Strausstown women hear about antique craft

Submitted photo Pictured left to right: Janice Sonon, penny rug presenter; Joyce Balthaser and Vera Breidigan, club members.

Members of the Woman’s Club of Strausstown held their March meeting at the Strausstown Community Campus and heard a presentation by Janice Sonon, a juried member of the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen and one of the top 200 United States crafters in her specialty—penny rug making. The women soon learned that the “rugs” made by Ms. Sonon, are not floor coverings, and they aren’t made of coins either! The craft is an old one that began as a way to use up scraps of wool from other projects and allowed women in rural areas to create decorative items for their homes, frugally.

Using anecdotes from her life and stories of the olden days, Ms. Sonon told how she began her journey in penny rug-making through her interest in making hooked rugs, a skill she learned from her husband’s grandmother. She displayed two small carpets made in the traditional hooked style and explained that rugs of that type were made on a backing of linen, monk’s cloth, or even burlap. This, again, was a past-time ideally suited to women with limited means, many on farms, who fashioned the rugs from materials at hand. When she herself had leftover pieces of wool, Ms. Sonon gave away the excess and then began learning the penny rug technique after seeing examples of the craft and recognizing it as an interesting way to utilize her scraps. The fabric is cut into circles (although not as small as a penny) and stitched together with other circles to make designs with which women decorated their Sunday parlors, perhaps as centerpieces for tables or embellishments for chair backs. The wool was colored with natural dyes, and these “rugs” are an expressive example of folk art. Ms. Sonon teaches the technique at Landis Valley, a living history museum located in Lancaster, as part of their summer institutes. She also instructs small groups and individuals closer to home.

In addition to the penny rug presentation, the members of the club heard about the work of the nominating committee, which was charged with securing officer nominees for the 2014-2016 club term. This has become an increasingly difficult task and, as many members do not wish to serve as officers, the burden of keeping the club going falls on a few. Some tough decisions about the future face the group as they approach their 60th anniversary next year. Nominations so far include Margaret Behm for president, Pearl Wurst for first vice president, Cathy Diggan for second vice president, Elaine Hamm for treasurer, Bonnie Drescher for recording secretary, and Robin Faust for corresponding secretary. Election of officers will take place at the April 8 meeting, which will feature guest speaker Jack Holcolmb, WEEU radio host, with “My Backyard Birds.”