The Day after Christmas


Every single year for 26 years of marriage I have made my husband Charlie Brown pillowcases at his request.

Christine here. It’s the day after Christmas, and all through the house…. Not a creature is stirring, not even a mouse. It doesn’t matter that I’ve been up for hours now, walked and fed the dogs, fed the cats (indoor + 1 outdoor) and put in laundry and loaded the dishwasher from last night. Somehow, going out to see the Star Wars movie last night was so “exhausting” to everyone else that they’re all still in bed at 9 am.

I know I shouldn’t complain. I’m a morning person and the rest of them take after my husband and are adamantly NOT morning people. When my husband worked a 9 to 5 job, he got permission to work 9:30 to 5:30, because “traffic” into the city was so bad. Ha, traffic. He just couldn’t get his skinny butt out of bed in the morning.

Besides, I like the time by myself in the morning. Just me and the beagle snoring on the couch, and a lot of ripped up Christmas paper all over the floor.

I got a used, reconditioned Vitamix blender for myself for Christmas, because I am determined to diet yet again, and the particular diet book I’m following calls for all these salad dressings made with a high-powered blender so that you can put in flax seeds and make your own hummus and things like that. Sigh. It will always be a struggle for me. I even hired a personal trainer at the gym and we’re working out twice a week for 3 months, which is making me have terribly achy muscles all over. It is not fun to have to get in shape.

But, given how much I plan to be sitting and braiding in the coming year… I’d better do something proactive.

The next thing coming up is finishing a rug to enter in the PA Farm Show. I don’t think I’ll actually get to the show this year (I love the tractor square dances, which are hysterical, and I love to look at the goats and chickens) but Carolyn Newcomer is going to drop my rug off and I’m going to pick hers and mine up a week later.

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Ocean Waves Border: one of my classes I’m teaching at the braid in.

The next thing after that is the registration (which opens Jan 1) for the Valley Forge Guild’s Spring Braid in ( I’m teaching a million classes so I have a lot to work on. And there’s a newsletter to get out in January also. In February, Carolyn and I are teaching at the FiberFest in Swatara, and in March, I’m teaching two classes at the Pittsburgh Knit, Crochet, and Creative Fiber Weekend.


A class I’m teaching at the Pittsburgh Knit, Crochet, and Creative Fiber festival.

Then, there’s a lot of work with the upcoming exhibit in August at Sauder Village, which I’m really looking forward to. I hope everyone’s working on a chair pad to contribute to the Chair Pad Pageant!

A lot of good braiding things to look forward to in the coming year!



Volunteering at SAWA


The Salvation Army Fabric Sale (around noon, after it’s cleared out a bit)

Christine here.  Recently there was the Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary Christmas luncheon, a “thank you” luncheon for the volunteers. I’m a member of “SAWA” and I volunteer at their very large warehouse once a week in the fall and late winter, which are the times of the year when we work on fabric. I don’t volunteer for the Toys for Tots, the camps, or the bell-ringing at Christmas. I work hard at the warehouse, but I limit my volunteer activities to the one I’m interested in: Fabric.

It’s me and a bunch of women who are mostly older than I am. I pick up Kay, who lives in my neighborhood and probably shouldn’t drive anymore, and we go over a bridge and through a tunnel (Pittsburgh has 3 rivers, and you can’t go anywhere without going through at least one tunnel and over a bridge or two) and end up at the South Side warehouse. We munch a donut and coffee, and then go sign in and set up at our stations.

Kay is still an amazing quilter despite completely illegible handwriting due to her shakiness. She works at neatly folding and assembling scrap bags of coordinating cottons that sell for a buck. I work a table behind her, where a yardstick is taped onto a high table. I grab stacks of random fabric from the large bind of donated fabrics, and measure them carefully, fold them into a neat package and tie them up with string, staple the measurements to a selvage, then put them in the pricing area.


One of the wool tables at the sale

Whenever someone who used to sew dies, there is an incredible wealth of fabric that would otherwise be thrown in the trash. Instead, the Salvation Army collects it, and all the associated textile crafts as well. My van has trundled off to obscure neighborhoods around Pittsburgh to collect weird bags and boxes and take them to the warehouse for sorting and measuring. Cross stitch kits, yarn batches, sewing machines, crochet hooks and knitting needles, buttons, zippers, etc…. all are donated to the Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary.


The volunteers wear red aprons.  Again– this is pretty cleared out compared to what it looks like in the morning.

Once a year in April, there is an immense one-day sale at incredibly low prices. There are 6 large tables full of neatly folded quilting cottons, where the most money is made. There are more tables of folded cotton scraps, sold by weight, that are roughly fat quarters. The yarn area is also a very big seller. Other tables are: linens, suitings, polyester knits, wool, upholstery, holiday fabrics, sewing machines, quilting supplies (frames, etc), notions, kits…you name it, it’s there. Last year we made over $44,000 for the Salvation Army, despite selling everything at low, low prices. In one day.

