The Mother of Invention

Dianne here….Have you ever tried something out of necessity or desperation and found the solution to be useful or downright brilliant? Well, maybe not brilliant… but the other day I was finishing up a hooked/braided bowl, this one being square and out of my hand dyed stretch velvet and yarns. I had not done a square before and thanks to my friend and muse Christine, she reminded me that doing straight braids on the butted (or continuous) sides of the bowl are better/easier/saner than triples and alternating lacing positions.

I hooked the base, finished it and braided 2 flat butted rows of velvet with triples then went up the sides decreasing before each corner to bring in the row a little. If I do it again I would decrease twice. If you haven’t braided with stretch velvet, it is wonderful but  it has a tension all its own and you have to get used to it and then give up trying to make it as perfect as wool. I tell myself because it drapes less than uniformly, it is providing more elegant sheen!

Anyway because of the two flat rows, my small hooked square was now a large base for the bowl and after 2 side rows I was running out of velvet. I currently dye the velvet in 1/3 yard pieces, one of a kind, so no more in the pantry. You can fudge with the width a bit to get more yardage, and I do, but this just wasn’t going to work. I cut the velvet normally 1.25″ wide so much narrower is nigh impossible to braid (though you can just fold over once in a pinch; I was already pinched).

I had used some of the unspun Icelandic wool I described in a recent post to hook some of the center as I thought the rusty wool complemented my mottled velvet fabric, so I thought, how about using a double strand of wool as the third strand in the last butted row? I could cobble together enough velvet for 2 strands….Well it worked, tho butting became a knot and don’t examine the butt site too closely as rebraiding with velvet and unspun yarn became a challenge!img_0667-1

As usual the velvet does not photograph as well as in person but I hope you can see how the velvet changes subtly with the mottling and the addition of the unspun (shown in corner) in the hooked base and the last row.


Here are the 4 wheels of unspun I bought in Iceland and now (because of necessity and that wonderful Mother) I know I can use them for BOTH hooking and braiding!

Classes So Far

Slowly, slowly, classes for the May 2017 braid in are starting to roll in.  (Deadline is December 10 for submitting classes…. see link  Registration for classes opens January 1.

I have been having fun thinking about what I would like to teach.  I always sign myself up for teaching classes for which I have things only about half figured out, and hope that the deadline will sufficiently motivate me to clean up the details.  Most of the time this works!

After some discussion with some of my loyal students, I’m going to teach the following: 1.  Fun with Chevrons.  2.  Flower Petals with a Twist.  3.  Butting.

The Fun with Chevrons will be… fun.  Here’s a photo example of a chevron border from a shamrock rug a few years ago:

Chevron border on a Shamrock rug
Chevron border on a Shamrock rug

This shows a simple “chevron dot” pattern.  But there are other easy patterns to create with chevron braids.  We’ll make a small rectangular mat and explore patterns and corners and butting with these 4-strand braids.

For Flower Petals with a Twist… I don’t have a photo because I have only worked it out on small practice pieces so far.  I have to figure in some time for making a chair pad or doily-sized example.  It involves using one strand twisted around itself to create the center spoke of each petal, and this twisted strand enables you to avoid having to do any e-lacing or shoe-lacing to close the center of the petal.

Then I’ll probably offer Butting, just because it’s a good basic skill that has been made easier to get comfortable with, now that Anne Caldwell created the Annie’s Fanny Butt.

Other classes being offered are:

img_22484.  Beginner Rug Braiding:  Chair Pad.  Robin Kershaw volunteered to teach these sessions (although I’m sure she’ll appreciate some assistance from others).

indian-corn-25.  Braided Indian Corn with Peggyann Watts.  Peggy figured out how to make these delightful corn cobs (the corn fronds come with the class) in continuous fashion rather than 9-loop center after 9-loop center, so to my mind at least these will be much more interesting and fun.  How will she do a teeny tiny taper???  Can’t wait to find out.

6.  Braided Acorns with Pam Rowan.  (Indian corn… acorns… anyone say Autumn door arrangement?)  These little cuties are made with 9-loop centers so you’ll get plenty of practice for your all-butted chair pad or hexagon star centers.

img_2437 img_2438 img_2436

7.  img_3325Standing Wool Trivets with Jenn Kiarsis.  I made one of these in Jenn’s class at Methuen and had a great time.  My trivet was on my Thanksgiving table (although next time I’ll pick some colors other than turquoise, olive green, and bright orange).

If you’re thinking about submitting a class… please get moving on your project or technique, and don’t forget the deadline of December 10!

Been Working on Lately

Christine here.  On Sunday, I taught a class to the local rug hooking group on attaching braids around rug-hooked centers.  It’s always a nice group of ladies, and Fritz Mitnick, our host, always makes wonderful hearty soups that she serves at lunchtime.  So I make a few dollars, spread the love of braiding to another wing of the fiber community, and dine well to boot.

The topic of the class was attaching a picot edge, so I made a few samples… here are a few photos:


Picot edge made to form triangles with the first braid

If you’re wondering why you can see some of the oak table between the braid and the hooking, it’s because they aren’t laced to each other — I need them separate for teaching purposes.

