Thursday, January 29, 2015

My Fibery Year, Part 1

I also like to look back at my teaching and other fiber events at the turn of the year.  I made a list of 2014 events and then started looking through my photos and quickly realized that this is a bigger project than I first thought, and that some of the classes and events really warrant focused posts. 
So today: a quick recap of 2014 with photos & details about a few classes and a promise of more to come!

2014 Fiber Highlights
January: 18th c. Floor Coverings, John C Campbell Folk School, Brasstown NC
February: Swedish Towels, Blue Ridge Spinners & Weavers Guild, Purcellville VA
March: a visit to the archives at the Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill, Harrodsburg KY
April: Handpaint Magic Spinning, JC Campbell Folk School, Brasstown NC
I was a student in Deb Robson's 3Ls and 3Cs class, MD Sheep & Wool Festival, West Friendship MD
May: Peace Weavers booth at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival
Tartan Throws, The Mannings, East Berlin PA
July: Tour de Fleece, which for me means another 3 weeks of my 50+ sheep breed study
August: Peace Weavers booth at SpinQuest 2014, Front Royal VA
September: Tartan Scarves during Scottish week at the JC Campbell Folk School, Brasstown NC
Travels in Colorado & New Mexico, including a visit to Centinela Fiber Arts in Chimayo, NM
 How to Buy a Fleece and Spindle Spinning classes, Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival, Berryville VA 
October: a wool waulking demonstration at the Waterford Fair, Waterford VA
Checkmate Fiber booth at Fall Fiber Festival, Montpelier Station, VA
December: a visit to Winterthur Museum to see the Costumes of Downton Abbey exhibit, Winterthur DE

I started the year with a John C Campbell Folk School class called 18th Century Floor Coverings in early January.

This is a unique class that works best in a school setting where there are heavier floor looms, so the Folk School studio is perfect. 

The class includes rugs from  from a variety of different ethnic traditions in North America - (pictured here, clockwise from the top left) Jerga from the Southwest, Scandinavian Boundweave, Scandinavian Drall and a Wool Overshot rug from Nova Scotia; not pictured are the Shaker Rag Rug and Venetian Carpeting.

It was a small but enthusiastic class and a great way to start off the year, spending a week working together in the weaving studio at the Folk School.

To quote a favorite book, 
In February it will be - My snowman's anniversary - With cake for him and soup for me!
(Chicken Soup with Rice by Maurice Sendak)

In February it was time for my brand new class, Swedish Towels, which I taught for the Blue Ridge Spinners & Weavers Guild over the President's Day weekend.  I have been planning this class for many years, inspired by a stack of old Swedish VAV magazines that Norman Kennedy gave to me.  I love so many of the patterns and structures that appear in these magazines and I decided to assemble a collection of distinctly Scandinavian weaving patterns for a round robin class.  The drafts include some lovely plain and twill weave variations, monks belt, daldrall (overshot), halvdrall, rosepath, crackle and more.

 The twelve students warped their looms for towel sized samples, wove samples on each loom in class and then wove full size towels later at home on their own looms.  I brought an extra warped loom to class and was able to weave along with the students.  After class, I cut each of my samples in half  and washed one of each pair; the pairs of samples are now in a notebook for this class.  Wet finishing changes some materials and weave structures dramatically, so it's very useful to have these pairs of samples.

 As an added bonus, I brought in some band looms and rigid heddles on the second day of class to demonstrate the weaving of narrow tapes to coordinate with the towels. 

Hanging loops are often found on Scandinavian towels.  Tape is usually a basic plain weave with just a few threads and works up very quickly.  Coordinating tape can be woven for garments and other weaving projects to lovely effect.

Every class has an overachiever!  This is Robin and she wove a sample on each loom and then had time to weave off the remaining warp on her own loom, weave a matching tape and sew up her finished rosepath towel.

OK, time for one more class - back to the Campbell Folk School for Handpaint Magic Spinning in April. 

Where the students learned about:

 different ways to work with hand painted rovings: chain plying, fractal spinning, barber pole yarn,

how to paint rovings

and spun some more!  I love the way each student ends up with a nest of color near their chair.

Below on the left you see one student's work for the week, including a baby blanket project begun; one the right each student's set of skeins for the Friday afternoon student display.

I have taught Handpaint Magic Spinning as a half day and day long festival or guild class, but this was the first spinning class I have taught at the Folk School and it was wonderful to have a full week to explore and play and learn together. 

