The Blue Willow china pattern tells the story of a love story between two tragic lovers. It includes the grand pagoda where a beautiful daughter lives, the bridge where the young lovers are pursued by an angry old suitor to whom she was promised, and the boat that takes them away to an island where they live happily… until they both perish in a fire. The gods were sorrowful at the loss of their lives because they had been so much in love. The gods transformed them into the pair of doves at the top of each plate.
The Rug Challenge for 2018 was to create a rug that depicts a portion of their story. Here are some of the wonderful rugs that were created. A few photos are held back until after the rugs are shown at the Sauder Village Rug Hooking Week, where there will be an exhibit of Contemporary Braided Art Rugs.
Jenn Kiarsis of Plaistow, NH made this adorable blue and white teapot.
On one side, she had teabags of “Earl Grey Tea, hot” (an allusion to Jean Luc Picard, one of my favorite TV characters).
The teapot was constructed of braids and lacing thread only — no wire support or other structural elements. The spout is adapted from the corn cob pattern that PeggyAnn Watts taught in a class last year. The teapot’s top is removable, and is embellished with a top bead. What a cute design!
Theo Bullock of southwestern New York made this teacup and saucer — completely independently of the teapot. Aren’t they sweet?
Kelly Filo of Fairport, NY made this octagonal rug out of navy and white for the challenge. I really like the center star, created by a careful arrangement of colors in the butted braids. A beautiful pattern.
Eileen Colligan of Lancaster, PA shifted the challenge slightly to another china pattern: blue delft windmill china. Eileen is both a rug hooker and a rug braider, and she designed and hooked the windmill center based on the china. The hooking is surrounded by a butted, “stacked picot” braided border.
Mary Hibbard of Whitney Point, NY made this rug, braided of blue and white cotton fabric. She was inspired to try braiding with quilting cottons after seeing a braided doily made by Pam Rowan out of a “jelly roll” of cotton fabrics. She found some cotton fabric with a blue willow-like design and… it used a lot of fabric. The edging is a navy velveteen that she has been collecting since taking a class from Dianne Tobias on braiding with velvets. An inspired piece!
Cheryl Hanline of Heathsville, VA made the plate and saucer, above.
They are modeled after her own favorite china pattern — also blue and white, but not the Blue Willow pattern. She matched the style and colors pretty closely in the butted braids, don’t you think? Very pretty.
Colleen Blaisdell made this lovely… casserole carrier? hot plate basket?… I forget exactly what she termed it, but it’s pretty! out of blue and white cottons. There are perfect little handles in the final row, and it’s finished with a button and a spray of strands. She put a blue willow china plate inside that fits perfectly.
PeggyAnn Watts of Belfast, New York made this exquisite hooked and braided piece. She hooked the lovers — transformed by the gods into a pair of doves — with additional elements of the blue willow design in the border. She then surrounded it with a knotted border (note the careful and symmetric spacing of the knots). A beautiful piece.
Lucinda Harrison-Cox always comes up with something unique. Using a blue china cat as her inspiration, she braided and embellished a sleeping cat for her entry. With braided fleece, she changed colors to make the blue tail, blue ears, and tinted back and paws. I can’t quite see how she shaped the feet, but they are perfectly braided and laced. I think the ears are knotted. The embroidered embellishments make the sweet face.
Heide Boldt Diefenderfer of Phoenixville, PA made this sculptural blue willow tree and also the small basket with handles, below. First, the tree: a trunk of braids, with pretty white coils at the top, and with wire-wrapped blue branches to shape the droopy willow look. Heide made each of the thread-wrapped buttons from a German technique called “Zwirnköpfe” that is similar to Dorset buttons, but a little different. (Heide agreed to think about teaching how to make these at the braid in next year — I hope it works out; I’m putting myself first on the class list).
Heide also made this footed small basket with handles. It has a butted bottom with a little star design visible on the inside, then continuous basket sides and handles are attached. The strands are buried into the sides of the basket with fringed ends, and then a 9-loop center decoration is added. A complex and pretty piece.
Here is Delsie Hoyt‘s Willow Tree. Isn’t this lovely? She used her two-ovals technique to create the center, then joined the ovals to create the draping tree branches. I like how she changes from solid blues to one-white to two-white strands to create the willow branches. Her background mountains or pine trees are created with different shades of blue, as is the shade beneath the tree.
Christine Manges‘ Ocean Waves Spiral chair pad. OK, this wasn’t what I originally planned to enter for the Blue Willow Challenge, but… I ran out of time on my piece. And some Blue Willow plates have gold edging, right? It’s what I could finish.
There are a few more pieces to add, either because I need a little more information or because they’re being held back for after display at the Sauder Village rug exhibit, so check back later!