Another sample made for the class is this heart:


Picot around a heart… with an altered pattern to accommodate the upper and lower corners.

I found that I had to dig out the book that Kris and Dianne and I wrote (Combining Rug Hooking and Braiding) in order to remember what to do around the heart’s corners.  It was fun to look at the old magic-marker illustrations to see what I recommended all those years ago.

I also showed the class a plain square chair pad with a picot edge.  On this piece, the picot edge was laced on without regard to the corners, only to following the pattern (the crossover loops of the picot form the points of the diamonds).


Square chair pad in which the picot is laced on with no regard for the corners

All in all it was a fun class and I think everyone was happy with their picot edge borders.


Small bowl made with strips from the “Mug Rug” kit

The other thing I’ve been working on is a change in the “braided mug rug” class that Carolyn Newcomer, Dottie Pepe, Marjorie Kauffman, and Pat Beltz and I teach at the Gathering of the Guilds (now re-named Fiber Fest or something like that) every February.  I thought it was about time that we teach something else other than our standard mug rug.  The problem is that we have about 2 hours, and it is HARD to accomplish a braided project in 2 hours.  I worked out how to use our already-ironed and T-started kits to make a small bowl for keys or paperclips, so I’m proposing to the group that we use this bowl as our project.  It just needs to be test-run by a couple of the other teachers to make sure there’s enough material to make it work… some newbies braid pretty loosely, and I’m afraid the loosies will run out of fabric.

Remember that the Valley Forge Guild is still interested in receiving proposals for classes from teachers… see for submission form.



How big is that pie?

Dianne here: Those of you who know me or read this blog know that Gary and I are fortunate to have bought an investment property on the coast of Northern California a few years ago, having sold an ‘as is’ inherited property fairly near Silicon Valley (location, location, location is right!). We bought it fully furnished and have made it a vacation rental which we try to visit monthly. Although the furnishings were beautiful and well maintained, they were not all my taste, which in one way made turning it into a vacation rental was easier because I didn’t feel that invested in the furnishings if there was minor damage from renters.

But I have slowly made it more mine, mainly by adding my own rugs, etc. Here was the great room carpet and the hit and miss I made to replace it:

Here are strip rugs I braided to replace rattan entry rugs:

Well, the view from the corner of the great room is terrific, that of the largest wood trestle bridge in CA, there are two maroon chairs right in the corner IMG_0586 (1).JPG and they sit on a beige shag rug that I have never minded but has always bothered Gary. “Can’t you make one to replace it?”, he would say when we would go to the coast, it’s so dated being shag. img_0633-2I said it is a quarter of a pie shape, that won’t work for braiding, maybe for hooking but ?why. He kept up and was so supportive of the idea I said, well let’s measure it:


My good friend and fellow blogger, Christine visited last February and although she didn’t come to the coast, we talked about the rug shape. A whiz at many things, not pieleast of all her Illustrator computer program skills, Christine turned Gary’s idea into reality.

When my dad died in late February she spurred me on by sending me several yards of Dorr maroon wool (yum) img_0808and about the same time a weaver/knitter friend gifted me with large amounts of wool she had accumulated. Because the hit and miss is close to the spot where this ‘pie’ would go, I decided to use the same fabrics for the braiding, tho I had to replace several times as I ran out.

We calculated that I needed to braid a 44″ diameter round for the center so I got busy and took it to the Valley Forge Braid In in April and together with Kris McDermet we used masking tape to determine where the next rows would go to make the tip for the corner near the window and the curved end of the rug toward the hit and miss. We figured I would have either 2 very large ‘holes’ to fill plus the tip triangle which Gary had already decided would be a hooked whale OR 7 smaller holes and two braided rounds. Because of Kris’ instruction over the years about finishing hooking and attaching braiding, I decided I could do that and chose the latter option. After braiding the small rounds, I pinned and laced them then traced the triangles onto rug warp and hooked them.



Here is the hooked whale as sketched by Gary, a humpback whale which is what we see from the window as they make their way to and from Mexico. I used velvet to outline the whale and to add some sparkle. See the spout?

Here you can see the areas that were left when I finished the braiding. Since they were not going to show much under the chairs, I decided to hook without a design which was very freeing…I tried to use the same 4-5 wools in all the hooking and rebraided the small rounds with the same wool when I knew I would have enough, but note one round has more maroon rows than the other because I ran out of a critical blue wool!  Don’t tell!






Here is the rug in place with the chairs. Although there are things I might do differently, I am pretty pleased with it and glad to get it off my project table and on the floor!  There is another shag rug in the second bedroom, a rectangle, but I am not reminding him of that….although an oval might work!


Ugly Fabric Challenge


Some of the pieces (in the center) made for the Ugly Fabric Challenge

Christine here.  One of the more interesting concepts about “creativity” is that it works best within limits. I don’t know whom to credit with this observation, because I’m sure there’ve been some studies done on this concept, but I have seen it borne out in life. The first time that I observed the need for walls within which to expand creativity was when disinterested substitute teachers would cover my childhood art classes. Inevitably, they would pass out white paper and colored pencils and say, “Draw anything. Anything you want.” While they may have thought they were “freeing” students by giving us no limitations on our drawing subjects, they were actually stymie-ing us. I remember me and other kids looking at each other in panic and saying, “What do I draw, then?” With no limitations, our minds went blank.


