Saturday, December 29, 2012

Approaching the New Year

I just got back from a 5-day trip to my own nativity scene -- that is, the place of my birth, the Twin Cities in Minnesota.  Some years ago, I was appalled to learn that St. Paul's Elders had seen fit to tear down Miller Hospital, the actual nativity scene wayyyyy back in 1944, without so much as a call to ask me whether it was all right.......and now I see that the Minneapolis Elders have radically revised my beloved University of Minnesota campus, the source of the MA and Ph.D. and the site of all of those memories (some of which involve poverty, etc.) that fundamentally have to do with who we are.........they built HUUUGE buildings, moved roads, erected a Frank Gehry building that looks for all the world like a pile of crumpled aluminal foil -- and, again, without so much as a note to ask my opinion.  I got LOST, for god's sake.   It was just unbelievable    And to make thngs worse, it seemed to me that they have erased Dinkytown, the area on the so-called East Bank where everyone hung out in small cafes and galleries and junky little book stores....GONE.   Or maybe not.  I was lost, remember.  When you're lost, you're unable to judge where things might be!!!!!

There's some kind of parable here.  It has to do with going home again.......and it's not always bad.  For one thing, we found a huge pile of truly amazing vintage buttons -- handpainted, etc. -- in an obscure Wisconsin town's antique shop.  I got to see my gorgeous (TRULY) great niece, Milana, the daughter of niece Natalie and her handsome partner, David Carbonara.   Yes.  He's not Irish.  And, yes, the family was from Milan.  And I got to have breakfast with my old old old friend Ken Moss, with whom I went to grad school, who hadn't yet screwed up the nerve to go look at the campus (he now lives and works in Washington, DC).  And then I got to visit my friend Julie Larson, the one who goes back the furthest in memory -- about 45 years, which is really scary -- who is happily living in a neat townhouse in New Brighton, Minnesota -- which, I should add, wasn't where I thought it was.  What a disaster. 

I wonder if it makes more sense, under the circumstances -- by which I mean, the fact, however outrageous, that I just keep getting older  and older and older (!!!) -- to stop trying to identify old things, to perhaps be satisfied with memories, and instead seek out new pathways, new possibilities, perhaps new cities and countries.  Why visit Rome, for example, when Rome lives in memory and can only be sullied if you go back and stay in the same hotel, retrace old byways, eat in the same old (now seedy) cafes?  Why be upset (as I was some years ago) to learn that the best yarn shop in FLorence (Beatrice Galli's lovely place on the Arno River) was no longer there? 

Interestingly, I didn't look for NEW shops when I learned about Beatrice, so shattered was I by her absence.  So in the New Year, the idea will be to settle for memories and to push into new territory -- intellectual territory, physical territory, social territory.  There are worlds, entire universes, out there that can become new memories, worlds that can't disappoint us because we don't know about them yet.  Happy 2013 to everyone.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Smash the Pastel Prison!!!

I'm making a little sweater for my great niece for the holidays, if I can only find time to finish -- and I have been intersted in the response.  I bought some chunky Universal Yarn Co. acrylic one day when visiting my friends' yarn shop in Ann Arbor (Knit A'Round), but of course it's jewel tones, not those blah-blah pastels.  Twice now, I've brought out the little pieces (it will be one of my Grand Circus hoodies made out of modular squares) and an observer in the shop has said, basically, "Oh my -- isn't that for a little GIRL?" Always, I'm told that I should be working in pink, blue, insipid yellows and greens or maybe (MAYBE) pale lilac.  Even variegated pastels are suspect; something unwelcome, like the aforementioned lilac, might creep into a BOY'S sweater. 

I do think that most knitters and crocheters are moving beyond the pastel straitjacket.  But not all.  So here is why I don't pay attention to the supposed 'rule,' and wish others would do the same.  First, the pink-blue routine is no older than the 1930s.  It was originally a marketing schtick -- and then it became a kind of gender marker, like the earrings people put into little girl's ears at age X or Y to forever mark them as girls.  The gender anxiety in our culture has ebbed, mercifully, but you can still find it -- as when someone stops a parent in a grocery store to comment on the cute "little boy," and gets rebuked for masculinizing a little girl.

But, second, kids of that age can't see pastels.  So we really are doing this for us. Why not make things in colors they can actually see?  Bright colors.  Red.  Indigo.  Yellow.  Kelly Green.  Etc.

So I will continue to cook up this little hoodie, which in any case is going to be too big for little Milana, and collect some more comments.  Stay tuned.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Stitches in Time....

Let me briefly describe a project that we'll be announcing soon at Artisan Knitworks:  My little company began, some of you will remember, as a celebration of the lives and stories of small producers of yarn, fasteners, and other supplies for fiber artists.  The idea, before the recession made very many things quite difficult, was to do up a series of story boards with photographs to deliver up the makers' stories alongside their wares.  Well, that part of things awaits my retirement.

In the meantime, though, I'm going to publish a booklet -- the size will depend on all of YOU -- each year, in advance of the Third Coast Fiber Arts Festival in late October, that will contain stories and photographic illustrations submitted by our customers and vendors.   It will be divided into sections (the names are not fixed right now, but will be things like Laughter, Bumps in the Night, etc.) and edited by me.  (Don't worry -- I used to earn my living as an editor!).  Some part of the proceeds will go to a shelter for survivors of domestic and sexual violence.  Be thinking whether you want to share a story (500-1000 words).  More soon.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Tunisian Crochet......!

I've been thinking again about Tunisian, and especially the incredibly easy and versatile Simple Stitch, which is what we used to call Afghan Stitch when I was much younger......What an incredibly fall-off-a-log easy way to create warm accessories in a flash!  Here's a shawl I did awhile back literally over a weekend, mostly on a Saturday, on a big wooden hook made by BagSmith, size S, I think...using a strand of ancient (30-year-old) LaGran by Classic Elite mohair in Green Apple (WHY do I remember these things after three decades?) and a strand of Noro Silk Garden, supplemented at the two ends by a strand of glittery Dune by Trendsetter to vary the landscape.   The fringe is just a bunch of chain stitch, nothing fancy -- nothing a beginner couldn't learn to do in five minutes' time.

.....or if you prefer, you could cook up a really simple Tunisian hat in about 30 minutes flat.  This one will be featured in an upcoming class -- done on a huge Boye hook, beginning with fat yarn and only 8 stitches. 

So now I'm thinking about a huge huge huge Tunisian simple stitch coat worked from one cuff to the other cuff on a cabled Tunisian hook -- maybe with three strands, color-shifting as I move along -- I need to think about the array of yarns.  It might be most fun of all to work a kind of Biblical Coat of Many Colors, holding one strand (the mohair) constant, and throwing in everything but the kitchen sink, within a certain range of colors, of course, then using mismatched vintage buttons to close it.  I can even see a long, attached scarf.  I will keep you posted.  Need first to gather a pile of yarn -- and to do that, I need to unpack all of the stash in the basement (we moved!!!).  

For those who want to play, I'm offering a Tunisian class at the studio in a couple of weeks -- see the website!!!       svb

Monday, October 29, 2012

Vogue Live, Chicago -- First Entry

I promised photographs from our recent trek to Chicago for the Vogue Live, Chicago expo, held at the fabulous, old Palmer House Hilton in the loop........I've collected images in three separate entries, so have a wonderful time looking.  And have a look at the Vogue Live website.  These things happen periodically in places like Manhattan and Chicago. 

The vendor areas occupied the 3rd and 4th floors in the hotel and looked more or less like this:

I have dubbed this guy the show's mascot (see the full-length view in a later entry):

I saw some of the most drop-dead beautiful stuff I've seen in years -- as with this collection of crocheted scarves and shawls made by a French company using Madgascar artisans (a fair-trade company, I hasten to add).  Enlarge the photos to get a close look at the workmanship -- all of which was basically unaffordable for ME, but probably not for people with a bit more money, and I really do applaud the determination to give women what their labor is worth:

.....and finally, just LOOK at this amazing full-length coat:

Now go on to the next two entries!        svb

Vogue Live, Chicago -- Part 2

We found all kinds of friends, and more than a few interesting CRITTERS:

Here's the handsome Damien of Blue Heron Yarns and his partner Miguel (also handsome):

...Here is the glamorous (you owe me ten bucks, Leslye) Leslye Solomon of New York, who owns Woolstock -- a great yarn operation -- and who designs great sweaters (and teaches a fabulous Continental knitting class, not to mention creating a fab video on the subject):

Also get a look at this guy -- a yarn bowl -- we bought maybe a dozen in different styles, made by a nice couple from Russellville, Kentucky:

........but my all-time fave critter is this guy.  You figure out how they did it.  I gave up.  For a close-up of his face, see the first Vogue Chicago entry.

