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The Thompson-Ames Historical Society writes a
weekly column for the Gilford Steamer.

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1-12-05          “Waste Not - Want Not ”

“Waste not, want not” expresses the frugality that we associate with by-gone times. Yet this concept may well have given rise to one of the crafts of by-gone days that is still held in high regard even today. That craft is rug braiding.

Responding to interest in this age-old craft, Thompson-Ames Historical Society again this winter is offering a series of “Rug Braiding ‘Bees. Patterned after historic quilting bees, rug braiding bees are seen by Gilford’s historical society as an opportunity for people with a wide range of experience to get together to work and socialize at the same time. For novices it is an opportunity to try their hand in a supportive environment.

Marion Ekholm and Kathy Lacroix have chosen the third Saturday morn-ing of the month to meet. In case of inclement weather, the make-up session would be held the following week.

This year’s first rug braiding bee will be held this Saturday, Janu-ary 15th, the second on February 19th, and the final one on March 19.

Each of these Saturday-morning sessions will be held in the Grange Museum Building, at 8 Belknap Mountain Road, upstairs in Grange Hall. Each get-together will begin at 10:00 a.m. and run until noon. Light refreshments will be served.

To facilitate planning, persons interested in participating are asked to call Thompson-Ames Historical Society at 527-9009. If no one is in the office to speak with you, please call Kathy Lacroix directly at 524-3390. You may leave your name and telephone number and Kathy will then return your call.

Are you wondering what “Waste not, want not” has to do with rug braid-ing? To see the connection, we just need to recall life on early farms where survival depended upon self-sufficiency. This applied to provid-ing essential food, shelter, and clothing.

For our purpose today, let’s consider the matter of providing cloth-ing. The family raised sheep, in good part for the wool that they would yield. The cycle would begin with the shearing of the sheep. Then work with the fleece would be taken over by women and children together.

First, using special comb-like tools, they would card the wool to clean it. Next would be spinning the wool to form it into yarn. Then the wool yarn would need to be wound on a “niddy noddy” to form skeins. If the “niddy noddy” were the kind with a handle to crank, the children could make a game out of the process. As they cranked the han-dle they would sing, “All around the cobbler’s bench, the monkey chases the weasel. That’s the way the monkey goes. ‘Pop’ goes the weasel.” The “pop” would automatically happen when enough yarn had been wound to form a skein.

During the warmer months, the women and children could often be found outdoors around tubs set up to dye some of the skeins of wool. Roots, leaves and berries were the sources of these natural dyes. Dyed or left natural, the wool yarn could then be knit to make clothing or woven to make yard goods from which pieces would be cut and then sewn to make articles of clothing.

With the process of making clothing so long and laborious, it is no wonder that each person on the farm had few articles of clothing and also treasured each item! As children outgrew their clothing, the clothes were handed down or even made over for other younger children.

But after awhile, the cloth itself would be considered unusable for clothing. At that point the “waste not, want not” frugality saw another option: to tear the wool cloth into strips that could be used for other purposes, including making rugs! The strips of wool could be woven to make rag rugs or braided into long plaits which would then be coiled and sewn together to make braided rugs. In either case, the natural characteristics of the wool would create rugs that proved durable while creating a delightful addition to the home.

The craft of braiding rugs still appeals to people. It is hoped that T-AHS’s rug braiding bees -- although usually using strips of new wool! -- will help carry on this traditional craft which echoes our cultural heritage.