Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Catching Up

I have been many places since I last posted!  In June I participated in The Mannings Annual Spinning Seminar by setting up a large display of Tartans & Tweeds, including my entire Harris Tweed coat & jacket collection.  I also did two waulkings during the day - the traditional Scottish method of wet finishing cloth with many hands thumping and passing the cloth around a table to the rhythm of old songs.

If you are interested in learning more about waulking, you can listen to this podcast of a waulking I led at the Penland School in North Carolina back in 2007.

During the first week of July I drove up to Western Massachusetts to meet up with Nanette & Jan Davidson and their son, Sam.  Jan is the director of the John C. Campbell Folk School and Nanette is a fellow weaver and one of the first people I met at the Folk School back in 1997.  Nanette had arranged a day of study for us at the Hancock Shaker Village; they generously provided us with a staff person for most of the day and with her guidance we examined many of the pieces in their textile collection.

We looked mostly at Shaker rugs, but I also spent some time with the garments, tapes and linen towels.  It was very exciting to see the pieces up close, many of which Nanette and I had only previously seen in books as small black & white photographs.

We also toured the Sister's Weave Shop - Nanette wove a little on one of the looms!

And we looked around the 1830 Brick Dwelling and the Round Barn.  I have visited Hancock several times before and taken lots of photos... I wonder if I can still find them?  We were completely saturated from looking at all the textiles so we gave the gift shop a quick perusal and then refueled on salads at the cafe.

The next day I went to visit my son, Robbie in Northampton for the day and then drove up into the White Mountains of New Hampshire to spend the night at the Shalimar Resort, were Nanette & I swam in the lake and we all feasted on lobsters.

All in preparation for our Sunday visit to the Canterbury Shaker Village.  We had been unable to arrange a behind the scenes adventure here as we visited on a weekend, but Nanette & I took two tours and then explored the village on our own.  There were lots of textiles to see and a local woman demonstrating weaving in a portable band loom.  No photographs were allowed inside the buildings.  So we saw many things that I cannot share here, but it is well worth a visit.

At the end of August I drove up to New England once again to visit family and friends, but the focal point of this trip was Norman Kennedy's 80th birthday party.  It was a big bash in the huge barn at Kate Smith's house near Plainfield; where Kate runs Eaton Hill Textile Works.  There were about 150 people from all over the US and the world, one of the biggest pot luck suppers I have seen since my wedding, a waulking, contra dancing and music and songs.  My sister Annie & I were among about 35 people who had studied weaving with Norman over the years - Annie took her first class at the Marshfield School of Weaving in 1979 and I began there in 1980.
The party was a fitting tribute to a man who has given so much to so many people.  Lang may his lum reek!

There's more!  I had a number of music gigs in August and September - I sing with a wonderful group of musicians in a band called the Flaming Shillelaghs, and we did two concerts for the Bluemont Concert Series in August and then we played for the Glen Echo Irish Arts, Music & Dance Festival over the Labor Day weekend and once again for the CCE Irish Folk Festival in Fairfax, VA later in September.  I will tell you more about my Irish music adventures in another post, because there are many interesting stories and journeys to relate.

I taught three classes for the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival right here in Berryville

and then in October I did a wool waulking at the Waterford Fair,

prepared a new weaving display for George Washington's Mount Vernon and went on a vacation and research trip with my husband for two weeks in England and Ireland.  More on that later, I promise!  Photos, too.

In November I taught my 18th c. Linens class at the John C Campbell Folk School.  I was ably assisted by my friend Lucy Best and we had eight great students.  It is always a delight to teach at the Folk School and this week was particularly enjoyable with such an amiable group of weavers.

OK, coming soon - more about Irish music, touring Cornwall, researching Donegal Tweed!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Scottish Sampler class

I will be teaching my Scottish Sampler class for the Albemarle Handweavers Guild on April 21 & 22, 2013.
This is a combination of my Tartans and my Tweeds & District Checks class - a nice combination of two traditional Scots textiles.  I am posting scans here of the samples for this class so that the students can choose the warp for their loom.  The Tweeds will be woven with Jaggerspun Maine Line and Heathers 2/8 set at 12 epi, the Tartans will be woven with Jaggerspun Superfine Merino 2/18 set at 30 epi.

There may still be room for more students in this class - let me know very soon if you are interested by leaving a comment for this post!

Tweeds first:

Shepherd Check







 Barclay Hunting



Cameron - imagine this with garnet red, emerald green and chrome yellow!

Drummond of Perth


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Knit Traditional at the Folk School!