Now go on to Entry Three!     svb

Vogue Live, Chicago -- No. 3

From the great Vogue Live, Chicago expo at Palmer House, Chicago this past weekend.  Here are some of the more outrageous moments.   

First, one of several small crocheted baskets made from old video tape -- priced at 500 dollars and up (the one shown here is only 5 inches in diameter and carries a price of $ 550 !!!!!).  I vividly remember Kathleen, who once worked for us, making things out of video tape maybe five years ago -- if only she'd known to put huge price tags on it.  I call this outrageous.

   ...and then there was this felted art-knit, which is at least unusual and diverting, entitled "Together":

....and some pretty cool art-knitting in mobile form (click on this one to enlarge it):

...not to mention these water-color drawings of knit stitches (I'd like to own one of these):

.......and then there was the collection of KNITTED PRESIDENTS -- one of which was the 44th President of the United States.  Recognize him???

So you see, it wasn't just about yarn and garments and inspirational classes!    svb

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Vogue Live, Chicago...

On Friday, Larry and I drove (fast -- I was behind the wheel!) to the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago'sdowntown loop to attend Vogue Live, which began with an event in Manhattan some years ago and has now spawned a number of regional Vogue Live expos.  I didn't take the time to register for a class, even though the offerings were appealing.  (In any case, the two I might have taken were closed when I finally found time to look carefully).   Instead, we went to the market, maybe 75 vendors, which occupied the 3rd and 4th floors of the hotel.  I'll say more when I have pictures to post, which should be tonight or tomorrow.  But, for now, let's just say that there were high-quality vendors, but perhaps too many SHOPS.  When I go to an expo, I want to see the makers themselves rather than a collection of yarn shops.  That's not to say we didn't find anything interesting.  We did.  But it was mostly from the makers who DID attend.  And of course it was a joy to talk again with the members of the Windy City Knitting Guild, who created Polly Esther Cotton (the big sister of our own Rita Merino).  So -- more when I next sit down to write.  You might want to check up on the Vogue LIve events, though.  The class offerings are interesting -- a lot more instructors from Europe than at, say, Stitches' various expos.

In the meantime;  Here is a great shot out the hotel window!!!!  svb 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Third Coast Dates and More.....

It looks like the Second Annual Third Coast Fiber Arts Festival will occur on Friday and Saturday, October 25-26, 2013, in the same wonderful location, with a fresh list of fabulous fiber-arts workshops and vendors galore -- this time all on street level (better light for those previously housed on garden level).  Stay tuned for details.  And mark calendars.

In the meantime:  Let's knit and crochet!  I'm going to create a 3/4 length nubby cotton coat from Prism Calypso in three reddish/burgundy/teal colorways.  I'll keep you posted. 

I also have in mind getting the Detroit City Council to declare the Saturday of the festival Knit and Crochet Day Detroit.  This past year, I did up a resolution patterned after the one that the Atlanta Knitting Guild crafted -- adopted by the governor of Georgia (Knit and Crochet Day Atlanta) to mark the Saturday of the then-new Stitches Expo South.  So why not in Detroit?   If anyone has a good idea as to how to get the resolution before the city council, PLEASE drop me a note at, or leave a comment here.  Jocelyn Brown of the News suggested last year that I simply call Charles Pugh.  But we ran out of time, and the City was dealing with a major  budget crisis at the time.  I still have the resolution -- need only to change dates.  Ideas?  If we could get this simple resolution adopted, we could send it off to Pure Michigan, etc., and increase the event's reach and exposure.

More soon.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Hold onto your horses.....!

Hold on....we have to reschedule the second annual Third Coast -- two people made a mistake with their calendars.  Stay tuned!!!!!!!!!!!!!!    svb

Monday, October 15, 2012

Tantalizing Tidbits....! (with revision!)

No time for a serious entry about Third Coast.  BUT.   New dates are September 27-28, 2013.   And I have commitments from (BLARE OF TRUMPETS) Laura Bryant, Barry Klein, and Candace Eisner-Strick.  How's that for openers?

ALERT:   I just added Chris Bylsma!!!!!  and Edie Eckman!   (Tuesday, Oct. 16)

I'm now contemplating a great big, wide, simple  3/4 coat of very nubby, chunky weight cotton, hand-dyed by Prism -- seams on the outside, stubby sleeve pieces maybe folded back -- really really really simple, elegant, the kind of thing you can just throw on.

More later.


Saturday, October 6, 2012

New Dates

Before I go off for my delightful birthday dinner at Shin Shin in Windsor, across the river from Detroit -- a wondrous cafe that has been my fave since they first opened god knows how long ago -- let me tell everyone that the date for the Second Annual Third Coast Fiber Arts Festival likely will NOT be the 13-14th of September, 2013.  That's Yom Kippur.  So -- we are looking at the 28th.  I'll keep yhou posted, though.   Now off to celebrate being HORRENDOUSLY OLD.   svb

Saturday, September 29, 2012


OK, it's time for YOU to talk with ME.   Should we extend the Third Coast Fiber Arts Festival to Sunday?   And what else should we do that hasn't been done -- beyond extending market hours?   svb

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Photographs from Third Coast......!

Well, I still have a maddening cough -- but Larry has transferred a few decent photographs from my little camera to the laptop, so let me share some of the people, and perhaps you can get a sense of the airiness of the McGregor Conference Center atrium.  When classes were out, it was utterly jam-packed with people -- pure joy!

Click on photographs to make them bigger. 

Here is the amazing Sybil Williams at her loom, weaving a shawl that we actually auctioned off at the Saturday night reception:

Here are the people who made it possible -- Pam Champagne (seated, almost hidden, behind her sister Judy on the right) and the volunteer staff in "Knit-Wit" T-shirts......and then a shot of the amazing Judy Champagne -- all from the Champagne Nation:

Martha Kurtz (think of the needles as weapons) guarded the door to one of the big vending areas:

...Here is a long shot of the Artisan Knitworks booth (in the beautiful atrium -- we were shut out of the vending areas because -- surprise! -- someone who shall remain nameless neglected to write down all of the vendors !!!) -- and after that, a shot of the fabulous Rita Merino, the kid sister of Polly Esther Cotton (who lives in Chicago), with someone adding to her skirt:

Thanks to everyone who made this event so vibrant and life-giving!!!!   I'll try to write more, and tell you something of people's responses, when I'm entirely rid of this malady.     svb

Monday, September 24, 2012

Third Coast next year's date

.....still incredibly sick, and not yet able to download pictures.  But let me tell  you what I loved best about the Third Coast Fiber Arts Festival -- I'll finish when I feel better and have pictures at hand:

*  The way participants sat around the beautiful atrium of McGregor Conference Center sharing all kinds of new ideas and techniques -- a card weaver showing a knitter her work, conversation about how it could be a belt or a purse handle on a knitted bag, and so on....cross-fertilization!
*  The dozens of faces glowing, beaming, thrilled to death.  Some of these women had never been to this kind of festival before, and it was truly life-affirming to see those faces.  Maybe they'll go to Stitches now, or to the Madrona Festival, or similar events.  My fave is Madrona (Tacoma, WA).
*  The democratization so much a part of the event -- teachers with international reputations knitting in circles with students who had never imagined they'd spend time with famous designers....
*  The glorious market rooms -- dazzling displays of colorful handpaints, handspinnings, rovings, beads and buttons, garments -- on and on.  It took my breath away.


