Marge on Braiding Rugs

(See My New Videos: "Braiding With Marge...How To Make Braided Rugs")

To me, braiding a rug is a lot like painting a picture. The painter starts with a blank canvas and a palette of colors, and lets his heart and mind tell his hand what to do. The quality of the end product depends on the technical skills of the painter, but more importantly on the feeling that the painter is able to impart to the canvas...a feeling that comes from the inner self. The former can be taught, the latter is a gift. The same is true of braiding. There are certain technical skills that can be taught, but the quality of the end product depends on the creativity of the braider.

The creative part of rug making is to be able to convert what's in the mind's eye of the client into the real thing, a beautiful braided rug just like they pictured it. The way I usually work is that I first talk at length to the buyer. Why do they want a braided rug? What effect are they trying to achieve? I then ask that they send photos of the area, in which the rug will reside, and specify colors that they prefer. Based on the photos and their color preferences, I suggest a style and send swatches of the shades of colors that I think would go well. After we agree on size, style, and colors, my work begins.

Getting just the right colors takes a lot of time and effort. I have several sources, from the few remaining woolen mills in New England to the textile distributors in New York City. Fortunately, from where I live, I can visit both.

One client had very specific color choices and went so far as to give me a plate from her husband's collection of Delft china, to be sure that I matched the blue perfectly. Finding the celery colored green wool to match her living room furniture was an adventure. After visiting the mills and making more than one trip to the wholesalers I found a remnant on the 3rd floor of a textile warehouse on the west side of NYC that was just the right color.

This was an extreme case and I usually don't have to go to those measures but I will if I have to. I want the client to love their rug. The result of these adventures? "Topsail"

Another example would be how "Eureka" evolved. The future owner called me and said she wanted to be sure that her new rug had a small amount of a soft red color as shown on my website in the rugs "Genesis" and "Berwyn". Unfortunately the color of wool that she so loved was purchased 40 years prior  when I made "Genesis". What she saw in "Berwyn", a rug made recently, was leftover wool from 40 years ago. Unfortunately, after an extensive search, I was not able to find that color. It was unavailable…or so I thought.

Five rows into the rug, I felt so badly about not being able to incorporate that salmon colored wool, I tried again and, this time was successful. I sent her a letter and sample swatch saying; "Look what I found!" She was delighted.

One of the most difficult things for me to do is to part with a rug after I have finished braiding it. It's like giving up someone or something that I love. I have such a personal commitment to this inanimate thing that I just hate to let it go. I suppose the reason for this is that as I make a rug there is a sense of excitement as the rug grows, as a new row or color is added. I usually work out the color scheme in advance, but more often than not it changes as the work develops. The end product is often quite different than I had envisioned when I started. But I want this rug to be the best that I can make it so the client will love what they get and can treasure it for years. I take comfort from the fact that one of my creations becomes a part of the every day life of its owner.

I have been making braided rugs for 40 years and I still have trouble explaining to people what I do. The usual reaction when I say I make braided rugs is something like,"Oh, I saw the most beautiful braided rug in Wal-Mart the other day".

Today you can buy rugs of any style, shape, colors, or size and in all price ranges from 10's of dollars to 1000's of dollars. Most are machine made for the mass market. They are made of wool blends, nylons, cottons, polypropylene, and other synthetic fibers. They come in many different styles from solids, multicolor, banded, tweeds, you name it. The cheaper "braided" rugs in many cases are not braided. They are made of yarn wrapped around a center core that can be made of felt, synthetic material, or in some cases, even paper. More expensive rugs are manufactured with material and are flat braided, but even in these rugs the material is nylon or a wool blend containing a synthetic fiber. Even so called "handmade" rugs may be hand laced but are braided by machine.

So when anyone asks, rather than attempting a long explanation of the differences, I simply say that I don't compete in that market. I make the best rug that I can make for individuals who I hope will become my friends. So far, I've been successful.

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