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.


Third Coast Fiber Arts Festival Update

Everyone, a brief note:   Today, we updated the Third Coast link at to include the summary list of the THIRTY-TWO fabulous fiber-arts workshops that will be offered at the event on September 21-22.  So have a look.  I think you'll be thrilled.  We will open up registration as soon as Larry figures out how to manage all of the technical wizardry required to achieve on-line registration!!!!  

And speaking of wizardry:  Look at this amazing photograph that Larry took somewhere in one of the small towns we visited recently in Ohio.   He thinks (he's right) that the best photographs are of PARTS of things, and this one makes the point.  Look at the abstract-art message that this thing conveys.  Click on it.    svb


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Third Coast Fiber Arts Festival, and Wooster....

Larry and I just returned from a really beautiful driving day -- through Ohio farm country to Wooster, Ohio, and the annual Great Lakes Sheep and Wool and Fiber Festival.  More on that experience in another post, when I can show you some pictures.  Suffice it to say that I bought 74 skeins of wool-alpaca made-in-Ohio natural yarn, to be dyed by ME.  Now THAT is either courage or complete idiocy.

The topic that concerns me right now is the Third Coast Festival.  I learned from a couple of people that there is a lot of at least mild confusion out there.  Larry will be sending out letters with more information; the McGregor Conference Center, for instance, is an URBAN convention center.  It has electricity (some have not been certain it did), it has WiFi, it has gorgeous lighting, it is NOT like a fairground.  You do NOT have to leave two hours after the event ends.  How these things get started I just can't imagine.  But KNOW that you will get something from Larry very soon.  We perhaps have relied too much on photos of the Center, which is very beautiful -- but perhaps the fact that it's smack in the middle of a lovely college campus has not come through clearly.

For those of you who have NO IDEA what I'm talking about:  Have a look at the link on our website ( or just read some of the entries on this blog, beginning in early May! 

Cheers.  Will write about the Great Lakes festival after a night's sleep!!!


Friday, May 25, 2012


Here is what you do:   Go to a public park, sit on a park bench in plain view of everybody, and do this:

I'll be back with lots and lots of photographs from Wooster, Ohio, and the Great Lakes Fiber Festival, probably by Monday.  And, yes, that's me -- do NOT compare with the photograph in the blog's heading.  That was only five years ago!   How the hands age as the years advance.  It's appalling.


Thursday, May 24, 2012


Okay, guys.   Spread the word.  I now have permission to undertake a YARN-BOMBING BLITZ on the Wayne State campus maybe two weeks before the Third Coast Fiber Arts Festival occurs (the festival is September 21-22).  We will announce some sessions at our shop -- so look for announcements here and in the newsletter and on Ravelry.  You can bring yarn you no longer want, big needles or hooks, and join us in making colorful strips.  You can make 'em at home or in coffee shops.  You can do whatever you want -- but if you are making them in a group or something, do tell us so we can have a rough idea how many more we need to make.  When the time comes, we will announce a MEETING TIME and descend en masse on the campus, probably on a Sunday, when parking is the most ample.  Each one will have a little sign that says "YARN-BOMBING by knitters and crocheters, Third Coast Fiber Arts Festival, September 21-22, McGregor Conference Center."  Or some such thing.   I also have in mind inviting poor people to take strip-shaped objects down AFTERWARD and keep them for winter scarves.   So we will sew them on loosely. 

But we can make all kinds of shapes, so long as we stay away from City-owned stuff (like parking meters).  Here is a link to a Time magazine article.  If you want, go down to campus and have a look at the McGregor Center area, which is just a few feet off Cass near Kirby, roughly across from the law school's main entrance, or the many adjacent malls, for that matter.  We could make many shapes.  It's important only to remember that we can do no damage.   For amazing examples, look at,29307,2077071,00.html

Stay tuned!


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Third Coast Fiber Arts Festival -- plus Wooster!

This Sunday and Monday, Larry and I are going to take a small vacation.  Other people get to vacate, so now it's our turn.  For Sunday, we'll go to the Great Lakes Fiber Expo in Wooster, Ohio, a delightful town to the south of Cleveland.  This is the town I YEARN to revisit, not just because of the festival, which has over 80 vendors (most of them REALLY high quality), but also because of the darling Hungarian pastry shop and cafe in the nice downtown area.  They have GREAT espresso and amazing baked goods, the kind that make you fat but you don't really care......?

