Back to Normal

Christine here.  After surgery, there is something about the appearance of one’s husband’s skinny butt showing in the yap of his hospital gown while he walks with an IV pole to the bathroom… that speaks to the indignity and vulnerability of illness. Suddenly, the conversations turn to pain levels and incision sites, and turn away from the usual topics of chores, kids, money, and What I Should Be Cleaning Up Next to make him happy. It was uncomfortable, plunging us into different roles than our standard ones… he into the physically diminished patient, and me into the worried and hovering wife.

But, after two days in the hospital, three more days cautiously hanging out at home, and the amazing recovery that occurs quickly after the new endovascular surgical techniques… he is no longer limited except for some heavy lifting and vigorous exercise restrictions. Other than that, he is back to normal. As evidence, we are back to our usual squabbles.

In his defense, I am perhaps not the easiest person to live with if you have a slight obsessive compulsive disorder (which he does). I tend to unthinkingly leave things in unusual places all over the house. My work-around for this problem has not been to become more organized, which would be impossible; my strategy has been to saturate the house with the common items that I can never locate when I need them. As a result, we probably have 50 combs in the house, about 25 pairs of cheater reading glasses, about 25 pairs of scissors, and an abundance of tapestry needles, hemostats, and sewing needles. And spools of thread. That way, anywhere I look, I am bound to find what I need at that moment.

He, of course, has one personal comb, one pair of eyeglasses, and his tools are neatly filed away. He always returns all tools to their proper locations and knows exactly where they are at all times.

This morning, I went to the kitchen drawer where I throw everything one might ever use in the kitchen, and yet again I couldn’t find the screwdriver. (I use it to tighten the loose handle on my favorite frying pan). It also is convenient for all sorts of other unexpected things one has to tighten on the first floor. I finally realized that this was the 4th set of flat-head and Phillips screwdrivers that I had bought for the kitchen in the last few months. I went to my husband, suspicious.

Me, accusatory tone: “John, where are my kitchen screwdrivers going?”

John, righteous tone: “Screwdrivers belong in the toolbox.”

Me, sounding like a 10 year old: “No they don’t. They belong in my kitchen, where I need them.”


Braided tote bag with 5-strand in center

John, sounding like an annoying boob: “So go down to the basement and get them. And then put them back in the toolbox.”

The upshot of all of this is that, despite the week starting up with me worried and a mess over his health, we are both now recovered and squabbling again to prove it. He has returned to his normal annoying self, and so have I.

In the meantime, I have been braiding like a fiend because, of course, that’s what I do to calm down. I made a new tote bag with a 5-strand in the center, which turned out pretty well although, as usual, I question my color choices. I was trying to make the 5-strand look sort of like leaves and berries.


Flower cut with Sissix dies (safety-pinned on, not sewn yet)

I used my Sissix Big Shot machine (purchased several years ago when I had a brief but passionate interest in making penny rugs) to cut out the flower petals.

So, summary of my week: worrying & hanging out at the hospital braiding, worrying & braiding at home, and now ticked off and back to normal (and still braiding).

Picking Colors, Newsletter, Class Proposal Form


Koi Fish, made for the “Deep Blue Sea” rug challenge

Christine here. OK, I admit it, I am not one of those talented “color” people. I don’t immediately look at a piece of fabric and have an idea of which fabrics I will pair with it. Sometimes I’m lucky and I hit it right – I think my fish rug is an example of this – and sometimes I’m wrong.

I’ve been thinking a lot about color choices lately because I’ve been really struggling with them for the rug I’m making for the “Ugly Fabric Challenge” at Methuen. Here’s what the fabric looks like:


Fabric chosen for the “Ugly Fabric Challenge” at Methuen, 2016

Back when Loretta Zvarick had her shop, she couldn’t give this fabric away: it was just so dull and awful. (Boy do I miss Loretta. We didn’t always see eye to eye, but we enjoyed each other even so.) In working with this fabric, I am finding that it actually is quite lovely to braid with… but I’m still struggling with the color. While this would be a wonderful background color – just about any color can be made more interesting by making it stand out next to a dull background – I see the challenge here as making the ugly fabric a stand-out part of the color scheme. Making the fabric not just background, but a feature.


Same fabric but over-dyed with a red-orange

I demonstrated dyeing at outdoor workshop a year or so back and, while I mostly demonstrated with cream and white, I also wanted to show over-dyeing, so I happily grabbed this fabric. I didn’t care WHAT color people chose for over-dyeing: I was sure that ANY color over top would be an improvement. I ended up with a red-orange over-dye that I think is quite pretty, as shown in the photo. But using this over-dyed stuff for the Ugly Fabric Challenge would be sort of cheating, don’t you think?


Ugly fabric torn into 1.5″ wide strips: it resulted in two different stripe patterns.

I decided what I liked most about the fabric was the sort of dull coral stripe, so I tore the fabric lengthwise into strips so that the coral color would be on view. Now, with some experience with the torn fabric, I don’t know whether that was such a good idea… maybe it would have been better to tear it cross-wise and keep the rest of the taupe and dark gray-brown stripes.

I think rugs look best when they have a mix of light and dark tones, and an array of different of colors. Here, though, I’ve kept (mostly) to a middle range in tones. My color choices are those on the color wheel that would be described as “analogous” –drawing from colors that are all within a narrow range of on the color wheel, such as coral/pink/red. While a “safe” way to choose colors… I prefer complementary or split-complementary (Ex: red with green, or red-purple and red-orange with green). I’ve considered putting a dull teal out toward the periphery of my rug to contrast with the dull pinks and corals, but I’m uncertain whether it will “mesh” or just look tacked on. We’ll see. I only have so much time, anyway, before Methuen.


Rug in progress: the centers of the 5 circles are made with the ugly fabric.

My favorite aspect of any braid in is “Show and Tell.” I can’t wait to see what others have done with this fabric (not that everyone is participating in the Ugly Fabric Challenge, but some are). I can’t wait to see if people have made it a background fabric to brighter and more vivid colors, or have tried to coordinate with it, or have shifted it toward red-oranges or toward pinks. Looking forward to seeing what everyone else has done.

Two things to announce:

  1. The newsletter is coming back! After taking a break for 6 months, the Revolutionary Rug Braider newsletter will resume its quarterly issues in January, 2017. The newsletter, which most people receive via email, is 20-28 pages about braiding: braid conferences, rugs, often an interview, and techniques and diagrams. It has a calendar and a bulletin board, in which people post their braided rugs (and other items). To subscribe, click on the “Newsletter” tab up above.
  2. The Teaching Committee of the Valley Forge Rug Braiding Guild is now ready to accept proposals for classes at the May 4-7, 2017 braid in, in Bethlehem, PA. Please click on the “Propose A Class” tab up above for more information.