More later.  I really do need to take a nap.  Wretched virus.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Thoughts from Sick-Bed!

What a mess.  I got a huge, huge, ugly cold the first night of the wonderful Third Coast Festival -- so I won't say much right now.  Except this:   What a joy!!!!   and what a blast.   I loved the energy in the Center, the sense of celebration, the jazz band (which we'll have on Friday night next time so they can play for a longer time), the wonderful interaction between students and instructors....... Now let me get better and I'll include some pictures and more detail.   Hugs to everyone.     svb

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Tomorrow's the big opening day, friends, so if you have been postponing registration for one of our incredible workshops, do it right now.   Three of the classes (2 of them Sally Melville's) are on the verge of closing..  Once we've opened on Friday, morning classes are closed; once noon has passed, afternoon classes are closed; and so on.

McGregor Conference Center is 1/2 block off of Cass Avenue along the Ferry Mall.  You can park in any of the WSU parking structures with your credit card.  And there is ample meter parking along Cass Avenue and elsewhere.  Be sure to ask us for a restaurant guide.

At the very least, come down and have a wonderful, slow walk through the atrium -- meet Rita Merino, add to her garments with knit or crochet, walk through the MARKET, which fills two big rooms, and sit 'n knit for awhile in the atrium.  On Saturday night, hang around for the amazing JAZZ RECEPTION, featuring Prof Chuck Newsome (WSU, Music) on jazz guitar, with some of his best students.   For the entire time, there will be demonstrations in the atrium!!!


Monday, September 17, 2012

Back to the needles....! (and final note on Third Coast)

Coast stuff first:  If you are waiting for a parking pass to be sent by US Mail, you have important news in your e-mail, so CHECK!  It contains news of a new, improved parking system.  Or call 586-871-2884 for information. There will be a man standing at the entrance to Structure 5 to let you in.

But NOW (blare of trumpets):  I'm TIRED of not knitting, not talking about knitting and crochet, not being able to relax with wool and tools.  So here goes.  Today, I went through the studio and pulled a pile of handspun yarns (with a couple of handpaints to add texture and color -- two from the brilliant dyepots at Laura Bryant's Prism, one more from Trendsetter that didn't make it in the photo).  I'm still looking for a hank of acid green with some sheen that will draw it all to a point.

The idea is to create a couple of simple garments that will show people how to blend a nice pile of handmade yarns, particularly handspuns.  The trouble with handspuns, which I dearly love when high quality, is that people haven't the slightest idea how to use them, or even how they will look.  So they shy away from them.  If I can develop two or three simple patterns that will encourage people to make a trip around the place and make piles of them, with one base handspun in sufficient yardage to use periodically and especially at the front edges (to create even edges and symmetry), then I think appreciation for handspuns will increase.  So I am beginning with a small vest knitted side to side, I think in seed stitch (half-linen might be more fun, but it's slower going, and too slow for many knitters).  It has two slit pockets (easily done in a side--to-side piece, basically a big buttonhole at the sides a couple of inches from where the sideseam would have been).  I am going to start with the green tweedy wool made by Eileen McCormack, now of Wyoming, formerly of New York (it's the one in front near the bottom of the picture), and then just lay in different yarns, including the rare dash of the nubby yarn with clusters (Prism).  I'll leave the yarn hanging at the bottom edge after and before each row so that, when I'm done, I can tie it into a fringe.  Body without fringe maybe 10 inches.  I'll use Jean Frost's backward-setting shoulder seams (easiest here -- I can just work straight with all of these yarn additions and still have a back neck drop).  Then I'll find 5 small fabulous buttons.  Maybe an attached I-cord edging, depending on what it looks like.  Might not need that much -- we'll see.  It will need something at the edges.  CLICK on the sketch to see it better.

I'll keep you posted.   Enough is enough.   I need to stop worrying about Third Coast, which is doing JUST FINE, and get back into doing what I love.      svb

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Third Coast Enrollments Update

Everyone, if you mean to register, do it soon.  I'm not kidding.  Some of our classes are going to fill within the next few days.  Others have been less agressively filling, but even those could end up surprising us.  So act right away.  We will accept workshops reservations up to the morning of the classes, but it's going to get riskier with each passing day. 

Marketplace vendors are getting eager, chomping at the bit, etc.   So -- plan on bringing your friends!


Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Well, enrollments are picking up -- I'm afraid we'll have closed classes by the drove well before people finish picking workshops at the wonderful Third Coast Fiber Arts Festival.   So if you mean to come, be sure to register soon.  You can sign up at the last minute, but it's risky.  If a workshop fills, it's just plain too late, and I'd hate to see that happen to people.

Here is what I'm seriously pushing today:   First, the classes in beading taught by Judy Pascale are not being noticed quite enough.  She is the queen of beads -- everyone looks to Judy when the question comes to be how to include beads in knitting or crochet.  So have a look at her amazing courses.  One of them has to do with a scarf, another with a small bag (that can be made bigger, etc.), and the final one involves a darling floral vest. 

Then there are courses taught by Candace Eisner-Strick, one of the smartest and funniest people in the western world.  REALLY LOOK at the Strick-ly Shawls class.  You start with a 9-stitch tab, then construct a well-fitting shawl from any yarn, any stitch pattern, any edging -- you need to do this one if you want to wear or give away beautiful shawls.

 And then there is the whole range of stuff that might close if you're not careful -- Sarah Peasley's amazing trip through circular knitting of all kinds; Sheryl Thies' courses about Tunisian Crochet (she has published a book about it!); and so on and so forth.

Have a look -- do it soon -- and I'll see you ten days from now.  We give a free in-out pass to the parking structure when you register!    And don't miss Sally Melville's wondrous dinner lecture.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Evidence of Summer....and Canadian Slovaks?

Here is a spectacular photograph, Larry's triumph, not mine, that perfectly captures the beauty of a late-summer rain in late-afternoon light.    

and a real mystery:    How many Slovakian people do you suppose live in Canada?   svb

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Home from Kitchener today was the Waterloo-Kitchener Knitters' Fair at a very nice and quite large conference center in Kitchener, Ontario -- I have wanted to go for a couple of years but had always gone to the Jefferson County (Wisconsin) fair instead -- I decided to put Larry in the car and go to Canada finally, knowing full well that if I went nuts and bought too much stuff for the studio, I'd have to explain myself to the customs guys, who sometimes don't have a sense of humor.

It was a good, good day.  Why can't we have highways like that?  Smooth, beautifully free of ugly billboards, and well appointed with gas stations (though well off the road).   Not a long drive, but I am tired to start with (the Third Coast festival looms, my semester at Wayne State has begun, I have an unfinished book ms., etc.).  There were about 70 vendors, maybe a few less -- maybe a third of whom were yarn shops -- The rest were handdyers and other makers of beautiful goods -- beads, buttons, roving (though not as much roving as at American festivals, for which I was personally glad).  VERY high quality, which has been my experience each time I go to a Canadian festival (as with the Frolic each year in downtown Toronto). 

I didn't buy much -- four beautiful, fat skeins of chunky wool with gorgeous variegations.  I think I'll put them in little kits with the Mad Hatter pattern and see if people see what I'm imagining.  They'd be great material for chunky bucket hats with a big retro flower on one side.  I also got a dozen elegant (not encrusted with cutesy painted crapola, as they often are) yarn bowls -- hope people like 'em as well as I do.  I've had some requests, and I just can't find very many that aren't overdone.  I also found a gorgeous, gorgeous maker of wool-cashmere blend fingering-weight yarn in just plain stunning monochromatic, layered colorways.  So I got several skeins to see how people respond.  They are a bit on th pricey side.  Worth every penny.  One skein would make a small shawl -- and if people love them, I'll get more (IndigoDragon).  And, finally, I grabbed maybe a half-dozen shawl pins, THE most beautifully crafted polymer clay pins I'ver ever seen, beautiful surfaces, a steel shank in the pin part, unbelievably gorgeous in shape.  Again, not overwrought, just well crafted.  Here's Cynthia, who makes the pins:

We also connected again with a woman we once bought yarn from at the Frolic -- Creative Yarns -- who is making some truly beautiful, silver-laced lightweight wool.  I'll wait until I get a packet from her and then glom onto some of them.