I also have a Handpaint Magic Knitting class that shows how to work with different types of handpainted and commercially spun color effect yarns.  This would be a great pair of classes for a guild weekend, don't you think?

Happy Handpaint Magic Spinners

Next week - Shaker Textiles!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Looking Forward, Looking Back

It's always nice to look back at the previous year and get a sense of what was accomplished.  Although my husband and I have written and sent out an annual letter for most of our 30 years together, the last ten years somehow slipped by.  But this year we got the whole family together for a photo just before the holidays and Peter wrote the letter and I spent a lot of time reconstructing our address list - people move around a lot in a decade! We had it printed, ran address labels and spent a snowy cold day signing our names, writing notes and folding/stuffing/sealing/stamping almost 200 letters.  Done!

 Ravelry, that amazing internet haven for knitters, tells me that I completed 10 projects last year with 5 others that were begun but not completed.  I knit a cowl, 3 shawls, a long cotton scarf,  2 pairs of socks, a summer cardigan, a hat, and one rabbit.   On January 1st,  three cardigans, a Rainbow Afghan and a pair of  fingerless gloves were in various states of progress.  This does not count Old WIPs, just projects begun in 2014.  I have a lot of old works-in-progress, more on some of those later.

The highlights of my knitting year would have to be the two Swallowtail wedding shawls that I knit out of Hand Maiden Sea Silk yarn - one in a natural color for my daughter Hannah and the other in ultraviolet for my nephew Miles' bride, Meghann.  A lot of positive intention was worked into the stitches of those shawls!

I'm also quite pleased with a last minute Christmas gift that I knitted for my son, Robbie.  Robbie's grey pet rabbit, Stewart passed away quite suddenly the week before he came home for the holidays and Robbie was understandingly very sad.  I knew I had seen a good rabbit pattern on Ravelry and I found it in my favorites: Henry's Rabbit by Sara Elizabeth Kellner.  I downloaded the free pattern and looked through my stash listing and decided that to have just the right yarn, I needed to buy some charcoal color Shepherd's Wool Worsted from Stonehedge Fiber Mill.  This is a soft 100% Merino yarn in a worsted weight.  I started knitting on December 15th, squeezing it in between work and all the business of the holiday season and I sewed the last seam and stitched on the eyes on Christmas Eve.  We both cried when Robbie opened that package on Christmas afternoon - he was really touched and pleased and I was delighted. 

Looking forward, I have a number of fiber related goals for the coming year.  I have a weaving related book project that I am working on - I will tell you more about that when I have made more progress. 

In the knitting realm, I will be teaching a new class at the John C Campbell Folk School in October called Knitting Design: Aran & Gansey Style, and to help me prepare for this I just started an Aran Design study with the knitting study group of the Blue Ridge Spinners & Weavers Guild.  I have been leading this group for several years and I really enjoy the opportunities for teaching and sharing at our monthly meetings.

North Sea Knitting Sampler - student & teacher samples
I have designed and knit a number of Aran and gansey sweaters over the years, and I teach a North Sea Knitting Sampler that includes Arans & Ganseys, Fairisle colorwork and Shetland lace knitting, but these are shorter classes with small projects.  One of the wonderful things about teaching at the Campbell Folk School is the luxury of working for 5-6 days on a subject but obviously this also requires more organization, so before I teach a new class there I like to do a focused study. 

For our January meeting, I brought a bag full of sweaters and a bag full of books.  We reviewed the basic design elements of traditional Aran sweaters, talked about choosing stitch patterns that will coordinate and balance and discussed swatching.  Many knitters don't like to swatch - they feel that it is time and yarn wasted when they really long to cast on for the real thing, but a good swatch will give you the information you need to plan a garment that really works and fits.  I talked about practical uses to make swatching more palatable - a swatch can become a scarf, the crown of a hat, a square for an afghan, etc.

Then I gave out a sample pattern for the knitters to take home and work.  I encouraged the knitters to look at sweaters and patterns online and in books and think about what types of cable patterns they like best, and about how they would like to put these together into a panel of stitch patterns for the garment they are designing.  I will report back on how the homework assignments went after we meet in February.

For myself, I would like to design & knit a few baby & child size Aran & gansey sweaters this year as class samples, and hopefully complete a few of the unfinished projects pictured above.  Clockwise from the top: the orange is Thea Coleman's design Dark & Stormy in Peace Fleece Worsted, color Glasnost Gold; the tan is a natural brown sheep colored genuine Aran sweater that I bought in the west of Ireland in 1980; the blue grey is Kristen Kapur's  Dr. G's Memory Vest in Peace Fleece Worsted, color Lakinka Malinka; the red is Juliet Moody's Sparrow cardigan in some Vermont farm wool that my friend Norman Kennedy dyed with cochineal and the brown is Alice Starmore's St. Brigid in Black Water Abbey Worsted, color Chestnut.

