Friday, December 21, 2007

Contest results!

OK, I've been really busy. We organize two New Year's eve events locally - First Night Leesburg and First Night Warrenton. They are wonderful events, but it's a little like running our entire 75 concert summer season in a single night. It's a lot of work. And most of this work needs to be done in the month of December, with deadlines flying at us this week before Christmas.

So it's an awkward juggle, preparing for First Night and for our family holidays at the same time.

Anyway. I did do a drawing, using a highly scientific randomizing selection process.

I wrote everyone's name on little slips of paper, folded them and tossed them around until one stood up like a little teepee. And then until a second one stood up. So here are the winning names:

The winners have a choice of spinning fiber, yarn or a lamb puppet from my vast stash and business inventory! So, Sheila and Annemarie, send me an email at and let me know your preference.

I cleaned out my Mom's yarn stash last month - I'm starting a major organizing project at her apartment, because we'd like to get someone in the deep clean but there really needs to be less Stuff first. A Lot Less Stuff. She said she hadn't been crocheting in so long that she might as well unload her stash, so I gathered it all up and bagged it and brought it home.

I gleaned a few choice items that wanted to stay at my house - a little Koigu, a few balls of Manos... and Miss Lily pulled a few skeins for her holiday projects, and the rest I boxed up with some yarn from my stash. I mailed two big boxes to Interim House today for the knitting group there.

We came up with a swift and a ball winder, I threw in some tote bags...they seem to breed along with the yarn at my house, so there are usually too many.
Interim House is a women's substance abuse program in Philadelphia and they have a knitting group. You can see what they've been knitting on Kathryn Duffy's blog here. We all know how therapeutic knitting can be, but these ladies are Living It.

Happy Holidays to everyone! We will have all the girls home by Saturday night and then start the Gathering of the Grandmothers (and 1 Grandfather) on Sunday. It's a bit of a dog & pony show collecting everyone and then delivering them back to their homes, but it's so great to have us all together.

All the best in your holiday travels and gatherings.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tweeds & District Checks class

I taught a new class at The Mannings in September on Tweeds and District Checks. These are traditional weaving patterns from Scotland, beginning with the most simple check known as the Shepherd Check. By changing colors and adding basic design elements, the shepherd check evolved into the variety of patterns that we see in tweeds today. The district checks are also known as estate checks and are patterns designed for the great sporting estates and used to clothe the employees there.

One of the challenges in preparing this class was finding and choosing a yarn that would come close to the original tweed yarns in grist, quality and color, as there are so few mills left in Scotland spinning the old types of yarn.

At The Mannings, we used Harrisville Shetland yarn and wove a set of samples in round robin, cut them up and took them home to do the wet finishing. The finished samples are a stout, sturdy fabric. You can see from the Aberchalder samples what a difference there is after wet finishing. The traditional tweed would have been finished by waulking, but I finished my small samples in the washing machine.

I will be teaching this class again for the Blue Ridge Spinners & Weavers Guild here in Virginia in February, and I am posting photos of the samples for the weavers to choose the patterns they will have on their looms. This class will be a round robin sampling for 2 days and then the weavers will take their looms home and weave a scarf in their pattern. We will be using Jaggerspun 2/8 yarn; it will be interesting to see how the finished pieces differ. I'm expecting a lighter and softer fabric, which will be appropriate for scarves.

Blue Ridge Weavers - keep in mind that your warps will be wider, including at least 2 repeats of the patterns, and that your colors will be slightly different.

So, without further ado, the samples:

Shepherd Check

Aberchalder - right off the loom, and after wet finishing





Bateson - this one has an error in the middle, sorry!







Monday, December 17, 2007

Stocking Done!

Andrew's Xmas stocking is done and delivered!

I have started sewing up the Lizard Ridge - somehow the number and length of the seams has increased since I laid the squares out on the bed. How did that happen?

Fare thee well, John Neil

I had sad news on Saturday - John Neil Davidson passed away last week. He was 24, a brilliant, funny, delightful human being who has been struggling with cancer for 6 years. He had almost reached his 5 year anniversary last December when it his cancer back with a vengence - we had the news in the same week that we heard our Lily Rose's first scan was clean. It was a bittersweet juxtaposition of joy and grief, renewal and fear.