On the way back, we drove 25 kilometers out of the way to find a MEADERY -- what a wonderful, Olde English concept!

 They have honey bees and they make not only honey but mead!  We both had thought it would be too sweet to tolerate -- but NO.   It's like a lovely, complex semi-sweet white wine with low undertones of honey.  Got two bottles, one sweet, the other medium sweet.  If you come into the shop today or tomorrow, you can taste it!  Also the little honey candies they make and sell......

While we were there, I was talking to the owner, and as we talked about currency and whether she could take American bills, I was reminded all over again of how awful Americans can be.  She apparently has lots of people come in with American money and DEMAND change in American currency.  It's Ontario in another country.  So she says to them, "Do you think I'd get Canadian money back anywhere in the United States?"  And of course most people in the US won't even take Canadian money (now on a par with ours), much less give Canadian change.  Someday, I hope to see a bit less colonialism -- that is, too many Americans don't really think of Canada as a sovereign nation, not even in borderlands like Detroit, where Windsor is across the river and Canadians readily take U.S. money.  Why not do the same?  Or at least not get mad when people don't want to stock two currencies when they give change.  What a sad commentary.    svb

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Here's Rita Merino!  She will make her inaugural appearance in the atrium of McGregor Conference Center at the Third Coast Fiber Arts Festival.  I'm including a photograph of her, profile and full-length, as well as one of the little sign she wore until I actually finished making things for her.  (Socks courtesy of the wonderful Elaine Clark). The vest is a side-to-side crocheted number made of Paton's SWS -- tagua nut buttons.  And no, there isn't a pattern -- just half-double crochet with crab stitch edging and side pockets.  Someday I'll write it down because it's a simple little thing, great with hand-paints.  Rita got an I-cord and rhinestone belt this afternoon.  At the festival, I'll introduce her at noon on Friday -- people then will be able to add whatever they want to her clothing -- strips for a skirt, patches for sleeves, flowers on surfaces, and so on.  There will be baskets and baskets of yarn, needles, and hooks.   It will be wonderful.  I hope our friends in the Windy City Knitting Guild approve of Polly Esther Cotton's kid sister!!!!!   svb


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Rita Merino and the upcoming festival.....and shawls again...

By Wednesday or so, I should have a cool photograph of Rita Merino -- our festival denizen whose garments now are accumulating quite nicely.  As some of you know, Rita is the kid sister of a Chicago chick named Polly Esther Cotton -- the lovechild of the Windy City Knitting Guild.   Before her very recent retirement, Polly Esther's skirts had reached 8 feet or so -- her sleeves were unbelievably decorated and heavy -- She therefore was replaced by a new kid, Maureen O'Wool, who I"ve not yet met.  BUT:  When I last talked with them, the Windy City people agreed that it would be very cool for Polly Esther to have a Detroit sibling.   So.  Today we put on her black body stocking.  She has a curly black wig (she's Asian, but with a perm).  I added a preposterous yellow crocheted flower to her hair.  She is wearing a sleeveless vest cardi that I made some time ago from some quite nice Paton's SWS (soy wool stripe), with tagua nut buttons.  We will put her on a low table so people can work all around her and start skirts from the bottom of the vest -- sleeves from the armholes, etc.  Ijust made an I-cord belt from one of L. Harding's metallic and wool ribbons and, of course, I added some truly gaudy rhinestone clasps to hold it together.  She also has a pair of handcrafted socks (made by my friend Elaine Clark -- not quite matched, which is also cool).  Rita will be stunning.  She will have a jar at her feet silently inviting people to contribute a buck or two to the First Step shelter for domestic and sexual violence.  But mostly she will permit people to meet other people and to remind themselves that, once upon a time, all clothing was made by hand.  All of it.  I will surround her with baskets of yarn and jars and jars of tools.

As to shawls:   OKAY YOU GUYS.  Register for Candace Eisner-Strick's utterly amazing Strick-ly Shawls course.  I do NOT know what is going on.  This is one of the most wondrous classes you could possibly take -- I surely loved it.  You start with a nine-stitch tab.  You can use any weight yarn, any pattern stitch.  You can add any kind of edging.  It fits over the shoulders.   I cannot believe that this course has only a handful of registrants.   UTTERLY amazing.

But watch out generally, folks.  Some of the classes are filling!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Progress report:   Classes are filling nicely -- a really gratifying result for an old educator like me.  COOOOL.  Really cool.  Sign up quickly -- At this point, we still have a lot of open classes, but if we get the expected accelleration, they'll fill up and be gone.  POOOF.

I actually look forward to the post-festival period, when I can go back to talking about knit and crochet.  But for now: 

Have you considered attending the wonderful Melville lecture and buffet dinner on Friday night?   What better thing to DO on a Friday night?  The food will be good and abundant; there will be vegetarian options; and Sally's talk will be really really really thought provoking.  It's called "Why We Do What We Do:  The Importance of Hand Work."  There are a good many little-known facts about hand work, things that matter in our lives and in the lives of people we love.  So attend if you can; you can even buy the lecture without dinner if you prefer, though it would be a shame to miss all the good food.  You can knit.  You can talk with people and make new friends. 

Every major fiber festival has one of these keynote dinners, and I look forward to this one! 

There is also a FREE (no doubt hilarious) lunch time gathering on Saturday featuring Candace Eisner-Strick -- sign up for this one, too, on line. 

If you have already signed up for things, you can go back in, using the "Change" button on the web page.  AND DO NOT MISS THE MARKETPLACE!!!!!  25 or 26 fabulous vendor booths!

ADVICE OFFER:   If you need help figuring out which class or classes to take, consider dropping me at note at  Tell me something about interests and level of competence (don't say youre a beginner if you're advanced!), and I can make suggestions.  Or have a talk with a friend and bring her or him, too.

Love to everyone.         svb

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Beads 'n Judy.....!

The reason I'm doing these little squibs about people who will be teaching at the incredibly wonderful Third Coast Fiber Arts Festival is because I have to start teaching NEXT THURSDAY (groan) at university, and I want everyone who's thinking about registering (DO IT SOON) to have really good information.

As to Judy of the Beads:   Judy Pascale is a nationally known "Queen of Beads."  She can show you how to put beads in garments, scarves, shawls, fingerless gloves, hats -- on and on.  And more than that, you don't need to prestring your beads.  If you don't know what I'm talking about:  Once upon a time, beading involves putting all the beads you wanted on the yarn before you started to knit or crochet (and hoping that you hadn't miscounted).  Judy puts an end to all of that -- you can add as you go.  It's wonderful and a little bit amazing.  She also is a gifted stitch maven -- there are courses that will permit you to make a stunning scarf (wavy, leafy, with beads), a darling evening bag or bigger purse, and a really magnificent vest.  Have a look.  Now I need to go to bed!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Also for your information -- if you have been following the saga of the hopelessly boring garter-stitch papoose blanket for Milana, the beautiful daughter of my now-month-old niece in Minnesota:  I FINISHED IT and it's in the mail, with a cute baby-sized teddy bear swaddled and buttoned into it.  I even made him a crocheted scarf, as if a teddy bear really cares what  he's wearing.  All I have to say about that one is WHEW. 


Thursday, August 23, 2012

About Shawls!!!!

Let me very quickly offer a kind of ad for Candace Eisner-Strick's incredible class, Strick-ly Shawls.  It's offered at the Third Coast Fiber Arts Festival, and if you don't know Candace, you really ought to fix that.  This course permits you to create a gorgeous -- really gorgeous -- shawl that will FIT in the shoulders and elsewhere, beginning with a magical 9-stitch tab.  The tab grows into a shawl with your own choice of stitch, trim, and weight of yarn.  If you love shawls and get tired of looking for patterns, go have a look at the course description.  Remember that these workshops are about HALF of what you'd pay for the same course by the same brilliant instructor at any of the Stitches expos.   I'll say more about other people in the next day or two.  For now, I'm pushin' Candace.  She's one of the smartest, funniest, and best informed artisans I've ever met.  So there.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Friends of the Blog (sounds like some kind of sci-fi flick, doesn't it?):  If you think you are going to register for Third Coast -- and God Knows, You Should!!! -- do it sooner rather than later.  For one thing, you risk discovering that your fave class has sold out.  But for another, we need the best reading we can get of participation numbers as early as possible to plan effectively.  THANKS FOR ALL HELP!   I"m very, very excited about all of this.


