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
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,
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,
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”.