By Kaye Ketterer
Round and round she walks while saying, “come on Mua Mua, follow me. Stay on the track.” This is often a scene when my granddaughter Elena is at my house. She uses the braided rug in my piano room as a track and walks around and around the circle until she tires.
Elena doesn’t know that the rug she walks on was made by my mother some fifty years ago. It almost didn’t survive living in a damp basement for close to twenty years and then a few years more stuffed in a box kept in storage.
I never thought much about the rug until I was cleaning out my parents’ house after my dad went into a nursing home and my mother was moving into an independent living apartment. My brother was in the process of buying our family farm from my parents and he wanted to rent the farmhouse, so it was important that everything be cleared out. I remember working in the basement and finding a shoe box full of negatives, probably from every picture my parents ever took with their camera. I also found toys and games from my childhood, lots of house plants, books, and furniture. In one room there was this big box and when I opened it there was the wool braided rug my mother had made many years ago. It wasn’t in good shape. My thoughts went from “throw it away”, to “oh take it and see if any of it can be salvaged”. I went with the latter.
I’m not sure why my mother made a wool braided rug. She was very talented and had saved many wool coats to cut up and use for this rug. It would have been so much easier to buy new material, but not my mother. She cut the old coats and jackets and even my cousin’s air force uniform into 2-inch strips and rolled them into a round tube-like snake and then sewed the seam of the snake. I remember her cutting up old nylons into strips to fill this snake, so it was a very even tube. Then when she had three “snakes” all sewn, she braided them together. When the three-strand braid became really long, my mother began using a heavy rug thread to connect the three strands of braid, carefully fashioning a round rug. I remember when the rug became too big to work on while sitting in a chair. She moved it to the floor of our dining room and would sit on the floor sewing and braiding it.
Besides the Air Force uniform from my cousin making up the rug, I remember the green and black plaid wool jacket my Dad wore, and many brown wool coats and a light brown wool suit my mother had from her younger days. All these pieces of clothing were saved and went into the rug. The rug seemed to get big very quickly, although for my mother it probably seemed like years! It was finally very round and probably 8X10 feet and was given a home on the wood floor of our dining room in our old farm house. Our dining room was big, so it wasn’t under the table, but off to the side where my mother had a few chairs, and it was a nice sitting nook.
This rug had and still has depth and quality. It isn’t flat like a store-bought rug. It holds up to its age and workmanship. I never thought I would have it in my home, but it brings warmth and love to me and my family. My parents built a new house in 1984 and had mostly carpet in the house, so it was sensible to pack it away, although the basement probably wasn’t the best place for it to be kept. When I finally inspected it and saw the work that went into it, I knew I had to keep it and use it. The rug got aired outside a lot, I re-connected many of the braided strips, and sometimes even now I have to sew them together again!
Just recently I noticed one of the wool strips was really worn and coming apart. I got down on the floor and mended it but also saw many places where the wool strips are becoming threadbare. It made me a little sad, but also grateful for having the rug for almost twenty-five years. I never expected this rug to last forever, and I know my mother is incredibly happy knowing I have enjoyed it and it is seen and commented on by people who visit my home. Mother, you did good work!
© 2021 Kaye Ketterer
Kaye lives in Monona, Wisconsin, and keeps her country roots close to her heart. Along with writing, her interests include music, traveling, children, and the elderly.
What a tender and wonderful piece! My mother began to hook rugs in the 1950s, and it took me over 40 years to take up the hobby. It was a joy to be able to share it with her, and together we created many memories. Thank you.