(I was initially going to title this post “Thinking about Butts,” but I saw the potential dangers of that and changed it to Thinking about Butting).
I’ve been thinking about butting methods a lot lately because I am a member of the Pittsburgh Rug Hooking Guild. I often end up teaching rug hookers how to attach butted braids around their hooked projects. It has made me search for the easiest and most fail-proof methods of butting for novice (and often quite disinterested) braiders.
The first butt I learned was the Barbara Fisher Butt. That was in 2007, when I was still pretty much a novice braider. I went to the last weekend conference that Barbara Fisher held with her daughter Janet Fitzgerald in a lovely bed and breakfast in the mountains of New Hampshire. I can’t tell you how significant that weekend was to me — I learned so much! It remains a treasured memory.
The Barbara Fisher butt falls into the category, “Sew 2 parallel strands, re-braid the third.” It needs 10 straight loops for butting. For the longest time, it seemed that was the only butt that anyone ever did. Kris McDermet did a triangle butt — one different from the “triangle butt” done today — but otherwise I knew of no one who did anything different.
Kris McDermet showed me her Triangle Butt, which has straight-across seams tucked into the center crevices between loops. Initially, as Kris and Dianne and I were thinking about butting methods for a potential book, we thought about using that method… but frankly, I just never got completely comfortable with it. It’s done on the back of the braid, and I didn’t like having to switch to the back to do a butt. Also, when I illustrated the method, it took me something like 14 pages… and that wouldn’t do.
Pam Rowan showed me the “Capped End Butt” taught to her by Betty Mutina, and it was wonderfully helpful to us. The capped end butt started and finished with enclosed ends (sewn straight across, then the raw edges tucked in), and had one major seam straight across the center of the braid. By moving that center seam upward by 3/8″, it was hidden, and thus the
“Modified Enclosed End Butt” was born. Kris and Dianne and I used the Mod. Enc. End Butt in our book, and it remains a very useful and practical butt to know. I continue to refer to it as the “anytime, anywhere” method of butting. Particularly when braiding fancy braids such as the Back-and-Forth Triple Border, it really is the easiest way to butt.
Then Anne Morton Caldwell showed me her “Annie’s Fanny” Butt. Based on her experience with sewing a perfect diagonal seam across quilt binding, she adapted the technique to make perfectly hidden seams across a braid. With a little tweaking from me regarding stopper pins, the Annie’s Fanny Butt was born. It needs 7 straight loops for butting.
Annie’s Fanny is another one of the, “Sew 2 parallel strands, re-braid the third” types of butts. To this day, I prefer it above all others… but over time, I’ve made a few short-cut modifications. (To see a video of this method, search for “video” on this blog). Different from the video version, I now just cut the loops straight across where I know the seams will end up being rather than measuring them — because I always use 1.5″ wide strips. It saves a lot of time just estimating the cuts.
Then, there was the Triangle Butt Revolution. The triangle butt I’m specifically referring to has a triangle of loops (two loops on one side, one between them on the other side) are marked on both the Start and Finish of the braid. Then, the one loop is woven to end up on the same side as the other two loops. So, you need three straight loops in a row to do this butt.
The first time I saw this method was early on, when Dianne Tobias showed me the butt she had been taught by MaryAnn Hanson. This was back in 2008 or 2009, and she basically just opened the sets of strands into an X and guessed where to put a seam. I didn’t like the method back then because of the imprecision in seam placement. Then Delsie Hoyt showed her method, another variation, where the ends are stitched together and tucked into the loops of the prior row. Then Pam Rowan crystallized the whole Triangle Butt movement and began teaching a much more streamlined method.
The triangle butt method that Pam teaches is a “Reweave one strand, distort to get length and sew seams” method. In any method, even my beloved Annie’s Fanny, there is the need to distort at least one strand. But I have to say I’m not fond of distorting three strands. Nonetheless, it is possible to do this method over only 3 straight loops of braid and that is very practical, especially when you have small spaces between corners (early rows of a hexagon or square).
True Triangle: It is even possible to do this method WITHOUT re-weaving one strand, basically over only two counted loops, and thus the triangle butt truly remains a triangle of loops. This possibility makes even the most complicated of braids, such as the back-and-forth triple border, do-able with the true triangle method: all you need is a Left-Right-Left or a Right-Left-Right somewhere within the braid. The problem, though, is that it is really hard to pull out enough length for sewing seams when you have corners on either side. The corners “lock” the strands into position, and it becomes really difficult to get enough length for sewing seams.
Thus, for really tricky cornered braids like the back and forth triple, I still think the best butt is the Enclosed End Butt: no distortion necessary.
Unfortunately, I have just not found a butt (among all of the above) that is really easy for a novice braider to do. With the Pittsburgh Rug Hooking Guild, I’ve tried the Enclosed End Butt, Annie’s Fanny, and the Triangle Butt… and none of them has really made any sense to them. It’s like cooking a potion of magic or something. (I think the “every 3rd loop” pattern of braids just isn’t intuitive to most people).
No matter what butt method you use, it’s important to stay on top of it. Use it again and again — make a basket with butted sides, or a chair pad with butted rows. The more you repeat the steps, the more you stay on top of your method and are less likely to make mistakes.