Tuesday, January 27, 2015

For Friends of the Third Coast Festival

So very many of you have asked what we plan for the future of the Third Coast Fiber Arts Festival that I think it's probably time to provide an answer.   The two experiences we all had together at the beautiful McGregor Center at my very own university (Wayne State) were pure joy, at least for me and my very small staff.  The amazing instructors all had a memorable time as well, both years; some of them have asked when they can come back.

The problem, as I have told some of you, is that the second year of the festival coincided with the godawful publicity that dogged the city of Detroit for so many months during the bankruptcy.  We have artisanal vendors tell us, somewhat incredibly, that they were afraid to drive along freeways into midtown.  The vendor floor was about half of what it had been the year before -- and people didn't ask me WHY, they just concluded that the event had drawn fewer vendors (all of them were wonderful, by the way....numbers ought not to matter -- we had a LOT of them).  We had absolutely fabulous classes, many of which were one-of-a-kind.  I don't need to tell you how wonderful the instructors were; everyone knows the merits of people like Barry Klein, Laura Bryant, and Lily Chin.  In addition, our day-trippers (people who just cane in for the day) were less than half of the year before; and, once again, people told us later that they were afraid of the city.

Now, I am of two minds about this.  I work in midtown, and I know (as do thousands of other people) that midtown is bustling and fairly vibrating these days.  It's the opposite of something to fear; I have my own ideas about what animates some of these so-called fears.   But, to be sure, they are real, and I think this is important -- the media hypes this kind of thing day in and day out.

So here is the bottom line:   I am frankly tired of losing great loads of money -- when revenues run short, I'm the one who has to pay.  The classes were a raging success, and of course we had no trouble there ... we just didn't have enough to cover the catering, the hall, etc., in its entirety.  And the staff was barebones, exhausted, and (I'm sorry to report this) subjected to occasional abuse from people who must have thought we had a paid staff.  Three people put on a festival!

I am proud of what we did.  I loved the idea of bringing something beautiful to my beloved midtown.  I only recently paid it all off........so we will wait awhile, I will try to figure out how to hold a mostly-educational event perhaps in a location that won't make people think they can't come.  I do conclude that I can't change people's minds.  The only way to learn about midtown is to actually visit, go to a restaurant, go to the campus and walk.......and so on.  It will  have to be somewhere else, maybe Dearborn, and I will want to find a sugar-mama or two before I try it again.   I'm not rich, and yarn operations in any case are under stress as the entire industry contracts.  But I'm an educator by day, also by night, so....it's hard for me NOT to try again. 

 OK?   That's as straight as I can get.  In the meantime, KNIT ON, CROCHET ON, and enjoy every minute of it.

So h  

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Crochet Doodling....!

What a joyous time I had this past weekend with members of the Textile and Fiber Arts Guild of Michigan at a two day workshop in which I got to talk about free-form crochet in several forms for endless, blissful hours and watch people create really spectacular little pieces!   Some were architectural or hyperbolic -- others were simply little flights of whimsy.   I have been getting little notes of appreciation, so I must have done something right.   But, mostly, the participants made success possible with their energy and imagination.   What a crew!!!!!!!!!!   Here is a little bit of a neck warmer that I did up for the occasion......has a fat turquoise button that fits into virtually any of the major holes in the piece.   Anybody with basic crochet skills can do this.   I'm doing it again, though in an introductory way at Knit Michigan next month -- morning class.  In the afternoon I'll have another go (again introductory) at free-form knitting.    Here's my fun little neckwarmer (in Noro Silk Garden):

Friday, December 26, 2014


Finally, I have time for the blog!!! I'm on sabbatical leave for the next 8 months or so (!), which means I have work to do but will be able to write a bit here and there on my own schedule.  No classes, no committees, and so on.   Even better, so far I've only had one written complaint about grading for the past semester, which I think is a world record.

Yarn:   I'm celebrating Laura Bryant's Prism this month -- especially the gorgeous yarn called Indulgence, for which purpose we have two stunning accessories in the shop, a short-row shawlette that makes me weep every time I look at it (and not from sadness) and a shadow-knit brioche scarf.   For people in the neighborhood, come look.   If you make the mistake of touching either of them, you won't be able to leave without some of the yarn.

