Sunday, March 1, 2015


Everyone, just look at this drop-dead beautiful thing.   Terrie Voigt (the gifted glass-button maker and all-around fiber genius from Troy, MI) made it in the wake of the workshop I did several weeks ago for the wonderful Textile and Fiber Arts Guild of Michigan (free-form crochet).   Sometimes, when I see this kind of thing, I well up.   What extraordinary joy this brings to the world.   If you want to see more, visit Terrie's blog --   


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Are you COLD and BLUE? A remedy...

So here is what you should think about if you get to feeling BLUE and COOOOOLD and afraid that warmth will never return in your lifetime.   It's ALMOST fiber-festival time, which means that, across the country, also across Canada and England and some other countries, people pour out of their locked-up houses with bushels and boxes of gorgeous hand-crafted yarn and set it up in tents in the middle of fields or fairgrounds -- and sell it to people like me.    I just bought some of the amazing yarns produced by Solitude, which is a small-farm-project enterprise in the Chesapeake.  We have had some of their amazing yarn (locally sourced, handdyed, locally spun, etc.) in the shop for awhile now.   It's gorgeous wool -- not the ruined kind of wool that American knitters sometimes think they prefer (made too soft, will pill instantly, etc.),   This time, I got a dozen skeins of the undyed alpaca-wool lace-light fingering weight shown below (the ones on the far right) with little slubs of dyed blue and green spun into the natural animal colorations.  When I go to the Maryland Sheep and Wool  Festival in May I'll talk with them some more, try to grab some of the stunning luxury-fiber hand paints made by JOY (Just Our Yarns), which is a survivor from the utterly amazing coop that closed in Alexandria, VA, a few years ago, Springwater Fiber Workshop, operated by two women who were principals at the fiber workshop.    So you see?  There is ground for optimism.  Soon there will be the Ohio and Indiana festivals (Bowling Green, Greencastle, etc.) and a bunch more.  I will put on lots of miles in the little Moonrock Silver Beetle.  Stay tuned.    svb


Lovely undyed black alpaca is blended with just enough Merino wool to give this lace weight yarn a little elasticity. It comes in undyed black and three subtle color variations created with dyed in the wool Merino. Elegant and very soft to make something special.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

OMG -- Look at this!! Copied in its entirety..... !!!

Penguins wearing sweaters are the cutest thing ever

Feb. 13, 2015 at 3:35 PM ET
Humans aren't the only ones bundling up right now: Some penguins can also be found warming up (adorably) in sweaters.
Penguins at Phillip Island Nature Parks who have been affected by oil spills wear tiny knit sweaters as protection against the elements, since oil affects their feathers and makes them vulnerable.
Little Penguin in knitted sweater
Phillip Island Nature Parks
"Knitted penguin jumpers play an important role in saving little penguins affected by oil pollution," Danene Jones, a spokesperson for the nonprofit, told in an email. "Oil separates and mats feathers, allowing water to get in which makes a penguin very cold, heavy and less able to successfully hunt for food."
The phenomenon of penguins wearing sweaters has charmed the Internet a few times over the years, as stories have emerged of Good Samaritans knitting tiny garments for the animals in need.
Little Penguins in knitted sweaters
Phillip Island Nature Parks
This week, another such story went viral, as the 109-year-old Alfred "Alfie" Date revealed in a sweet video interview that he started knitting the creations after hearing the call for sweaters.
"I can't say no," said Australia's oldest man and avid knitter. "It's a good way of getting along in life. You make friends all the time but you don't make a fool of yourself either."
Little Penguins in knitted sweaters
Phillip Island Nature Parks
Over 400 little penguins were affected by the last major oil spill near Phillip Island in 2001. Ninety-six percent of those animals were successfully saved and released back into the wild.
Though Phillip Island Nature Parks did put out a call for the sweaters for little penguins (a species of penguin unique to southern Australia and New Zealand), the organization now says it's got all the sweaters it needs.
"Thanks to everyone who has contributed," Jones told "We don't require any further jumpers!"
But penguin lovers can still find other ways to help the little creatures in need on the Parks' website, The Penguin Foundation.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

WOW! Ann Arbor in the News!

Look at this!   Some of you may know Ann Arbor's Riin Gill, one of the region's most gifted hand-painters of knitting yarn and roving.  She also has been working hard to make use of Michigan-raised wool -- you can see some of the fruits of that project here in gorgeous semi-solid skeins (mostly DK and worsted weight, with lots of non-Michigan yarns in lighter weights).   Artisan Knitworks has over 800 skeins of her yarn available in a trunk show through the 15th.   You have to see this to believe it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!    svb

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 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,'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