffice it for now to show you the hooked whale which will be laced into the braided rug for the corner. Gary drew it and I hooked it with some velvet to add spice since it won’t be walked on.

imageIT is a grey whale spouting, not a Moby Dick whale because my husband is a stickler for accuracy and we only see grey whales from this window. The beige is the shag which will be replaced by the braided rug in a pie of pie shape…stay tuned.

But a Tisket…..I have gravitated to baskets for a long time, perhaps because they are easier to take on planes to Braid Ins, perhaps because they take less wool, perhaps because braided RUGS aren’t as popular out here in CA….anyway I have and a recent renter to our place saw this basket I made for the pens and pencils, etc and ordered 6 imagesmall baskets to give as Christmas presents. It is what I call a hybrid basket, continuous base with an enclosed end start and taper and butted sides. Advantage is it has a flat top and you can alter the rows for decoration, yet not all butted so goes faster!

I brought some combinations of wool and velvet out to the coast to get started and made this velvet bowl with a top lip out of my hand dyed stretch velvet. 1/3 yd made the basket. Thanks to basket friends (and in Jenn’s case student of years ago) for the lip idea: Jenn Kiarsis and PeggyAnn Watts.

imageAnd here is one almost finished with bought green rayon velvet and self patterning selvages. image






Another use for the baskets is as hats for those friends who are into retro. I have one such friend, Jill who is as petite as I am tall and whose hair is as short as mine is long: she covets my baskets as hats and I have made her several. I try to put velvet in as one strand as the stretch gives the hat more ‘give’….here is the latest with a velvet rosette and Jill modeling.image


Redecorating with Wool Scraps


My 5 X 7′ hit and miss, which is about to get bigger

Despite my assurances both to you and to myself that I would be finishing the whirring wheel multistrand, I have not. I have put it aside. Frankly, I was making myself completely sick of multistrand braiding…. so I was pleased to have an excuse to abandon it — briefly.

For the next 9 days, until my daughter moves back into college, I am adding onto a hit and miss rug for her dorm room. Here’s a photo of the original piece (above), which I think measures at about 5’ X 7’. Her room is 8’ X 11’, so I’m not going to be able to make it THAT big… but a bit closer to those dimensions.


A pile of hit and miss braids

I am reveling in the ease and delight of just braiding and braiding and braiding. I haven’t begun to lace yet, because I have some traveling around to do in the next few days, so it’s easier to move a big pile of braids rather than the heavy rug to which they are attached. Since it’s a hit and miss, I don’t have to worry about row changes or anything else.

I had a temporary hesitation regarding the question of whether I would butt on the additional rows or just start with a tapered end and keep going in continuous fashion. You know me: Queen of Continuous, so of course I chose to make a narrowed T-start and I’ll just circle around from that. Much faster for making the rug bigger, right? I’ll butt the last row or two.


Chair draped with assorted grays

This rug is fun: one strand is reds/pinks/peaches/oranges, and the other strands are gray and gray-brown tweeds/ herringbones/ small plaids. I love using up all those scraps from recycled jackets that I was given a few years ago, from which I have all these short 12-24” lengths. A hit and miss is perfect for all of the short pieces, and leftover rolls.

You may be able to pick out that I tried a multistrand in the hit and miss, toward the outside rows, just to see what it would look like. Well… it didn’t really turn out too well: it’s important to maintain the dark/light characteristics in a multistrand, so having the colors/shades change all the time destroys the pattern. Now you know. I’m leaving the multistrand in the rug, though, because I don’t have time to re-work it.


Dining room table covered with wool

My husband is conveniently away in San Diego for 3 days, watching track and field events with his buddies. He would be seriously perturbed by the amount of wool scraps that I have laying around on every surface, including his desk.  I am thoroughly enjoying the ability to redecorate the house in wool while he is gone!

Vacation, & e-lacing on curves


Near Kring Point, New York, along the St. Lawrence River

Christine here.  Last week I did nothing on my large whirring wheel multistrand because we were up “vacationing” at the cottage my husband owns. It’s a pretty rustic place: sheets in the doorways, no air conditioning, a mounted deer’s head on the wall, and furnishings in a bright orange and green plaid from a long time ago… I’ve grown to like the butter yellow and avocado green plaid linoleum in the kitchen, and the weird dusty yellow brick fireplace with wood paneling all around. When visiting, one has to suspend all squeamishness about insects and small house mammals, which I am usually able to do after I’ve been there for a day or two. I focus on the amazing sunsets over the St. Lawrence River as we sit on the back porch, and the slow shush of waves against the rocks.


