Monday, January 30, 2012

Recap of 2011

I'm sure that I am not the only person who is unprepared for the new year when it rolls around every twelve months. I am always impressed by those who are ready with their plans, intentions and resolutions, but I am generally trying to recover from the annual challenge of family time and holiday preparations vs. running one or two major events on New Year's Eve. For the past twenty five years we have run one and often two First Night events and for all that I love the event itself, it's a tremendous amount of work and energy at a time when I long to just hole up at home and bake and enjoy time with my family.

So the turn of the year always seems to take me by surprise, and it's somewhere towards the end of January before I find the perspective to make plans on a twelve month scale. This year is no different.

But before I launch into visions of the future, I would like to look back at the year behind me. This is my 100th blog post and I would like to recap 2011 and talk about the classes I've been teaching.

I have been beginning the last 4 or 5 years with a trip to the John C. Campbell Folk School - not a bad way to start the year - to begin as you mean to go on. My long time friend and mentor, Norman Kennedy often comes to visit me in January to begin his winter teaching tour. Sometimes we have a project to work on together or a class to teach, and then I drive him down to Brasstown, North Carolina and sit in on the spinning class he has been teaching with Martha Owen for the last several years.

In January 2011, I focused on color work in spinning and spun up several braids of hand dyed roving in various combinations: fractals, chain plyed to preserve the color sequence, randomly plied for hit & miss color, etc. This helped me prepare to teach two days of spinning for my local Blue Ridge Spinners & Weavers Guild in February. We did Traditional Wool Preparation, Point Spinning on spindles and great wheels and Handpaint Magic - spinning with hand dyed rovings. The class was held at the Round Hill Arts Center just ten miles from my home.

I returned there 2 weekends later to teach a class in Acadian Weaving.

In March I returned to the Campbell Folk School to teach Modular Knitting to a group of enthusiastic knitters.

I spent much of late March and April ordering yarn and preparing for the my Peace Weavers booth at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival but the last weekend before the festival I had the privilege of taking a 2 day Kumihimo class from Rodrick Owen, a renowned Kumihimo master who literally wrote The Book on the subject. I am delighted to have had the opportunity to meet and get to know Rodrick a little and to be introduced to the possibilities of braiding on the Japanese Marudai stand.

The Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival has been one of the highlights of my year since I returned to Virginia in 1980, and I have had a booth at the show since 1991 with considerable support from my family. My sister Carolyn comes from Kansas every year to help set up the booth and sell non stop for two days, my sister Sally comes down one day from Philadelphia with her sons to help and when she can my sister Annie joins us from Vermont. My mother & I ran our Peace Weavers business together for the first fifteen years or so until my Mom's energy level no longer made that possible, and my three children have helped every year, demonstrating puppets and helping run the register. Maybe someday one of them will knit some samples, but I'm not holding my breath!

We had a very good year at MS&W once again, and I look forward to another exhausting but satisfying weekend this year.

The big family event this year was a double matriculation for two of our kids from Smith College: our Robbie graduated with a B.A. in The Study of Women & Gender and our Hannah earned a Masters degree in The Art of Education. We had a wonderful weekend celebrating these great milestones and eating and drinking with great pleasure and abandon. Robbie has stayed on in Northampton and is teaching at a wonderful preschool there; Hannah was offered a teaching position in Virginia and moved home in August to our great delight.

July found me teaching at my first weaving conference - MidAtlantic Fiber Arts or MAFA runs a biannual conference and for 2011 this was held at Gettysburg College. I was invited to teach a class on 18th Century Linens. My summer work schedule has prevented me from participating in any summer weaving conferences until now, but I decided that with enough advance planning I could manage one weekend away this year. I'm very glad I took the plunge - it was a wonderful event with primarily weaving classes, there were lots of friends from my two guilds, fellow teachers and former students, and I had a large class of excited students who squeezed into the narrow classroom and learned to enjoy weaving some lovely old patterns in linen and cotton.

At the end of July I pushed my work schedule completely out of shape and took a four day weaving class from Jason Collingwood on Two Block Weft Faced Rugs. The class was presented by the Blue Ridge Spinners & Weavers and was held at the old Depot in Purcellville, just one block from my office, but it was very challenging to spend even four half days away from work in the busiest part of our summer concert season. Nonetheless I am very glad I took the class and got to meet Jason, who is an excellent teacher and shares his knowledge with great patience and good humor. I will confess that the warp from that class is still on my Baby Wolf loom, but I hope to weave off some samples very soon.

