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A Few Of My Favorite (Whiffy) Things

Dear Ann,
What the heck were you thinking, woman? Have you taken leave of your senses entirely? Specifically, your sense of Smell?
Thursday evening, I was dumbstruck to receive a large box from Nashville. When I lifted it, it made soft, thunking sounds.
May I share with our readers the contents of that box???
balls1.JPG
Ladies and dudes, get close to your computer screen. Inhale. Are you getting a snootful of the authenticity of these balls of red, white and blue fabric strips??
balls2.JPG
Let’s be clear. These things do not smell Bad. But to be honest, they do not smell like they have had a lot of fresh air, recently. They do not smell like Bounce, neither do they waft forth of Febreze or Lysol Scrubbing Bubbles. They smell like the Real Deal.
I cannot stand that I must leave these precious things behind for almost 2 weeks. I would love to get out the Number 15s right this minute and start figuring out how to make the rag rug of my dreams!
Technical note: These are strips of real ticking, denim and other tough cotton fabrics. I am fairly sure they are from Gee’s Bend, Alabama. They are not tied together, as I had guessed. Where the ends overlap, they are machine-sewn with a neat square shape.
I cannot believe that such a wonderful chunk of the Tailgate Antiques Show fell into my lap. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
You are quite insane.
Love, Kay

16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Dear Kay,
    Sorry. I totally and completely couldn’t resist getting them. I was back at the Tailgate Antiques Show, going to get a darning sampler that kept whispering to me, “Don’t leave me with that woman.” I had no intention of LOOKING for those balls, couldn’t even remember where they were, honestly was thinking they would live on in glory forever on Mason-Dixon Knitting and for once, that was Enough. But as I strolled past Room 231, there they were outside the door. I went in, delighted to find them and thinking I would send you one or two for a laugh, but then she had more of them, and when I saw she had DENIM ones, well, call the UPS guy. You can’t blame me, can you? The way I see it, they don’t add to your stash burden because a) they’re not yarn and b) you can leave them in that Vietnamese rice basket forever and they’ll be perfectly happy. But if you do want to get all ruggy with it, you can make a cute little rug to put under your computer desk. Or on the floor of your car. Or in any well-ventilated room of your choice.
    The other thing: they really did come from a little old lady in Missouri who made tons of these. She up and died before she got to her last project, so the beautiful end of the tale is that there’s more where these came from. All sorts of colors, little tiny floral patterns and solids all lovingly combined in complementary batches. I have her card, of course.
    Now, before I send you the twenty-pound spindle of yarn, get out of town. Tonight, as you float along at 30,000 feet, as you are offered your second glass of wine, which you will accept, just think of us mortals slogging through Halloween, and have a fanastic trip. We’ll keep a light on for you.
    xoxo Ann

  2. Kay, thank goodness you are back to the blog. I thought you had resigned. No one answered my comments and then the blog went blank for nearly 3 days. I began to get blog withdrawals. Started to pick up lint off my rug or feel the pillows on the sofa, anything to get close to fibers. Now both of you are back at it and I am recovering. I still do not understand anything either one of you is talking about but it is comforting just to see the words. Dad of Ann

  3. Is Gees Bend the place where those lovely quilts came from, the one there was a book about? I’ve never seen stuff like that before – is it old material cut up, or is new made-for-the-purpose stuff? I was thinking of patchwork – originally it was made from old garments, now you buy pre-cut packages. We made rag-rugs during WW2 (get the violins out) but that was cut strips of old fabric and hooked into sacking. Never saw any knitted.

  4. What we need now is Mason-Dixon Smell-o-Vision internet. Scientists, I’m looking at you.
    Jill, Gee’s Bend is indeed where those lovely quilts come from, and I believe it’s all old garments of various types cut up. Gee’s Bend is in Alabama’s Black Belt, which is a very very poor region of the country, so I think wear out and reuse is the quilters’ motto there. Check it out:
    http://arttech.about.com/library/weekly/aa110602_gees_bend_quilt_exhibit.htm

  5. Whoops, this is whatI meant to link:
    http://arttech.about.com/library/weekly/aa110602_gees_bend_quilters.htm
    More about the quilters, not the exhibit. :)

