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Braided rugs were the most frequently seen rugs in farmhouses of New England and the Middle Atlantic States. Braided rugs could easily be fashioned easily an with little expense using common materials available to the woman of the house- discarded clothing, a blunt-pointed needle, and several spools of carpet thread. Braided rugs compliments antique furnishings of the household, and with careful choice of fabric, pattern, and color, they are easily cleaned and durable and will withstand the constant footwear better than any other type of rug
Muted Colors and Dark Colors Belong Together
The 19th-century woman had to improvise to obtain the colors used in braided rugs. She used shrubs, berries, wildflowers and tree bark to obtain soft shades for the stitching. Tree bark, wildflowers, shrubs, and berries supplied her with soft shades that complemented each other. Juniper berries and black walnut would achieve a dark olive color. Goldenrod and marigold flowers produced a dark yellow-brown. Flowering plum leaves resulted in a fern green, onion skins in a burnt orange, and ground cedar in a lime yellow. Blacks and browns were extracted from the roots and nuts of walnut trees. The soft rose of the cranberry and the dull purple of the elderberry contrasted nicely with the grays that were made from seaweed, blackberry twigs, and leaves.
Light colors aged gracefully and didn't show the dirt as well when used with darker shades. However, unless you're aiming for special effects, always use them in combination with at least one dark color. When used alone, they will produce a rug that is dull. Similarly, be careful not to use too much navy, black, or brown.
Make Wide Braids
The wider you cut your strips of material, the wider your braids will be. Wide braids tend to give a more old-fashioned look to a rug. Narrow braids tend to give the rug a "too perfect" or woven look.
Traditional Formulas being used for Effective Color Combinations
If you have a wide variety of colors, but not a great selection of specific colors, the finished rug can have a pleasant harmony about it in spite of the mixture if colors are used carefully. Use one strand of a warm color, one strand of a cool color, and a third strand of a nondescript color. That way there will be a balance between warm colors and cool colors with a neutral bond. Or use all the strong colors in the first strand, all the dull colors in the second strand, and all the light colors in the third strand. A different combination might be: one dark strand (blacks, browns, or dark maroons), one bright strand (yellows, greens, or blues), and one neutral strand (beiges, light grays, or tweeds). A good design could be as follows:
The center of seven rows is of the medium blue. Outside of this there are four rows of mixed blue and white, the blue predominating since the braid is made of two strands of blue and one of white. Following this, come four rows of the reverse: that is, of the braid made of two strands of white and one of blue. Next, are two rows all of white, then one row entirely blue, then two rows more all of white. After this come four rows of a braid composed of two strands of white and one of blue. The finish, or border, is five rows of braid made of two strands of blue and one of white.
Put Pattern in Your Rug
The pattern of a braided rug is achieved with the use of color. Sometimes it's done by the placement of contrasting colors within the braid itself; or rows of braiding can relate to each other to produce certain designs. Here are some patterns that rug braiders have been using for generations to give variety and interest to their rugs:
No great artistic skill is needed to produce these designs. And yet, the finished rug will have a folk-art quality about it that goes well with antiques.
Be Particular About the Fabrics You Use
If this is your first time to braid a rug, stay away from the acrylics because they produce a hard finish, which is not flattering to antiques. In addition, they wear unevenly and are difficult to work with. Stiff materials are also difficult to work with and produce a hard braid. If too many are used, the springiness and softness characteristic of the traditional braided rug will be lost.
Some of the heavier cottons such as drapery material and the backs of old slipcovers can also give good service if used for a small rug. But don't mix cotton and wool. The braid will be irregular and the finished rug will lack symmetry.
Choose the Proper Size for Your Rug
In a dining room, bring the rug out beyond the table and chairs so that more of the pattern will be in view. In a living room, the beauty of your braided rug will be shown to best advantage when heavy pieces of furniture are placed at the edges of the rug.
In any home, floor coverings are basic furnishings, but the lasting charm of a homemade rug, one that represents the time, interest, and individual artistry of some family member, is a special source of pride and satisfaction to the entire family. Your own ingenuity will create something that will not only give beauty and service for many years to come but that could become a family heirloom. And as you work, always keep in mind the New England woman of yesterday fashioning a bit of beauty for her home.
Source: Text by Bryan Wright
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