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

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1-27-05          “Rug Braiding Bees - off to a good start ”

The first session of this winter's Thompson-Ames Historical Society "Rug Braiding Bees" was held on Saturday morning, January 15th. The activity was so successful that we just have to share some of the happenings.

Kathy Lacroix and Marion Ekholm, hostesses and leaders of the session, arrived at Grange Hall about 9:00 a.m. to set up for the activity. By the time that the first participants arrived at 10:00 a.m., the cookies had been set out and the water for hot beverages was steaming.

About 15 people in all showed up. Many were from nearby but one was from as far away as Rumney. Ages ranged from 9 up through retirement. Some were novices ready to try their hand at rug braiding, some came just to look on, some brought rugs that had been started in the past but had been put aside because"too-busy schedules had left inadequate time for pursuit of such handiwork".

Carol Anderson and her 9-year-old daughter Sarah arrived eager to begin. Ahead of time they had decided on a color scheme and brought along wool strips ready for braiding.

Sarah's reactions included the following comments, "I am happy to be able to sit and learn a craft that I had found out about in the Little House on the Prairie series. And it's cool to be able to go to an actual bee like in the old days and to be with women of all ages."

Both Carol and Sarah agreed about their pleasant surprise to see such a wide variety of fabric and color plans - where such a wide range of artistic beauty was coupled with a utilitarian purpose.

Carol remarked, "The frugal aspect of rug-braiding is especially meaningful to me. To think that old clothes, too worn out to be useful any longer as articles of clothing, can be used to make a beautiful new item - that's something from nothing! How creative and smart the women were not only to be so frugal but also to develop a new craft!"

Carol and Sarah plan to spend time together at home in this new-found mother-daughter activity.

For Priscilla Puleo the rug braiding bee was an opportunity for her to turn the hands of time back 35 years to a time when she had tried her hand at rug-braiding. She brought in a rug which she had begun to braid back when her children were young. The unfinished rug has been down on her floor and used all those years but now she can rekindle her skills and finish the rug. She commented, "This bee makes me feel encouraged. For me, doing crafts creates such a sense of achievement."

Priscilla brought to the get-together another item - a rug that her now-deceased mother had begun several decades ago! Priscilla was obviously touched as she said, "I had put this project away many, many years ago. When I got it out to bring to this rug braiding bee, everything that was needed was there - my mother's hand-written directions, including her plan to use 3 colors for each circuit (row around the rug), red, gray, blue including plaids, a $1 reference book, and all the needed strips, with nary a moth hole in them! WHereas most braided rugs are oval or round in shape, this rug is rectangular; at present it is only 13" by 34" of it's 30" by 52" planned size.

Priscilla recalls having learned rug braiding many, many years ago in Gilmanton, at Rug-ary, on Frisky Hill. Priscilla's mother had followed suit and begun this rug back then. Now Priscilla is happy with the opportunity to finish the rug that her mother had started.

Also, Marge Muehlke came to the bee to address the needs of a braided rug that has lain in front of the woodstove in her family’s home for many a year. Made by her mother long ago, the rug’s outer-most circuit/ring was worn out from so much use. The bee enabled Marge to replace the wornout circuit with a new one to rejuvenate the rug.

With a chuckle, Marge speaks of her attempt to attach the new braid to the rug, saying, “I spread the rug on a table which I had pulled up close to the woodstove. My cat sat in the middle of the rug the whole time that I was lacing the new braid onto the rug.”

Now the rug is back on the floor in front of the old woodstove where it had always been. During the next month’s rug braiding session Marge plans to ask for help in finishing the last step butting, which Marge says is considered the process that is the most challenging of all.

A tip that Marge learned about braided rugs is how to clean them. She says that first you need to take the braided rug outdoors and place it on top of clean, new-fallen snow. Then you need to stomp on the rug to force the snow into the surface. Next, you should turn the rug over and sweep it and sweep it until all the snow has been swept off. She tried it and was amazed to see how rejuvenated her rug became, except for any stains, of course.

Sarah Anderson tried this cleaning process at home on a round braided chair pad. Carol acted as photographer to capture Sarah’s efforts. The resulting photos are being shared as part of this week’s Historic Highlights item.

All the participants agreed that the Rug Braiding Bee offered a warm, friendly, informal atmosphere in which they found encouragement to try their hand at a craft that they hope will endure.

Two more Saturday morning rug braiding bees are scheduled for this winter, one on February 19th and the other on March 19th.

For further information you may telephone Kathy Lacroix at 524-3390. Also, check in on T-AHS’S website at www.gilfordhistoricalsocietv.org for other craft offerings as well as program listings.