My girls and I know John Neil through the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina. My teacher and mentor, Norman Kennedy brought me there to take a traditional rug weaving class in 1996 and in that class I met Ruth Truett, Nanette Davidson, Lucy Best and Beth Johnson - some of my favorite weavers. Ruth was then the program director at Campbell and she encouraged me to start teaching there that year. Nanette's husband Jan is the director of the Folk School, and they had 2 children then - John Neil and Chloe, and a few years later their Sam.

I returned in June that year with my three daughters for the Little Middle Folk School week. The girls participated in the children's classes and I taught an adult Treasure Pouch class in which we made tiny vessels and bags with wool felt, waxed linen and beads. We all came back for Little Middle week year after year, until each of the girls was too old to participate and became busy with work at home. We brought other girls with us some years - one year I had 6 girls with me, but after that I always brought a second adult!

John Neil was the same age as our Lily Rose and they teased and antagonized one another as 12 year old boys and girls will, but over the years he was a good friend to every one of our girls. He developed spinal cancer during his last year in high school, and was left with chronic pain issues that kept him out of college. He maintained his wry sense of humor throughout all his trials.

I feel honored to have known him. I remain delighted in his sense of humor and his spirit. I mourn for the loss that his family and friends are feeling. But the greater part of John Neil with be with us for as long as we remember him.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Stocking Update & eBay

First, some FOs in the Holiday Knitting category!

Nate's Socks - for my Vermont BIL. I'll have you know that that little eensy bit if yarn there is all the remaining yarn! I was trying to use up some leftovers...pretty good, huh?

Tiger Mitts for our Hannah who is 21 on Beethoven's birthday. The yarn is Opal Rainforest Tiger - the colors pool in such an interesting way.

The Lizard Ridge is still waiting to be sewn up - I need to hop on it, because it has a lot of seaming! I've been waiting to get Miss H's queen size bed cleared off so I could lay the whole afghan out and sew it up in sections. I've been reorganizing some of my stash in that room, so there was yarn everywhere. I promise to document the scene and report back.

Well, my first eBay auctions ended this week and all the little packages are in the mail- it was exciting and I learned a lot. For instance, don't use your wholesale price as the starting bid amount. Duh. But I didn't lose money, and even though I was wrong about the size of the flat rate envelopes, the shipping all came out fine except for one package, which only cost $1.30 more - so that was pretty good, too.

Next time I will use the Buy it Now feature and have a better pricing plan... and I will look into setting up an eBay store. I have a lot of inventory between shows, and this is a good way to get it out there for people to buy. I have changed my eBay name to peaceweavers - since my business name is Peace Weavers, that seemed like a good idea.

So - I finally got time to sit down and finish the intarsia portion of the Xmas stocking and I have turned the heel - almost done. This photo is from a few days ago, but hopefully the next post will include the FO in all it's glory!

I have 13 comments to my Blogiversary post, and the contest ends tomorrow. I'll check the blog again on Sunday and then draw two names and announce the winners on Monday.

Have a great weekend - we are hoping the storm will miss us here in the Shenandoah Valley.

Friday, December 7, 2007


I've actually been in Ravelry for several months now, but I keep forgetting to announce my name there - tradweaver. I keep putting things up, little by little. It's a great wander around time-waster, but it's also a fabulous resource.

I think I should just try not to peek in while I'm at work!

How to design a Christmas stocking

I work in a very small office. We are currently located in a nice 1922 house, and the staff tops out at 5 or 6. Our numbers swell seasonally - we run two First Night events on New Year's Eve and a rather intense summer concert season from June through August - but at the moment we are on skeleton crew.

One of our staff members had a baby last May, and I covered her duties while she was on maternity leave. I bought some yarn in May to knit said baby a sweater...and a hat.

I just finished the sweater & hat set last week, and I'm planning to give them to my friend at the holiday office party. It's a secret - she doesn't know yet, although everyone else at the office does.

So, we were chatting before the staff meeting a few weeks ago, and my friend asked if I knew anyone who could knit a Christmas stocking for her young son. I rose to the bait, no problem. She presented me with son #1's stocking, and I counted stitches and wrote out a pattern. This stocking is knit from Red Heart, but I won't knit with that yarn - I don't like the way it feels. I have some Wool Ease in my stash that I bought last winter for the Mother Bear Project, and that will do nicely.

She wanted the new stocking to have a reindeer on it. So I googled around and found things like these:
Lots of possibilities... I was particularly taken with the Mark Darcy Reindeer sweater from the first Bridget Jones movie. Of course, what's not to like if Colin Firth is wearing it?

