Friday, April 24, 2015

Acadian Weaving at the Folk School

After a long, quiet winter season spent mostly at home, the spring fiber classes & events have begun!

With my friend Liz, I left for North Carolina on April 11th.  We stopped off at the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton, VA - more on that in another post - spent a night in Asheville and then visited a weaver in Maggie Valley Sunday morning to look at a Toika Eeva loom I am thinking of buying.  This weaver has a basement full of looms, yarn and fleece that makes my stash look - OK, not small but well, now that I think about it we might actually be on fairly equal terms.  I'll let you know once I get my fiber stash into the soon-to-be-refurbished barn loft storage location!

Then it was on through the Smoky Mountains to lovely Brasstown, North Carolina and a week at the John C. Campbell Folk School.

I had a wonderful week.  It was full of flowers - it seemed as if every time I walked outside there was a new plant flowering.  These are two types of Trillium and both the bud and flower of a Pink Lady's Slipper orchid.  Can anyone tell me what the name of the last flowering plant is?

There was also plenty of music - I got to hear the Barralon Brothers play traditional French music twice and sat in on an Irish music session with them, too. 

But the main order of business was weaving - I had five enthusiastic students for a week of Acadian Weaving: three complete beginners and two experienced weavers.  My Acadian weaving class focuses on the types of cloth woven by the earliest French settlers in Maritime Canada as well as what their Cajun decendents were weaving in Louisiana 250 years later.  These weavers used the simplest of looms with only 2 harnesses for plain or tabby cloth but they were ingenious inventors of simple and satisfying weft manipulation to make their cloth more interesting.

We started the week with a big cone of 12/2 cotton yarn (4,200 yards to the pound) and lots of smaller cones of cotton and wool yarns and we finished up the week with five beautiful weaving samplers that included: Catalogne, Boutonnee, Linsey-Woolsey summer skirting with a la planche and twisted weft patterning and a weft faced drugget winter skirting.  Each student also wove a small sample on an extra loom of a fabric called Cordonne that has crammed warp and weft at regular intervals.

Here you see my five happy students in the studio on Friday afternoon - thanks for these great photos, Laura!

And here is our class display at the  student exhibit on Friday evening, complete with the proud teacher looking dazed but happy!


I will be teaching Acadian Weaving again at the end of May for the Sand Hills Weavers Guild in  Southern Pines, NC - their website says that there are still a few places left in this workshop!

Between now and then, I have a day at the Powhatan Festival of Fiber and then the mighty, exhaustive, exhausting Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival - this will be the 25th and last year for my Peace Weavers booth in the Main Exhibit Hall.  Then May will bring some family events - a baby shower house party to celebrate our first grandbaby who is due in early July and a trip up into Pennsylvania for my nephew Mike's college graduation.

I have lots of things to show and tell, and I will do my best to keep posting through this busy season.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

No Time to Say Hello, Goodbye!

I have been really busy these last two weeks, the usual collision of budget season & annual mailing at work, personal and home business tax prep and preparing to leave home and work for a week of teaching at the John C Campbell Folk School.

But there were a few things I wanted to share with you before I go.

One was the beautiful misty sunrise above.  I am truly delighted by all the signs of spring: the green coming up in the new grass, three new foals in our neighbor's field, and six tiny wren eggs in the nest in the weaving studio.

Yes, I did say IN my studio.  This little outbuilding was originally a chicken house.  When we moved here in 1985, my husband cleaned it up and we converted it to a play house for the children.  There have been sleepovers there and a number of people have lived there temporarily - teenage boys who came to work for the summer and a wonderful Polish man who worked on a series on renovation projects for us in the spring of 1993.  Eventually I traded the old parlor in our house for the playhouse - two of our kids got to have their own rooms and I moved my looms out to the old chicken house.

So, it's a somewhat porous space as regards the natural world - I share my studio with a variety of insects and spiders, an occasional mouse and last spring a young Carolina wren built her nest in the basket where I keep long and short lengths of rug yarn and shoelaces for tying up warps.  I don't go in the studio much in winter because it is impossible to heat to a comfortable temperature, and before I started working in there last spring, this tiny bird found what seemed to her to be an ideal location - private, quiet, cozy.  I didn't have the heart to disturb the nest, so I let her raise her brood and then cleaned out the nest when they had fledged and flown.

It simply did not occur to me that she would return, but she has built a new nest and when I checked yesterday, she had laid six wee eggs.  Oh, well.  I will be away all next week and then busy catching up at work during the week and busy with the Powhatan Festival of Fiber on April 25th and very busy with the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival on May 2 &3.  And I have my Wolf Pup in the house, so I will leave my wren in peace as long as she needs the nest.

But next year, I will hide that basket!

Then there was Easter... I baked two almond cakes last Saturday - one in a sheep mold especially for the holiday and one in a tube pan in case the sheep was a complete disaster.

 I really enjoy baking.  I like the process by which a list of ingredients is transformed into

a delicious, aromatic, edible thing - in this case, a cake -

and sometimes into a very special cake!

I was able to repair the nose with a bit of trimmed cake and then covered the whole cake with a bittersweet chocolate glaze.

My sister Sally prepared a wonderful spread for Easter dinner - leg of lamb with avgolemono sauce, ham, asparagus, a massaged kale salad and a complicated pilaf that my Father used to make called Armenian Rice.  It includes chicken livers, almonds, sauteed apples and onions, tomatoes, eggplant, bacon and it tastes like my childhood.

The sheep cake was a big hit, and was particularly enjoyed by a visiting neighbor who initially declined dessert because he has celiac and can't have wheat flour.  He was surprised and pleased to find that I am a gluten-free baker.

The last thing to share is a photo of Idgy with her boyfriend, Beaucephus.  They spent quite a bit of time together over the last two weeks and we are hoping that they finally figured out how to make puppies.  We will know in a few weeks!

OK, I have to finish my work reports and solve the problem with the balance sheet and pack all my materials and handouts and some clothes before I head off to Brasstown, North Carolina to teach a week of Acadian Weaving.  More on that in the next post.