As to the festival:   If you haven't heard about it, please read the last six or eight postings on this blog.  I have been dazzled by the response.  We have over twenty vendors signed up, many of them from Michigan, but some from out of state (Texas!  Oregon!).  We have some of the best teaching talent in the nation (Melville, Eisner-Strick, Pascale, Peasley, Thies, maybe Nancy McRae from East Lansing, and a range of other fantastic local people).  We will meet for two action-packed days at the gorgeous McGregor Memorial Conference Center in midtown Detroit, on the Wayne State University campus (where I teach), there will be a yarn-bombing a couple of weeks in advance (you can participate -- just look for the announcement on this blog and on Ravelry -- and in the meantime make some LOOOONG knitted or crocheted strips in weather-proof yarn, preferably in bright colors!) on the campus.  There will be a jazz combo on the closing night of the festival in the Center's glass-y atrium.   And so on.

Stay tuned.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Third Coast Fiber Arts Festival -- A Musical Note!

....late-breaking news (blare of trumpets):   Chuck Newsome, a jazz guitarist and member of the Wayne State music school faculty, will gather up two students that he plays with all the time and provide JAZZ for our Saturday night gala reception in the McGregor Memorial Conference Center atrium!!!  How cool is this?  He is tentatively scheduled to start at about 5:30 and continue 'til we're out the door, whenever that might be.  When the event approaches, I'll get the McGregor staff to provide some beverages, cheese, fruit, etc., for that event in addition to the Friday night dinner stuff, box lunches (for those who order in advance), and all-day refreshments.  For the gala, they are not able to provide wine (university rules), but WE can.   


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Third Coast Fiber Arts Festival

I just learned today that someone out there is watching every move we make with this festival -- in one case urging a vendor not to come.  This makes me just plain heartsick.  In Minneapolis, in Seattle, even in East Lansing, Michigan, surely in New York City -- the epicenter of capitalist competition -- shops cooperate, understanding that all the boats rise, that getting companies known and people knitting can only help everyone.  I wonder if anyone realizes any of this.  And of course Artisan Knitworks, while the main sponsor of this event, probably will lose money.  I suppose it's not imaginable anymore that we just want Detroit to have its own fiber expo?  That there COULD be something like a selfless act?  That a professor who's been at a university for three decades might want to hold something there and benefit her UNIVERSITY and CITY before retirement?  Oh no.  We have to push and shove and behave like six-year-olds on the playground.  I'm ashamed of whoever has been doing this, and I hope it doesn't affect turnout.  If this affects participation and the necessary sense of celebration, it WILL affect my decision as to whether to remain in Michigan, I have to say.  What a sorry state of affairs.  Smiling, being happy, helping, are always easier than the alternatives.  Guess that fact has been lost.


Friday, May 18, 2012

More from the Minnesota Festival...

The Minnesota Shepherd's Harvest Festival is held annually at the Washington County Fairgrounds at Lake Elmo, Minnesota, a small burg near Stillwater.  I was actually raised for a few years (up to age six) at 214 West Elm Street in Stillwater -- we drove by the old, old house, and I was gratified to see that somebody has preserved it in Painted Lady garb.  It's a mid-19th century Federal-style, four-square, upright house situated on a kind of small knoll.  The grandparents lived downstairs, and we lived upstairs.  It was too dark to take a picture, but it was a joy to know that I somehow remembered the address and how to find it.

Minnesota is about wildlife, trees, and water.  Perpetual access to natural beauty, I once concluded, is the main reason people endure the harsh extremes in temperature -- from sub-zero temperatures in winter to three digits in summer.  That leaves out the fact of mosquitoes -- swarms of them.  Minnesota used to have one of the biggest anti-mosquito budgets in the nation.   But -- beauty is beauty.  The St Croix River, on which Stillwater and part of St Paul are built, and where my mother's parents once had a very small cottage surrounded by gooseberry bushes, is now a National Wilderness Preserve -- and for good reason.  Few scenes are more entirely lush and inviting than this old river, once an important migratory path for settlers determined to press into the Great Plains. You have to perch on top of the bridge leading to Hudson, Wisconsin, to get a really panoramic view (it's wide), but here's a wee taste, taken from the 1883 Freight House, now a delightful restaurant, particularly on the patio:

And, everywhere, the ducks, birds, small animals.  Here is a new family on a small pond near our motel (in White Bear Lake, Minnesota).  Click on the picture to make it bigger -- look for the babies (it's MAY):

....and finally, a Minnesotan with a stellar sense of humor, and a snap of some of the handspun yarn I bought for the studio, made by two young ladies in their 20s -- a company called Hello Purl.