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

Since 2008, the Valley Forge Guild has been having rug challenges, in which we pick a topic and make rugs along that concept. The innovations in braided rug techniques that have been stimulated by these challenges have been just amazing. I know that the craft has been furthered directly by these challenges, and part of what has helped is the limitations set by the challenge topics. Our minds have to have restrictions within which to focus our creativity. We need walls for ideas to bounce off of.

Pam Rowan started the Ugly Fabric Challenge last year at Methuen 2015. (I know Carol Broadbent, the woman who runs the braid conference, calls it “New England Braids,” but I just think of it as “Methuen.”) Pam chose a fabric this year that was truly awful! A combination of a dull dusty taupe, a dull coral, and a brown stripe that some perceived as a dull olive green and some perceived as just brown. I shared my frustration with this fabric in an earlier post. But, despite my whining about it, working with this difficult fabric definitely had the desired effect of focusing creativity.


Debra Weinhold’s fringed strip rug pillow


Debra’s strip rug pillow — other side

Here is a parade of some of the projects. I know there were a few projects, but I don’t have photos of them (darn it!). If someone else has photos of the other projects, please send them to me. I emcee the Show and Tell (which I just love doing) but it means I’m helping to hold up rugs… and not photographing. So I have to rely on others to send me photos from the Show & Tell.


Debra Weinhold’s applique pillow

Regarding COLOR: some paired this fabric with…

  1. A bright dark coral (Cheryl Hanline)
  2. A dark green (Rose Robertson-Smith)
  3. Dull pink and rose (me)
  4. Light taupe or camel (Pam Landry)
  5. A rusty red and a green (Deb Weinhold)
  6. An ocher brown (Pam Rowan)
  7. Changed the color by overdyeing to orange (Peggyann Watts)

Given how difficult I thought it was to match this fabric with ANY color, I thought it was interesting to see which color directions to go. Personally, I think the dark coral and rusty red worked best (although changing the color completely also worked!)


Rose Robertson-Smith shows her triaxial weave table-topper, with a multi strand border

Then, there was the decision of what SHAPE to braid. People chose to braid: a basket, two acorns, two square pillows, one square table-topper, a round rug, and a multi-circle runner.

Then, the TECHNIQUES. We had some really interesting things here. One of my favorite was the pillow that Deb Weinhold made. In this pillow, she made two square strip rugs which were fringed on the ends. Then, she sewed them in opposite directions, so one made a fringe at the top and bottom, and the other made a fringe at the sides. Isn’t this clever? Never seen that done before. The strip pillows also had lovely braided patterns: zigzags and dots. In addition, she made an applique pillow with a pretty butterfly and flower.

Rose Robertson Smith made a table-topper with two techniques: one, a tri-axial weave or “mad-weave,” in which strands are woven in 3 directions instead of two. Tearing strips along the stripes, she wove the strips in such a way that they appeared like the quilt pattern, “tumbling blocks.” Now, I have to confess that I have personally tried to weave like this to make a star pattern (google “triaxial weave” and you’ll see some 6-pointed star patterns) and watched some You-Tube videos on the technique. It was an INCREDIBLY FRUSTRATING experience on which I spent an entire day and still didn’t completely figure it out. The fact that the You Tube person says things like, “I really find putting the third strip into the weave to be the easiest” only added to my frustration. So let me tell you, the fact that Rose was able to do this technique was IMPRESSIVE. Then she topped it off with a pretty multistrand braid around the edges.


Pam Landry’s spiral braided basket

Pam Landry made a braided spiral basket by tearing some strips across the width of the fabric, and other strips down the length of the fabric. If you squint a bit, you can see that this led to one lighter and one darker braid in the spiral (before the overt color change to the camel/taupe color). Pretty buttons secure the braid ends with a short fringe.


Small and Big Acorns, by Pam Rowan and Peggyann Watts, respectively.

Pam Rowan and Peggyann Watts made ventures into sculptural braiding with their small and big braided acorns, respectively. Very cool! I think more sculptural braiding is going to be the wave of the future…


Cheryl Hanline’s Ugly Fabric Challenge rug

Cheryl Hanline and I made more traditional rugs: she a round, me a multi-circle. Cheryl’s rugs are always so pretty, and I think a lot of it is how she uses combinations of lights, darks, and brights to create a lot of drama with patterns. Her rug has two types of multistrands (6-strand diagonal stripe and a 6-strand ribbon), as well as zigzags, back-to-back triangles, and arrowheads. Wow! Mine just has 4-strand diagonal stripes. But hey, I’m putting a picot edge on! When I finish it, anyway.


Close-up of Cheryl’s patterns and multistrands

Final comments: despite my best intentions… yet again I didn’t quite finish my challenge. Sigh. I am just not organized enough.  And, thank all of you for your kind and frank words about going through surgery (or other medical events) with a husband.  While I didn’t answer comments individually this time… I appreciated your thoughts.