Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Anniversaries, New Beginnings

I have long associated Autumn with new beginnings. Many of us do, from our years of school starting around Labor Day: new shoes, new clothes, new classmates, a new teacher. And the natural world does go through one of her wardrobe changes as well, making visible our sense of change. Today as I drove east and headed up the mountain, the first bright flaming maple trees were peeking out from behind their neighbors. We've had lots of gold and russet coming on slowly, but these were the first really bright trees I've seen here in Virginia.

I changed jobs at the end of the summer, or to be more accurate, I changed positions at my longtime job at the Bluemont Concert Series. I kind of married Bluemont 26 years ago, when I met & married my husband, Peter. I was living in Vermont in 1982 when I came south on tour with Gentle Robber, an a cappella trio. We were hired by Bluemont to sing a concert on May 1st that year, and I met Peter Dunning at his home, the Bear's Den where we were to stay over the few days we worked for Bluemont.

Peter says that he knew I was the woman he wanted to marry when he saw me in the photo we sent ahead for publicity. There is proof of this - he bet his friend Mary H. a milkshake that she couldn't tell which of the women in the photograph was his future wife. We still have the postcard she sent in reply - it says, "The one with the boots. I'll take chocolate."

The way I tell it, when we met we took one look at each other and said something like - "Where the hell have you been? I've been looking all over for you!" We recognized one another, as if we had known one another before.

Our families weren't so easily persuaded. The prospective in-laws on both sides came to each of us and asked if we were sure we knew what we were getting into. They gave us a year, didn't think either one of us would stick to the relationship any longer than that.

Well, I am here to tell you that there have sure been some rough spots, but we celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary last week. So there. By now, our families know that we are both very fortunate in our choice of mates and very determined to make our marriage work.

Here is my anniversary present - a mobius bracelet I have long admired with 2 stanzas of Shakespeare's Sonnet CXVI inscribed around the surface:
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
admit impediments, Love is not love
which alters when it alteration finds;
or bends with the remover to remove
Oh no! It is an ever fixed mark,
that looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.

I love it. I've been wearing it every day.

Back to the job - I started as a bookkeeper, eventually moved up to being the (ahem) Business Manager, and a few years ago moved over to running Bluemont's Artist in Education Program. Our new Business Manager was pregnant when we hired her and I covered her maternity leave last summer but then returned to the AIE program in the fall. This summer she took leave to be home with her two children and I stepped back in to cover the summer, but I was determined that she would be back in the fall. But she called in August to say that she would not return.

Once I got over the idea of Going Back to my old job, I realized that this is really the best place for me to be right now. Bluemont is a very small business with a swell in activity and staff in the summer months. Although it is a non-profit organization, it really runs much like a family business. With the economy going south, it makes more sense for me to be at the financial helm again, and I can still oversee and support the AIE program from here.

I moved upstairs to a real office with a door, and in September I decided to make this space my own. So I've decorated with yarn! I set up some shelves and moved all the goods that I have listed on my eBay store, Peace Weavers into my office, where I can see them everyday and enjoy the colorful fiber array.

Isn't it pretty?

EBay has been pretty quiet all summer, but I'm trying to put some more energy into my store, ordering new items, listing new products. It's mostly hand-dyed yarns from Fleece Artist & Hand Maiden and some Folkmanis puppets, but I've got Peace Fleece yarns to list, patterns, Shetland Supreme lace weight yarn from Jamieson & smith and new items from Nancy's Knit Knacks to list shortly.

I'm teaching a tartan weaving class at The Mannings weaving school in Pennsylvania this weekend - I will report back on that adventure next week!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Spinning for Shetland Lace Knitting class!

Spinning for Shetland Lace Knitting
with Elizabeth Johnson of Lerwick, Shetland
& Martha Owen of Campbell Folk School fame!
September 20 & 21, 2008

Studios East West - Berryville, Virginia

This is a rare opportunity to study with Elizabeth Johnson of Lerwick in the Shetland Isles. Elizabeth has made her living spinning and knitting in her native Shetland and comes occasionally to the US to share her knowledge and skill. Accompanying Elizabeth will be Martha Owen, resident spinner at the John C Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC. Martha is a skilled spinner and knitter, a delightful teacher and co-owner of The Yarn Circle in Murphy, NC.