“Drink coffee, Make art, Read books, Take naps.”

I think that my husband and I could probably – sometime in the future, once the kids are on their own – enjoy summers up there by ourselves. It’s quiet and serene and the surroundings are beautiful. Lots of wildflowers and grasses grow in their little bits of earth between large glacier-deposited rocks. The views over the water in Thousand Islands region are exquisite, and I like a bit of time with spotty cell coverage and no internet. Even the dogs liked the water. As long as I had my sewing machine and some wool, I think I could survive up there for a summer.


The dogs assume their usual activities.

OK, maybe with some air conditioning. And the internet wouldn’t hurt.

For now, though, we have responsibilities to the kids and cats that keep us in Pittsburgh for all but one week in the summer, and May-October my husband rents the cottage out to a nice couple from Syracuse who enjoy boating from the dock. The kids are amused – briefly – by their week-long visit, although toward the end of the week there are increasingly desperate questions regarding the presence of Wifi at any planned outing. We make the kids play Scattergories with us (my daughter enjoyed coming up the name of a crime for the letter F: fratricide). And the 10-hour drive home isn’t much fun, but we survive.


In progress: 4-strand chair pad. Probably will put an additional butted 4-strand row around the outside.

While I was there, I worked on a 4-strand chair pad. I experimented with the Start, which I am not completely happy with: the double corners make a weird “8” pattern in the center before the stripes start. I am considering changing the center to starting with only 3 strands (all in one color, probably) and then adding in one more strand and changing one color to start the stripes.  I really don’t like that “8.”


The weird “8” at the center

I also experimented a bit with e-lacing on the curve. I have previously only used shoe-lacing for my curves, which works but is a bit tedious: you’re constantly switching between the two strands you have to lace, which gets old: under, then across with the one lacing needle, put it down, pick up the second needle, then under, then across, then put down the second needle and pick up the first. If you get lazy and just keep going ahead with the first needle, and try to catch up later with the second needle, then you get totally confused as to where you made your increases, and it doesn’t work.  So, you really do have to just plod along with switching needles all the time.

Annoyed, I went back to e-lacing. It is slow but, once you’re comfortable with the technique, it’s fine. The only adjustment necessary for all the increases on the tight inner curves is to lock each e-loop into the prior e-loop. Not everyone has been taught to make this extra lock in e-lacing on the straight portions of oval centers, which is the only place most people ever e-lace, and where it’s not so necessary on the straight. If you don’t lock into the prior e-loop while increasing on a curve, though, the lacing thread will show, so it’s a necessary step for this chair pad.

I’m going to have to get a couple people to try out making this chair pad from my directions, so I can see how easy it is to follow the lacing directions before I put it in the book.


A rare smile from my son (and daughter)

Anyway, back home with the whirring wheel, I’ve started my rapid taper for the outer row, so the end is in sight! Probably a week more for completely finishing it, cross my fingers.

Naming This Rug


My mother-in-law passed on her Singer Featherweight, much loved and used, to me.

In the summer of 1977, my family and I took a month-long trip across the United States. I was 15 years old, my brother was 14, and my sister was 9. She sat in the front seat between Mom and Dad (this was back before car seats… I don’t even know that we wore seat belts) and Steve and I sat in the back. We drove a Plymouth Volare that my dad bought used for $2000, and he was very proud of the car: it was bright blue, it had air conditioning, and it was a lot less beat up than our usual.

I think the idea was that I would probably get a job the following summer to start saving for college, and if we were going to take a trip as a family, this was the last time that we would all have the time to do it.


Isn’t this featherweight design pretty?

We drove out to California via a southerly route, and then came back across the upper middle of the US. We wandered around a bit, but managed to visit 26 states, averaging about 3 tourist stops a day, and staying in inexpensive hotels and motels across the country. When we wanted to splurge, we stayed at a Best Western, which we saw as the height of luxury compared to where we often stayed.

My father was an American History teacher, and my mother was similarly fascinated with American History, so we stopped at EVERY presidential home, presidential library, battlefield, cemetery, and historical marker across the states. Additionally, we went to museums and national parks and national monuments. I told my father that I had never before heard of History being used as a form of torture.