There is still room in my Traditional Island Knitting Sampler at the John C Campbell Folk School
 March 3 - 9, 2013.  This is a great class, loaded with information, techniques and tips and the Folk School is a wonderful place to spend a week, especially in early spring.

We will spend a day exploring each of these traditions:

Aran Island cables and textured stitches 
Fair Isle colorwork

 Shetland lace

 and then each student will explore further whatever techniques they prefer.

We will make a small cabled bag, a tiny fair isle sweater and a bookmark or two of lace.

Adventurous beginners are more than welcome, along with more experienced knitters!

So treat yourself to a week at the Folk School: great food, congenial company, a beautiful mountain campus and a week of cozy knitting and chatting. What could be better? For details, click the class title or go to

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Spinning, Spinning

OK, more updates on my Tour de Fleece progress:
Day 6: I finished spinning and plying the Cotswold lamb top, carded the Hampshire and the Hog Island and picked the Blue Faced Leicester sample. The BFL was a pain to pick, very clumpy and lots of short bits. I have handled better, but the fluff that remains should spin up nicely.

Day 7 & 8: I was pretty busy performing for the Bluemont summer concert series with The Flaming Shillelaghs. We played at a nursing home each afternoon before the evening concerts, and I got to do a little spindling at the nursing homes and while we were warming up before the concerts.

I mostly sing with this group, but I also play a little concertina. This is my Wheatstone English Concertina and my Bosworth Moosie spindle with the Finn sample in progress.
Day 9: I finally finished spindling the Finn sample just before our third evening concert began then came home and wound it off on the nostepinne, rewound it into a plying ball and plied it up! 90 yards, lovely stuff. I foresee more Finn in my future. A very white, smooth fiber with a lovely soft feel.

Day 10: I had no time for spinning, so I am calling this my rest day. Between the heat and giving 6 performances in three days, this weekend was absolutely exhausting.

Day 11: I spun and plied up my Hampshire sample (the skein) and re-plied the Debouillet (on the niddy noddy). Quite a study in contrasts! The Hampshire had a very short staple but spun easily into a wooly, springy yarn. The Debouillet is a very fine wool and spun into a fine, smooth yarn.

I had spun the Debouillet last fall and plied it on my Moosie spindle, but when I took it off the spindle I wound it off the end of the spindle onto a weaving spool and I took out part of the twist. Dumb. So I ran it through the wheel to add more twist. I love the way this fleece spun up, so very fine. I can’t wait to knit it up into some lace.

I am thinking about knitting up two samplers with the fleece study yarns, one of lace weight yarn worked with a different pattern for each breed, one for the thicker yarns - I think there is a lot of DK weight yarn here - maybe in gansey type stitch patterns. I may weave up the long stapled hairy breeds - I will see how they spin up.

Day 12: I spent the day sitting with a friend at the hospital, waiting for news of her husband and spindling my Blue Face Leicester sample. At home this evening I spun and plied the Hog Island sample. The Hog Island looks very consistently stained - I don't know if that is a typical color for this breed. It was a pleasure to spin, drafted easily and is a good medium grade workhorse wool.

I also wound the BFL into a plying ball. I will ply it on the spindle the next time I am away from my wheel.

Day 13: no spinning, but I picked one ounce each of four samples - Brown Coopworth, East Friesian, Isle de France and Oxford. These are all extra breeds that I bought last summer, 4 ounces of each from The Spinning Loft. Most of my samples are between one half and three quarters of an ounce, so I decided to weight out an ounce of the each of the new breeds to work up for my study.

Time for more carding!

Day 14: I was too tired to spin at the end of the day, but I carded three samples before I went to bed - East Friesian, Isle de France and Border Leicester.

Day 15: We had a very damp outdoor concert tonight, but I did get my BFL plyed. I also ordered some more fleece from The Spinning Loft: Ryeland, Teeswater, Warhill and Wensleydale.

I did a little administrative work on the project: I am trying to save a clean lock of each sample, but sometimes I forget. So today I went through most of the rest of the bags and pulled a lock for the small labeled bags. I will finish this tomorrow. I also started washing the skeins I have spun during this Tour. The yarn isn't done until it's finished! Between washing and blocking, wet finishing handspun wool can make it really bloom and settle.