What goals are you considering for the coming year? 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

I am Unusually Coordinated Today

The weather has been unusually cold in the northern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia for the last two weeks.  We live in a 1905 farmhouse with a woodstove for our primary heat, and while we have done many things to help our house heat more efficiently in the winter months, when it gets down into the single digits we spend much of our time at home in the living room near our beloved Vermont Castings Vigilant.  Idgy is demonstrating her preferred nap location.

Today, the temperature will finally get above freezing and the sun is shining again.  I went to my closet and chose an orange corduroy dress to wear, and then I had a look at my vests.  I pulled out a vest to go with my dress that I have never worn before - I inherited it from my mother-in-law, Beryl Smith Dunning, after she passed away last year. 

Beryl's friend Marjorie Manilow made this yo-yo appliqued vest for Beryl as a gift many years ago.  I got to meet Marjorie at my in-law's 50th wedding anniversary in 1990 and we began an occasional correspondence as we both like to make things with thread and cloth.  Marjorie lives in Wales and is a wonderfully creative fiber artist.  Over the years she has sent me photos of her Twelve Days of Christmas Hat Series and the quilted pieces she has made using scraps of woven Welsh Wool coats.  I haven't heard from her in many years now but we are sending out an Annual Letter this year after a lapse of ten years so I am hoping to hear from some old friends soon, including Marjorie.

When I got to the coat closet on my way out the door to work, I grabbed my most recent thrift store acquisition - a beautiful, bright Harris Tweed women's coat that is a perfect match for the dress.

I started finding these Harris Tweed coats about twenty years ago in local thrift stores and I have never been able to pass one up.  As a weaver, the cloth is wonderful and precious and as an added bonus, many of the coats fit me.  I teach a weaving class on District Checks and Tweeds and my coat collection is a terrific addition to the class.  My daughter Hannah took two of these coats with her when she attended college in western Massachusetts, a perfect climate for a good wool tweed!  Hannah chose a great orange & purple houndstooth and a bright green tweed.  She wore out the linings and the hems came unstitched, but the tweed will last a long, long time.

 This second photo of the cloth will show you weavers a little more detail - my iPhone takes better close ups than my iPad2 - but the color is not as true.  The purple color is more dominant in the photo than in real life.  Can you see the colors of the individual threads?  The warp threads are a burnt orange and a medium brown and they go O O B O O B B B.  The weft threads are 4 picks of an orangey red and 4 picks of a magenta purple and the weave structure is a 2/2 twill.  You can see the strong diagonal lines in this cloth.  Many of the other women's coats have a variation of a broken twill.

I started documenting the cloth in my coat collection a few years ago: photographing the tailoring details and the cloth itself and writing up weaving drafts for the color & weave twill patterns.  The color selections are simply brilliant and the sequence of colored yarns along with the twill weave structure creates a stunning fabric.  I have learned most of what I know about traditional tweed from examining the fabric of many, many coats and sport jackets, and this cloth continues to fascinate me.

Next week: studying Aran sweater design!

p.s. I cut my hair.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Begin as you mean to go on

I think a lot about blogging, but as you may have noticed, those thoughts haven't been making it to my blog very often in the last year or two.  This year, I would like to do more writing about a number of topics, and my dusty blog seems like a good place to start.  So here I go!

The scene above will be a familiar one to my Facebook friends - this is the view from my bedroom window, looking east at the Blue Ridge mountains, which are a single ridge at this part of the Appalachian range.  This view is a daily delight, a sustaining pleasure and a reminder of our great good fortune of living in such a beautiful part of the world.

The other photos I share with you today are another source of gratitude and delight - my wonderful family.  This is the photo we chose for our annual family letter this year.  Here you see daughter Hannah, her new husband Joe, son Robbie, Idgy the corgi, future son-in-law Ian, daughter Lily, myself and my husband Peter.  Creative content: I knit Lily's cowl (Ptarmigan by Jared Flood in Jaggerspun Zephyr DK), I wove my tartan scarf (traditional tartan Drummond of Perth in Jaggerspun Superfine Merino 2/18) and I knit Peter's mitts (adapted from Dashing by Cheryl Niamath in Jo Sharp Silk Road Aran).

And then, to leave you with some merriment, here is what happened after that picture was taken: