Carroll County Times

Fairhaven residents cultivate creativity making rugs

SYKESVILLE — Integrace Fairhaven resident Carolyn Freitag, formerly of Eldersburg, worked diligently on a rug with a floral design during the Sykesville continuing care residential retirement community’s workshop on Rya rug making Thursday.

Rya rug making is an ancient craft which dates back to the days of the Vikings.


“I was first in line to sign up,” Freitag said. “I’m a weaver, spinner and knitter and working with fiber always attracts me. It’s a little bit of work to make the knots, but it’s fun.”

According to grant coordinator Laura Gillen, the workshops are part of Fairhaven’s Cultivating Creativity program, which is supported by a $21,500 grant awarded to Fairhaven in 2016 by Aroha Philanthropies through its national Seeding Vitality Arts initiative.


Gillen said Seeding Vitality Arts programs inspire and enable older adults to learn, make and share the arts in ways that are novel, complex and socially engaging. All programs are led by professional teaching artists.

“Creativity brings joy, connection, improved health and well-being and a renewed sense of purpose to older adults,” Gillen explained. “It’s a very social environment and students share techniques in the classes. They learn how to take an abstract design and adapt it, gaining confidence in their ability to develop a visual idea from inspiration through implementation to completion.”

Artist Melinda Byrd, of Woodbine, said students weave into heavy woven backing which has gaps in the weave to make knotting easy. Some students graph their designs and others draw them on the backing.

Students also use math to calculate how much yarn they need for their designs. Each knot is connected to the following knot by a loop which is later cut to form the pile of the rug. The rugs, which can be floor worthy, are mostly hung on walls as art.

“It’s like painting with a needle,” Byrd said. “Your yarn is like the paint on a palette and you pick the colors according to how to want to form the design.”

Byrd said her grandparents imported the supplies to make Rya rugs in the United States and she “grew up making rugs.”

“The skill, materials and fine craftsmanship were prized in Nordic countries,” Byrd explained. “The art died because latch hook was invented and it was a less expensive craft.”

Byrd said she loves teaching the class to Fairhaven residents.


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“I’m happy to find a very enthusiastic audience here,” Byrd said. “They were willing to take on a new challenge.”

Resident Ellen Wiser, formerly of Mount Airy, crafted a rug composed of squares and circles in autumn colors.

“It’s both fun and a challenge,” Wiser said. “The fun was seeing how it evolved, and the challenge was that I had never done anything like this before and I had to learn how to knot. I’m glad I did it.”

If you go

What: Rya rug making demonstration

When: 5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 6

Where: Integrace Fairhaven’s Beasman Lounge, 7200 3rd Ave., Sykesville


Cost: Free and open to public