Here is how I wash my handspun: I put a small amount of a wool wash in a mixing bowl, add warm to hot water and soak one or two skeins in each bowl for at least ten minutes. Then I rinse twice, squeeze out the excess water and take the skeins outdoors. I hold each skein in one hand and swing it around and snap it in the air to release more water and to snap the plying into place. Then I roll it in a clean towel and step on it and hang it up to dry. I usually hang a weight on the skeins - I use little loops of string to attach a small hand weight or a niddy noddy to help block the yarn as it drys.
Day 16: I had the day off but I was limp from the heat & humidity most of the day. I did do some spinning in the cooler evening - East Friesian and Isle de France. I finished pulling a lock from each sample for my records and I ordered a few additional fleece samples from two Etsy sellers from England: Portland, Hebridean Black, Manx Loughtan, Romney Marsh and Zwartbles. I washed more skeins and updated my spreadsheet.
Day 17: I washed four samples this morning, spun and plyed the Border Leicester this evening and then picked the Montadale and Perendale samples. Now I have 3 ready for carding and only 2 skeins unwashed. I will wait until I have four skeins and wash them in a batch. I confess that I skipped over the Merino sample for the moment - it has a lot of what spinners refer to as Vegetable Matter (vm) and looks like it will be fussy to pick.

Day 18 is a rest day on the actual Tour de France, and we spinners also take rest days. So today I went to work, ran some errands, met my daughter Lily for a pedicure and then went for Chinese food - does that sound restful? Parts of it certainly were. And when I finally got home, I caught up on my blog posting!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tour de Fleece rides again!

I am participating once again in the Tour de Fleece, a group of international spinners who form teams and spin daily during the Tour de France. Last year I began working on my 50 Breeds Fleece study, and while I had hoped to continue this study over the winter, it has languished since the end of the 2011 tour.

So I am back at it, and we will see how much progress I can make in these three weeks. This is particularly challenging as I often work 7 days a week in the summer months, but I have managed to fit at least a little spinning in every day and have been pleased with what I accomplished during the last two Tours.

So, I pulled down the box of fleece samples and took stock. I washed all 46 of the original samples last year, along with 4 or 5 that I added to the original Fleece Study kit from Jackie Bland. This is a 50 Breed study much in the spirit of the 4 member Dixie Power Trio. It's a good title and I'm sticking with it.

Last year I spun up 10 sample skeins - Brecknock Hill, California Red, Cheviot, North Country Cheviot, Clun Forest, Columbia, Coopworth, Cormo, CVM. I had the Debouillet started on a spindle at the end of the tour, and I know I finished plying it while teaching a workshop in October. I found the Corriedale and Cotswold picked and ready to card and all other samples clean in their labeled bags.

Day 1: I spun and plied the Corriedale and the Cotswold.

Day 2: I spent two hours looking for the paper copy of my spreadsheet with all the notes from last year. I found lots of other things and tidied up a very messy corner of the den, but no spreadsheet. Yet.

I made a space for the drum carder, brought it in and got it set up, then ran out of time before work.

Work on this day was helping run an outdoor concert. In spite of the 100 degrees F and about 85% humidity, everything went smoothly except for the power supply. I spun a little on some silk/merino that I already had going on a spindle but my hands were really too sticky for spinning.

Day 3: a wee skein of Horned Dorset carded, spun and plied after a long workday. I also carded the Polled Dorset and picked & carded Finn and Gulf Coast Native. Picked a tiny sample of brown Finn and some grey Gotland, but I have decided to card my way through the white samples before turning the drum carder over to colored fleece. Or possibly hand card them, depending on logistics.

Day 4: I spun and plied the Polled Dorset and Gulf Coast Native. Two very different types of wool, the Dorset is a down type, short and springy. I much preferred spinning the Polled Doset sample, it was easier to draft but both had lots of second cuts. The GCN is a longer stapled wool with a light crimp and more sheen. It carded to a light, fluffy batt and drafted very smoothly in a long draw. I look forward to seeing the skein after washing!

Day 5: I went to Gretchen's and got her started on a suspended spindle - a Bosworth Midi to be precise! I spun a little on the white Finn and she gave me some Solitude Cotswold lamb top to try, so I started that on the wheel when I got home, after spinning up the tiny sample of Brown Finn. Gretchen said that the mill found the top spun up thick and thin, and I am finding it very slick and quite a challenge to draft smoothly.

I also picked the Hampshire, Hog Island, Blue Faced Leicester and Masham samples, and I sorted the bags of fleece into those for combing and those for carding. Once I got to I for Icelandic, there is a whole group of long wools and primitive double coated fleeces that will be better combed than carded. So here is where I gave up working in alphabetical order.