Enjoy!  And let me hear from you if you've been to an interesting festival lately.


Off to Greenville, But Also Minnesota Photos....

Tomorrow, Larry is driving off to Greenville, Michigan, to cruise the Minnesota Fiber Fiesta.  I will hunker down at the studio with the wonderful Ellen Taylor and try to help our clients.  But before leaving, Larry kindly downloaded a huge batch of photographs from the recent visit to Minnesota, where we not only attended the Minnesota Shepherd's Harvest Fesitval in lake Elmo, which is near Stillwater (the state's oldest town, on the gorgeous St Croix River), but also got to see my cool niece Natalie, as WELL AS my other adorable niece, Erin -- one from each of the brothers.  Wasn't it thoughtful of them to provide such beautiful people so that I can visit and admire them?  They're both teachers.  They're both gorgeous, incredibly NICE, and smart smart smart.  What more could we want in the world?  The first photo is Erin, the second Natalie.  Larry said (are you noticing, Erin?) that Erin doesn't realize how drop-dead sexy she is.  He also thinks that Nat looks like me at a much younger age -- a remark, it seems to me, that he should revise, given the unavoidable fact that he's only known me as an OLD person.  The handsome brute is David, married to Natalie:

I don't think that the blogspot site will let me post everything in one entry.  Too many photographs.  So let me share some good jokes in this one and then I'll deposit the Shepherd's Harvest photos in a second entry.   You KNOW that we haunt antique shops in search of old jewelry and buttons.  Well.  Here is THE single most hilarious object I've ever seen.  Yes, it's an old mixer.  And, yes, it's now a LAMP:

 Pause for effect [I hear raucous laughter throughout the world.....].  It's marked $ 115.00.

And then there was the singing kitty-cat, with friends:

....and the kinds of things that Minnesotans think you should pay good money for at festivals -- don't miss the fried walleye chunks.  At the Minnesota State Fair, they put BUTTER in batter and French fry it.

Now, let's move to another entry and see if I can show you some shots from the festival itself.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Third Coast Festival Is A Miracle!

What a joy it is to see how much support is developing for the First Annual Third Coast Fiber Arts Festival!!!  If you haven't heard yet:  On September 21-22 upcoming, knitters and crocheters and weavers and spinners, and so on, will converge on the dazzlingly beautiful McGregor Memorial Conference Center in midtown Detroit, in the middle of the Wayne State University campus (where I teach).  This is an amazing facility -- a Yamisaki building, one of several on campus, made of white marble, glass, and terrazzo.  There is a rock garden.  There is abundant light, a sense of joy.  So far, we have signed on such gifted teachers as Sally Melville, Candace Eisner-Strick, Judy Pascale, Sarah Peasley, Sheryl Thies, and maybe maybe maybe Tracey, the new owner of Interlacement Yarns (a dyeing class, or so she suggested this weekend) -- plus a bunch of other people who haven't published books yet but whose fame is building (among them, Amy and Greg from Jehoveh Jireh Farm in Paw Paw, Michigan; Detroit's own Sybil Williams; Dana, the wonderful designer who used to work with Rose Perkins at Indigo Rose; Mollie Fletcher of CCS with card weaving; our own Ellen Taylor and Lois Thieme with spindle spinning; and so on).  Sybil is going to do an ongoing demo in the atrium with her big loom, making a scarf from Artisan Knitworks' yarns, which we will raffle off.  Sally will provide an astonishing multi-media presentation during the Friday night dinner -- entitled "Why We Do What We Do."  Candace will preside over an utterly hilarious slide show about what life is really like for an independent knitwear designer.  {May 18:  Interlacements signed up but suddenly has a "huge conflict," as Tracey put it, so has had to pull out.   WAY too bad!!!  Larry goes to Greenville, MI, tomorrow to leaflet the entire Michigan Fiber Fiesta!!!}.

Isn't this just incredible?

