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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Tapping, Sapping, Lapping & …..Napping.

The temperature's up, the temperature's down
But this makes for a time to drill 
And tap the trees out in our bush.
For Richard, this has all been a thrill!

You can tell when the season is coming
The sunrises are glor'us once more
And the days are so much longer
We can be out in the woods after 4!
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The first step is to mark the maples
And while all plastic puts me in a FUNK,
We already had this roll of yellow-
So Richard tied bows 'round the trunk.

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He found about 15 good maples in all
And drilling holes was the next stage
(He broke my Makita, so we used his big thing,
Which naturally put ME in a rage!) 

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Next step is to put in the spile
(Again, plastic was NOT what I'd choose.
But since that's all they had, Richard taps
With a hammer, then POOF! In for a snooze!)

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Yup, that's a big morning, he figures.
15 holes drilled - what a lark!
But after lunch and a nap, what's he find?
The sap's running down the tree bark!

So he hurries and fits in his hose
(MORE plastic, "oh NO!" Julie raves!)
But at least the 'buckets' are recycled
From the milk jugs - a year's worth of saves!

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There's still so much snow that just walking
Is impossible in the deep white
So Richard and I ski or snow-shoe
While Smitty prances on top, he's so light!

And that toboggan is handy for tools
(Yes, the damn thing is PLASTIC again!)
But on days when my knee is too sore
Richard 'mushes' me down the back lane!

We collect sap for two days, in fridge
In many more jugs that we've kept
Then Richard takes over the kitchen
All newly pet-free and floor-swept.

('Cause we have to do enough straining
First with coffee filters, then in the pot
With a tiny sieve or cheesecloth
So we DON'T want hairs in that lot!)
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Richard waits for a roiling boil
Then boils for at least half a day
Keeping an eye on the temperature
As well as straining what joins in the fray!

He calls himself a middle-class-billy
So one not-QUITE-from-the-'hills'
But "geek" springs to mind as I watch him
And wait to mop up any spills!

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The windows are fogged up with moisture
And the paint will be peeling from walls
Next year we'll have to cook outside
Out where all of Nature enthralls!
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 On the first day, the smoke alarm sounded
(We'd left a pot boiling an hour
That we went to woods to collect more
And the burner was too high a power!)

So now Joy comes down to monitor
And put in her two-cents worth, al-so
Richard LOVES to create drama, so I
Hide down where seeds start to grow!

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R.'s back and forth to the woods
Running quite a nice little crop
But a pause is made to throw balls-
That snow-dust's the dog's sliding stop!

After hours and hours on the boil
The sap starts to thicken up well
Richard loves this high drama the best
As the bubbles go white and up-swell!

Ready or not, we pour in cool bowls
Then transfer syrup to jar
But leave a bit out for candy
The taffy's the show-stopping star!

Now Richard makes ME run outside
And grab fresh pee-free snow
And he pours the taffy on top
For a treat about which he'll CROW!

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 And a little further along on the boil
We get the hard-candy-works
Pour in a cake pan, stick in the freezer
And now - it's the greatest of perks:

The licking of sweets from utensils
That have stacked up in my kitchen again
There's pots and pans- mess all over!
But R's intent on his Purpose Main.

That is, to lap up enough treats
Before I notice his hill-billy teeth
Will need more dental work than money we've got-
What that guy eats is beyond belief!


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Now we take out the quick-cooled panned candy,
And smash the pan down with a bang.
It all breaks into jig-saw pieces.
All set for R.'s broken old fang.

For no sooner have I put it away,
Then he's caught with his hand reaching in
For that hardened gold treat he wants badly-
And I've got to pretend it's a sin!
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Chipped teeth when you haven't a 'plan'
Are not going to help us live
In a self-sufficient manner
So it's back to the pot and the sieve,

While I take a turn at collecting...
But I can't find the toboggan at all!
And there's that hard-working nut-bar
Setting himself for a great fall.

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And later still, cleaning the kitchen
I wonder why it's gone so quiet.
I check the pantry candy
To see if he's gone off his 'diet'.

But no, all the candy's still there...
Why on earth can't I hear a wee peep?
So I look in the bedroom, and there on the bed
Is the Maple Chief - quite fast asleep!