I also discovered a delightful little piece by Sally Melville, who has been doing a lot of work in recent years with competing gauges and yarns (as with a nifty pullover in medium-weight wool with a fingering-yarn insert in front -- or this fun thing with a shirttail hem in back, made with Aran-weight yarn for the body  and sleeves in lighter weight yarn (in this case, Skacel's lightweight Ambiente, which is a fair-isle patterning yarn).  I have some of the latter on order, and once I have it in hand, I'll find just the right heavier weight yarn in a stunning color, maybe Merino 12 by Trendsetter.  We'll see.  Merino 12 sets up in a slightly springier way than does Stonehedge's Shepherd's Wool.  We'll see..  Can be found on Ravelry (search for Ambiente).

I have been lazing for the better part of the day -- really tired, and slow to recover after the semester and all of the agony over a book manuscript.  Dear reader (pretend I'm Jane Austen!), I'm also worried about the world we live in -- especially at the holidays, when we should be infused with generosity and a sense of anticipation.  I am not having much luck fending off a creeping sadness.   This will pass.   It has to do in part with memories of holidays past -- the no-longer-living, adored mother and father; the dinners in Minnesota with family (even though we didn't always get along); the Christmas seasons spent in Italy with husband number one in order to escape the tensions at family dinners;  the certain knowledge that such trips likely won't be possible for as long as I own a business that continues to eat up capital. 

I also wonder about the sheer mania that I saw in people's eyes as they ran in and out of the fiber studio in pursuit of things to buy.  People are making themselves miserable.  Is this the triumph of capitalism once and for all?  Aren't Christmas and Hannukah supposed to be about family and quiet joy and global peace?  A time to be contemplative?   What on earth has happened to us?  I remember playing a pipe organ in small Episcopal churches -- those quiet evening services, a choir murmuring in the background (never loud, always secondary to the peace and sense of connection to a far-distant past) -- I remember quiet times sitting almost by myself in a small church (also Church of England)  in the village of Wallington, England, trying to figure out what lay ahead -- I had lost a husband and I had no idea what life would be about.  My friends at that church wanted me to play the organ, so I did -- and it saved my life.   The objective, after all, was peace, consolation, forgiveness of those who mete out injustice, some kind of salvation.  I do not understand this complete eclipse of the idea that used to animate the season, for all faiths.  

And I'm troubled as always by the guns.   The police, the young black men, the many other people in the Mideast, blown to bits with bombs and guns -- and, in America, a certain idiotic John Wayne mentality that refuses to attribute any part of it to guns.   No matter how many times I tell people that the framers of the Second Amendment did NOT have in mind having guns in every glove box, in every shirt pocket, in every mentally unhinged person's hand, it's somehow not heard.   We are the only nation on earth prepared to die at the hand of our own guns.   In my darkest moments, I wonder why 25,000 people go to the funerals of police officers and not to the funerals of the young men.  I know.  The police were assassinated.  But -- we'll leave it there.  The young men were unarmed.

Surely 2015 will be better, for all of us.   I plan to write books -- and knit and crochet.   The making of things somehow imparts a sense of hope:   It follows as night the day that, if you make something, you are imagining a future in which it can exist.       svb

Monday, October 27, 2014

HATS HATS HATS ('tis the season)

....and now I'm in Holiday Mode.   I am turning to my annual  hat-knitting and hat-crocheting binge, which typically yields a couple of dozen hats, to be deposited in the shop when I'm all done, probably by about November 10.  It's wonderful fun.  I gather up my 16-inch circular needles in an array of sizes beginning with about size 9, ending with 15 -- some double-points -- and piles of yarn of many descriptions, usually stray balls.   I love combining strands -- right now, I'm knitting a strand of variegated Liberty Wool with another, thicker variegated wool, both of which share orange and not much else.  The fabric is wonderful -- size 11 for some 3/3 ribbing, then some expansion (bigger needle, 6 additional stitches) and I'll go until I think it's done.  Made two other hats earlier today, one with an I-cord pigtail, from a skein of Gina Chunky, another one from a very old ball of Aracaunia Lamari, which is a lot like knitting with woolen clothes line.  But the result is surprisingly attractive.  Has a simple stockinette roll at the edge, then several rounds of seed, which form HUGE surface bumps, and the rest a simple cloche.  On Friday, I'll go raid the yarn room in the basement -- gather up a couple of dozen stray balls of different textures and colors and haul them all to the shop so that I can keep it up on Saturday and Sunday.  I also want to make a couple of side-to-side crochet hats of multiple yarns with loose fringe tops.   If anyone wants to make hats, I'll be there in the afternoon both days! Bring baskets of wool.     svb