My friend came back in the next day with some more images from catalogs, and she chose the reindeer in this design:

I have fairly limited drawing skills, but my workmate Jill is a bona fide Artist, so I got her to draw the little feller on some knitter's graph paper

And then I pixilated him. Is that a word?

I did this by placing the line drawing on a computer screen/light table and positioning a clean sheet of knitter's graph paper over it, then I used a pencil to draw a square by square outline of the reindeer design.I had to do this twice, because the first time the design stuck out beyond the stocking shape. So I repositioned a clean sheet and drew it out again at a better angle.

This was on 8 sts to the inch, so then I plotted the design area - the shape of the stocking - on some 5 sts to the inch paper, and plotted the deer design as it would appear on the stocking. My working chart is on the left in the picture below:

And then I started knitting!

I will duplicate stitch the name, so that is just a big open area now. I got into the design area and worked down through the antlers and into the face when I realized that I was knitting the reindeer on the wrong side of the stocking - on the left instead of the I frogged that section and started back in. You can see the antlers again!

I hope to get some time to finish the intarsia section this weekend, and then the rest will be fairly easy. I am knitting the top or leg portion of the stocking back and forth to facilitate intarsia knitting and then I will join the stitches into a circle at the ankle and work the rest of the stocking on dpns or a short circ.

Thanks for all the comments & contest entries. Keep 'em coming!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Happy Blog Year to Me!

OK, let's have a little huzzah!

Exactly one year ago I posted my first blog post.

In considering this past year, I have to admit that the yarn diet goal was only effective for the first few months. I fell off the wagon in a serious way from Maryland Sheep & Wool right through to last week, when I ordered some Ruby Red Cascade to knit my youngest a Rogue hoody.

I did, however, start focusing a lot of energy on a different diet along about March - I went back on my anti-inflammatory diet which involves removing all gluten (wheat, rye, oats, barley) and casein (most dairy products) from my diet. Also, no chocolate, sugar, coffee, fried food... I kicked out dried fruit after a few weeks. No alcohol.

And I have been really, really good about this diet. We had a Birthdays Party the day after Thanksgiving and my big splurges were one glass of champagne and some goat & sheep milk cheese. It was pretty exciting, let me tell you!

I have eaten this way, off and on, since about 1980. But when I go off, it's really hard to go back on. I feel so much better when I eat the right foods, and I ache much, much less - it can be pretty motivating. But it's never easy.

So I'm very pleased with my food diet progress and also very pleased to report that I have lost about 25 pounds since March! I changed arthritis medications about 3 or 4 years ago and put on 35-40 pounds within a few months - do you think it was related? So I'm finally losing that weight and it's so nice to be able to get back into some favorite clothes and feel lighter.

My overalls fit again! Yeah!

I'm still working from the slow but steady wins the race perspective, and I'm still plugging away.

On the fiber front, I have all my Lizard Ridge squares knitted and I'm starting to sew them together. I have Spiral Mitts going in Opal Tiger yarn for Miss H's 21st bday mid-December, a pair of socks for my BIL nearly done and a baby sweater & hat complete for an office baby. That same office baby needs an Xmas stocking - her Mom asked me if she could hire me to knit one. I refuse to knit with Red Heart, so it's going forward with some Wool Ease I bought last winter for Mama Bear Project bears - top down and I finished the antlers on the reindeer last night.

That is all the holiday knitting I have planned, and it feels right now like it is well under way. We will see if I come up with a mad hare to knit the impossible last minute knit.

And, I posted my very first eBay auctions yesterday! This is my toe in the water entry into internet selling. Do a search in eBay for Fleece Artist and you will find my stuff - I am dunweaver on eBay. I'll probably open an eBay store soon and put in the Peace Fleece and Fleece Artist that I have in stock, so I can sell between shows. I'm planning to sell at Maryland Sheep & Wool and at Rhinebeck this coming year.

So - in honor of my blogiversary and my new sales venture, I am holding a small contest. To enter, just leave a comment. I will draw a name (or two) at random and award something fibery out of my still monumental stash. Contest ends December 15th!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Misty Mountain Tartan class

I want to share some of the wonderful tartans from the weaving class I taught at Misty Mountain Farm a few weeks ago. We had 9 students for the class, and each student brought a loom with the fine tartan warp threaded up and ready to weave. This is Gordon Regimental.
This is the warp for the MacLean tartan - quite a challenge for this new weaver.
This is the Anderson tartan - one of the most complex designs, with many color changes. The weaver is doing an excellent job of it!
This is a re-colored version of the Cunningham tartan. Sometimes these recolored tartans are really beautiful. I find the trick is to pay careful attention to the values of the original colors.
This is the famous Black Watch tartan.
This is the warp for Grant Hunting.