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The Still Midnight

 

As it’s New Year’s Eve, I’m doing one of my favourite things, as is only right when others are doing THEIR favourite things.  I’m at home  – writing. Hopefully in peace and quiet, but that isn’t likely to be the case for too long…
This 2016 has certainly been a tumultuous and up-heaving one for us, with a surgery, a court case, buying a farm in another province, moving to said farm and then frantically rushing about planting, harvesting and trying to meet all-new neighbours! And of course 2016 with the world has been unsettling and full of unrest and shock/sadness, as well…  2017 will hopefully be a bit more ‘routine’ and not too extra-ordinary.
But I thought, as a quiet and relaxing posting, and also because so many will be sleeping tomorrow and perhaps even into Monday, I’d put up some favourite poets and their quotations about REST and SLEEP, as well as some photos from other posts re: the same…
             TO SLEEP, by John Keats
O soft embalmer of  the still midnight,
      Shutting, with careful fingers and benign,
Our gloom-pleas’d eyes, embower’d from the light,
      Enshaded in forgetfulness divine:
O soothest Sleep! if so it please thee, close
      In midst of this thine hymn my willing eyes,
Or wait the “Amen,” ere thy poppy throws
      Around my bed its lulling charities.
Then save me, or the passed day will shine
Upon my pillow, breeding many woes,—
      Save me from curious Conscience, that still lords
Its strength for darkness, burrowing like a mole;
      Turn the key deftly in the oiled wards,
And seal the hushed Casket of my Soul.
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Back  in the early days of June, though I didn’t take MUCH time to rest, sometimes my knee and back made it a mandatory practice. And the hammock under the apple blossoms with the amazing scenery, was just SO spectacular!  

 

 

This Walt Whitman verse reminds me very much of our life here at Blue Belldon Farm:

In midnight sleep… I dream, I dream, I dream…Of scenes of nature,fields and mountains;
Of skies, so beauteous after a storm–and at night the moon so unearthly bright,
Shining sweetly, shining down, where we dig the trenches and gather the heaps,
I dream, I dream, I dream.

 

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as in the poem above by W.W., this is the fields and mountains and moon – as seen from my own bed’s pillow.  Lucky me!

A long, long sleep, by Emily Dickinson

A long, long sleep, a famous sleep
That makes no show for dawn
By stretch of limb or stir of lid, —
An independent one.

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This was poor Simba, after arriving here at Blue Belldon from his two-day trip in a U-Haul!
These are the last two verses of Dylan Thomas’ Lie Still, Sleep Becalmed
…Under the mile off moon we trembled listening
To the sea sound flowing like blood from the loud wound
And when the salt sheet broke in a storm of singing
The voices of all the drowned swam on the wind.

Open a pathway through the slow sad sail,
Throw wide to the wind the gates of the wandering boat
For my voyage to begin to the end of my wound,
We heard the sea sound sing, we saw the salt sheet tell.
Lie still, sleep becalmed, hide the mouth in the throat,
Or we shall obey, and ride with you through the drowned.

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an especial favourite of mine, from a hot day in August, 2016.  

Here is William Blake’s Sleep, Sleep… just the 1st verse:
Sleep! sleep! beauty bright,
Dreaming o’er the joys of night;
Sleep! sleep! in thy sleep
Little sorrows sit and weep.

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Smitty in the truck – I just woke him up from an afternoon nap when I returned from a town errand… He couldn’t stop yawning!

Here’s a little wisdom from T.G. Craddock

When is predetermined time reached to rest?
Does mind or body know clockwork answer best?
Is a set bedtime always the best way to rest?

A lack of rest plays havoc on both mind and body.
Yet need requires extra night hours worked in emergency.
An art of make up sleep becomes a sweat necessity.

Sleep a strange bed fellow; we all must dues court.
To stay awake for extended periods; is scale battle fought.
To burn candle at both ends frequently; is not wisdom sought.

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This was Richard one September day when I thought he was raking windfalls!
A Slumber did my Spirit Seal
A slumber did my spirit seal;
I had no human fears:
She seemed a thing that could not feel
The touch of earthly years.
No motion has she now, no force;
She neither hears nor sees;
Rolled round in earth’s diurnal course,
With rocks, and stones, and trees.
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Love this photo, not  just because he genuinely looks peaceful and relaxed, but because that’s the one and only poem (and painting) my Mom/Joy ever did behind his head , in the frame
And of course, HAVE to include a Canadian, and one of my all-time favourites:
Come, rest awhile, and let us idly stray
In glimmering valleys, cool and far away.

Come from the greedy mart, the troubled street,
And listen to the music, faint and sweet,

That echoes ever to a listening ear,
Unheard by those who will not pause to hear­

The wayward chimes of memory’s pensive bells,
Wind-blown o’er misty hills and curtained dells.

One step aside and dewy buds unclose
The sweetness of the violet and the rose;

Song and romance still linger in the green,
Emblossomed ways by you so seldom seen,

And near at hand, would you but see them, lie
All lovely things beloved in days gone by.

