Back to Normal

Christine here.  After surgery, there is something about the appearance of one’s husband’s skinny butt showing in the yap of his hospital gown while he walks with an IV pole to the bathroom… that speaks to the indignity and vulnerability of illness. Suddenly, the conversations turn to pain levels and incision sites, and turn away from the usual topics of chores, kids, money, and What I Should Be Cleaning Up Next to make him happy. It was uncomfortable, plunging us into different roles than our standard ones… he into the physically diminished patient, and me into the worried and hovering wife.

But, after two days in the hospital, three more days cautiously hanging out at home, and the amazing recovery that occurs quickly after the new endovascular surgical techniques… he is no longer limited except for some heavy lifting and vigorous exercise restrictions. Other than that, he is back to normal. As evidence, we are back to our usual squabbles.

In his defense, I am perhaps not the easiest person to live with if you have a slight obsessive compulsive disorder (which he does). I tend to unthinkingly leave things in unusual places all over the house. My work-around for this problem has not been to become more organized, which would be impossible; my strategy has been to saturate the house with the common items that I can never locate when I need them. As a result, we probably have 50 combs in the house, about 25 pairs of cheater reading glasses, about 25 pairs of scissors, and an abundance of tapestry needles, hemostats, and sewing needles. And spools of thread. That way, anywhere I look, I am bound to find what I need at that moment.

He, of course, has one personal comb, one pair of eyeglasses, and his tools are neatly filed away. He always returns all tools to their proper locations and knows exactly where they are at all times.

This morning, I went to the kitchen drawer where I throw everything one might ever use in the kitchen, and yet again I couldn’t find the screwdriver. (I use it to tighten the loose handle on my favorite frying pan). It also is convenient for all sorts of other unexpected things one has to tighten on the first floor. I finally realized that this was the 4th set of flat-head and Phillips screwdrivers that I had bought for the kitchen in the last few months. I went to my husband, suspicious.

Me, accusatory tone: “John, where are my kitchen screwdrivers going?”

John, righteous tone: “Screwdrivers belong in the toolbox.”

Me, sounding like a 10 year old: “No they don’t. They belong in my kitchen, where I need them.”

Braided tote bag with 5-strand in center

John, sounding like an annoying boob: “So go down to the basement and get them. And then put them back in the toolbox.”

The upshot of all of this is that, despite the week starting up with me worried and a mess over his health, we are both now recovered and squabbling again to prove it. He has returned to his normal annoying self, and so have I.

In the meantime, I have been braiding like a fiend because, of course, that’s what I do to calm down. I made a new tote bag with a 5-strand in the center, which turned out pretty well although, as usual, I question my color choices. I was trying to make the 5-strand look sort of like leaves and berries.

Flower cut with Sissix dies (safety-pinned on, not sewn yet)

I used my Sissix Big Shot machine (purchased several years ago when I had a brief but passionate interest in making penny rugs) to cut out the flower petals.

So, summary of my week: worrying & hanging out at the hospital braiding, worrying & braiding at home, and now ticked off and back to normal (and still braiding).



Figuring Things Out

Christine here.  Sometimes, I admit it, I don’t like braiding.  Sometimes it just takes too long and I wonder why I didn’t end up totally immersed and obsessed by some other sort of craft.  Something quicker to execute each design, so that I don’t end up spending all summer doing one thing only!

Here is my latest attempt to get the braided wavy parallel lines that I wanted.  You can probably tell that I have safety pins all over the rug, where I have marked off (by loop count) the same spots on each color.  I increase or decrease twice on each curve with the gray strands, and once on each curve with the red strands.  This amount enables me to have the curves I wanted while keeping the lines parallel.  If I make the curves deeper than this amount, I end up having to change the amount of increases or decreases to get the braids to lie flat, and the braids are no longer parallel.

Sinuous Rug
Sinuous Rug

Why, you may ask, was I so determined to figure this out — what is the maximal braided curve that can be laced in parallel? Sometimes I think I just have an obsessive personality.  I have 4 to 6 more braids to lace on before this will be a reasonably-sized rug, and I am not looking forward to it.  I’ve already figured it out, so now I want to move on to the next thing, and figure that out.


