Thursday, February 23, 2023

It's About Time for a new post!

 I do not post very often to my blog, but I do try to keep my teaching calendar up to date here.  And if you are interested in a remote program/slide lecture for your fiber guild meeting, that information is in the post for June 19, 2020.

                        Farewell to The Burrow, our beloved 1900 farmhouse

Hello, Shepherdstown!

So much has happened since my last post in June 2020 - we finally found a house we could both love, and we moved to Shepherdstown, West Virginia.  We bought our new home - a 2018 Craftsman style house - in August 2021, sold our old house in March 2022, and finally completed our move July 1, 2022.  

I now have a 2.5 car garage for my weaving and teaching studio and fiber storage - it's is great to have so much space!

We also moved my old studio shed, which has now been christened The Wool Shed, and all my spinning wheels, fiber prep equipment and fiber storage are there.

I had my first students in my new studio in January this year - 3 new weavers learning to warp, beam and thread in the traditional manner.  I helped them prepare their looms for the L'Amour de Maman - Acadian Weaving class that I taught for the Fiber Guild of the Blue Ridge in late January.

One of these students has returned for more private study: she wound and beamed her second warp this past weekend.

I am still giving a few online slide lectures for guild programs, but planning more and more in-person classes, which is wonderful to return to.  Check out my teaching schedule in the sidebar! If you are interested in seeing my class list, leave a comment on the blog or send me a pm through Messenger - Melissa Weaver Dunning.

My new studio has room for more looms - currently there is a reproduction barn frame loom waiting for a warp, an AVL floor loom with grey and black Shepherd's check yardage, a Schacht Baby Wolf with a Double Rainbow warp, a Schacht Wolf Pup with a cordonne warp that will be used for two Acadian classes and also a for Sing 'Til The Work's All Done class at the John C Campbell Folk School, and a Schacht Flip loom with two Solitude Wool check scarves in progress.

I was scheduled to teach at Convergence in Knoxville in July 2022, but both my husband and I came down with Covid-19 so I had to cancel and spend 2 weeks in bed instead.  I had signed up for a few lectures and Jennifer Moore's Double Rainbow class, so the warp for that class has been waiting 7 months for me to have enough mental bandwidth to start that project on my own.  Jennifer provided me with all the handouts and a few video links, and I finally dove in last weekend - it's weaving up beautifully!

I am trying to get my sewing space in the house better organized, in hopes that this will inspire me to do more finishing of my woven cloth, and maybe even sew a Noh coat before the AWG conference in June!  But I have a number of classes to organize and prepare for between now and then.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Online Teaching

We are living in a brave new world now, and along with a lot of other fiber teachers,  I am re-configuring my computer and other technology to help me adapt to more online teaching.

All of my slide lectures are now available for zoom meetings.  These were all designed to enhance my hands-on weaving, spinning and knitting classes but they also work very well as stand alone programs for guild meetings and other settings.  My fee is $200 for a 90 minute program followed by  live Q&A.  Email program inquiries to
UPDATED - Lecture fees are now $250.

Available programs include:

L’Amour de Maman - Acadian Weaving The earliest European settlers arrived in Maritime Canada beginning in 1632 and were known as Acadians.  Caught in the political conflict between France and England, the Acadians were forcibly removed from their homeland in 1755 and many spent ten long years imprisoned or homeless before eventually settling in Louisiana where they became known as Cajuns.  250 years later, Cajun weavers were following the same weaving traditions as their Acadian foremothers.  Come and hear about this remarkable story and see the beautiful fabrics they created on their two harness looms!

Donegal Tweed - The history of this unique Irish tweed from northwest Ireland dates back to the earliest textile factories in Ireland that gathered hand spinners and hand loom weavers together to provide income in an area of poor soils and subsistence farming.  Donegal tweed is still a thriving industry today 

Norman Kennedy's Ethnic Spinning Scrapbook - Master Weaver and Spinner Norman Kennedy was born in 1933 and he kept an old-fashioned scrapbook from the time he was a teenager, collecting images of spinners and weavers from around the world.  Melissa Weaver Dunning began her study of weaving and spinning in 1980 at The Marshfield School of Weaving in Vermont with Norman as her teacher.  This slide show presents a fascinating selection of spinners from around the world with enlightening commentary.