You have forgotten what it is to smile
In your too busy life- ­come, rest awhile.

                      by Lucy Maud Montgomery

This is one of my favourite paintings to go with the famous- and deservedly so-
peace of the Robert Frost poem “And Miles To Go Before I Sleep”…
sleigh
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
And finally , this is just one of many rustic signs and custom woodland wedding items you’ll find at my Rustic Revivals shop on :  www.etsy.com/shop/rusticrevivals
  I’ll likely have it hanging on my doorknob if I’m up much longer…
owl-asleep
Good Night, Sweet Dreams and Happy New Year!
Thanks for reading and supporting this blog – Much appreciated!

An Inkling of… Juliet’s Quill

inkling

Last night, after posting about the Toad from Toad Pond in my Tub… (Ode to the Commode) I started thinking, as it was the middle of the night, that it didn’t make much sense, even if it was a bit of fun and whimsy!  Thus, I now present to you a more serious post about my propensity for creating “inkhornisms”… (in case you’ve not already figured that out for yourselves!) In the sixteenth century, this meant any literary “composition” – or “post” as I do here in “blog-ville” that SMELLED OF THE LAMP – meaning being overworked from too much burning of the midnight oils… This was suggested by one of the Forgotten English cards given to me by my friend, Anne. However, I don’t think she was suggesting anything about my writing – at the time… perhaps having examined this blog, though?

Anyway, the inspiration for the word “inkhornism” was a small case of writing instruments made of horn and used from the 1300s to the 17oos . Thus, having an “inkling” about something, meant simply a tiny sample of a written idea.   Once again, a LESS serious note about my personal propensity in this regard:

 

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Having said all that, there are some poems or quotes others have written that may be meaningful to you, and once in a while I’ve been known to write something that deserves a bit of notice (20 year anniversary of this publication, for instance):

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So, if you wish me to calligraphy ( by being a candle-waster!) a special verse, recipe, or etc. for you, see my writer’s shop online at http://www.etsy.com/shop/julietsquill  .  Also do wedding invitations, christenings, reunions, anniversary poems, etc. calligraphied by hand. Very personalized gifts – Take a look!  And, speaking of anniversaries, it’s the 200th anniversary of the birth of my beloved Charlotte Bronte this year, and as I used to live in Haworth – another beautiful village with rolling (VERY!) hills… and windswept moors as well – let’s celebrate this: ( it’s an example/sample/inkling, from Juliet’s Quill retail pages online:)

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quill imagery

two for juliets quill

 

Why “Blue Belldon” Farm ?

We live at Blue Bell Corner, New Brunswick, with a glorious view of Blue Bell Mountain. Across the valley, among other streams, is the winding and babbling Blue Bell Brook.  Joy, my mother, has a Scottish background, and bluebells are one of the most common flowers there,featured in many poems and songs including the famous  “Blue Bells of Scotland” folk song, and the joyous Blue Bell Polka (Mom loves a good polka!) But most of all, is the following poem, by Sheldon (Belldon) Chadwick.  Not only does “don” at the end of a placename mean “hill”     – orig. ‘dun’, ‘doon’ or later, ‘downs’ –   but this poem has all three of our birthstones mentioned in it (Mom’s is Ruby, Richard’s is Opal, Mine is Amethyst). It also mentions our nick-names “Joy, Rich and Jewels”, as well as describing the very vistas which we see and breathe all around us every day – including, of course, the BLUEBELLS!  And finally, the Chadwick poem is tremendously timely because, after 10 years together living in and renovating other country and historic homes, Richard proposed to me with a diamond intertwined set –  I’ve never had a single diamond in my whole 50 years and now I’ve a cluster of ’em!  So, he is like the poet protagonist below, and I, the “adorned Bride of Love”.  All very romantic.  In the U.K., where I’ve also lived and worked, they would say “naff”.  But we all three find it most fitting, nonetheless.

sheldon chadwick poem

       *********The  “Because -Why” of this Category, “Because-Why”: 

A great Canadian character who really deserves to be as famous as Anne of Green Gables and her Matthew (and Marilla) is the indomitable Maggie Muggins.  (Oh, my middle name is Ann all right – WITHOUT-an-e.  But I sooooo wanted to be ‘Maggie’ most of my early life! )  Whenever Maggie had a perplexing puzzle that she wanted help solving, she would skip down the garden path to her good friend, Mr. McGarrity (och, another Scot!), who would lean on his hoe and try to help her figure out life.  These books were written by New Brunswick’s own Mary Grannan (orig., Fredericton)  who also wrote all the “Just Mary” stories and had her own children’s radio programmes in Toronto from just before WWII right up until the year I was born! So, if I ever think something needs explaining within (or without!) the confines of this blog, I’ll be sure to share the “Because-Why” with you, here in this category.

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