If you want more information, go to, where you'll find a link, Google for Third Coast Fiber Arts Festival, or go to the Events tab at   If all else fails, just call Larry Hart at  586-871-2884.
The marketplace is the real wonder -- almost twenty vendors now!!!!  And quality stuff, I might add.  One from Texas, one from Oregon, most from Michigan and adjacent states, a couple from Detroit.  I am positively stunned by the reception.   UP WITH DETROIT!

Now I have to get the city council to sign a resolution declaring Saturday, September 22, Knit-Crochet-Spin Day Detroit.  I've written it -- just need to figure out who to send it to so the council actually sees it.  I want to encourage all of Detroit to knit, crochet, spin in public for the whole weekend.  The Atlanta Knitting Guild persuaded the Governor of Georgia to declare the Saturday of Stitches South a special day -- called Knitting and Crochet Day Atlanta.  So why not Detroit?  If anyone knows a sure-fire avenue to the city council with my resolution, let me know.  I mean it.  There is no point in doing this halfway.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Off to Lake Elmo...

What a name!  Wasn't Elmo the God of Fire?  I honestly don't remember.  But.  If I were a small urban area in Minnesota, I wouldn't be caught dead being called Elmo.  Would you? 
Tomorrow, Larry and I drive off in yet another rental (POOR little Bug -- it's getting old -- creaks, groans, leaks, etc.) for two purposes, the first more important than the second.  First, I want to hug my nieces, two of them, but most especially Natalie, who has a need for me right now.....Because I"m downsizing soon, I will be taking my mother's silver chest to Natalie and then her China and crystal to another niece, Erin, if I can find the energy to wrap and pack it.  Right now, it's on the kitchen island.  It might stay there for awhile more.  I do NOT have energy.  Second, we will stroll through the Minnesota Shepherd's Harvest at a fairground in the aforementioned Lake Elmo...........which is near Stillwater, one of my all-time favorite places to be.  You can walk along the old, gorgeously wild St Croix River.  Stillwater is the oldest community in Minnesota; it's the place where I was baptized (Ascension Episcopal Church); it's where I lived until age 6 with grandparents and parents at 214 West Elm.  I can hardly believe I remember so much detail -- scary actually.  Age does concentrate the mind.  Larry and I will take pictures of the glories of Wisconsin and Minnesota -- including the festival -- and I"ll return anon.  In the meantime, go to the website -- -- and check up on the wondrous first annual Third Coast Fiber Arts Festival!!!!!!  coming in September, 2012, to a Detroit university campus near you!


Sunday, May 6, 2012

A Turkey By Any Other Name....?

...So once upon a time, long long ago, I went to the Wisconsin Fiber Festival (or maybe it was the Midwest Folk and Fiber Arts Festival that same summer?) and found a boatload of undyed, unwashed, barely spun naturally colored, HEAVY yarn in Ann Reiser's booth (her company is called Shepherd's Purse).  She is the one who makes our delightful felted mittens.  I brought the boatload home.  SOMEBODY, we won't say who, but his initials are L-A-R-R-Y, mispriced all of it -- twice (or more) what it should have been by misreading the invoice.  So of course it sat a long, long time.  Nobody will buy yarn that's marked 150 bucks for 9 ounces, and so on.  And it was dirty.  The longer it sits, the nastier unwashed sheep's wool gets (has to do with lanolin and organic matter).  Finally, I brought it home -- which, by the way, is how I discovered the amazing problem with price.  I washed it.  I washed it again.  I rinsed it twice.  Then I dyed it with Country Classics "Turkey Red."  So now we have Turkey + Turkey = Swan.  Two of the skeins had a LOT of natural white; they're the ones that picked up the red in quantity.  The others now have slightly modified dark brown (I love what happens when natural grays and browns are overdyed) with wonderful dribs and drabs of red.   With PROPER prices, they can go back on the shelf!   Click on the photograph.  Simple kettle dyeing is really fun.  But you need a HUUUGGGEE enameled pot.  svb

