By Barbara Falconer Newhall
My cousin Mary Helen makes rugs. And scarves. And afghans. She weaves them by hand on one of three looms in what used to be her dining room.
I’m lucky. I have a lot of cool cousins. I wrote about my outdoorsy cousin Jeanie a few weeks ago. This week it’s my cousin Mary Helen’s turn.
Shopper Barb in Pentwater
I had the good fortune to be in Pentwater, Michigan, on the day after Memorial Day — before the 2013 summer tourist season could get very far under way. And there, hanging from a rack in the Gull Landing store on North Hancock Street was a generous, not-yet-picked-over selection of Mary Helen’s hand-woven rugs.
They were beautiful. Unique. On the big side, 30 by 66 inches. And full of surprises — unpredictable flecks of color and a silky, nubby texture. Clearly, an interesting mind was in on the creation of these weavings.
But could I afford to actually buy one? Discretely, I turned over one of the tags — wow, only $85. Yes. I could afford one.
I called Jon over to look. He liked them too. Within minutes we had Mary Helen’s entire rug collection spread across the gift shop floor.
A Rug Hand-Woven From Socks
Some of the rugs were made of recycled fabric that Mary Helen gets from the Goodwill and yard sales. Others were made with cut up socks that she buys (new) by the pound. I liked a blue one; it had an inviting texture — sassy little hairs springing up from the woof threads. (That would be something called eyelash yarn, Mary Helen told me later. “I work the fuzzy stuff up with my fingers.”)
But then a red rug made with socks and just a sprinkling of the goofy hairs caught our eye. We bought it. We stuffed it into a suitcase and we took it home.
As I write summer’s about over, and I’m wondering, are there any rugs left on that rack at Gull Landing?
In addition to rugs, Mary Helen Blohm makes shawls, scarves and afghans of wool and mohair. She’ll weave them to order. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Artistry seems to run in the family; Mary Helen’s daughter is a milliner.
For more about Pentwater, check out “Pentwater, Michigan — A Small Town on a Big Lake,” or the story “Respect for Our Undeserving Elders.”