A Twist of the Fist : Making the Grade on Your Braid

‘Old Braided Rug’ – Poem by Linda Winchell
I found an old hand-made braided rug
At a thrift store the other day.
It was quite a dirty sight to see
With some of its edges frayed.

I bought it up and rushed it home
To give it a much-needed bath.
And when it was cleaned, there t'was seen
Braided memories of someone's past.

One braided rope weaved into another:
A child's pajamas, or perhaps a robe? 
Then an old flour bag, 'Velvet Flour', 
Was the logo in this rug twas sewed.

Then what looked to be a small center piece 
Remnants of someone's wedding gown?
I think they placed it there on purpose
Sort of like this rug's jeweled crown.

Memories of someone's life
Braided into this useful little rug.
To place in front of a sink or bed
Giving where ever placed, a hug.

Does anyone still make them?
These puzzles of someone else's past...
This braided rug's now mine to treasure
To be enjoyed as long as it will last.

Well, yes, Linda – someone DOES still make them.  I’ve made a few smallish ones myself, years ago, and the easy way – from strips of old woolen rugs, and just one-sided.  But my mother, not only a spinner and weaver of rugs, etc. has now turned her hand(s) to braiding rugs.

Joy is a terrific braider.  When she was young, her own hair was in ‘pigtails’, which we still have in a box from when she finally got them cut off, pre-teens.  And until I was old enough to become “Chip”  ( early teens – see post from two weeks ago: “Hill-billy Hootenanny”) with my hair boyishly cut by the one and only Shirley Robinson (no one else dared do it EXACTLY as I asked – which was essentially like all the boys my age in the early 1970s) I, too, had a pair of two long braids, expertly twisted up each morning by my mother. She would French braid the part near my scalp, then quickly do regular braiding until near the ends.  These went along with my grandfather’s nick-name for me, “Annie Oakley”, esp. when I mounted my steed ‘Sugar’.  (Gail Davis, as Annie, DID wear pigtails, although the real Annie Oakley seemed to prefer to wear her long, thick tresses DOWN.)

tomboy on sugar

Once I gave up both rocking horses and hobby horses, (age about 14 – yes, seriously) and gave up riding Western (had my first pony from age 10-13, but Western horses are rarely braided) I then had to become an expert braider, as show and “3-day event” horses (the dressage portion at least and sometimes the stadium jumping portion) are always braided neatly, and often the braids are SEWN or rug-hooked in with yarn, and sometimes, if they are dark manes, wrapped with white medical tape to make them ‘pop’ out and show the line of the horse’s neck better. Here I am with some of my darker-maned geldings, with the white tape wrapped around the braided knot.  For the forelock, like my mother Joy had to do on my own ‘plaits’, you must first FRENCH braid before braiding regularly to keep it tightly pulled:

My sister Jennifer’s husband, Boyd, is from the west side of Newfoundland, and he inherited an old family farm there, (in whose orchard he proposed over a decade ago).  They, like us, are turning the farm into a renovated cozy home – for them, their summer home only- and Jennifer asked Mom to please BRAID her a rug with her bright ‘newfie’ colours.  Jen and I are lucky enough to both have a number of Mom’s beautifully-designed and custom-requested-coloured loom-woven rugs scattered about our homes, but Jennifer wanted a good braided one.    I had one of my great-grandmother’s making for years, until after all my travels with it, it essentially dilapidated beyond repair.  But Jennifer had never had a hand-made one.  If you have been faithfully reading this blog since before Christmas, you’ll have seen Mom/Joy at work on this particular rug, which she finished a few weeks ago:

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She and Jennifer chose most of those fabrics from 2nd hand stores in St. John’s when Mom was last out there in the fall, so none of them are sentimental or familial, as described in the poem above.  But they DO match the colour scheme Jennifer requested, and they are of various textures and material, so it was quite a challenge for Mom.  Jennifer ALSO requested that it be neither circular NOR oval – ??? so THAT was another challenge with which Mom had to try and contend, cutting out the middle part several times in order to shape it to those specifications.  Here is the lovely, cozy result, and I’m sure Jennifer and Boyd will enjoy it, as well as son Sydney, for many decades to come, as it is equally the same on one side as the other (the real trick in making a braided rug from rags!).  I ‘made’ Joy get in her jammies and ‘sleep’ on the rug, as a special photo for Sydney to show him that we want to think of him enjoying it the same way in his cozy farmhouse.  We did NOT specifically plan for the model to ‘match’ the colours of the rug, but she does indeed!

