Sunday, October 11, 2015


.....Recently, Larry and I drove to the Blue Dress Barn, an interesting old structure near Benton Harbor, Michigan-- drove to Kalamazoo, MI, on Saturday, then made the short hop to Lake Michigan on Sunday morning.   The grounds are lovely -- a delightful jumble/jungle of poorly kept and therefore very inviting shrubs, grass, flower beds, etc.   The event?   My fabulous nephew, Nicholas VanBurkleo, married Abby, now also VanBurkleo, so now they get to be happy forever after, and I think they really WILL be.   Here is the gorgeous duo:

.....also recently, I got through the nightmare of poor copy-editing and a host of other problems -- and then finished the index, which was genuinely exhausting......with luck, Cambridge U Press will actually publish my new book, Gender Remade..., on schedule....November 30 or so.  Once it's in hand, maybe I should get drunk for the first time in my life.  

.....and finally, here is a retro turban and cowl that I cooked up out of triangles.   Probably a bit TOO retro for most people.   But Sharon and I like it anyway.....out of Schoppel wool, Reggae Ombre.

and finally finally finally, here is an outrageous crocheted boa that I made yesterday out of Hairy Lala (yes, that's the right name) -- ENJOY.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Ruminations after Sally's Visit..

It's been awhile since I last sat down to talk with friends.....has to do in part with the arrival of page proofs for my new book (it may well kill me to get it through the page-proofs stage), but also with the visit of the wonderful Sally Melville, with her fabulous workshops and dinner-time presentation in downtown Farmington.   Both Larry and I, not to mention Sharon, Ellen, Nick, and the courageous server (the very pregnant Emily, who works for Cowley's Restaurant), loved every minute of it AND dropped in our tracks for two days afterward.

And then came the 24-hour coverage of Pope Francis, and soon (October 6) comes my 71st birthday, which is just plain unbelievable and also a bit scary.  These things have converged in my mind.   So let me try to sort it all out. 

Sally's wonderful talk over dinner, a week ago today, was about working with one's hands -- the way such things heal, offset the horrors and pace of modern life (the stress, the illnesses borne of stress, the ugliness and violence on all sides, the brain's ability to pass on to the body such worries and dark messages).  These things have been proved scientifically.  I have long thought, after hearing some of Sally's ruminations a number of years ago, that the resurgence of handknitting, crochet, weaving, and other fiber arts has to do with exactly that -- a need to be PRESENT in our own lives, in the world of quiet and reflection and human-paced activity.  The need to exist without worry or dread in the privacy of our own bodies -- perhaps in the company of others, but often in our own best company.

Once upon a time, I was a church organist -- began to do such things at about age 12 in Worthington, Minnesota, after having spent 8 years to that point in piano and then organ instruction.  My teacher for the piano was a lovely fellow, Prof. J. Earl Lee, at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota -- where we had lived for quite a while until we moved to Worthington.  My mother bravely drove me to Sioux Falls once a week for years -- until everyone decided that my hands were never going to sprout fingers long enough to reach 12 keys.   You need long, skinny fingers to master, say, the Russian repertoire.  So I fell back into church work and private lessons -- in Worthington at St. John's Episcopal Church and then, later, in West St. Paul, Minnesota, at Ascension Episcopal Church, where I finally got to play a pipe organ.  I did that until my late 20s, after leaving graduate school for my first professional job at the United States Supreme Court (a documentary editor).  I played that organ, in fact, for my father's funeral and, later, my mother's.  It was one way to say goodbye, very quietly, sitting on a hard, wooden bench all by myself in an organ loft.   In retrospect, I can see that I was also giving something away, but at the time, one doesn't see that.

So, when I listen to Francis, it's only a  hop-skip-jump to those early days in the Episcopal Church, which is still in many ways the Roman church done up in English and without celibate priests.  The music, the liturgy, the seductive power of ritual, are present just as surely as in Rome's St. Peter's Basilica or the Sistine Chapel -- or, in this case, the New World's Cathedral of Peter and Paul, where Francis spoke so very quietly and brilliantly of the human being's need to sit down, be quiet, help others, connect across lines of artificial division.