August was entirely given over to work and running concerts, and we nearly made it through the summer season of 50 concerts unscathed. A few days before the last concert weekend my husband Peter dozed off while driving down to visit his mother in the Northern Neck of Virginia. His van veered off the road, rolled nose over nose three times and landed askew but right side up in a concrete culvert. He was very fortunate to survive the accident with just a broken arm and a nasty contusion on one shin and he will be ever grateful that he didn't hit another car and harm anyone else.

He was also lucky that someone saw the accident and called it in right away so that help arrived promptly. He was airlifted to MCV in Richmond and spent three days there; our Lily was still living in Richmond then and got to him quickly while Hannah & I made it down later that evening. It was an anxious time, but mostly we counted our blessings. It could have been so much worse. Hannah & I drove out to see the wrecked van and reclaim Peter's briefcase and tennis bag; the man whose shop the van had been towed to said that Peter was spared because he was on his way to see his Mama. Whatever the reason, should there be such cause & effect, we are all grateful.

A few weeks later I left Hannah in charge of the patient and headed down to the Campbell Folk School once again, this time to teach 18th c. Household Textiles. This was a big class and we sampled a dozen or more different fabrics: rugs, coverlets, napery, towels, linsey-woolsey and blanketing.One of my students took some video footage of warping with multiple ends, beaming and winding bobbins - these can be found on YouTube if you are interested. I was very impressed by the quality of the video produced by an iPhone, even the sound is very clear.

Autumn brings the return of the fiber festivals, and this year I taught spinning classes at Berryville's own Shenandoah Fiber Festivals well as the following weekend at the Fall Fiber Festival held at Montpelier, Virginia. Then I participated in the Waterford Fair with the Waterford Weavers Guild.

The following weekend found Peter & I down at the Outer Banks in North Carolina where I taught an 8/2 Towels class for the Outer Banks Guild while Peter relaxed at the shore.
We also celebrated our 29th wedding anniversary at the beach, enjoying wonderful local seafood at Basnight's Lone Cedar restaurant - we liked it so much, we ate there twice!

I had two weekends off in a row - a welcome break - and then flew up to Cleveland, Ohio to teach Acadian Weaving for the Medina Guild. This was a return visit as I had done a Tartan workshop for them four or five years before. My favorite hostess, Laura Enoch carried me around to a record number of local thrift stores and her own antique store where I scored some antique Venetian carpeting along with a hat that Laura had knitted from yarn she spun from her own sheep. This hat is the warmest hat and everyone's favorite for carrying in firewood. I'm hoping to tempt Laura to visit me in Virginia sometime, I am luring her with the promise of a Structo loom that has been taking up space in our barn for too long.

The following weekend I flew off to Kansas with my little Mama to surprise my sister Carolyn on the occasion of her 60th birthday. She was expecting her youngest daughter to visit, but that daughter - Above & Beyond Jodie - arranged for Carolyn's mother, all three sisters, all three children and all five grandchildren to happen to drop in for the weekend. It was too soon over, but so much fun. Next time we get together we need to try for a whole week!

A few weeks later I finished my teaching year with a two day Modular Knitting class for the local Blue Ridge guild. Another large class and a whole lot of fun as we worked our way through mitered squares, entrelac, bubble wrap short rows and log cabin squares. The ongoing Knitters group from the BRSWG is under my direction again this year and we have been working our way through an informal small shawl Knit-A-Long while visiting various topics at our monthly meetings - lace, shawl shaping, two color knitting and for December we started Julekuler or Christmas Balls.

I worked up 7 or 8 before the Christmas holidays, making steady progress as I knit through a long afternoon at the hospital on December 21st when Peter finally had surgery to repair his broken arm. The surgeon had hoped it would mend and for a while it seemed to be coming together but by the end of November it was clearly not going to heal unaided.

We had our family together for the Christmas holidays and while First Night Leesburg was cancelled for 2011, the First Night Warrenton celebrations were saved by some very vigorous last minute local fundraising. I helped Peter to run the event, but also was able to perform in Warrenton, singing in the lovely old wooden chapel of the Presbyterian church. What a privilege to be able to sing out the old year and welcome the new year on the steps of the historic courthouse with Peter and our old friends Nicolo and the Queen of Whimsey. For many years I have been helping to run the Leesburg event while Peter was in Warrenton, so it was a rare pleasure to be together on New Year's Eve.

Whew! That was a busy year! Forty days of teaching or taking classes or selling yarn; I taught a dozen classes and took three.

Looking forward, I'm fairly busy with teaching in the coming months but the fall is not yet booked up - we will see. I am hoping to do more spinning this year. I did manage to Buy No Yarn for personal use in 2011 but I'm dismayed by how small a dent I made in my yarn stash. But I worked on a lot of WIPS - works in progress. I am hoping to buy only a little yarn this year, and to cut way back on my fiber buying. I'm making no promised about books!