Special to OBSERVER
Braiding is one of those things that little girls learn early on from mothers, friends, cousins, and so on. Once learned, it is a skill always retained. Of course, boys can learn too, and should, because they'll have to braid their daughter's hair someday and they won't want to look like an idiot. As adults, you can turn that skill toward textiles and make a rug for your home.
My mother has taken braiding to a new level. From what I hear, the house has been overrun. She uses old felted wool clothing, takes it apart, cuts it into strips, preps it, and turns it into outstandingly gorgeous braided rugs. I mean it, these things are like cheesecake for your feet rich, indulgent, and such a treat!
I have one in front of the kitchen sink that I stand on to do all that kitchen stuff. It is durable and has handled all manner of contributions, from soapy water to butternut squash, and still looks great. The vacuum takes the dirt away, revealing still vibrant colors. And my cats have even more adoration for these rugs than I do.
One of my favorite things about the rugs (beside that my mommy makes them) is that they are superbly eco-friendly. Repurposing wool clothing into rugs is genius. It eliminates waste from landfills, takes high-quality garments and turns them into high-quality rugs, and results in these little tiny pieces that make great pet beds once put into a cover. It requires time, mostly. And a sewing machine, a great little lacing needle that my dad made, and a good pair of scissors. But time is the key ingredient.
Rugs can be made from other materials, and can be made in many sizes. My mother uses wool because of its durability, warmth, and availability. She has made them in many shapes and sizes, even shipped them internationally to friends! It is a hobby that she enjoys and one from which many benefit. She downplays her talent, and is much harder on herself than everyone else. Because, really, these rugs are stunning.
She is teaching a workshop on how to make them on March 26, from 10-2:30. If you're interested in putting your rusty braiding skills to good use, come down! The cost is $35 for non-members and $30 if you are a member. This includes all the materials to make a chair-pad size rug, a lacing needle, a how-to manual, and instruction. It's a deal. Lunch is BYO, but we'll provide coffee and tea. And you'll need to bring sharp scissors and a tote bag.
Taking something old and reusing it is a time-honored mannerism. Often people will shake their heads or roll their eyes at people who say things like "No, keep that, you never know when you might need it." But anyone who has ever gone through a depression, lost everything or almost everything, been moments away from broke, knows that scrimping, saving, reusing, wearing things out, and making do with what you have is an honest lifestyle. Turns out, it is better for the planet too.
When a product is used until it is no longer useful, it has fulfilled its purpose. Many times, it can be repurposed, taking on an entirely new realm of usefulness. Rather than making new things from raw materials, creating waste and consuming energy, investing a little bit of time can yield the same result.
These braided rugs are great. They give my mom something to do all winter. They provide rugs to everyone, and I mean everyone, she knows. They use clothing that might otherwise be thrown out (or that no one in their right mind would wear a hot pink wool blazer? Really?). They give her new cat things to play with. They give my cats wool piece pillows to sleep on.
If you're interested in the workshop, call 716-569-2345. There is a registration limit for the workshop and there has been a lot of interest, so call soon. If the workshop fills up, but you're still interested, we can put you on a waiting list, or for a reduced, and yet undetermined fee (because I haven't talked to my mother about this) you can sit in on the workshop and learn the how-to but not actually make a rug or get the kit. Please call by March 23rd.
Audubon is located at 1600 Riverside Road, just off Route 62 between Warren and Jamestown. The Center is open from 10-4:30 daily, except Sundays when we open at 1. The trails are open dawn to dusk for hiking. Visit jamestownaudubon.org for more information or call the number listed above.
Sarah Hatfield is a naturalist at Audubon.