Monday, August 20, 2012


In every venture, there is that magical moment -- this time, the first class to be sold out!  It's actually thrilling.  (Card Weaving is full -- Mollie Fletcher's class).   WHeeeeeeeeeEEEEEE  More to come..  I just thought I'd mark the moment!      svb

The Michigan Fiber Festival and Marr Haven (and of course, at the end, Third Coast)

Have a look at the post just before this one, and you will learn that my pictures have vanished.  So I can't show you what happened yesterday -- at least I can't until one of us figures out what happened to those photographs. 

The Michigan Fiber Festival occurs annually at the fairgrounds in Allegan, Michigan, which is not quite at the western shoreline of the state -- a short jaunt up a good state road from I-94, which is becoming THE most unpleasant freeway in the region, second only to the nightmarish I-75 between Detroit and Toledo (I have come to believe that this is part of an out-migration scheme designed to keep people in Michigan). 

Once you leave I-94, you enter some of the prettiest countryside imaginable -- gently rolling, mostly prosperous, studded with sweet farms and even sweeter small towns that sometimes have painted lady Victorian homes and little cafes (of the sort that have waitresses names Mabel).  I especially like to drive through Gobel, Michigan, where I usually stop for a cuppa at one of those cafes.  It takes me back to girlhood in towns like Worthington, Minnesota, with its array of small-town cafes (Bill's Soda Fountain, for god's sake, where I used to order vanilla phosphates, or Norton's Cafe, where I actually worked for an entire summer for forty cents an hour). 

I first went to Marr Haven Farm, a few miles south of Allegan, to meet up with Barbara, who lives on a piece of land the likes of which I've rarely seen.  Wish I had those pictures -- I even took one of her in front of her darling house and shop.  As you drive in, you see an incredible old barn and silo, gardens everywhere and some well-kept, old shed and other out-buildings.  She told me that, when she and her lovely husband bought the place so many years ago, it was virtually uninhabitable, covered with sumac and saplings and weeds.  You'd surely not know it now.  What a gem! 

The sad news is that they aren't going to be making their signature wool yarn anymore.  REALLY sad.  This is a rare product.  It's made without chemicals.  The colors are muted, in keeping with the milling and spinning, which involve using half-natural and half-colored wool.  So "burgundy" is a kind of rose, though still richly colored.  What they have in stock in heavy worsted-weight and sport weight (the latter mostly coned) is what you can buy -- but no more.  Her prices are kind of silly -- Barbara, raise your price please.

So here is what I did:  I bought twenty skeins of each of 5 or 6 colors.  I'm going to mark them up a bit -- Barb doesn't do wholesale anymore -- and put them dead-center in the shop so that people can have part of what's left.  If we run out, I'll get more until she can't supply me anymore.  Made in Michigan, no chemicals, mule spun -- what more could you want?   It's from their own sheep -- a mix of merino and Ramboullie (which I just misspelled).  Don't miss out on this.

Then I went to the festival, spent a few hours walking through the many buildings, hugged my old and dear friend Ellen of Ellen's Half-Pint Farm (Vermont), chose a large number of amazingly gorgeous skeins of wool-silk and then some fingering skeins for socks (I chose 'boy' colors because people keep complaining -- though I think women should rethink some of their assumptions about what men will wear!).  I found Rita Petteys of Yarn Hollow, who may well do another trunk show at our place sometime after December.  I ran into a couple of my Woolgatherer friends.  Lots of hugs as I walked along.  I got some stunning glass buttons from a woman who once worked at a glass factory -- they are miniature works of art.A lot of the festival was given over to roving and other spinners' supplies, which surprised me -- it seemed to me to be more than last time.  But.  Spinners have to be happy, too!  I couldn't find my friend Riin Gill of Happy Fuzzy Yarns -- where were you, Riin?   

But then I went back to Marr Haven, where Barbara and company were still labeling and bagging the enormous piles of yarn I'd bought.  We finally got them loaded into my little rental car, a Kia Soul, which is DARLING.  I have to find out if they're assembled in the United States.  This could be a candidate for purchase -- though I'm still thinking a Ford Focus or Fusion.

Love to everyone.  More about Third Coast when I catch my breath.  Classes are filling!!!!!  And we have an on-line mechanism now for market-only tickets!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! at


The Case of the Disappearing Pictures

So I get back from the wonderful Allegan (Michigan) Fiber Festival late yesterday, car laden with STUFF (read on!), and this morning, we discovered that the pictures I took at both Allegan and at the amazing Marr Haven Farm (near Allegan) are nowhere to be found on the little camera thing-y.  Note the use of highly technical language.  Fortunately, Larry knows all about cameras.  But.  He swears up and down that the pictures are nowhere to be found, and I can't find them either.  RATS.

So let me share (finally) the pictures that did survive -- the ones I promised last week, from the Woolgatherers' Lake Huron Retreat, where members suffered through my two-day course in garment design.  What a gorgeous place!  I wish I could find a group of isolated cabins (with internet connection) along that same shoreline just north of Port Huron.  If anyone knows of a resort with some privacy and conveniences, let me know.  I would give my hind leg (metaphorically speaking) for a quiet place to write without interruption.  The shoreline is gorgeous.  You don't believe me.  Have a look.  You don't need to leave Michigan to find spectacular shorelines, with miles of clean, beautiful sand for walking and thinking:

And then there were the beautiful, beautiful Woolgatherers themselves.  Here are some of them knitting and knitting and knitting, right in front of the scene I just offered:

Wish the pictures were better.  When I figure out how to download some of the others, I'll slip them into this entry late.  For now, this is what I can manage.   GO to the Lake Huron Retreat Center in Burtchville sometime if you want a spectacular place to have a simple, quiet time with a group.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Endless Blanket, Plus First Coast Stuff....

...and she knitted for 40 days and 40 nights.  The next time I say to ANYONE that I'm going to do a bias-knit cotton blanket of any kind -- no matter how gorgeous the yarn (in this case, it is -- it's FloraFil, which is grown and dyed in America), I hope the listener will YELL AT ME.  Say, "Do you remember that baby thing you were supposed to be making for your FAVE niece Natalie -- the one you were still trying to finish almost a month after the kid was born?"  I AM BORED WITH GARTER STITCH.  There is maybe an hour left on it, and still....... If I can finish it, though, it'll be cute.  I am putting in button holes and adding some big polymer buttons (RED) so that it can folded up and buttoned, in several positions, like a little papoose.....If I ever find the cords for the camera hook up, I'll take a picture.  I have a pattern, though it's on a scrap of cardboard.

AS TO THIRD COAST:  Some people have asked whether I could say more about the instructors, and of course I will -- let me do a bit of it here, and then we'll send out a mega-email with more information.  For the next conference, we will have a separate website, and we'll be a lot better at doing all of the things that need doing.  For now, I'm thrilled to see enrollments going up, and equally thrilled to hear people say they're looking forward to the marketplace.  Soon, there will be a way to buy a 5-dollar market-only ticket on-line.

What can I say about SALLY MELVILLE?  Sally is known to many of you -- a Canadian living now in Ottawa to be near her daughter, with whom she has been collaborating for the past few years.  Sally is the author of several wonderful books with XRX -- The Knit Stitch (home of the now-famous Einstein Coat), The Purl Stitch, and Color, and then a series of other books (Mother-Daughter Knits, e.g.).  My favorite is still Sally Melville Styles, her very 'painterly' first book.  I first met her through that book.  She teaches internationally.  We will have copies of books at the conference for signing.  She is a wonderful teacher, full of life and very smart.  She has a keen interest in cognition -- has to do with a former life at a university -- which will be evident in the "Why We Do What We Do" dinnertime talk on Friday night.