The Colorful History of Tartan, being a portrait of People, Places and Practices - Once a colorful pattern woven and worn by Scottish Highlanders, tartan was outlawed by the British government after the Jacobite Rebellion in 1745.  The history of how tartan came to be both a fashion icon and a national symbol of Scotland is full of fascinating characters and stories.

Tweeds and District Checks, Weaving from the Scottish Lowlands - Many modern suits and sport coats are made from this iconic twill cloth, using patterns that were developed from the age old Shepherd’s Check and from the colors of the surrounding landscape.  These color & weave designs and heathered dyed in the wool yarns have their own stories to tell, starting with a quick look back at tartans and moving on to the period after the Jacobite uprising and the Scottish Clearances.

18th c. Household Textiles - Domestic hand weavers produced a wide variety of fabric from their rustic looms for clothing, bed coverings, toweling and table linens. Modern weavers will be inspired as we explore two private antique textile collections to see samples of garments, cotton toweling, linen napery, linsey-woolsey, overshot, Venetian carpeting and wool blanketing.

Shaker Weaving and Textiles - Many are familiar with Shaker chairs or buildings, but the Shakers also applied their fundamental principles of utility, simplicity and proportion to textiles.  They are known for weaving poplar strips into cloth for baskets, bonnets and fans, utilitarian cloth for their own use, heavy fulled wool fabric for the Dorothy cloaks they wore and sold, and simple but unique rag rugs that still delight hand weavers today. We will examine hand woven textiles from the archives of three Shaker museums: Pleasant Hill in Kentucky, Hancock in Massachusetts and Canterbury in New Hampshire.
 Shaker Weaving with an emphasis on Shaker Rugs - As above, but with a special focus on the unique aspects of Shaker rugs.  
Traditional Knitting from England, Ireland and Scotland - Many of the foundations of traditional knitting come to us from England, Ireland, and Scotland: Fisherman’s ganseys, Aran cable knitting, Fair Isle multi-colored patterned knitting and delicate Shetland lace.  We will explore each of these traditions through images of garments and knitters, old and new.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Spin Off Autumn Retreat!!!

Image result for boulder colorado
I am honored and excited to be teaching for the newly reinstated Spin Off Autumn Retreat (SOAR) in Boulder Co, September 2020! The registration opens tomorrow, Thursday February 26th at 10am Mountain Time - that's 12 noon Eastern time, folks!

There will be fewer than 65 spaces available for this retreat, so if you are interested, look the website over and be standing by your computer at the proper time!!!

I will be teaching:
Point Spinning: Great Wheels, Spindles and More during the sampler days and
a two day intensive class on Preparing and Spinning for Traditional Textiles

I hope to see some of you there!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

I'm teaching at Convergence in July!!!

I began my life as a weaver in a 6 week class with Norman Kennedy at the Marshfield School of Weaving in 1980, and I have been teaching weaving classes for over 20 years.  But my Bluemont Concert Series day job has kept me from participating in most of the many exciting summer conferences and seminars - until recently.  I decided I could squeeze one conference into our very busy summer concert schedule a few years ago, and this worked well enough that I taught at two conferences last year - Midwest and MAFA.

On the strength of these successes, I went ahead and applied to teach at Convergence in 2018 - and got accepted!  I am really, really excited about going to Convergence for a number of reasons:

- It's THE national weaving conference in the U.S - I'll meet lots of weavers and fellow teachers.

- Convergence is taking place in Reno, Nevada this year - this will be my first visit to Nevada.
I love visiting new places and I look forward to connecting with guilds and schools in the western states for future classes.

- I'm going to room with my weaving road trip buddy Liz, who just moved from Virginia to New Mexico.  We are going to pretend she hasn't moved away and carry on having weaving adventures together!

There will be -

Can you say Marketplace

 There are so many interesting and exciting classes!

I will be leading 3 different seminars and teaching 2 workshops

Introduction to Hand Spindles - Friday, July 6th - 3 Hour Seminar

The Colorful History of Tartan - Saturday, July 7th - 90 Minute morning Seminar
Tartan Weaving - Tuesday-Thursday, July 10-12th - 3 Day Workshop

L'Amour de Maman - Acadian Weaving - Saturday, July 7th - 90 Minute afternoon Seminar
L'Amour de Maman - Acadian Weaving - Sunday-Monday, July 8-9th - 2 Day Workshop

Won't you join me?  It will be a terrific adventure!  Convince a friend to come along - there is still room in both of my workshop classes.