This two day class will include demonstration and instruction in spinning and knitting: The Spinning portion of the class will include fleece selection, carding techniques and methods of spinning yarn specifically designed for the traditional lace styles of Shetland knitting.

The Knitting portion of the class will be focused on the traditional style of Shetland lace knitting. Elizabeth will also demonstrate & teach the use of a knitting belt with long knitting pins.

Participants at any level are welcome to attend. Knitters who don’t spin are welcome to observe the spinning and even try their hand on a wheel. Spinners who do not knit are also welcome to sit in on the knitting. Rudimentary instruction will be available in both spinning and knitting.

The fee for the class is $125. There will be a small supply fee and fleece from Shetland will also be available for purchase. To register, email me to get my mailing address and then send a $50 deposit to hold your place.

Melissa Weaver Dunning – weaverdun@aol.com

Housewifery Skills

I was thinking the other day about the way my husband refers to me as his bride -after 25 years of marriage. It occurred to me that I do not reciprocate this by calling him my groom - which made me laugh, but then led me down a new path, thinking about how the male terms for spouse - husband, groom - have or share their source with farming and livestock terms. Animal husbandry, a groom being a man who works with horses.

We don't find bride or wife in the same sources. There isn't much wifery of any kind in the modern world outside of midwifery. We had our three daughters at home with a midwife but I very well know that this is not a typical scenario in the U.S. today.

The only language I insisted on at our wedding was that the ministers declaration be of Husband & Wife rather than Man & Wife - I always found the latter rather demeaning. The wonderful man who presided over our wedding was so nervous about being outside his home church that he said various things that were not in the book at all - afflication for affection was the one we all remember! He got lost and had to start over and it was still one of the shortest wedding ceremonies ever.

All this serves as an intro to this rather interesting quiz that I found on Jennifer's blog today:


As a 1930s wife, I am

Take the test!

Oh, my. Only average...

It's a funny test - have a look!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Happy Birthday, William B.!

I subscribe to The Writer's Almanac program. I don't especially like Garrison Keilor, but I do enjoy having a poem read to me every morning. When I miss the radio broadcast, it's nice to read the poem myself when I get to work and log in to my email there.

So today when I logged in at work, I discovered that it is the anniversary of William Butler Yeats' birthday. I am very fond of Yeats' poetry, and these are three of my favorites, so I wanted to share them with you. I found a volume of Yeats' poetry in my Dad's books when I went through his library after his death 10 years ago, and though I'm sorry we never discussed these poems it pleases me to think that we may have shared some of the same enjoyment in these words.

A Drinking Song

Wine comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That's all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh.

He wishes for the Cloths of Heaven

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Never give all the heart

Never give all the heart, for love
Will hardly seem worth thinking of
To passionate women if it seem
Certain, and they never dream
That it fades out from kiss to kiss;
For everything that's lovely is
But a brief, dreamy, kind delight.
O never give the heart outright,
For they, for all smooth lips can say,
Have given their hearts up to the play.
And who could play it well enough
If deaf and dumb and blind with love?
He that made this knows all the cost,
For he gave all his heart and lost.

"A Drinking Song" by William Butler Yeats, Public Domain.
"He wishes for the Cloths of Heaven" by W.B. Yeats, Public Domain.
"Never give all the heart" by W.B. Yeats, Public Domain.

If you would like to read more about the life of WBY, you can visit the Writer's Almanac site for today by clicking this link. This program is also available as a podcast!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Wonderful Weaving Weekend

I have been meaning to try to catch up on various travels and events...but as my mind is not as linear as it once was, so goes my blog.

I just got back from 3 days of weaving at the home & studio of William Leinbach, who is a traditional Pennsylvania-German weaver and a friend. He lives with his wife Edna in Myerstown, PA, and he opened his studio to 5 weavers from the Blue Ridge Spinners & Weavers Guild and allowed us to weave samples on some of his looms.