Bear in mind that I have taken multiple classes from most of these gifted people -- and the ones I haven't I have investigated through people who HAVE taken classes from them.  All are fabulous.

It's also hard to say enough about CANDACE EISNER-STRICK.  Candace is from Connecticut, near Storrs and the University of Connecticut.  She is a musician -- a cellist, in fact -- hence, the pattern names, which very often are the names of musical works.  She originated the Strickwear line of patterns and kits, many of which use delicately graduated, multi-stranded colorways. She is also -- and this is an understatement -- a wizard, a true master of ethnic and traditional knitting of all kinds.  Stitchery from every major tradition in her hands is updated and new again.  She is also wonderfully funny, a fabulous teacher, a whirlwind of help and imagination and encouragement.  There are, of course, many books -- ranging from Sweaters from a New England Village to Strick-ly Socks and a number of other treasure troves.

Her dear friend JUDY PASCALE, also from Connecticut, is another masterful stitcher, nationally known for her technical prowess, her stunning designs, and her teaching ability.  I first encountered Judy at a Stitches camp (those wonderful camps are no longer held) in the mountains of Colorado -- and I soon learned that she is a reigning "queen" of beadwork, someone who can show you how to do beading without pre-stringing in virtually every application imaginable.  She is also a technical genius -- hence, the class on reversible cabling.  And if I may say so, Judy is one of the most entirely NICE people you will ever want to meet.  They all are.  But Judy is just plain a sweetheart. 

Wisconsonite SHERYL THIES is also uncommonly gifted, with skills ranging across knit and crochet.  Recently, she published a book on Tunisian Crochet -- adding to a reputation first gained in knitting (look for her books, all of them, in our shop or in the marketplace) for designs inspired by nature -- leaves, vegetables (BRUSSEL SPROUTS!), in all manner of gorgeous stitches, some of them involving drop stitches (see the drop stitch class!), worked into shawls, scarves, on and on.  She did a gorgeous Tunisian Crochet Entrelac shawl that ended up on the cover of Interweave Crochet not long ago, and one of her classes will help you figure out how to do this reversible technique.  Knitters can learn easily how to do Tunisian; it's a hybrid of the two crafts -- and she is offering two other classes (beginning, intermediate).

And then there is SARAH PEASLEY, who comes to us with years and years of teaching experience in national venues.  She is a knitted entrelac expert.  She teaches knitted design classes and a  number of other amazing things at Stitches conferences and elsewhere.  But she also offers classes at Woven Art in East Lansing, owned by another of our instructors, Nancy McRay.  People have said absolutely wonderful things about this woman -- lots more than the usual "Oh yes, she's very good."  I really look forward to learning more about her -- if I could tell you who recommended her, you'd know why I completely trust my sources on this one!   They know good stuff when they see it.

NANCY McRAY, who is offering an all-day color theory course and another all-day weaving course, owns Woven Art in East Lansing.  I first encountered her when we both hosted some workshops taught by Sally Melville -- and then I went to East Lansing to visit her darling, imaginatively mounted shop.  What a gifted woman!  Make the trip sometime.  It's not very far, and you can visit any number of antique malls along the way.  She is a weaver and a yarn dyer as well as a formidable knitter, with a really engaging class list at her shop.  The color theory course involves PAINTING, for heaven's sake -- I don't know if I'll be able to resist sitting in.  Treat yourself to Nancy.

And then there are some stunningly talented people from the metro area.  I could say pages and pages about them.  How fortunate we really are in having talent just hangin' around like this!  But here are some thumbnail sketches.  LYNNE WARDROP (who has worked both for Artisan Knitworks and City Knits) is the owner of a sock pattern company, Avalon, distributed by Lorna's Laces Yarns in Chicago (see their website) and by a number of shops, including mine.  She is a seamstress, tailor, knitter, polymer button maker, crocheter -- on and on.   DANA MATUSKEY also teaches at City Knits (once, she offered classes at Indigo Rose, which is where I first met her).  She is a renowned teacher of many, many aspects of knitting and crochet, and she's a published designer.  She practiced her crafts initially in Europe.  If you learn continental knitting ("pick knitting") from Dana, you will have learned from a true master; and her slip-stitch (mosaic) course similarly will be splendid.  AMY FRANCISCO, with her husband Greg, owns and operates Jehovah Jireh Farm near Paw Paw, Michigan.  She is a frequently seen vendor at fiber festivals.  Greg makes felted garments, felted soaps, and a host of other amazing things; Amy is also a needle-felter, but she is best known for her spinning and imaginative use of hand-spun yarns.  Plus, she's a really cool person!!!  ELLEN TAYLOR and LOIS THIEME are both accomplished needle-arts people.  They both teach and work at Artisan Knitworks, but they could teach and work anywhere.  Ellen teaches spinning; Lois teaches tubular stuff (socks, mittens, etc.), knitting, and crochet.  Both can spin using either wheels or spindles, and they're good at it (though I have so far resisted learning, notwithstanding their splendid help).  MOLLIE FLETCHER is an instructor in weaving at the College for Creative Studies, near WSU.  She is just spectacularly good at it.  She will be offering a course in card-weaving, which is a good way to get into it.  But, heaven knows, she's capable of the entire gamut of woven fabric-related skills.  So ask her, and she'll tell you all about it.

How's that?   Nobody got quite as much as they deserve.   More later.

DO NOT FORGET TO SIGN UP FOR THE FREE EISNER-STRICK LUNCH GIG, the box lunches, the gorgeous buffet dinner with Sally's lecture, and ....... if nothing else, just come for the bobbin lace, spinning, and weaving demos in the atrium.  Go to  for details of everything.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Port Huron, the Third Coast, and so on.... there I was, possessed of a nice room at the Lake Huron Retreat Center on the gorgeous shore of Lake Huron, sitting in an Appalachian chair gazing at almost-oceanic waters (no salt smell!), knitting away on the very boring garter stitch, brightly colored, bias-knit baby papoose that eventually goes to my niece (who already has the baby, for god's sake).  It occurred to me in a flash that I was AT the Third Coast, the namesake of the wondrous fiber festival -- that I should be taking pictures or something.  So I took some pictures to post on my blog.  Yes, THIS blog.  All of this would be well and good, except that I cannot find the cords that hook up the camera to the computer.  Why not?  WE MOVED HOUSES, and I can barely find my underwear.

So pictures will come later.

The Lake Huron excursion was really a teaching experience -- for me and for members of the Wool Gatherers Knitting Guild, which I joined a year ago, and who invited me to teach a course in sweater design and alteration.  It was fun.  It was also exhausting.  When I finally got to bed on Sunday night, I more or less died there until a very late hour on Monday.  But TRULY a good experience.  People say it was worthwhile.  The neat thing was seeing so many of them with their graph paper sketching possible garments, possible cardigans and pullovers, thinking about shape and proportion and fabric.  Good good good good feeling, I must say.  If it never leads to more than a sense of empowerment when they confront a pattern that they want to change competently, I will have done my job.

Later with pictures, truly.

In the meantime:  SIGN UP FOR WORKSHOPS, the SALLY MELVILLE DINNER, and the BOX LUNCHES (one of which has to do with Candace Eisner-Strick's hilarous lunch-time presentation on Saturday -- which is FREE, but please sign up so we have a head count).  Go to and follow the Third Coast image to Registration.  Also notice the page with photographs, homework, and supplies.

FINALLY:  Know that all of us are immensely grateful to all of you for help, for telling your friends and guild members, for dropping those notes of encouragement.  This is a first-year event.  It's very hard to know how such things will go.  But we are taking heart!  With any luck at all, Detroit and (most of all) my beloved university will have an annual event we can be very, very proud of.   And, if we pull off the wonderful event that I think it will be, I also have hopes that a couple of Metro-area shops will join me to organize next year's event.  The more the merrier.  All the boats rise, and so on.  For this year, it looked kinda scary even to my best friends.  But there's nothing more contagious then success!!!

Hugs to everyone.   svb

Monday, July 30, 2012

Retreat....and of course Third Coast....