The doors open at 9:00, but people start lining up at 6 am. By the time I show up, about 8:00, there’s usually a line out around the building and into the parking lot. Rain and snow do not deter the women and a few men who show up. The place is PACKED. Think rock concert from when you were a teenager and you have a vision of what the place looks like. When the doors open, we have very large shopping bags that we give everyone as they enter, but most of the serious people have bought those immense rip-stop IKEA bags and have one on each shoulder. (Strollers and carts are banned — there’s not enough room).

I usually drag a kid along to help me at check-out, but Jack made it clear that he was NEVER doing this again, EVER, so don’t ask him. He’s at college now anyway. When he was bored out of his mind with calling out prices that I would total up, I would send him off to help ladies who were struggling to carry too-heavy bags to the shuttle bus back to the parking area. I had hoped that my son would find volunteering and helping out to be of value, but I think I turned him off of it for life.

Screen Shot 2017-12-08 at 9.21.08 AMSo, after the Christmas luncheon, I’ve been thinking about my own volunteerism.  Clearly, it helps to find an area of volunteering that is, at least partially, somewhat self-serving. I absolutely work hard at my volunteer job and I think I’ve helped to streamline some of their processes. But I admit it: I have an ulterior motive: I get first dibs at all of the wool.

The wool that is donated has been in closets and attics and basements for years. Some of it is awful, and moths have destroyed much of it. But every once in awhile, I discover one of those exquisite 1960’s plaids with kelly green and chartreuse and a stripe of orange that has been perfectly preserved, or fabric for a 1980’s wool suit that was never cut out – the uncut pattern still in a bag with the fabric, or just a beautiful cashmere/wool camel color that is so lovely and soft that I can barely believe it. And I get it for $6/yard.

Frankly, I think the day before the sale – when we volunteers get to pre-shop the fabric sale by ourselves– is more like Christmas to me than Christmas.

Pay it forward…..

I am sure many of you have been lucky enough to buy or be gifted wool that has been in the stash of an older braider who has died or retired from braiding.                                                                           Christmas, right?

I will never forget a sunny Saturday morning, several years ago ( when I had a tiny stash of wool), sitting on the back patio, listening to classical music and going through several large garbage bags of wool I had picked up from a woman who no longer wanted to braid. We found each other on the old yahoo site….which was mainly made up of Eastern braiders;  her phone number was my area code! She had some flat wool but mainly deconstructed wool garments. That was in my basket days and I pinned together possible combinations for future baskets while enjoying the California sun and music.


And I remember being contacted by a woman in North Carolina whose grandmother or maybe great grandmother had worked in a Maine woolen mill. The woman had moved a significant supply of beautiful 3″ wool pieces several times over the years and was ready to give it up for the postage. I took it to the next Braid In back East and gave some away and have used most of the rest over the years. I think of her and her grandmother when I reach for the diminishing stash of beautiful wool, easy to tear into my 1.5″ strips! Interestingly each piece had a ‘wool mark’ I assume of the mill, now closed I am sure as almost all US mills have closed.

My rug hooking guild has gifted me a number of rolls of braiding wool over the years when they have been contacted by braider-relatives….alas we do not have a Braiding Guild here…

Which brings me to the present story:  The Guild was contacted by a quilter who was demonstrating at our State Fair. A couple asked her if she knew any braiders as their mother had a storage shed full of rolled wool in San Francisco…the message eventually got to me and the quilter and I made email contact and agreed to travel to SF.  The couple had told the quilter that we would need a pickup truck to take it all.  My husband Gary did the driving in our 4Runner, the closest we have to a pickup. The quilter was not a braider, tho she had braided a small rug out of ‘bathing suit’ fabric years ago she said and she was interested in doing more. I was concerned: my fabric room is pretty full, but I was intrigued…I of course was also concerned about critters, especially moths as they had had the wool in the self storage for

Do I need more?

 at least 10 years; imagine!

So on a recent Friday we took off for SF, the quilter, Gary and me. We met the couple at the self storage in downtown SF and proceeded to their shed. They were so pleased that we might want the wool.

Well, there were about 15 cardboard containers with metal top crimps in the room. Rather than rolls they appeared to be all filled with woolen coats, gathered over the years by the mother, Jane, to be used in her braiding. Fortunately there was a strong smell of moth balls. I was

strong, so strong,

taking only 3 pieces and promising to make the couple a basket from them. The quilter was giddy and took FOUR of the containers.

Hallway of storage shed; only one small bag of rolls; rest was coats separated by color.

So it went; I have had a few pangs of regret since the trip, wishing I had taken more, especially after washing and preparing the pieces I took, since they were so retro and beautiful wool once washed, but again,

Do I need I more?

I made them this basket out of 2 of the pieces. The daughter sent me the following: “If it is possible to hug a hand made braided bowl, we did! I feel you understand how very much this means to us. Your kindness will not only be long remembered but also a great comfort”.010882f7fa79ffad47e0ea9366cdcd3d39aec667da


                                                So my questions are: 

do you have similar stories? 

Who will take MY stash when the time comes??