I hope to see you there!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

2017 was One Amazing Year, part the second

Picking up from my previous post - my friend, Martha Owen came to visit in July - Martha is the resident Spinner/Knitter/Dyer at the Campbell Folk School.  We spent a day hiking on the Appalachian Trail near my home and at Harpers Ferry WV and then drove up to Millersville PA together where we were both teaching at the MAFA conference.  MAFA = MidAtlantic Fiber Association.  
After all that hiking, my dog Idgy really wanted to come with us to MAFA!  She leapt over all the luggage into the van to prove that there really was room for her.  Sorry, Idgy!  No dogs allowed.

This is my home regional conference but only the second MAFA conference I've been able to attend.  It was a great gathering in spite of scorching temperatures which resulted in brown outs by the local power company.  Then the A/C broke in building where I was teaching Acadian Weaving on our second afternoon,  but the building where Martha was teaching beginning spinning had the heat stuck on!  Creative use of fans saved the weekend.

We also fit in a little antiquing on the way back, although this sweet old blanket came from a vendor at the MAFA market.  I hope to weave a reproduction of this before too long.

September found me heading back to Vermont with my road trip buddy, Liz, for a week long Tweeds and Estate Checks class at the Marshfield School of Weaving.  The students had a great time working on the old looms, weaving a sample on each warp and then choosing a loom to weave off a few yards of tweed cloth. Here is the Hebridean tweed web - we sampled with many different weft colors.  One of the exciting aspects of traditional tweed is how much of an impact the color of the weft thread has on the fabric - these color and weave effects are endlessly fascinating!
To finish off the week, Norman Kennedy led a wool waulking for us on Friday afternoon - a real highlight!

The last weekend of September brings a great local fiber festival - the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival.  On Friday, I volunteered once again to jury for the fleece sale check in and in the afternoon taught my How To Choose a Fleece class - I really appreciate being able to bring the students right into the fleece sale and have them unrolling and learning hands on about fleece.  On Saturday and Sunday I taught four spinning classes - Hand Spindles (twice), Handpaint Magic Spinning and Traditional Wool Preparation.  I really was too busy to take photos!

In early October I made my third trip of the year to the Marshfield School of Weaving in Vermont for a 3 day October spinning class co-taught with Norman Kennedy.  My husband came along on this trip and we had a nice visit with our son in Northampton, MA - I visited WEBS twice! - and then my husband hiked and drove around Vermont all weekend enjoying the colorful splendor that is leaf season in Vermont.
This class was treated to a tour of some of the wonderful antique wheels and fiber tools that the Marshfield School of Weaving has recently acquired from the now dismantled American Textile Heritage Museum.
We had several antique wheels in class for students to try.

And I brought home a stunning Quebec wheel that I bought from Norman - an early wedding anniversary present.  Did you know that the 35th anniversary is for spinning wheels, too? 

These Canadian Production Wheels - CPW to the aficionado - have large wheels and are FAST! Great for high twist and/or speedy spinning.  They were designed to spin mill prepared pencil roving at a time when there were many wool mills and home spinners were trying to compete with factory production.  If you want to learn more, there is  great group on Ravelry called CPW Lovers.

We were away 10 days for this New England trip, then I was home for 10 days, catching up with my day job and home before I drove down to North Carolina for a week long Aran & Gansey Design knitting class at the John C Campbell Folk School.  It was a real treat to catch autumn in New England and then again in the Smoky Mountains!
I had a great group of students who produced quite an array of samples in our week together.

And then it was time for the Southeast Animal Fiber Fair in Asheville, where once again I taught my Acadian Weaving class.  I arrived Friday afternoon , set up my classroom and then dashed over to the fleece sale area.  A beautiful Corriedale fleece and half of a Wensleydale ram fleece were squeezed into my car for the trip home!

