More baskets…..taper in, taper out

Dianne here….

Many of you know I love making baskets….and I have evolved from the continuous method of a spiral which of course ends up with ‘an end’ to hide, flair, etc. to all butted to what I call a hybrid where the base is spiral, tapered then all butted sides.  Butted sides provide opportunity to change fabric by row without joins, have separate rings, and a flat top row without an end to hide.

With a continuous spiral there is a bump where the lacing begins to go up the sides. Depending on the fabric it may be minimal or really show. And you have to choose between having your ‘better braided side’ be on the inside of your basket OR on the outside of the sides. You can’t have both….that is why I like the hybrid so much. You can have your better side on the basket inside base AND on the outside since the sides are butted.


a small wool and velvet oval basket with a fringe. I use it for my hooks and hooking scissors.

Continuous basket with fringe

With an all butted basket, there are many possibilities. No taper, no long end to hide, but time consuming!

all butted

With the hybrid there is some bumping at the point where the taper occurs and this can affect the evenness of the sides. With soft wool and velvet this is less apparent; with cotton more apparent because it is stiff.

continuous base, note taper then butted sides

hybrid velvet basket using hand dyed velvet pattern to advantage

Hybrid wooly worm basket. Continuous base and butted sides.

As I continue my new fascination with braiding cotton (“oh no, you never want to braid with cotton”), hybrid baskets became less enjoyable because butting the sides was tough. Cotton is just so much less flexible, forgiving and stretchable than wool. And braided cotton has tweaks, especially if you use more than one thickness. So I began to think… about a continuous base, taper as with a hybrid, but instead of butting the sides, begin the sides with a taper and create a continuous side so finish with an end to hide. Kind of best of both worlds? I checked with my muse, Christine…..and began.

I took some embossed cotton I was given and folded 3.5″ i

embossed cotton fabric

n half to braid 1.75″ strips to give the cotton more body.

I tapered the base then tapered 3 strips, folded in the raw edges, pinned them and began braiding. When I braided a few inches I pulled the tapers through to the inside of the basket at the point of the base taper and secured them then started lacing.

New glossy cotton basket tapered base and tapered sides ended with a reverse double corners to create a rosette.

Next time I will make the side tapers longer to have more room to work with at the end when I tacked down the tapers to the inside. Because the cotton was so stiff I was able to push down the area that had the base and side tapers so it is pretty even. For working with cotton, I am pleased. I like the rosette and no butting! 

One of my braiding students is a seamstress and she has given me cotton scraps so I am onto the next Taper In, Taper Out Basket:             The Tobias Taper!

PS: For years, non-braiders have joked that my baskets look like hats and my kids have even paraded around with them on their heads; I have too come to think of it when we had a braiding fashion show at the Methuen Braid In.  I have a friend in town who loves hats and I have given her several of my old continuous baskets and she wears them. She is as short as I am tall and her hair is as short as mine is long. She looks great in hats. She is going to France this week and wanted a black hat. Here are the two I made her. The mottled velvet one is more grey/blue than black despite using alot of black dye, it . It is my stretch hand dyed velvet so it hugs her head; she looks like a flapper!

Wool and velvet hat with flower

Hand dyed velvet hat with bow

Sunshine in Pittsburgh



Christine here. This morning I was about to respond to an email with my usual Eor-like fervent pessimism when I noticed the sunshine streaming in over my braiding detritus left on the coffee table.

Sunshine is not a frequent visitor to my home.  We are surrounded by trees that block the sun in summer, and the lake effect makes 285 days per year cloudy and overcast in Pittsburgh.  The sky is usually a dim white to gray.  But today, it is a beautiful clear and cold blue.

One of my resolutions for the coming year is not to use this blog as purely a ranting place to vent my less than happy mood.  So I’m starting, today, with appreciation of the sunshine.  It may be brief, but it is beautiful.

I had some good news today:  I heard that the Valley Forge Rug Braiding Good swept the awards at the Pennsylvania Farm Show with first, second, and third places (I’m the second).  As soon as I get a photo of the 3rd place, I will post them all.  I’m so pleased with the guild for promoting rug braiding in this state.  It is a wonderful craft… and winning is always satisfying, too!

I have been working on the next issue of the newsletter, but I have been seriously hampered by the presence of house guests.  No matter how lovely they are, house guests always drive me bats.  They impair my ability to live in the state of creative chaos in which I am most comfortable.  I have to spend my time curtailing the natural entropy and refrain from being impolite.  It is truly a stressful condition, no matter how kind or amusing the guests are.

My natural de-stress mechanism is always to reach for an oval rug, so this is the one I’ve been working on:


It is a combination of peaches, pinks, browns, and camels.  At various points I have thought it was a boring sort of rug, but I like its calmness.  I was considering introducing some soft turquoises, but at this point I think I’ll just keep it calm and pink and brown.

The newsletter that I’ve been working on will have a few variations on 6-braid spiral hexagons, as well as butted pentagons.


6-braid hexagon

I made one for Christmas, but it has a hole in the center of it that I’m not certain everyone will like.  I’ve been experimenting with ways to fill in the center hole, and it’s harder to figure out than you might think.


6-braid hexagon but too tight in center.

The next hexagon I made, the blue and white one, was so full in the center that it has a little hat shape sticking up.


6-braid hexagon with partially filled center hole.

The next version that I made, with hot pink and maroon, worked a bit better but still is only partially filled in the center — and the loops are pulled quite tight to do so.

I’m left with considering braiding half of the braids a tad longer, and the other half shorter, so that 3 of the braids will reach into the center and the other 3 will rest just outside of the center.

The experimentation process — trying new designs, seeing what works — is always my favorite aspect of writing the newsletter.  Unfortunately, each “experiment” takes time to braid and lace, and I have a newsletter to get out!

