Surprise braid in, astronauts, and more whining


I recently tried a “double corner finish” for each of the 6 braids in this spiral hexagon trivet.

We are coming up on the 10th anniversary Spring Braid In for the Valley Forge Guild. I have been to every single VF braid in! Despite the fact that for 10 years now I have been doing this, it is always a surprise to my husband. It never fails to take him aback.

The two of us, comparing datebooks:

Him: “So, where are you going this time?”

Me: “It’s the braid in. You know, I go every year.”

Him: “Where is this again?”

Me: “Bethlehem. Then after, the three of us – me, Kris, and Dianne –are driving up to Vermont.”

Him: “So… how long will you be gone?”

Me: “Seven days. I always go away 7 days. I leave Thursday morning and I’ll be back Wednesday night.”

Him: “A whole week??”

Me: “Yes. I do this every year, John.”

Him: Sigh.


My first flower rug from back in 2010.  I love the bright colors.

The reason that I am remembering this recent conversation is because inevitably, my husband invites houseguests as soon as it is spring, and usually right before the braid in.

I’ve written about the fact that I do not enjoy houseguests. Well, I do enjoy them usually, but I resent the time I need to spend cleaning up all the wool covering every surface in order to accommodate them. Cleaning is not something that I particularly enjoy. I especially don’t enjoy it when I’m madly rushing to finish my class handouts and finish my class samples and finish my Challenge Rug.

This year it’s a particular disaster, because we just finished getting the whole house rewired about 6 weeks ago, and I STILL haven’t finished unpacking all the boxes that I threw everything into to get stuff out of the way of the workmen.

Now, John’s cousin Victor is coming this weekend. Although I really enjoy Victor, who is just delightful, why couldn’t John invite him the week after the braid in? Why does it always –no matter what the date – have to happen that he visits right when I’m scrambling to get things done???

So now, instead of working on my challenge rug, instead of finishing my class handouts, instead of doing what I want, I am slogging away at boxes and trying to get things to appear neat and orderly for a guest.

If that isn’t enough, my daughter just decided that she HAS to come home from college this weekend. Absolutely has to or she’s going to crack up from the stress of imminent final exams. That means I have a 3.5 hour out, 3.5 hour back, trip to fit in on Friday. I’m sending her back on the train on Sunday. (She can’t take the train on Friday because there’s only one train out to Pittsburgh and she’s still in class when it leaves).

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From the Combining Rug Hooking and Braiding book:  “Stacked Picot” border.  Probably 2010.

Ugh. Thank goodness I have a few more days until Victor arrives. I’m going to need every minute.

At least I got a slight reprieve: John is going away for two days to see Harrison Schmitt. If he isn’t a household name for you, he’s one of the twelve men who got to walk on the moon. He’s also the only scientist-astronaut who stepped on the moon: Schmitt was primarily a geologist. He was part of Apollo 17. He’s 81 now, and going to speak at some reunion event for the Grumman engineers (who built the LEM). John knows a guy who gets him into these events ($100 for dinner) so he’s like an excited kid running around the house packing.


Harrison Schmitt (Apollo 17) obtaining samples of rocks on the moon

He’s a total space freak. It’s fun to see him so giddy with anticipation.

Almost like me looking forward to the braid in!

Wool Filigree


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“Spring Bunnies,” 2017, hooked and braided by Cheryl Pavlik; hooked design by Katie Allman. Wool filigree by Christine Manges.

It’s trite, but “mistakes are opportunities.” We not only learn from them (I’ll never do THAT again), but they are also opportunities for some fancy and creative cover-ups… that could make our work more interesting, and ultimately, more artistic.

This was the case with a recent mistake on my part. One of the women in the local hooking guild, Cheryl Pavlik, became taken with the idea of finishing one of her hooked rugs with braiding. She then decided to add on a second row of braid with knots on it, and asked me to help her with the project.

Those of you who’ve read the Combining Rug Hooking and Braiding book know that in the section on Fancy Borders, we talk about “motif” size with regard to each border, and how to place the border around corners. Cheryl’s project was a beautiful hopping bunnies pattern created by Katie Allman, and it was set in a rectangular shape. Since the knotted border has a motif size of 6 loops, each side of the rectangle needed to have a loop count divisible by 6… plus whatever spacing was needed to place the knots equidistant between the corners..

I didn’t remember that.

Totally forgot about it.

So, of course, Cheryl went ahead and put on the first row of braid, and we butted it, and then she finished lacing it onto her hooked bunnies rug. Only after that did I count the loops and realize that there was going to be a problem with the knot row. I counted loops to see where the knots would fall. The sides were okay, but the top and bottom were going to be “off.” With the “dots” pattern that I had planned for the two braids, the knot spacing was going to be completely asymmetric about the corners.


See the arrows? They show where the knots are placed asymmetrically about the corners.

I felt very, very guilty and embarrassed as I looked at this pretty rug and my expectant student. I felt sick that she had worked so long on learning to braid this knotted border (which she had already half-way braided) and that I was going to have to tell her that I had screwed up and it wouldn’t work.

Then, I had a flash. We could put an extra-long space between knots in the top center and bottom center of the rectangle, then fill the center of the enlarged space with something decorative. The space in the center would allow us to put the knots symmetrically about the corners.  Cheryl wouldn’t even have to unbraid that much.


My plan for how to fill the spaces on the top and bottom, where the knots are now arranged symmetrically

Initially I was thinking of a large knot as the decoration—one of those pretty Chinese knots perhaps, made out of a folded and sewn-shut strand. Eventually, after thinking about it incessantly, I decided that I would try something with wire running through the sewn strand: a pretty scroll or fleur-de-lis pattern.

­­         On the way to get together with my student again, I realized that the weight of the wire on the top of the hooked rug (which was going to be hung, not laid on the floor) would cause the scroll-work to sag forward and not look good. I realized that if I were going to use wire, that it would have to have a support along the back to keep it from falling forward.


I had to drop the wire down out of the center back, and Cheryl tacked it in place, to makes sure the filigree would stand up straight.

And you know what? It all worked, and I’m really pleased. Cheryl decided it should be called “wool filigree.” The wire support on the back is couched to the backing fabric, which is fused to the back of the hooking.

I think that the rug is actually prettier than it would have been if we had just placed a (symmetric) knotted border around it.  I think the wool filigree adds to the whimsy of the piece.


The upper wool filigree, seen from front

And, it all came about because I embraced the “mistake” and allowed myself to get a bit creative regarding how to work around it.  Mistakes, as disheartening as they can feel in the moment, can be good things.  Next time you make a mistake, think about some way that you can repeat it in such a way that it could become interesting… or allow you to do something different to cover it up.