Francis speaks of our power to heal one another.  He urges us to find our own way, but to undertake such a thing even when it's difficult.  We do damage each and every day -- with the ratrace, the incessant looking at clocks, the violence in so many parts of life (competition with one another for no good reason at all -- as with the bizarre competition between yarn shops), rhetorical meanness and spitefulness and savaging.  My mother, Gladyce, once said that it was always easier to be nice than to be horrible to one another.  Why do we not pay attention?  And why -- this is one major point, I guess -- why do I think first of Elaine Clark when I think of my mother's words?

Attachments area
For those of you who don't know her:   Elaine is a now-retired professor of medieval history at UM Dearborn.  I have known her for 30 years.  On every day for all of those years, Elaine has made socks and little sweaters and hats and other gear for children (and, sometimes, adults) in need.  She learned to knit in early life, from nuns in a Catholic school.   Is it a coincidence that Elaine is always nice, always generous, always well-centered and kind???  That her face is completely at peace when the wooden double-points are in play?  You can sense a calming presence when she is in the same room.  The knitting is not coincidental.  Science tells us that the brain's chemistry changes when we knit.   Alpha waves smooth out; the supply of endorphins (the happy stuff) increases, as if while running or working on the treadmill.  We know, too, and Sally reminded me of it the other night, that older people with Alzheimer plaques in their brains actually can forestall the symptoms with knitting.

So let's all stop for a minute and ask why we are flailing through life like one-woman (one-man) demolition teams.  Where is the JOY?   When did joy become something we gave or experienced only at the moment of marriage, at passing the bar, at finding the perfect new coat or shoes?  How about at moments of forgiveness?   And how do our hands and handiwork advance the search for peace -- the search for alternatives to violence, dehumanization, the computers' tendency to put the mind elsewhere, no longer in the present?  

Go to your local yarn shop.  Gather some friends when you do it.  Speak only of joy-inducing things when you knit or crochet with them.  Make something for someone who has nothing.  Think of it as an homage to Sally.   Or to Francis.  Or to Elaine.  Or perhaps to my mother, Gladyce Bessie, who was the best person I've ever known.   If only she had lived forever.  Pick the one you want to memorialize, or come up with your own.... but don't fail to sit down soon and simply be mindful, present in your world, aware of the small joys that can be found every day, if we slow down and look for them.  In an E. M. Forster novel, there is a two-word chapter:   "Only connect."   That's the message, I guess.  I apologize for using so many words to say such a small thing.         


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Sally's Coming!

Be sure to check out the latest issue of the Artisan Knitworks newsletter and/or the website for full information about Sally Melville's upcoming visit -- which will include a gala dinner on Sunday night at a Farmington (MI) area restaurant -- lecture, Q and A, book signing, plus supper.     Enjoy!   svb

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Back from Allegan!

Each year, fiber artists and others gather at the Allegan County Fairgrounds in western Michigan for the Michigan Fiber Festival -- a lovely, good-sized event with very high quality offerings.   This year was no exception -- though I have to say the interiors of the various metal buildings (excepting only the comparatively remote, large "barn") were insufferably hot.  One thermometer registered almost one hundred degrees Fahrenheit.  That's just plain ridiculous, and if it continues, artisans may well decide not to come to Michigan.  Fans succeeded mainly in batting hot air around.  Someone needs to give serious, sustained thought to how this very serious problem can be remedied.  When you have hundreds of people milling around in that kind of heat, you court disaster, particularly since some of us are no longer 20 years old.   I know that the heat also suppressed sales.  Nobody buys heaps of wool in 100-degree heat.  I actually overheard two women talking about how they were just going to leave because they would be ill if they stayed.  Not good.   And one vendor told me that her sales were down dramatically as compared to last year.    Could be any number of causes -- but the heat surely had something to do with it.

More positively:  I saw many of my favorite people -- beginning with the wonderful Ellen Minand of Ellen's Half-Pint Farm in Norwich, Vermont.   Ellen makes big, beautiful skeins of hand-painted yarn, typically in DK weight but also in light worsted weight:   I got gorgeous hanks of wool-silk and some new fingering weight yarns with a subtle glint -- Angelina or something just like it.  They're all in the shop now in big baskets near the door.  One of Ellen's hanks makes a woman's sweater up to size large, and Ellen has been known to make additional yarn if needed from a couple of yards; I send it to her and she works hard to get a perfect match.   But it's only happened once.   And that was with a woman who needed a size 56.