This is Cameron - the student has been practising a color repeat over and over before starting on the pattern proper.

Have you made it this far? Aren't the colors wonderful? I listened recently to Syne Mitchell's WeaveCast episode about Scottish Weaving, and I really enjoyed her description of how she discovered the beauty and excitement of tartan weaving. The weaving itself is relatively simple, just a straight 2/2 twill. The real excitment is in the colors; the bright, dynamic warp, and the many color blends that are created as the weft colors cross over the warp threads.

I love fair isle knitting, watching the color patterns form and reform under my needles. It is much the same with tartan weaving.

And I love teaching tartan weaving, sharing this delightful traditional design form with students and watching their excitement and confidence grow. It really isn't as hard as it looks...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

My Big Fat Birthday!

We are having some milestone events this year - our 25th wedding anniversary in October and now in November my 50th birthday. A big number. I like to think of it as halfway - one of my grandmothers lived to be 100, although I'm not sure she knew she was 100!

Anyway - I had a nice birthday. This is what I found on the kitchen table in the morning:

I got a great card from our office staff as seen to the left. I did have to go in to the office because I had only worked about 12 hours the week before with my Very Bad Shoulder, but it was a pretty light day at work and my sweet husband took me out to dinner.

We still have lovely color here in Virginia. This is the view from our kitchen window. The window is not very clean, but we have a number of birdfeeders out this side of the house and we like to watch the birds from the kitchen table - the dirty window diffuses action from inside the house. Or so I choose to believe!

The other big news on the home front is that our woodstove is painted and ready for service, and we have lit the first fire of the year. We don't have another source of heat, so this is a big deal. We have a wonderful stove, a Vermont Castings Vigilant. See:

On the fiber front, I got an order in from Fleece Artist, stunning colors as always. I am thinking about expanding my very part time fiber business, Peace Weavers, to include an online website for sales, and I may start with an ebay store, just to get my feet wet and see how it goes. So some of this may be appearing there soon...

Monday, October 29, 2007

Shenandoah Fiber Festival

I spent the weekend participating in the second Shenandoah Fiber Festival in Berryville, Virginia. The first festival was held in late May 2006, and I brought an antique "barn loom", set it up and wove on it. I also had a display of antique textiles and did a little spinning on the great wheel.

This year I decided to focus on spinning and to demonstrate point spinning on various types of hand spindles and on the great wheel. When I arrived Friday afternoon to set up my display, I discovered that the festival was giving me a double space, so I went home and filled the van a second time with more fiber!

I used one table for a Touch Me fiber display, and also set up a displays of cotton, alpaca and wool spinning. I brought a variety of roving for sale, some sheepy puppets and some Peace Fleece knitting needles.

I read in the local paper a few years ago that Mr. John Friant was growing cotton in a community garden out on the triangle where the bypass meets Route 7 in Berryville, and I contacted Mr. Friant to ask if he had any plans for the cotton from these plants. He was surprised to hear that spinners would be interested and excited to have his cotton for hand spinning, and offered me the whole crop from his 4 plants.

Mr. Friant also plucked much of the cotton from the bolls and pulled seed out of much of the crop, and when I came to pick up the cotton, he told me how time consuming it was to remove the seeds. He declared that there must be a gin somewhere in Virginia where you could obtain cotton with the seeds already removed.

And while it took over a year, he did find a gin and he called me up this summer to say that he had ten pounds of ginned cotton for me! I took special care to focus on cotton spinning in my exhibit, and Mr. Friant came out to the festival to see me spin his cotton. He later went out to the garden and pulled up two of the cotton plants and brought them back to the festival to add to the display. I'm sorry I didn't get photos of these - they were 6 feet tall standing on their roots, and had flower buds, flowers, immature seed pods and mature, burst bolls of cotton all on the same plant.

I had a great time spinning cotton on the Miner's head and wool pencil roving on the bat head on the great wheel, spinning on hand spindles and meeting and talking with folks all weekend. It was also nice to see the festival grow - there were more than twice as many vendors this year.

I also came away from the festival with a small fleece - a four pound first clip from a romney/border leicester lamb from the Dell Acres Farm in Edinburg, Virginia. My plan is to spin it up into a fine yarn and knit a faroe style shawl!