Friday, May 4, 2012

Third Coast Fiber Arts Festival

Everyone, plans proceed for the September 21-22, 2012, gigantic fiber arts festival, to be held on the campus of Wayne State University, Detroit.  Google for the McGregor Memorial Conference Center, Wayne State, to have a look.  It's an utterly amazing facility -- a rock garden outdoor space, lots of wide limestone outside areas as well for demos, if the weather permits.  We will have spinning demos and a rigid heddle loom operating in the atrium.  Workshop leaders include the brilliant Candace Eisner-Strick and Judy Pascale and Sarah Peasley and Sheryl Thies -- plus Mollie Fletcher from CCS and Dana (the wonderful designer once associated with Indigo Rose, teaching continental knitting!) and Amy from Jehovah Jireh Farm near Paw Paw (needle felting class and a workshop having to do with a stash-buster shawlette).  On and on.  I will offer a couple of classes, too.  But the real story -- as if this isn't real enough -- is the market.  So far, only a few weeks into the process, 15 vendors have signed up!  These are artisans drawn mostly from the immediate area -- producers of gorgeous hand-dyed yarns, buttons, tools, and so on.  Gita Maria is coming -- makers of stunning sterling and enameled buttons, buckles, jewelry, and the like.  The response has been overwhelming.

Please tell people you know about this event.  Detroit has LONG deserved its own festival -- knitters, crocheters, weavers, spinners, it's all good.  We need word to go out.  Go to our website for a festival link.  Soon, we'll be listed on Knitters Review (Events tab).  Larry is working on all kinds of marketing and publicity.  Maybe a T-shirt!  Get in touch with Larry Hart at or me ( with ideas, suggestions, offers for volunteer work, etc.  I'd like to see a couple of thousand people in and out of the Center over these two magical days.  No reason we can't do it -- the metropolitan area is crammed with incredibly talented men and women who work with fiber.   svb

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


The semester is over -- and with it, I'm experiencing the usual mixture of exhaustion and helplessness.  The number of students at our universities who don't have a language map is truly appalling.  I just finished assigning grades (some of them very low, many of them accompanied by phrases like "Use complete sentences" or "Nouns and verbs have to agree," or "Don't just make lists" or "You need to run to the Learning Center and learn how to write an essay," or "Where are the readings?" or, worst of all, " I can't follow this at all") and I just don't know what will ever come of it.  I perhaps need a good, stiff scotch or some such libation.  Too bad I don't drink.  How can a civilization survive without language?  It really IS all that we have between us.  It's how we generate ideas, inventions, paradigm shifts, relationships, meanings -- on and on.  One young woman in the lower-division class, without the slightest hint of hostility, told me that my job (in her experience) ought to be simply to reward her for attending every day.  I'm sure that is what happened in high school.  I should add that this particular student came from a pretty-good suburban high school.  The best students in the class were four very hard-working African-American students in the front row.  They didn't get an A between them.  But learning occurred, lots of it.  And they went off to the writing center when I told them to do so -- no protests.  The protests come from the other students who think that university is a kind of holding action against change, an avenue to wealth without risking any part of what they are when they first walk in the door.  That's why some of them, the intractible ones, sit in the back row with arms crossed, or simply play with cell phones.

Now, some part could be me, of course.  I'm an old fart.  I think that university SHOULD be hard.  Nobody ever told me that it would be a piece of cake, that I'd always be happy, never be made unhappy with books and writing.  Something has changed, and I wonder now whether I should remain much longer.  I do NOT want to leave on a sour note.  I won every teaching award the university offers -- and -- what has it come to?  The salvation comes in upper division, by the way.  But it's SO damned sad.  The high schools should be shut down, retrained (without ticky-box tests), and reopened with teachers who are free to teach.

So I'm going to drive to the Shepherd's Harvest Festival in Lake Elmo, Minnesota, in two weeks -- instead of the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival -- in part because I want to hug my neice and my oldest historical friend, Julie -- but also because the Minnesota festival has a larger number of vendors that I've not yet met.  It will be a necessary trip -- time to recharge batteries, to look at the gnarled, gorgeous landscape of once-glaciated Wisconsin, the sculpted St Croix River valley just as Wisconsin gives way to Minnesota, the glories of Grand Avenue in St Paul (the city of my birth -- a kind of nativity scene...) where the Bibelot Shop still exists, with its gathering of wonderful objects to touch and try on.  I'm fatter than I was when I was last there, so the try-ons will be fewer.  But -- down the street is the incredible Cafe Latte, and one of the best knit shops in the state.

Life does move on.  I will complete the book that's almost done -- the one people have been waiting for me to finish for a few years now -- and I will knit.  I have sweaters in my head.  I only hope that life will go on for those unfortunate, deprived, illiterate students.  There must be a terrifying stillness in their heads.  WIthout language, there can be only silence -- or perhaps its opposite, a kind of dissonant, inchoate noise signifying nothing.