We wove Overshot on 4 harnesses:

Overshot on 22 harnesses:

Doubleweave on 18 harnesses:

Summer & Winter on 6 harnesses: This is woven upside down, so you are looking at the "wrong side" of the fabric on the loom. Can you find my mistake?:

Singles linen plain weave on 2 harnesses:

Here is a finished linen kerchief that Bill wove in different colors -

Some weavers wove on a different 4 harness overshot and/or an M's & O's runner.

Most of Bill's looms are antique frame looms which are often called barn looms because of the massive beams that make up the loom. The 18 harness doubleweave was done on an old loom with a modern harness set added on; the 22 harness overshot was woven on a Glimakra Oxaback loom that Bill special ordered from Glimakra in Sweden some years ago.

Bill is a tall guy, a large man, and most of these warps were around 46" wide plus an extra few inches out each side to the cord that allows the weaver to add fringe by wrapping the pattern shuttle around the cord on every pass.

Which is to say, Really Wide for the average woman weaver - I'm 5'6", and I've been dealing with a torn rotator cuff and other shoulder issues for a year or more. I really wasn't sure if I would be able to work these looms comfortably with my shoulder. But I'm pleased to report that while it was certainly challenging, it didn't hurt to weave. I think I need to add this type of weaving to my weekly physical therapy schedule!

Bill has an awesome collection of spinning wheels, and contributed mightily to the wonderful book, Spinning Wheels & Accessories by David Pennington and Michael Taylor. There are old wheels all over the place!

I think he has too many wheels and should sell some to me, like this intriguing Canadian production wheel:

Or this beauty:

There are fascinating old things everywhere you look, like this collection of hats & bonnets hanging from a beam in the living room: We had a wonderful time weaving, visiting over potluck meals and going to the Black Angus antique market very early on Sunday morning. Some of we weavers bought antique coverlets there, and while I was tempted by an old spinning wheel, I didn't buy anything but really enjoyed looking. It's a wonderful market with all manner of old goods and some remarkable bargains.

Virginia, along with most of the East Coast, has been suffering a spell of very hot & humid weather. We don't have air conditioning at home, so our whole house fan has been working hard to keep us almost comfortable. Thankfully, the weather broke with a dramatic storm this afternoon, so we are looking forward to a more comfortable night of sleep.

I will take photos of my woven pieces when they are finished and share them with you in a later post.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Coming Up for Air!

Well - I've been meaning to blog since Maryland Sheep & Wool was over, but it's been rather a whirlwind of work & travel chez moi.

Here are some booth photos - before the feeding frenzy began.
The Wall O' Peace Fleece - I love to see all the colors together!
Most of the Fleece Artist yarns
All the Cashmere Hand Maiden yarns

I ordered some of the new Hand Maiden Swiss Mountain Silk Cashmere, and on Sunday we put these skeins in a basket on the sales table and invited customers to touch it. It was a great entertainment to watch each individual react to the extraordinary softness of this yarn - some people oohed or cooed, one shrieked, and most pulled their friends over to have a feel.

Maryland Sheep & Wool was great once again but exhausting, and we were fortunate not to be affected directly by any of the thefts & vandalism - a very sad occurrence. The fiber community has gotten too big, apparently. Or big enough to suddenly look bright & shiny to some thoughtless thieves. Much has been written about these events, and I will add my sadness and concern to the balance.

It makes me think of one of the Frances books we read to our girls when they were little. In A Bargain for Frances, Frances and her friend Thelma are playing and Thelma tricks Frances into buying her old plastic tea set and then says No Backsies when Frances discovers the deceit. The sad lesson for Frances is that she will have to be careful with her friend from now on, but that it is better to be friends than to be careful.

We will have to be careful, to pay more attention to security and where is the cash box and where we display the fancy goods. Some of this is common sense and should be done under any circumstances. But some of this asks us to view our booth and/or sales operation from a thief's point of view and that is a place we didn't think we needed to go. Our cozy, small town has gotten too big. Let us all hope that with vigilance and attention, a new balance will be found.