I guess she felt badly for us, or just enjoyed making this one so much, that she has then offered to do one for Richard’s and my own ‘meeting room’, as we call our livingroom-cum-diningroom-cum- musicroom-cum-communitymeeting room! (It’s held 18 people around the fireplace at one meeting!)  This one has fabrics she and I picked out to go with the earthenware dishes (my ‘good’ set) I so love -the Nut-tree Franciscan.

nut-tree-franciscan

She’s already got a good start on this, although I hope it doesn’t keep her indoors too much as the warmer weather begins to settle upon us!  Here are the beginnings, and I did ask for an oval shape, so hopefully it won’t be such a challenge for her:

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Here are just a fraction of the various fabrics we’ve chosen, from which she may then apply her artistic skills in co-ordinating each long braid:

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All but one of these were purchased by the bagful, or at least armful, at 2nd hand stores and charity shops.  The one piece that WASN’T, Mom picked out herself and I thought it had too much white in it, so she promptly went and tea-dyed it and now it’s much less ‘flashy’.  Good old primitive technique I use all the time for my prim-dollies and stuffed animals, (and even my mother’s bridal veil when I also wore it in 1988)  but I didn’t expect Mom to just run to the sink and do this on the only brand-NEW piece of material! Yay, Joy!

When I braided my small rugs with the wool blankets, I used the good old homesteader’s bible that’s been in our home since the  1970s when it was first published – the Reader’s Digest’s BACK TO BASICS “A Practical Guide to Old-fashioned Self-Sufficiency”.

However, Mom was guided more by several online sites, and then just trial and error experimentation.  Here are a few links if you’re interested in doing this fairly simple technique for having a rug that could incorporate either your chosen room/accent colours OR some sentimental pieces of clothing from loved ones – OR both…

http://pioneerthinking.com/learning-how-to-make-braided-rugs

http://www.littlehouseliving.com/how-to-make-rag-rugs

http://inhabitat.com/diy-learn-how-to-make-a-beautiful-braided-rug-from-old-fabric/

Life is always spiraling around us.  Why not boldly say so with something you see each day, and have it add comfort and cheer to your room as well?

sprial poem

And P.S. – watch for an upcoming link to all of Joy’s fibre artwork, with photos of her in situ,  in the spring/summer edition of Created Here, a New Brunswick online magazine!

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The Vilified Vicar and the Coerced Canine

Last week you read about life off
The farm called "Blue Bell  - don"
This week's a silly story, 'bout
Winter HERE, and who has come...

For many neighbours in this valley
Pop by for words of praise
Or blessings of encouragement
To get us through cold days.
*************************************


Last June, our Smitty, "RESCUE DOG",
Took a hunk of Eileen's arm
(Eileen lives just up the hill
On the neighb'ring Danish farm).

But since then, Eileen's persisted 
In attempts to "Buddy Up"
With our Labrador/Rottweiler cross,
So abused as a young pup.

Quite early on many a winter's morn
And when my bare ass hangs off our bed,
Eileen and Thunder, her fat old pooch
Pass right by my window ledge!

And traverse to our side porch
Purpose :  "Can Smitty come and play?"
And in pajamas, Richard porch-leans
And thus in bright sunshine will stay

And visit while the dogs scoot 'round
And Smitty gives Eileen a slurp
To say he's ever so sorry -
Then jogs off with a belch and a burp!




But Thunder doesn't like 'being used'
As a distraction or a foil
For his mistress, to make another friend...
It rather makes his old blood boil!

So off he totters back up hill
And Eileen must quickly trot
She once more passes the big window
But this time I'm 'out of cot' !

For the less one sees of my repose
With menopausal flashes
The happier one will usually be-
NOT to see protruding asses!

Speaking of 'behind' the times
Every Thursday Mom enjoys
Offering, like in days of old,
Piano lessons to teen boys

Who want creative outlet
In this remote mountain vale
And often in the kitchen
Our entertaining will prevail

As one mother we'll call Fairlight
Who's a hermit quite like me
But feels her son should benefit:
He plays; she has a cup of tea!

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On Sundays, it's off to St. Peter's
For miles you can see the steeple
As it sits up there on Clockedahl Hill
And beckons all Danish people.

This year, its special hundredth
Is a time we will rejoice
And celebrate its history
With song in much-raised voice

We appreciate its craftsmanship
And the beauty of its wood
We enjoy the parish folk so much --
They're welcoming, warm and good.