Thursday, October 23, 2014


So Larry and I drove away with the idea of spending two nights at Melissa and Tom Cragg's gorgeous home in the Berkshires (in Williamstown, MA), which would have put us within striking distance of the huge and ordinarily wonderful New York Sheep and Wool Festival at Rhinebeck, NY..... at which I would have been able to hug Ellen Minand (of Ellen's Half-Pint Farm) and a number of other good friends.    The house in Williamstown exceeded all expectations.  We arrived in the dark and had to call one of Melissa's neighbors (Suzi) because we couldn't find the driveway.  Here she is, and here is the driveway (can you find it? the visible pathway is the main road!). 

and here is our rescuer, the brave Suzi and her red Subaru:

But, after that, look at what we found! 

The latter, of course, is from Melissa's front porch, which has a round area suitable for deck chairs and mountain viewing..!  Here's a different view of porch, etc.:
but here is why you want to go to the Berkshires (THIS is the view from the porch):

But, in the end, Nature won out.  It rained cats and dogs on the Saturday of the festival, which was the only day we could attend.  So I got some editing  done, but the festival was out of bounds.  I have been at the Duchess County Fairgrounds in the rain.   You do not want to be there.  The parking lots turn to deep, deep mire (tractors pull out unlucky attendees), the many buildings turn into damp, dank death chambers, and you end up soaked to the skin -- in October, when it's not warm to begin with.  So, no.  Once burned, never again at the stove.  The weather report for Rhinebeck was especially grim (thunderstorms).  Instead, we went to a nearby alpaca farm, made the acquaintance of Dave and then, at the local farmer's market, Beth, both of the Sweet Brook Alpaca Farm.  We made the acquaintance of a number of individuals with names like Preston (he's a fawn alpaca, not pictured here) and I bought ten skeins of natural brown-vanilla alpaca with the names of the producing alpaca preserved on the label, which are now available in the shop.  When we visited the farmer's market, they had some of the same yarn in a basket -- one of them (the flecked one) is barely visible in the photograph.   THEN HOME.  No mud for me.  Trying to suppress disappointment, I have to say.  Along the way, of course, we bought a myriad of utterly amazing vintage buttons.  Who can resist?  We were especially taken with the supply at the Interstate Antique Mall in North East, PA -- yes, that's the name of the town, so-called because it's NE of Erie.  Dave, the owner, has a great eye.     
....and finally, this guy -- a puppet inside the Sweet Brook shop.   I almost bought him.
STAY TUNED!!!!!     svb

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Postscript....and the NY Sheep and Wool Festival

I just added an important postscript to the entry called "On Being Older."     Also, tomorrow morning, we leave for the NY Sheep and Wool Festival -- which is wonderful.   I will take some work in my laptop.   And of course I will take many photographs.   We (Larry and I) will be staying at the house of a dear friend, Melissa Cragg, in the Berkshires  both coming and going.   We'll take pictures there as well -- apparently the neighborhood features a mountain, a farm where the honor system prevails at a dairy and meat shop, and the darling downtown of Williamstown, Massachusetts.   Stay tuned.   svb

Friday, October 10, 2014

Knitting, thinking...

...sitting here knitting, and wondering whether other American citizens (including and especially knitters and once-upon-a-time voters) will see the incredible social danger that lurks in a life lived more and more remotely.   An Amazon Prime subscriber said this:  "The day I can have Amazon ship next day Ramen is the day I will stop leaving my house... Oh wait..."  This was supposed to be funny.  Here's the central idea:   If we can use the web to buy everything we need and have someone we don't know deliver it to our door, we can live entirely solitary lives and never have to interact.  I don't want to go on.   I'll knit some more and then I'll go to the shop where, I hope, someone will come in and actually talk with me.    svb