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Weaving the past into the present: Traditional rug braiding

Jo Anne Flom works on a rug using the twining technique. Other weaving techniques, such as the Amish Braid she learned from her grandmother in the 1940s. Now she teaches rug weaving for Community Education programs around the area. Connie Vandermay/FOCUS1 / 3
Jo Anne Flom holds up a crocheted quilt made out of leftover yarn, another example of how the smallest scraps can be saved from the garbage and given new life. Connie Vandermay/FOCUS2 / 3
This rug was made using the Amish Braid technique, which Flom learned from her grandmother in the 1940s. Connie Vandermay/FOCUS3 / 3

Jo Anne Flom of Perham has been weaving and braiding rugs since she was six years old.

Through the years she has come to realize one thing: "Rug making isn't about the rugs."

"There is a therapy in this (process)," Flom explained in an interview last week. From the long-standing technique she learned from her grandmother in the '40s to the weaver's ability to utilize any material, the benefits of weaving a rug go far beyond making a covering for the floor.

Flom learned a technique called 'Amish Braid' from her late grandmother, Aurelia Mounts, who died in 1946.

She was "a different kind of person," Flom explained of her grandmother; she had a demanding way.

Despite this, Flom said she learned a lot from her - including rug weaving, something she now considers a "dying art."

The Amish Braid technique is one Flom still uses today. It's complicated, so when she's not in the mood to concentrate, she works on a project she can twine or crochet - easier techniques that allow a weaver's mind to wander.

Flom insists that rugs can be made out of any material. Her most common rugs are made from old blue jeans. A recent project of hers utilized an estimated 40 pairs of jeans.

It makes sense to Flom to utilize what she already has: "We have to pay to throw anything away, so why do we pay to throw stuff away if we can use it?"

Old towels, sheets, T-shirts, socks and even plastic bags can be cut into strips and weaved, twined or braided into rugs.

Flom shares her rug making techniques with others through community education programs around the region, including in Detroit Lakes and Battle Lake. She also has rugs for sale at In With the Old in Perham.

Flom said the greatest benefit of rug making is its therapeutic process and the positive changes it can create in people's lives. She's experienced some of these changes herself, and has also seen remarkable changes in her students.

One new mom, for example, pulled out of post partum depression when she began concentrating on her rug project. Others, including Flom herself, have come to terms with losing loved ones by weaving the deceased's old clothes into something new. Others' confidence grows whenever they catch on to a new technique. Still others have found they can make extra income with their rugs.

"There is peace" in weaving, Flom said.