So - it's still a big project, but it's also still very interesting! I will try to blog every few days to keep up with all the action here at the Burrow. I am going to be very busy this weekend as I am performing with the Flaming Shillelaghs on Friday, Saturday and Sunday night, but I will try to get a little spinning in.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Spring Redux!

We had a mild winter here in Virginia with almost no snow. This is the oak tree in our back yard on an unusually foggy spring morning.

I have been teaching a lot of classes this winter and spring. I counted eight weekends out of twelve since the end of January when Norman Kennedy came for a visit and we conducted a weekend spinning seminar.

We squeezed 19 students and spinning wheels into the newly opened Barefoot Weavers Studio - thank you, Beth!

A great weekend and if Norman sticks to his guns, one of his last out of town classes. He told me every day of his visit that this was his last winter teaching tour. I may have to visit Vermont next winter.

I drove Norman partway to his next gig at the Campbell Folk School and we spent a day exploring and cataloging part of Roddy Moore's textile collection. Roddy is a prodigious collector of broad tastes, and his primary textile collection is of handwoven blankets.

This is an under appreciated category of weaving and I was amazed to see his armoire filled with blankets on my first visit to his home. I had been thinking about them for a year and was very pleased to spend a day analyzing about two dozen, recording enough information for reproduction and taking a lot of photos. One of the blankets has already turned up in my 18th c. Household Textile classes!

February began with a local warping class to help six weavers prepare for a 3 day Tartan class held President's Day weekend for the Blue Ridge Weavers & Spinners Guild. We had 12 weavers for this tartan round robin - a colorful delight!

I also delivered a program on the History of Tartan for the Potomac Fiber Arts Guild, accompanied by a brand new slide show that was great fun to put together, and finished up the day with a mini class on tartan design.

In March I drove down to Nashville TN to teach Acadian Weaving for the Handweavers Guild of Nashville - we met in the club house of an apartment building, a very nice space for classes.

This very useful caddy is made to fit on a Dorset loom, but one could be made for any loom without a castle. See the bead counter and the cork strip for attaching your draft? Very clever and handy!

From Nashville, I drove over the mountains to Brasstown NC to the Campbell Folk School where I took a weaving class with Laura Fry called The Efficient Weaver. I have wanted to meet Laura since the first time I saw her Magic in the Water book on wet finishing handwoven fabric, and this was a great opportunity to meet her, learn about her production techniques and enjoy her teaching style. Laura has honed her skills to weave very, very quickly and she shares the details of her approach with calm, patience and very precise language.

Pam Howard, Resident Weaver at JCCFS on the left, Laura Fry on the right at the Friday afternoon student exhibition.

A week of work from twelve very efficient weavers!

I missed the blooming of my favorite old weeping cherry tree at home, but the Folk School provided me with a suitable replacement.

To finish out March and start into April I taught a weekend class on 18th c. Linens for the Waterford Weavers Guild (Sorry, no photos!). Then I spent five days in Charlottesville with the Albemarle Handweavers Guild,

offering a two day Acadian Weaving class

and then three days of 18th c. Household Textiles. I have a copy of Norman Kennedy's Acadian textile slides along with a tour of Acadian museums in Canada to go with the Acadian class, but I premiered another new slide show for the HT class, including some of Roddy Moore's blankets and some of Bill Leinbach's antique textiles.

My last teaching day for the spring was spent at scenic Graves Mountain Lodge in Syria VA at the Dog House Yarns Spring Knitting Retreat.

I gave about sixty ladies an hour of traditional songs and stories and then gave a talk on Knitting Traditions in England, Ireland and Scotland: Ganseys, Aran, Fair Isle and Shetland lace knitting.

I am still trying to find a really good title for this group of traditions - I don't think British Isles or UK Knitting Traditions is broad enough but Northern Islands seems too vague, and really should include Faroe and Icelandic traditions. Maybe I should just expand to include those as well? Traditional Island Knitting - sounds tropical. The Armchair Traveler Knits Again? Suggestions are welcome! I will be teaching this class at the Campbell Folk School in March of 2013 again and I'd love to have a better title.

I am now neck deep in preparations for the Peace Weavers booth at Maryland Sheep & Wool, our front hall is full of boxes and I am programming my iPad to be our new cash register. My sister Carolyn is flying in from Kansas on Wednesday - here it comes!

The day job gets very busy in the summer months, but I am hoping to make more time for weaving and spinning this summer. One of the things I took away from my week with Lara Fry was the knowledge that I need to weave more. And I am already looking forward to the Tour de Fleece in July!