 

A neighbouring town is Plaster Rock
And is famous for two sites
The place where massive ferns will grow...
(Read of this in my future writes),

And the world site of Pond Hockey
Where every Febr'ary cold
Hundreds of teams from 'round the globe
Play on the small lake of old.


world-pond-hockey-championship-630x419


In fact, it too celebrates this week
It's in its one hundred-FIFTIETH year!
Since 1867, teams have skated
On that ice so sheer.

Teams named with silly humour
Like "Pond Scum" and "Timber Twats"
Or, one of our favourite names:
"The Raggedy-ass River Rats" !

There are teams of men, but ladies too
And they're all TOUGH, outside the tent
Where beer is poured quite freely
At this world-renown event.

How often in the winter
Do you see an outdoor sport
Where the loos are placed in snowdrifts
And the players roughly cavort

RIGHT beside Joe Public
Which is why the nets are tiny
(Though Richard had a puck zip by
And he fell right on his hiney!)

 

 

Meetings in small communities
In the rural countryside
Are another way of getting involved
And taking some local pride.

While Richard worked the potato fields
Last fall, to feel a part
I'm now off to meetings galore
Historic, Planning and Horse Club, to start!

While Founder's Day celebrations
With parade, barbeque and dance
Are traditionally planned, I don't see how
A tomboy like me could enhance

A BEAUTY PAGEANT? of teenage girls
Who will dress up and model and pose.
All I know is grubbies and sweatshirts
NOT lace, and sequins, and hose!


And while a saddle club's more my style
I can't seem to find the straight path
Everyone argues and thinks they're right
(Mostly women, who cat-fight with wrath!)


attack-room
Saddle Clubbed-to-Death
grouplg
Pretending we all get along…
So, I'm not sure how long I'll be meeting
In these groups where I've tried to fit in
But I'll give it a go, for this year at least,
Do duties with tongue-in-cheek grin.

Another winter-time delight
In mountain-country deep
(Other than waiting for spring to come
By reading oneself to sleep!)

Is having neighbours over
To play games into the night
But this week, we were brought to realize
That mere Scrabble evokes a good FIGHT!

For many years I've struggled
To beat Richard at this game,
A few times I've come close
But more often, I admit with shame

That though I'm a teacher of English
He can whump me by a mile
And as he's most competitive
I don't always end with a smile.

Joy bought me a version that
SHOULD have helped more
But, until this year, it
Did NOT bring me to fore:

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However, just this winter
I've finally learned to beat
That man I call my partner
Who's NOT happy in defeat!

And this weekend we found out
That ANOTHER man is faster
And of equal strength to Richard's
- And THAT man's our meekest pastor!

His wife, like me, got upset,
And I understood her scorn
As myself, the organist, (and Richard, too!)
Began to feel forlorn.

That vicar is competitive!
Just like ole Rich, he sits
And plans so many moves ahead
While we just take the hits.

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Richard at work trying to beat all…

 

 

minister

Despite extra points for authors' names
Or a literary phrase
(The pastor's wife got "Dante"
Which SHOULD have put him in a daze

As it was like the devil himself
From the famed Inferno came
To visit the board and take over at will...
-But Pastor STILL won the game!)

While all this serious intellect
Went on beside our fire
Down the hall were bellows and grunts
And great yells of "You're a LIAR!" 

As Balderdash was loudly played
And later, "Dirty Marbles".
So, we took deep breaths and calmed ourselves
To ease the tension of these squabbles.

"Everyone to the living room!"
I called, for my favourite time
Is when drama and hilarity
Team with parlour games of rhyme,

Or witty word games, acted out.
Thus, within this larger group
Charades became the favourite
Of this New Denmark troupe.

But again, like Richard, Vicar sought
To beat my team right out
(Both from Ontario with German surnames
- Could THAT be what this is about?)

How could my team of thespians
Act out "Titanic", or "Moby Dick"
Without pointing to body parts
That were embarrassing in front of The Vic?

But HE had no compunction
About hurling himself to the floor
And writhing about with urgency
To try and get the top score!

*******************************************

Ah, the cold days of winter, then
Have been thusly passed with ease
As long as the dogs don't bite
And pastors continue to tease.

For whether or not my butt is seen
After 9, either day or at night.
When Thunder's coerced to go for a walk
And Eileen might be in for a sight,

And whether or not hot chocolate
Isn't drunk as much as the liquor
It takes for Peter to do "Titanic"
With his nipples, in front of the Vicar,

We'll always get through the storms
Of this 'time on hold' of all seasons
In the hill-billy mountains of N.B.
With our Raggy-ass River-Rat Reasons!

                                                     - J. Ivanel Johnson, 2017