I am SO looking forward to the WOol Gatherers' retreat up north this weekend -- It was wonderful to be asked if I wanted to offer a weekend course this year, and I do love teaching the one that I call "Create Your Dream Sweater," which is either about how to knit a sweater that will fit, or how to cook up a sweater from scratch -- depending on knitters' needs.   What fun.   Three days away from the rubble in my house (from house move) and the clear sense that the new semester is catching up with me well before I'm ready for it.   Knitting!  Talking!  Teaching!!!  HURRAH.

And Pam Champagne will be the project manager for Third Coast Fiber Arts festival!!!  Things are getting bigger and more complicated than either Larry or I anticipated, we have an experienced event manager who can foresee what might go wrong.  For those of you who have NO IDEA what I'm talking about, see the links to Third Coast at   I need now to go put away some more belongings!!!!


Thursday, July 26, 2012


On the Third Coast front:   Registrations continue to grow, as do  reservations for the Melville dinner, the Eisner-Strick FREE luncheon presentation, and box lunches.   DO IT NOW!!   I'm worried that we will have a last-minute crunch with people disappointed.   Go to and follow the Third Coast image!

On the home front:  Come to the big moving sale at my old house -- 8 Jefferson Court, Grosse POinte Park, tomorrow and Saturday, 9-5, mounted by the Marcia Wilk Company.  Lots of framed art, jewelry, pottery, some furniture, some knitting books.  And so on.  Enjoy!   svb

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Because I'm moving houses, it's going to be hard to find time to update this (FUN) blog very often.  So let me THANK everyone who is making the registration process such a fun thing to watch, and then URGE everyone who plans to register for some of our wondrous workshops to do it before mid-August.  At that point, we will have to make decisions as to which workshops will run and which will not.  If we decide to cancel something -- and as I look at these numbers, I'd say it's more likely that classes will surprise you by filling up! -- it won't reappear.  It's not common knowledge, I don't think, that festival organizers have to buy airfare, etc., at least a month before an event.  So grab your seats as soon as you can.  You won't end up disappointed, and we will have a sense of how many people we're dealing with.  Be sure, too, to sign up for the absolutely fabulous dinner with Sally Melville, and maybe our box lunches -- you can enjoy the Candace Eisner-Strick presentation on Saturday without leaving the building for lunch.

It's SO exciting to watch.  We have people coming from out of state!

Remember, too, that each registrant will receive one in-out card for the parking structure that's about a block from the conference center with your registration packet.  This is a good thing!!!

To register (in case you're stumbling on all of this for the first time):  go to and click on the Third Coast image -- then follow the yellow brick road (actually blue!) to registration.  One of the links has photographs and homework details!

Special note for our fabulous vendors:  Be sure to make good on full payment soon -- we need to be able to hold your space since we're sold out with a waiting list.  If I'm not mistaken, the final payment deadline was in late June.   THANKS, and how wonderful it will be in the marble palace!!!


Sunday, July 15, 2012


....and remember that we will mail a parking structure in-out card to everyone who registers for at least one workshop at the fab Third Coast Fiber Arts Festival.   The structure is only one long city block away from the Center!    svb


We've added a Sally Melville class, so you might want to revisit the festival page -- on Friday morning.  It's "Learn to Love Intarsia," which is probably my all-time favorite Melville colorwork class.  And just in time.  Intarsia and Fair-Isle knitting have made a big comback.  Sally works from published images -- you'll be asked to bring a magazine with cool stuff in it.  Anyway -- have another look.  She's really good at it.  In fact, I'm inspired to go back and finish a purple and gold intarsia piece that I started maybe ten years ago -- Wish I had enough stick-to-it-iveness to actually finish projects.  Sigh.  I will never reveal how many projects lurk around the house in knitting bags.  I send hugs to everyone.

I also send THANKS for your apparent eagerness in relation to Third Coast.  It's always hard to know how big events like this one will be received -- I am far less worried now than I was when we put it together.  It got even bigger than I had originally imagined, and while that was wonderful to behold, it was also kinda scary.  The idea was to bring something fabulous to midtown Detroit -- well, we surely did.  And I'm thrilled half to death that so many of you seem to like what you see.  It's always been about the city, the university , the hidden treasure of McGregor Memorial Conference Center -- blessings be upon all of your heads.    svb

Thursday, July 12, 2012

THIRD COAST EVENTS -- Not just classes!

Everyone, as you consider which of the fabulous Third Coast workshops to enroll in, don't neglect the other features of  the festival.  For instance:  Notice the FREE noon-time presentation on Saturday by Candace Eisner-Strick -- we need you to sign up so we have a head count.  Box lunches too -- though they're not free -- nice choice of sandwich, though.  And you MUST consider the Melville dinner event on Friday.  Remember that we need a fairly accurate count on these things so that we can tell the caterers what to do.   Hugs to everyone!!!    svb

Sunday, July 8, 2012

It's All In the Mind's Eye...!

So now I'm in the middle of a horrendous house move -- thank heaven the Third Coast registration is up and running, and I do mean RUNNING -- people seem to be signing up fairly aggressively!!!!  The movers came today and took half the house away -- the rest goes in another two weeks, and then there will be a modest moving sale (not conducted by me).  In the meantime I still have a book to finish, don't I?  So I will put it all on a flash drive, transfer it (and the materials accompanying it) to my office at university, and spend blissful days there, away from complete chaos.  Even the cats are disoriented:  Last night, Sheba the Cat spent the night curled up inside a small marble vanity sink in the guest room!

But I'm thinking again about knitting -- how to SEE what's in our world, how to knit what we see.  I'm always drawn to amazing textures and colors when I'm travelling.  So take some pictures!  When you look at them later, you can almost always find something that's knittable.  For example:

Look at the amazing colors and shapes in this cornice over a door in Stillwater, Minnesota.  Double it in your mind's eye so that it's a complete circle with a square around it.  You can knit this.  There are checkerboard corners in the square, a blue stripe running through the center, gorgeous terra cotta (some kind of raised stitch), and a design to undertake in knits, purls, and elongated stitches -- or maybe embroidery when done.  It could be the front and back of a tee!!! 

Or how about this?

This, too, can be knitted -- what a wonderful exercise in blocking -- charcoal to black, taupe-y gray, some kind of broken copper line running across the piece connecting the blocks, a seed stitch divider where you see post tops.  TEXTURE!!!! 

or this:

Jane Thornley has a little book called "Knit a Beach," which forms the basis for a workshop that she teaches around the world.  When I saw this amazing family of ducks in a Minnesota pond right next to the motel, I saw Thornley's techniques -- you do too, I'll bet.  You start at the bottom, or wherever you want, and just knit -- olivey tones, some astrakhan stitch, some half-linen, on and on -- just lay in the rows and don't worry about whether it's properly square.  Make something beautiful with stitches that approximate the textures you see, again in the mind's eye.  Don't be literal.  This is about responding to something you see and making what you feel about it.

Do this kind of thing sometime.  You will feel MUCH less like jumping off a cliff when it's unbearably hot, or when you're too tired for words, or when you can't find anything at all to knit.  You can always find something to knit -- or crochet.  It's in the mind's eye.


Thursday, July 5, 2012


Ta DA!  What an ordeal poor Larry has been through.  But now he could hire out as a computer tech, couldn't he?   Registration for classes is open.   Go to our website ( and click on the Third Coast Fiber Arts Festival image.   If you have any trouble, call Larry Hart at  586-871-2884.  Blare of trumpets!  Roll of drums!   We have not yet added the fact that there will be charity tables so that people can learn the knit stitch and the single crochet.  But first things first.     svb 

Friday, June 29, 2012


Some of you have wondered (on Ravelry) when the workshop registration will be available on-line.  Poor Larry is laboring away -- he's never done this before.  But it SHOULD be up and running at some point this week, perhaps right after the 4th.  Thanks for patience -- it will be worth it.