The grand finale of my 2017 teaching year was a weekend Tartan Throws class at Red Stone Glen Fiber Arts Center in Pennsylvania.  This was my first time teaching at Red Stone Glen and we have already scheduled another class for November 2018.  I had always enjoyed working with Tom Knisely and Sara Bixler at The Mannings, and they have brought all their expertise and sparkling creative energy to make Red Stone Glen a very special place for learning and camaraderie.

I celebrated my 60th birthday that weekend!  Is this the best birthday card ever?  What a wonderful way to enter my next decade!

I'm looking forward to teaching in some new venues in 2018, including Convergence in Reno, Nevada!  More on this soon.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

2017 was One Amazing Year!

In 2017 I taught more classes and traveled more places than ever before!  It was a bit of a whirlwind, and I'm happy to have 3 months at home now to reorganize my house and give more focus to my day job and family, but it was a lot of fun.  This year the majority of my classes were either L'Amour de Maman - Acadian Weaving or Tartan Weaving.

January saw me back in Vermont, teaching L'Amour de Maman at the Marshfield School of Weaving.

In February I taught L'Amour de Maman for the Williamsburg Spinners and Weavers Guild and did a wool waulking for the guild meeting.  Sometimes in spite of all my efforts a group of volunteers cannot agree on the rhythm - I believe there is video evidence on Facebook...

March brought the first tartan class of the year for the Weavers Guild of Greater Baltimore
as well as a meeting program on the History of Tartan and a wool waulking.

And then I went to the Florida Tropical Weavers Guild Conference.

This was only the second weaving conference I have attended and I gotta say that weaving conferences are terrific fun!  It's delightful to see so many weavers and to meet up with other teachers.  Michele Benson wove the longest blanket warp for the wool waulking, just a gorgeous length of wool.  This was probably the first and last time a wool waulking has been interrupted to rush outside to watch a missile launch!

Also, Florida has Sand Hill Cranes, Manatees and Alligators - all very exciting to see!

In April, I had the pleasure of hosting Kathrin Weber of Blazing Shuttles, who came to Virginia to teach two classes for the Waterford Weavers Guild.  Kathrin is a delightful woman and a patient and inspiring teacher.

I was very happy to finally have the opportunity to take one of her weaving classes and also her dye class.

May always begins with the excitement of the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival, and this was my second year volunteering for the Fleece Sale.

Some great sweater spotting in the fleece sale amongst customers and fellow volunteers -

I learn so much by handling and examining so many different fleeces and I love helping shoppers find the best fleece for their needs.

I came home with a Texel and a Romanov fleece to add to my teaching inventory and also one of Lee Langstaff's Shepherds Hey Farm fleeces, the lovely Tallulah.  And just a little yarn...

Then, I flew down to Arkansas to teach an Acadian Weaving class for Red Scottie Fibers in Eureka Springs.  Debbie Davis has a beautiful shop and teaching studio and Eureka Springs is a fascinating and delightful little town.

It is built on the side of a mountain and I spent my free time walking up and down and enjoying the architecture and some of the many springs and grottos.  I'm very excited to be returning to Red Scottie for two classes in September 2018.

At the end of May, I presented another Waulking of the Wool and a hand spindle class at the first High Fiber Festival at the historic Hickory Neck Episcopal Church in Toano, Virginia.

In June I drove to Indianapolis to spend a week teaching for the Midwest Weavers Association Conference.  This is my sister Carolyn's regional conference and we got to room together, plus she took my 3 day pre-conference Scottish Sampler class.

This round robin class combines tartan samples with tweeds and estate checks for a full dose of traditional weaving from Scotland, and we finish up with a mini waulking!  I also taught Traditional Wool Preparation and a lecture demo version of 18th c. Household Textiles.

One of the most exciting parts of this conference was seeing the original and reproduction Linsey Coverlet.  This is a pieced and quilted bedcover made almost entirely of handspun, hand dyed, handwoven linsey woolsey fabrics.  It is simply extraordinary.

There are very few of these coverlets in existence and very little to be found about them on the internet.  A group of spinners & weavers who volunteer at the Conner Prairie museum near Indianapolis has been working for many years on a reproduction of this piece and in this presentation we were able to see both the original and the reproduction.  Countless hours went into this project and the results are wonderful to see!

Coming soon - One Amazing Year, part the second!