  6. Dad–You know, that Kay is something of a jokester. She would never abandon Mason-Dixon Knitting because at this point she’s making too much money from it and can’t afford to quit.
    Jill–From the looks of them, these balls are made of fabric that has spots, irregular moments, and looks plain old. I don’t think they were made from new fabric, and Kay’s not kidding when she says they have a musty smell to them. The dealer who sold them to me said some people make little decorative rag balls like these only one layer thick, but these are solid all the way through. I need to do some rag rug research to find out more about what goes on with these balls. The dealer seemed to think these were used for braided rag rugs. But a hooked rag rug would be deluxe. Will you give us a tutorial?
    Rene–As our chief Alabama fiber arts correspondent (Birmingham bureau), we are counting on you to go to Gee’s Bend for some field research. We offer a generous stipend of three skeins of Kidsilk Haze and one non-smelly old Rowan if you make the journey. Actually, two non-smelly old Rowans and a vintage (OK just old) Lopi book if you bring back digipix. Think about it . . .
    xx00x Ann

  7. Did I send you that Lopi book that was your mom’s without remembering that I had done it?

  8. Plus which, I REALLY want to know about hooking rag rugs on sacking. Video tutorial! Violins on the soundtrack!

  9. I was but a small child at the time…..I can remember cutting up the strips, old dresses, shirts, curtains etc. My mother/grandmother/aunt would rip them into strips about an inch/inch and a half wide, my job was to measure them and cut them 10 inches long. We had coarse brown sacking, my Mother would draw lines on it about two inches apart, and we had something called a latch hook – like a crochet hook but with an extra bit on it that sort of closed the hook? Used for making rugs even today, but with pre-cut wool onto canvas. You pushed the hook through the canvas, front to back, back to front, folded the strip in half and pulled it through, then the hook knotted it, so that two short lengths stood up. We did the whole piece of sacking like this – if we had a lot of the same colour we would try and do a sort of design, like in stripes or a circle in the centre. We used these in the underground shelter in the garden on the floor and up against the make-shift door to keep out the draughts. They were not washable and used to get very grubby – all you could do was shake them, brush them, hang them in the open to air a bit! I had another aunt who made braised rugs – they were thought to be vastly superior – she had a piece of metal/gadget thing that the strips of fabric passed through and she made circles and ovals, etc.
    Bet you’re sorry you asked now!
    Thanks for the link, Rene.

  10. Mary Neal–Oh, golly, do you think I would ever part with a Lopi book that had been touched by My Mother? I’d put it in the reliquary along with the Two Sweaters That She Knitted, the pastel portrait of me she did in 1968, and the watercolor of the Japanese garden. It would definitely belong in the Mom Shrine. If you need to send Mother’s Lopi Book along so that you won’t worry about it, I have the perfect place.
    The Lopi book to which I referred is another Lopi book, one of three actually, that Kay and I sort of came into. If there are serious Lopi fans out there, let me know and I’ll see what we can do about finding homes for these wayward Lopis.
    xx0 Ann

  11. Jill–What an amazing story. Wartime rugmaking, wow. I hate to be greedy, but braised rugs sound delicious, and I would love to know what that’s about. Do you simmer them for hours in a big pot? Do you throw a bit of thyme in with them? Very mysterious.
    x0x0 Ann

  12. Ann, sorry for the typo! Food was rationed but we weren’t reduced to braising rugs……

  13. Jill–I was actually imagining some sort of dyeing process where you hook a rug, throw it in a pot, and it comes out kind of mottled. Surely this is worth a try?
    x0x0 Ann

  14. These rugs were quite big, Anne, I remember it stretched across all three of our laps, so probably about six feet long – don’t think we hd a pot big enough…….Thinking about it I suppose we could have dyed the farbic strips before using them, but this was just for something that was going to be used outside in the shelter (earth floor) so it didn’t have to be too special – and there was only oil lamps/candles to see it!

  15. Ann, As a non-knitter who only reads this blog to get little snatches to keep me updated on what my best friend Kay is up to, I am totally baffled by these fabric balls. Do you knit with them or what???

  16. Laurie Ann–You are a best friend indeed to put up with the goings on around this joint.
    The fabric balls harken back to a day when the thrifty housewife (and I’m talking way back, to the Dark Ages or at least 1974) would cut old clothes into strips and make rugs from them. Typically the strips were braided into long braids, then stitched into flat spirals. Or the strips were hooked (see Jill’s comment above) into nubby-looped rugs. Kay has a jones for knitting them into throw rugs. Who knows what she’ll do with them? Send them to you, probably.
    Lots of rag ruggers are still out there, hooking and braiding and gettin’ all authentic. Here’s a rug blowout, Rugmaker’s Homestead, where you can see some of these folky creations: http://www.netw.com/~rafter4/.
    xoxo Ann
    PS Since Kay’s out of town, feel free to share any and all Kay stories of a personal and possibly mortifying nature!