Monday, June 25, 2012


........We are about to add one more workshop to the Friday afternoon listings -- a class having to do with Siamese Socks (as I think of them) -- You can learn how to make toe-up socks two at a time on circular needles!  It will be taught by Lynne Wardrop, whose sock patterns (under the label Avalon) use and are sold by Lorna's Laces Yarns (Chicago).  Lynne is a Michigander with lots of workshop experience.  She has worked for both City Knits Detroit and Artisan Knitworks.  I do hope that on-line registration for all of these wonderful events will be up and running before end of the week.  Stay tuned, and more later.   svb

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Third Coast Fiber Arts Festival -- Yarn Bombing!

As mentioned in an earlier entry, we're going to be staging a yarn bombing about two weeks before the actual event, coinciding roughly with the start of the semester at the university.  At Artisan Knitworks, we plan on holding maybe three long evenings in which people can bring in their leftover yarns, big needles and hooks, and have pizza or some such thing (we'll buy) while cooking up LOOOOONG, nutsy strips of wooliness.  They can change width, have big holes or fringe, be wild.  You can do the same thing in your respective knitting or crochet groups, of course.  I ask only that (a) you tell me you are doing it so I have some idea of what's afoot -- drop a note at, and (b) you make most of them more or less in shapes than can be used in winter for scarves.  I am going to invite people who don't have any money to take them down after the festival and use them to keep warm.   We'll attach a card to each one when we do the bombing.  Might decide to take 'em down myself, wash 'em, and give to a shelter.  I do think it's important to really cut loose -- make things that are completely nuts!  Thick.  Colorful.

So -- knit and crochet away.  We have lots of yarn in our so-called Stash that would be suitable.  If you are buying it for the boming, we will have a discount for the Stash yarns (maybe 2 for the price of 1)-- we will trust you on the whole point of what it's used for.   It might get rained on, so make sure it isn't really high-quality stuff.  All wool is washable, of course -- think about all of those sheep standing out there on bucolic Scottish hillsides.  It rains in Scotland.  But it doesn't make sense to subject the best-quality stuff to the elements.  I will say more when our studio sessions approach.   In the meantime:  Be sure to look at the website ( for the list of festival workshops.  The vendor applications are still coming in, but soon I'll have to cut them off -- we will be out of room.   Cheers!    I hope to be able to go to Grayslake, Illinois, this coming weekend for the Midwest Fiber and Folk Arts Festival.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Third Coast Festival, plus an upcoming trip...!

For those of you who haven't seen it yet:   The list of workshops for the wondrous Third Coast Fiber Arts Festival is now 'up' on our company website.  Have a look!  It's We will be opening up registration, with fuller detail as to what the workshops entail and what homework (if any) you'll have to do, within two weeks.  All depends on how much work poor Larry (who is pretty much doing all of this by himself, at least on the computer end of things) can squeeze in over the next ten days or so. 

But get a load of this:   Somebody should remind me that I'm 67 years old, no longer a spring chicken, and so on.  I have decided to go to the Midwest Fiber and Folk Art Festival again at Grayslake, Illinois, on the Thursday night of the weekend of June 21-23 -- This festival is near Chicago -- maybe 5 hours from Detroit if you stop for some kind of break -- in my trusty Enterprise rental.  Hope it's a Ford this time and NOT a GM product, which for some reason aren't as comfortable or as well designed.  Or so I think.  I need to get to this festival in particular because I want to have a LONG conversation with the people from the Windy City Knitting Guild, who always attend the Midwest Festival with their wonderful mannequin.

What mannequin?  Well.  Years ago, I found Polly Esther Cotton at the Midwest Festival.  She was an amazing creation -- a focal point for conversation, for gathering, for remembering that clothing used to be made entirely by hand.  Women and men would gather around her and, using the provided yarn, needles, and hooks, add to her raiment.  I think I've talked about her before on this blog.  I have added many bits to her garb over the years.  I talked a couple of times to the guild people about creating a kid sister for the mannequin -- never did it.  Here's Polly:

Now, I CAN do (and have done) exactly that.  We now have unpacked and assembled Rita Merino, who stands VERY tall in the studio, dressed in a Michigan Fiber Festival T-shirt and donated skirt.  Soon, she will wear a bodice that I'm going to crochet or knit for her with cap sleeves.  We'll put her in nice black tights, add the gorgeous hand-crafted socks that my old friend Elaine Clark is making out of scraps, and surorund her with bushel baskets full of yarn, tools, etc.   What I need to do at Chicago is to strike up a conversation (a) about whether they want to bring their NEW mannequin to Detroit to keep company with Rita during OUR festival, and (b) whether we can create some kind of joint narrative about the two mannequins, why we have them, what they do for the world. 

Then I'm going to come back home and head out again for Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday night.  The annual TNNA convention is the same weekend, and I want to attend for the Sunday marketplace events.  This year, I won't be able to take a class -- I really DO want to go to Grayslake for at least a day.  But it will be good to talk with friends and prospective (or actual) vendors in the market for some hours.

WHEW.  Makes me tired just to think about it.

More soon.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Workshops -- Third Coast Fiber Arts Festival

Update:   The listing (without descriptions) of 3rd Coast workshops is now available at our website,  I find it just plain gorgeous - hope you do, too.  It will take us a couple of weeks to get the registration on line -- but we'll do it.  Stay tuned.     svb 

Thursday, May 31, 2012

...the long-promised images from Wooster, Ohio!

You might recall that, in a fit of energy, I promised you some images from our trip to the Great Lakes Sheep, Wool and Fiber Festival in Wooster, Ohio -- five days ago or so.  Sigh.  I'm getting old, and maybe I'm getting cranky.  I'm really annoyed at myself.

We drove off in our (not very nice) Chevrolet HHR (sorry, Lois, but I really didn't like driving it!!!), the title to which belongs to Enterprise Rentals, and meandered through maybe a dozen absolutely delightful Ohio towns.....before which, of course, you have to get to Toledo, along the perpetually-under-construction Interstate 75.  They will never finish.  It's some kind of out-migration scheme (keep 'em at home by shutting all the roads down for 9 months of the year). 

Some of those wonderful rural towns are full of Mennonite and Amish peoples.  You can tell by the absence of automobiles in some farmyards, the presence of the occasional carriage, and the well-tended appearance of a small farm -- not to mention the taller-than-usual garage or shed doors.  Gorgeous horses.  Healthy people.  I wish I knew more about Mennonite dietary habits, because they are among the healthiest and longest-lived of all Americans, and it has to do with physical as well as spiritual well-being.

And of course there is a certain amount of sadness in some of those towns.  In the otherwise charming Lodi, Ohio, we found echoes of the mid-19th century, when towns like this flourished, and fairly burst at the seams with migrants from New York and Pennsylvania.  Look carefully at the top of this very old building's cornice.  It's not going to last much longer.  The tin work is going, and the paint needs renewal badly.   And all of it takes money -- I wonder how much damage this recession will do in that regard, pushing homes and buildings and farms that are on the brink of difficulty completely over the edge:

and there were the usual, wonderful collectible shops -- usually found dead center on the main streets of towns like Lodi, Ohio.  We found some more buttons, of course, in this one: is what you should NOT do to old dishes (click on this one -- you won't believe it):

But then, of course, there was the festival itself.  We got to talk to a lot of old friends, about the Third Coast Fiber Arts Festival upcoming and lots more.  Bought SEVENTY-FOUR SKEINS of undyed wool-alpaca, made-in-Ohio yarn, very soft and lofty, from an Ohio mill, which I've now taken to the studio for sale, some of which I'll try to kettle dye.  Here are some of the outside vendors at the Great Lakes festival:

And HERE (blare of trumpets) is either the world's largest bread bowl or Paul Bunyan's cradle:

FINALLY:  This is the best reason of all to attend the Great Lakes festival -- setting aside the high-quality vendors (about 80 in all) and cool collectible shops.   In the center of Wooster is TULIPAN, maybe THE best Hungarian bakery and espresso shop in the entire midwest.  Maybe in the world.  Well, there are such things in Hungary, I imagine, so I'd better not overdo it.  We came at closing and were so crestfallen that the two lovely young women stayed open to make us some gorgeous coffee, fruit, and a piece (for Larry) of amazing almond torte.  We went away happy.  LOOK AT THIS.

More later.  Need to go knit awhile.  The computer has completely worn me out today.