With any craft, though, there are the parts you enjoy and the parts that you just slog through.  At the moment, the next 4 to 6 rows are slogging.

One thing that I have been enjoying in this process, though, is using up my tremendous stash of gray wool skirts, pants, and the occasional really sumptuous jacket that I have purchased over the years.  (I don’t usually buy jackets because they’re such a pain to cut up, but occasionally a jacket’s wool sleeve will reach out and caress me while I am wandering in the thrift store, and I will be unable to resist it).  I had an immense pile of these medium grays in tweeds and herringbones and glen plaids, and I finally stripped them all and sewed them randomly together in huge rolls.  Each time I come upon a new color and the slip of the fabric changes slightly in my fingers, I enjoy the new gray’s softness.

Marjorie Kauffman just sent me a video of her updated technique of making T-ends for strip rugs like these, and I hope to twist her arm sufficiently to get her to release it to the public.  I am debating about whether to T-end these braids or to simply fringe them.  (Leaning toward fringe).  My class at Methuen on curved and cornered strip rugs will include both of those endings, plus bias binding.

This frustrated and distracted sort of finish to projects is always how it is with me — I can’t wait to finish things so that I can move on to the next project.  I come to loathe and despise the last few rows of anything I make because the finishing aspect is keeping me from doing what I want — moving on to the next project and figuring that out.  Right now, I am mentally working out how to have the super-sinuous non-parallel rug (see sketch in earlier post) lay flat despite all of its monstrous curves, and THAT is what I WANT to be working on, not THIS.

Braid Craft Kits

il_570xN.316325544Christine here.  Do any of you remember those kits that were in every fabric and craft store in the 1980’s and 90’s? I really wanted to buy them… but at that time, in college and then paying off school debt as a mental health social worker for several years (not too smart for debt repayment, and why I went back to school for another career)… I didn’t have two pennies to rub together much of the time.  So I would look at the kits in the stores and I would think, I really want to learn how to do that, and I would have to walk away.

In my current life, years later, I remembered those kits.  While for the past 9 years I’ve been focused on rug braiding with wool, and the Braid Craft kits were for working with cotton, I still love to craft in many different ways and thought about tracking down one of the kits on eBay.

The directions were surprisingly clear and well-illustrated — this was not a kit that was knocked off quickly; it was a kit and set of patterns that had been thoughtfully put together.  I started to think about Shirley Botsford, the woman who had made all the Braid Craft kits and booklets, and googled her.

It turns out, Shirley is still working with Simplicity Patterns as one of their licensed craft designers.  She has written many books on various areas of sewing, quilting, and crafting.  One of my favorites is a book she wrote called, “Daddy’s Ties,” which explores a zillion ways to work with ties when a loved one dies and his ties are too precious to part with.  I was especially intrigued by this book because I recently made a “Memory Basket” of braided ties for a former coworker whose husband died.

I got in touch with Shirley and she kindly agreed to an interview with me for the rug braiding newsletter, The Revolutionary Rug Braider.  It was so much fun to talk with her!  Others may get excited about rock stars and actors and actresses, but getting to talk to Shirley Botsford was way cooler than that for me!  It turned out, in interviewing her, that one of her friends had challenged her to make a braided bridal gown for The Fairfield Fashion Show in 1987.  So she did!  Here’s a photo of, “The Braided Bride” made from ivory color laces, sheers and silky evening wear fabrics.  The headpiece, jacket sleeves and bodice feature Shirley’s  braiding techniques. 

Shirley Botsford with “The Braided Bride,” a gown she designed and made for the 1987 Fairfield Fashion Show. The bodice, jacket sleeves, and a headpiece are all braided of sheers, satins, and other fancy fabrics.

I have several other photos in the newsletter, but I just had to show this one.  Isn’t it gorgeous?

As is common with crafty people, Shirley also is doing 10 other things at the same time.  She owns and runs a bed and breakfast, “Botsford Briar Inn,” in Beacon, NY.  She teaches craft classes in the Hudson Valley region of New York.  And she continues to write, to design for Simplicity patterns, and craft happily in her home.

What a lovely and interesting person!