Here are two general shots of the inside of the "barn" -- the only cool building among 5 or 6.   I do recommend that everyone drive there next year.  Call me -- I will be driving, and I can take up to 3 others in my cute little Beetle.   If a large number want to go, we can rent a van from Enterprise.  I did that one year, and the result was just incredibly fun.   Had I not been working to get a book to press the past couple of months, I'd likely have tried it again this year.

DO NOT MISS the guy with knitted antlers.

Please NOTE that Sarah Peasley comes to the shop this weekend to teach two workshops -- one on double knitting, the other on cables.   These are fabulous, and we still have a bit of room.  So call the shop pronto.   THEN on September 18-21, we have Sally Melville -- the legendary Sally.   Check your e-mail (and this site) for further information.     Love to everyone.  

Friday, July 31, 2015


Well, Larry and I negotiated the horrendous move from the east side of the Detroit Metro area to the west side -- a move that a lot of people think is like moving to South Dakota.   No.   In fact, it's like moving to Montana.    But.   That's because we hired a horrid moving company (do NOT hire Grosse Pointe Moving).  I am trying to forget all of the details.   Let's just say that a refund is in the mail.

At the west-side end, we have the usual array of boxes, bags, and other items to open and sort.  Things are made much worse by the quantity of YARN.   So we set up a big table in the shop with a huge pile (HUGE) of odd lots of yarn that I will not live long enough to use.   At some point (I need to get some energy back), I'll tag each item separately and put it in a real stash area in the basement; but, for now, it's 2.50 an ounce.   I will bring more in today.

On the academic side:   LOOK AT THIS!    It's in copy-editing stage now -- I have got through chapter 2, on to chapter 3-8 on Monday through Wednesday or so.   What a cool outcome.  Look at the fierce women on the cover -- they have KNIVES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  On the roof of a salmon factory.

  • Gender Remade
  • Citizenship, Suffrage, and Public Power in the New Northwest, 1879–1912

    VanBurkleo, Sandra F.
    Published: Not yet published - available from December 2015

    Price is not yet set




Sunday, July 19, 2015

DO NOT MISS This -- especially if you're having a bad day.

GET A LOAD Of THIS!!!   Copied from the dear Lana Niemeth's Facebook page.
Here's a precious giraffe named Misha kissing her newborn baby calf heart emoticon

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Visitations upcoming!!!

On August 22 - Another Saturday with Sarah!     Sarah Peasley returns with two new workshops - offered previously at national fiber-arts expos.   In the morning: Basic Double Knitting Techniques. In the afternoon: Basic Cable Techniques.  The prices are the same as her June classes: $60 for either class and $110 for both. Click the class titles above to learn details. Call or stop by to register.   Space will be strictly limited to about 16 for each workshop


Anothesally melviller Big Announcement: Mark your calendars - We are thrilled to announce that the incomparable Sally Melville will visit Artisan Knitworks for a long weekend on September 18-20.   Watch for details.


 As some of you know, Sally is an old friend of ours - she visited our east-side locations more than once, always to a full house.  She is doing a very bad job of retiring.  She is the author of many well-known and well-regarded books for knitters - among them, Style, The Knit Stitch, The Purl Stitch, Color, and Mother and Daughter Knits - and the creator of the now-iconic Einstein Coat.  


We can say this much:  On Friday night, September 18, somewhere in downtown Farmington, Sally will offer a public lecture about the process of working with our hands - why we do it, what difference it makes in the modern world.  (For those of you who have never met her - Sally is a fabulous teacher and lecturer).  There will be a small entrance fee and light refreshments.   This talk will be suitable for all crafters - young and old, women and men.   Then on Saturday and Sunday, she will offer three or four knitting workshops in house - topics to be decided with your help.  We have to limit seats to 16 or 17 each. 


Go to the Sally Melville Knits website, look at her 3 and 6-hour offerings, and give us a ranked list of 3.   Do it within the next few days.   We will be making a decision within the next 7-10 days.