My Multistrand Stand that my father made me, with 17 braid aids

I was not a pleasant teenager, as I have hinted before, and the trip in a small car for 30 days with my family sent me over the edge. I packed a pillowcase full of used sci-fi books we had gotten at the flea market for 25¢ each, and I read them as we drove all those miles across the US. (I’m usually stricken with car sickness, but I got over it on this trip: boredom trumps nausea). When we got to the Grand Canyon, I was so tired of being stuck there with everyone, that I stayed in the car and read my book. That was NOT met with equanimity, but I was adamant.

As with many things from my teenage years, I look back and can’t believe how awful I was to my parents. They didn’t have much money, but they saved up to have our family have this experience together. It was a wonderful time for them, and they loved seeing the sites across our country. I just wanted to be by myself and away from all of them.

There are a few experiences that stand out in my mind from that trip. One was, when the car broke down in Tennessee and we were sweating outside in the sun while the car was being fixed, my mom gave me a dollar to go get us a couple of cold cokes from the machine. I went to the cashier’s desk to ask for change, and she had to ask me to repeat myself to understand what I was saying. Then her reply – that she couldn’t open the register without a sale, and she had to wait for the manager – had to be repeated several times for me to understand her. I had never before realized how dialectical English could be.

I loved seeing the open markets of Native American jewelry and baskets and other items in… Phoenix?

I surprised myself by really enjoying the Cowboy Museum.

I thought the Great Salt Desert in Utah was amazing, even though the drive seriously taxed our car’s air conditioner as we drove through it. We taped newspaper up on all the windows just to block out some of the sun and the vast whiteness of the land.


Meteor Crater in Winslow, Arizona. Image from http://meteorcrater.com/

And, I really liked Meteor Crater in Arizona. I remember it was out in the middle of nowhere, with nothing else around for miles that anyone could see, and it was an immense hole in the earth from where an angry god had struck the planet in a rage. It was fascinating.

We went to Disneyland, and we had been coached the night before at the hotel where we were staying to get there at opening time, and head straight to Space Mountain. It was described to us as the most fun and amazing ride ever, and the lines filled up fast, so go there first. We all went there, and were amused by the signs about not to ride if you had heart trouble, which we naively interpreted as hype. My brother, who is severely autistic and mentally retarded (I no longer stay abreast of the politically correct terms: he is what he is, whether it’s “emotionally disturbed” or “childhood schizophrenic” or “exceptional” or “special” or whatever else) was terribly frightened by the experience and whimpered when we went on any other rides throughout the day, even the kiddie ones.

It poured while we were in Disneyland. One of those amazing downpours, where the brick street down the center was flooded with about 4” of water and everything and everyone was soaked. Each step was a splash. The whole place sold out of umbrellas and rain gear, and people dressed in big black trash bags with holes cut out for the head and arms. It rained all day.

I whined, of course, that maybe we should just come back tomorrow when it wasn’t pouring. Dad sighed, shook his head, and said that there wasn’t enough money in the budget to come back: this was it. That was one of the first times that I had enough insight to feel sorry for my parents. They were trying very hard to have this family experience for us, and between car trouble and weather and bad luck, we kept having things go wrong. I think, if there’s a moment that I can point to when I began – slowly – to mature, and to appreciate my parents and not just think about myself… that was it.

One of my friends went with her family out on a trip to the Southwestern US a couple years ago, and as they were planning the trip, I talked about Meteor Crater. The husband, who is an amateur geologist, immediately seized on the idea very excitedly and added that place to their plans. When they came back, my friend glared at me and said, “Don’t you ever tell us about places to go again. We spent all darned day there and the kids and I were bored out of our minds.”

Obviously not everyone can enjoy the place, but my husband has always been jealous of the fact that I got to see it. He’s had it in his mind to visit Meteor Crater for years. We’re talking about taking a trip out there, just the two of us, maybe in the spring.


Current workspace

In any case, as I slowly progress on my Whirring Wheel multistrand (I’m up to 17 strands right now, and I think this will be my last row) I’ve been thinking about that summer in 1977 as I braid and lace around and around this large circle. I think I’ll name this rug Meteor Crater, in deference to that wonderful/awful experience, and to my parents for their kind efforts.