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   artisanknitworks@comcast.net.  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 www.artisanknitworks.com.


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 www.artisanknitworks.com  for details of everything.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Port Huron, the Third Coast, and so on....

...so 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 www.artisanknitworks.com 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