Tuesday, February 21, 2017

2016 Textile Highlights

It's good to look back and assess from time to time.  My 2017 schedule started in a whoosh, so I haven't had much time until now to recap the previous year.

I had a quiet winter, starting the year with a wonderful week long visit to Vermont in January to spend time with my teacher, friend and mentor Norman Kennedy.  As an added bonus, I finally got to spend time getting to know Minnesota weaver Bruce Engebretson who was also visiting Norman that week.  Bruce wove a Rio Grande style blanket on Norman's loom and I wove off a set of samples of a German Two Block blanket for a study group.  I also went through much of Norman's textile collection, photographing and taking notes of blankets and coverlets and linens that Norman had woven or collected over the years.

Some of these textiles will appear in my future classes and slide shows, and I brought home a few pieces of tweed and a beautiful old linen Ms&Os towel that Norman gave to me.

One of my long time singing partners, Linda teaches art at a school in Middleburg, Virginia.  The school has a culture study each year, choosing a different country and exploring many aspects of the people, place and culture.  in 2016 they studied Peru and my friend asked if I could help with spinning and weaving, so I took a crash course in Peruvian pebble weave and did 5 workshops with her students.  My husband was my trusty assistant and everyone had a good time.

In my day job life, I am the business manager and Artist-in-Education program manager for the Bluemont Concert Series.  In a small non-profit, you wear many different hats!  I set up cultural and educational programs for schools through our AIE program, so I also arranged for some old friends who are part of the Bolivian musical ensemble Rumisonko to play for the students, - so it was my favorite kind of day, filled with weaving, wonderful traditional altiplano music and a Peruvian lunch prepared by the parents.

 In April, I returned to the Powhatan Festival of Fiber for my second year.  I did two wool waulkings and taught a spindle spinning class.  I will be sorry to miss the festival in 2017, but it is scheduled for the same day as my daughter Lily's wedding - April 29th!

I had a booth with my Peace Weavers yarn business at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival for 25 years and enjoyed sharing the work and fun with each of my three sisters and my Mom as well as a few stalwart fiber friends.  I decided that 25 was a gracious plenty, so in 2016 instead of setting up and running a sales booth,  I volunteered with the fleece sale at MS&W.  It was wet and cold on the check-in day but the team of volunteers were undaunted!  We processed over 1,100 fleeces - they were literally piled up to the ceiling on both sides of the building while those fleeces entered for judging were examined.  Then we pulled the sale only fleeces into the middle of the building and sorted them by class and wool type.

I was busy with my family on Saturday but I returned on Sunday to help for a few hours on the sales floor and with the check out after the festival closed Sunday evening.  It was a lot of work but all the volunteers were in good spirits and it was a pleasure to be a part of that team.  I love seeing and handling fleece - just for the wooly pleasure, but also for the opportunity to expand my knowledge about fleece and breeds.  I hope to volunteer again this year, and hopefully manage a little more restraint in the fleece buying department.  I bought four fleeces: Black Welsh Mountain, Cheviot, Clun Forest and Columbia.

A week after MS&W, I drove to the John C Campbell Folk School in North Carolina's Smokey Mountains to teach a week long spinning & dyeing class called Handpaint Magic Spinning.  While most of the classes I teach are based on historical and/or traditional techniques and textiles, this class was inspired by my deep love of color. 

I know that many spinners love to collect handpainted rovings but some delay spinning these beauties for fear of "messing up".  Other spinners have turned bright multicolored rovings into muddy yarn.  So this class offers a variety of ways to use handpainted rovings to their best advantage.  With the 5 or 6 day Folk School format there is also time to dive in and paint some roving, too.

Then I stayed on to be a student for a change in a weekend natural dyeing class taught by my friends Martha Owen and Elizabeth Johnston.  It was a terrific weekend spent with old friends and new, with more than a dozen dye pots and lots of learning!

I have been a member of the international Complex Weavers Guild for many years and attended the Complex Weavers Seminars in 2012 when they were held in Washington DC.  I applied to lead seminars for the June 2016 Seminars near Chicago, Illinois and was delighted to be selected to lead two - The History of Tartan and Acadian Weaving.  I have slide lectures for these two classes and it was great fun to share my enthusiasm on these subjects.  This is a wonderful organization and I hope to be able to participate in the CW Seminars again in future years.

One of the highlights of my summer season was the opportunity to meet Louise Hunt, who has a podcast called Caithness Craft Collective that I have enjoyed listening to for many years.  Louise and her family came to Washington DC for vacation and spent a weekend in Pennsylvania for the Twinset Knitting Retreat.  I offered to meet them up near Lancaster PA at Twinset Jan's farm and drive them back to DC, which gave us lots of car time for blathering away like old friends!  We made a slight detour through Leesburg, Virginia where we all enjoyed Vietnamese food and a Bluemont Summer concert with the incomparable DuPont Brass band, and I got to introduce Louise and her family to my husband Peter and my daughter Lily who were working the concert as well as to my daughter Hannah and her husband and young son, Benjamin.

At the end of a busy Bluemont Summer concert season, I returned to the Campbell Folk School to teach Tartan Weaving for their Scottish theme week - this year the students wove tartan throws with 2/8 wool and to wet finish these properly, we had a waulking at the end of the week.  I also held a waulking of the wool at the Waterford Homes & Craft Tour in early October.  It was a very soggy weekend and we managed one song in front of the Waterford Weavers Guild tent and then one more song inside the tent to escape the downpour.

There was more wallowing happily in fleeces as I helped the team of jurors at my local fiber festival, the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival in late September.  I juried fleece for several hours and then taught a class on How To Buy a Fleece, talking to the students for a while and then returning to the fleece jurying with them for some hands on experience.  This is one of my favorite classes to teach!  I think every fiber festival that has a fleece sale should have something like this to help educate spinners on the joys and many choices involved in working from fleece to yarn.
I also taught a few classes over the festival weekend - a 3 hour version of HandPaint Magic Spinning, Traditional Wool Preparation and Point Spinning on Great Wheel and Spindle.

To wrap up my teaching year, I had the pleasure of presenting two classes for one of my local guilds, the Waterford Weavers.  The guild chose my 18th c. Household Textiles class and I offered a special warping class for a half dozen students a few weeks before the November class.  We had students come from Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, North Carolina and Michigan!

I finally got to meet Milissa Ellison Dewey, weaver, spinner & woodturner of Asheville, North Carolina after many FaceBook conversations about old looms and spinning wheels and historic weaving.  She brought a beautiful Lervad loom to the class, a true parlor loom worthy of a fine woodworker.

One of the other landmark events of 2016 was finally moving my 89 year old mother to a retirement community closer to our home.  She had been living at a retirement community in Springfield, Virginia for 14 years, which was a 3 hour round trip drive for me and I was lucky to get over to see her once a month.  She now lives 40 minutes away and I see her at least once a week - a great improvement.  The preparation for her move took much longer than I expected as we sorted, packed & discarded but it was worth all the effort to have her close by.  My daughter Hannah moved with her family at the end of the summer and now lives 10 minutes from my Mom, so she & her toddler Ben also visit often.

What I didn't anticipate is how busy I am now - juggling 25 hours a week at my Bluemont job with spending time with my Mom as well as my grandson is a challenge.  Not to mention all this teaching - but this is an embarrassment of riches.  What better way to spend my time?

I will try to write shorter posts on a regular basis this year.  In between all the other things!