Between getting the guild website up to date with information on the braid in, cleaning my house for guests and entertaining the guests, I am pretty far behind on the coming issue.  But, it will get done… sometime… before the end of January.


Strip Rugs

Dianne here….and Happy New Year everyone. It is even cold in California. Good weather to be braiding and rug hooking. I am making a round cushy chair pad for a friend’s piano bench. She has been going to the gym consistently and has ‘less padding’ for the hard bench!

But today I am writing about strip rugs. I had written a post awhile ago (this may be the link….or not about my first attempt at a strip rug for the entryway of our vacation rental. It wIMG_0639 (1)as hard finding someone to stitch the ends and the rug did not completely cover the area of the previous rattan rug so there is a slight discoloration you can make out on the sides.  so I wanted the next rug to cover more completely (same rattan rug but in front of the kitchen door) and find a better way to have it stitched.

I liked the way I worked with the pattern of the first rug so I found a lot of old 3″ rolls in my stash of what was probably Pendleton jacquard upholstery fabric. I had made a large round rug a few years agIMG_0574o by using strips from both sides of the jacquard weave but still had a lot left. the 3″ rolls yielded two patterns when cut into 1.5″ strips and I separated them and began braiding, taking care to match the design in the 3 like strips as much as I could. I took the young rug to Methuen and was surprised it was  widely praised for the design thatIMG_0621 was created by matching the braids. Friendly comments helped me decide to arrange the two sides of the pattern in groups of 2 and here is the photo at show and tell where you can see the pattern developing. I can’t say enough for the wonderful experience a Braid In such as Methuen New England Braids or Valley Forge or the Thetis Woolgathering, etc gives us in terms of community and welcomed advice!

So I continued and found a young man who recently bought a local upholstery shop in town and he agreed to try to stitch the rug as long IMG_0581 (1)as I was there to ‘lead’ him. He stitched twice and it worked! I took the rug out to the house and cut the fringe as straight as I could, then tapered the ends so they would not be as thick.

I am happy with the results, happier than with the first rug. The strips were 2 yds long and I was constrained to that length and to the width of the door. With flat wool there would have been more leeway and I could have cut the braids shorter but then I wouldn’t have been able to put the ‘design’ in the rug.

What these experiences have taught me is that strip rugs are easier than I thought; no increases and little problem with keeping flat. I think they could be a good project for a beginner; what do you think?

Completed Multistrand Rug

13-strand braid around rectangle.

13-strand braid around rectangle.

Christine here.  Yay!  I finally finished the rectangular rug that I found abandoned in my wool room.  My husband had admired it, so even though it was made of substandard wool and had some imperfections in the corners, I decided to resurrect it and do my best.

The first thing that I had to tackle was the waviness.  I had started braiding with very thin wool, and then had switched to thicker stuff.  The result was  a rippled edge to the rectangle.  Never being a fan of undoing and re-doing work, I decided that I just had to move forward.  If I started to undo everything, I was going to get disgusted and abandon it again.

I made decreases in the next row as I laced on the new braid.  I made 8 on the long sides, and 3 or 4 on the short sides, and I also made double corners instead of triple corners, to decrease the too-pointy-ness of the corners from when I had incorrectly laced them.

I think you can tell from looking at the above photo that the decreases were effective.  As it is now, before I press it overnight, there is still a little bit of a ripple, but it isn’t much and I’m confident that it will press flat.

I used up the navy wool that I had laying around, and ran out a couple times (I’m not a fan of navy) so that’s why the outer braids have  so many different blues.

Multistrand Corner

Multistrand Corner

Finally, I was ready to put a multistrand on.  I decided I wanted a fairly large braid (13 strands) so I laid out my wool and made a simple zig zag ribbon pattern.  I pre-pressed the strands instead of using the braid-aids that I typically use for a multistrand.  I think it was easier overall…. and neater.  The only problem was the lightest strand, which is cheap stuff that needed to be stuffed or overfolded in order to get its size equal to the other wools in the braid.  I finally decided just to overfold and pressed the wool overfolded.  It was a bit awkward but still doable.

In my earlier post, I detailed how I figured out the number of multistrand sets (pattern repeats) that I needed on both sides.  I had to pull pull the braid in a bit on the short sides, and stretch it on the long sides by a few loops, but a large multistrand is pretty malleable so it worked.

Even with tightening up the mulitstrand as much as I could without wrinkling the strands, I still found that my multistrand loops were a bit longer than my braid loops, despite using the same material.  17 braid loops equalled 1 set or 13 multistrand loops.

I think you can see from the photo below that I used the lightest strand as the “pivot” strand for the corner.  By doubling back on itself, the pivot strand turns the braid 90 degrees in a new direction.  The next strand, which is a medium turquoise, goes horizontally across the corner before resuming its zig zag path but in a new direction.

Multistrand Corner Close-up

Multistrand Corner Close-up

When lacing the multistrand corner to the 3-strand braid, it looked best when I laced the first pivot strand loop between loops 1 & 2 of the triple corner, and the doubled-back pivot loop between loops 2 & 3 of the triple corner.  I think you just have to experiment a bit and see what works.

Note:  never lace the horizontal strand (that is after the pivot strand in braid order) when lacing the multistrand to a 3-strand corner.  The horizontal loop functions like the crossover loop in a regular braid corner, and remains unlaced.  In the photo above, it is the medium turquoise loop found between the pivot loops.

I debated about adding one more dark turquoise 3-strand braid to finish off the rug, but finally decided — in the immortal words of Civil War quilter Jane A. Stickle, as quoted by Brenda Manges Papadakis in her “Dear Jane” book — “Finished is better than perfect.”