Wise Life Lessons from Grandma's Wool

This year is bringing some brand-new things to our family farm and we are excited about them and even more excited to share them with you!


As we go forward with projects and plans, I’ve found myself going back to yesteryear, hearing stories from and about previous generations, and gaining new skills that grandma and great-grandma knew almost instinctively.


The current project? Every Monday afternoon my daughter and I are over at my mom’s … we are braiding a wool rug, made from wool strips cut by my grandma decades ago.


The plan began as a simple idea to make our up-and-coming farm store cozy, welcoming, and warm. I remembered braided wool rugs from my childhood, racing toy cars around the braided “roads”, and hoped some rugs were still around. They were not.


But something even better began to come together. Mom remembered some totes that were packed full of wool strips, prepared by my own grandma decades earlier. The totes were found, and memories were slowly unpacked just as Grandma’s wool strips were unpacked.


Back in the day, my grandma and great-grandma had a strong vein of pioneer spirit running through them. Nothing was wasted, all was repaired, reused, and re-purposed. Wool was used often and used well.

It would begin with a coat, material scraps from a sewn skirt or shirt, and then repaired and kept in use. I even found some of Grandma’s wool strips that had obviously been mended when in use as it’s original purpose, now torn into wool strips for rug making. They lived by the motto: “Use it up, Wear it out, Make it do, or Do without.”


Mom showed me how to get started and explained that she and her sister would braid while grandma used the sewing machine to stitch more wool strips together.


I begin braiding and learn how to carefully and evenly turn each strip to minimize wrinkles … add more braided turns as we round the middle strip of the rug. Hold tight, use clothespins and strong thumbs.

Mom recognized several of the fabrics … one was remnants from a wool skirt that she had sewn, another was from a shirt from her father, and so on. Stories are being woven into each strip of fabric as it is braided around and around.


I’m realizing that this isn’t just about braiding a wool rug … it is stories being told, laughter shared, and asking more questions about the strong women who have gone before us.


My great-grandma, known as Gamie to all of us, had her own cow! I guess it must be in my blood. I never knew that Gamie had a cow behind her little log cabin (built by hand by she and my great-grandfather). Immediately, I start asking more questions … “What color was the cow, Mom?” “How big was it?” I so wanted to learn what breed of cow lived behind Gamie’s cabin. Mom thought a bit, “Well, it was a brown cow and, of course, everything looked big to me as a girl. I have no idea what size the cow was?” I guess we ruled out a Holstein … still means it could be a Jersey, just like my BlueBelle!

As we continue to braid, we incorporate new wool strips and new colors begin to emerge with each round sewn together. Just like life … we can start in one direction; events and people shape us and create different shades of life than what we first thought. It is beautiful.


Our braid in this rug is made of three wool strips: two solid colors with one patterned or plaid. Then one base color is usually woven through the whole rug, adding some continuity and stability. Just like life … my faith is my continuity while the plaid and the other solid color are different people or events that come in and out of my life.


We’ve set aside some beautiful purple plaid wool strips to braid. Grandma’s favorite color was purple so we will have some purple creatively braided in as a tribute to her. She will be a part of our little farm store and I can hear her saying, “Sugar, it’s just lovely and you’ve done good.” She was one who encouraged no matter what you were doing. She, also, was the type of grandma who asked what you wanted for dinner … while you were still eating lunch!

Another lesson learned from Grandma happened while we were cleaning up after a meal. One dish had some stubborn baked on food crumbs around the edge. I suggested that we just leave it to soak. Her words were, “Oh, Sugar, it just needs a bit more elbow grease. We can do it.” I’ve always remembered that when something is being particularly difficult … just needs a bit more elbow grease. Persevere and don’t give up.

So, this next year will be full of persevering and not giving up. We have some exciting purposeful plans for our little farm. First up is to finish this beautiful rug and then share it with you, our farm store customers.


And you might just find a small basket filled with toy cars for a new generation of children to race around the braided racetracks.




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