I only made a few purchases - 2 hanks of roving from A Verb for Keeping Warm bought from our neighbor, Cloverhill Yarns. Isn't it a lovely orangey color? Orange is popping up all over in my fiber life these days!

Cloverhill has a new owner and we really enjoyed meeting Jolene and her booth babes and checking out all the indie hand dyes in their booth. I also stopped at The Fold and bought an Avi Wasserman spindle, a skein of Knitters w/out Borders STR and a Sheep to Shoe kit!

The weekend after MS&W, Peter & I drove up to Long Island NY for his sister Wendy's 40th wedding anniversary. Wendy is his only sibling and she & her husband Juan are Jehovah's Witnesses - which means that weddings & wedding anniversaries are the only events or holidays they celebrate - so this was a big deal. Their kids put on a surprise party and our arrival was the biggest surprise.
Here is the happy couple, serenading their party!

We both felt that it was worth every minute of the long drive up & back so see the look on her face when we walked into that party. It was wonderful. Great party, very nice folks and we got to meet some new kinfolk. Wendy & Juan have 7 children, all grown now and mostly married. Three were married in the last year and we were unable to make any of the weddings - so we got to meet new spouses and a boy friend and it was great to see and catch up with everyone.

We stayed in a dreadful motel - the last remaining room was a smoking room but we took it anyway as we were exhausted and both sick with the Horrible Cough. We had stayed there before so I knew the windows in the room opened. While we were signing in, a woman came up behind me and asked if she could get a room for an hour. Oh, my giddy god. Add to that that the room hadn't been cleaned properly - there were cigarette butts in the window frame - the sheets had holes in them, the mattress was a misery and there was tepid water for a shower in the morning. We will not be returning to this particular establishment. Sniff!

Next morning, we drove into Brooklyn and had lunch with Peter's cousin & his wife. Then we headed for a walk around Coney Island before hitting the road. We ended up walking around Brighton Beach, both on the boardwalk and around the neighborhood for a couple of hours. I took a year of Russian in high school, and I still remember the phonetics of the Cyrillic alphabet, so as we walked around I tried to read all the signs. It was like a mini-vacation in another country.

We went into a teeny tiny fabric store that was remarkably vertical - the goods were stashed and hung right up the walls. There were a few knitted items, and I bought a little shoulder shawl for $15, undyed brown yarn with little gathered scallops in the hem - see - This dark photo shows the shape best but is otherwise dreadful.
This photo is better - this is how it was displayed on the hanger.

We went into one store that was mostly books but also CDs and movies and some souvenir type goods - and I noticed some knitted items in undyed wool. It made me wonder what part of Russia they came from and what tradition.

We had an uneventful journey home except for heavy rain and wind for the last few hours - we have had so much rain here in Virginia that our pond is now quite full!

Enough for one post. More in the next one!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

me me!

I've been memed. For the first time! Jennifer memed me today, so here goes:

The rules of the game get posted at the beginning. Each player answers the questions about themselves. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5-6 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.

1. What was I doing 10 years ago?
- Well, much of what I'm doing now, but at a different phase of life - working for the Bluemont Concert Series, which my husband founded in 1979 and we have been running together since we met in 1982. I started teaching weaving, knitting & needlework classes at the John C, Campbell Folk School in 1997, so that was a new and exciting venture for me. And I was actively raising my girls - they would have been 8, 11 & 14 then - they are all 3 in college now. Peace Weavers, my yarn business had gone from two or three shows a year & mail order to just Maryland Sheep & Wool - we made this change in 1997.

