Sunday, October 4, 2015

Stories Told In Braided Rugs

Funny what you remember growing up. At the time it might have seemed insignificant but looking back some of those memories prove priceless. My grandmother filled what little idle time she had using her hands to create. Crocheting to sewing-to braiding rugs-it didn't matter. In the evening she'd sit in her chair and her hands became her instruments. That generation never wasted time. There was no time to waste. Little did she realize that some of what she created would live on to tell her story-a family story-to generations that would follow. That especially rang true of her braided rugs.

Growing up we were aware that no garment was too old to be considered a candidate in one of her braided rugs. Before anything was thrown out, it would go to my grandmother. She would make the decision if it would get that second chance. More often than not, it survived her test. After that initial 'interview' a garment would be stripped of buttons, zippers, bias tape, rick rack-anything that could be recycled and used again. From this process came a great collection of zippers and tape and a button bag brimming with buttons of all colors and sizes. That bag came in handy when we'd play, "Button! Button! Who Has the Button!" Once the garment was clear of bobbles, my grandmother would cut and rip it into strips. Then the strips were rolled into a ball until there were enough balls of strips of fabric from other garments to braid together and create a rug. It was common to see her sitting in her chair with strips of fabric spread out on the floor and as she wove them all together the strips became shorter and shorter. Her rugs were like the storyline in Goldilocks and the Three Bears. There were small rugs-medium-size rugs-and great big rugs. When one was finished, it would sit on the floor for awhile so it could be stepped on to eventually get the stitching evened out.

Those rugs provided my cousin and I with a game of seek and find. Lying on the floor, we'd inspect new rugs created-looking to see if we could recognize any old pieces of clothing woven in to place. It was fun finding what we'd considered something old and tattered given new life and a place center stage for all to see for years to come. Discovery led to stories about that garment-who it belonged to-certain times when it had been worn. When my aunt who lived with my grandmother passed away years after we'd lost my grandmother, those rugs were given to family members. Those stories continue to be told. Included in the stories are memories of the woman who'd created the braided rugs while sitting in her rocking chair-using her hands as instruments-weaving stories that will never be forgotten.

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