2. What are 5 things on my to-do list for today (not in any particular order):
- prepare reports for tomorrow's Executive Committee
- follow up on school & performer calls
- finish packing for my trip to Northampton, Massachusetts
- go to physical therapy
- iron some clothes while watching Monarch of the Glen

3) Snacks I enjoy:
- fresh pineapple
- roasted almonds

4) Things I would do if I were a billionaire:
- tell my husband to retire!
- build or buy my dream teaching studio/loom museum
- take a real vacations - visit New Zealand, Scotland, China.
- create the ultimate retirement community for my elders, with a day care center, a plant nursery and an animal shelter on site.
- pay off my kids college loans

5) All the places I have lived:
Chatham, New York
Alexandria, Virginia
Harrisonburg VA,
Durango, Colorado
Plainfield, VT
Boston, MA
Plainfield, East Calais, West Wheelock VT
Bluemont, Berryville VA
I've actually lived in the same house now since 1985!

6) Peeps I want to know more about:

Jennifer (back at ya!)

Here is the obligatory quizzy thing-

64 words


Monday, April 28, 2008

The last order arrives...

This is just a quick post. I'm getting really excited about Maryland Sheep & Wool. Look what came today!

I've been worrying about the economy and whether knitters and spinners will be buying this year and how much inventory should I order.
I've been worrying about our Moms - we have 3 and 2 are having health problems right now.
I've been worrying about the future of our non-profit.. both my husband & I work for Bluemont and in this economy, having all our financial eggs in this rather fragile basket seems, well kinda crazy. But here we are, shortening sail to ride out the storm.

But now, with all my orders received and MS&W on the immediate horizon, I am excited! I finished my my Sea Silk Swallowtail today and here it is, blocked and drying. I am completely addicted to lace knitting now. Hook line and sinker. (Can you tell it's been raining for days? I guess I'm feeling the damp...)

And here are the lovely things I unpacked this noon - the Hand Maiden box finally arrived! We've got Casbah sock yarn

4 ply cashmere in hat kits:
and 12 ply cashmere in Quick Knit hat kits:
We have Sea Silk:
And last but not least, this heavenly Swiss Mountain Cashmere Silk. This stuff makes the 100% cashmere feel like Rough Stuff. It is simple amazing.
Also appearing but not pictured - Tussah Silk laceweight.

Yum, yum ,yum.

And to add to all this fibery goodness, our booth is next door to Cloverhill, which is featuring a bevy of indie hand dyers...I'm hoping that we'll be too busy to see much of it, because it will be so tempting.

I'm just a sucker for color....

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Spring Surprises!

One of the good things about being away these last two weekends is that when we get home, there are surprises waiting...the next phase of spring has moved right in, without preamble.

We came home to the apple tree in full tilt boogie, as seen above. Then this morning I discovered that the wild violets have arrived.

The last of the tulips that I planted over 20 years ago have bloomed:

We had some tree work done last spring on our linden tree, and while they were here we had the tree guys cut all the old dead wood out of a large stand of lilac. I've been interested to see how the remaining lilacs would respond, and they seem very happy as you can see. Now I want to plant some light purple/lilac colored plants in between - although it would probably be heavy digging through the old roots.

We got several inches of rain over the weekend and our cow pond is finally looking like it should in the spring. We've had two very dry years and this spring fed pond dried up to a tiny puddle last summer. Since we have well water here (wonderful, tasty well water) it makes me nervous to see the pond low. So this is a happy sight!

Then, when I walked out to my car, I discovered a small community of new anthills right next to my car. I had to tread carefully not to crush the industry of the ants:

Our 100 year old Virginia farm house had peonies, lilac, forsythia and a few roses when we moved in 23 years ago, but no redbud and no dogwood, which I think of as traditional local trees. We moved our office last summer from downtown Leesburg to a residential street in the smaller town of Purcellville, and there is a small dogwood tree right out front. I've been watching the buds come on over the last few weeks. I had forgotten that the flowers come before the leaves with dogwood.

The flowers are coming on very quickly now, and today they look like this!

I made good progress on my Swallowtail shawl, completing the bud lace section and knitting most of the first lily of the valley chart. Nupps! Purl 5 together... boy do I love these Knit Picks Harmony needles and their pointy points. A little Ancient Bark progress and I have the front of my Sea Vines vest blocked and drying. But MS&W is coming up quickly!