Saturday, October 24, 2009


Day 2 of my adventures at SAFF. My feet are tired and so am I. I'm missing Henry and my cats, but it's a happy tired. At least I got to snuggle an Angora rabbit in my lap today. What a sweet animal and so luxurious to just wrap this fur around your fingers. They're such docile and sweet animals, they make you want to take home two or three. Just kidding, cats, don't get nervous. I said, "want." One of the things I've enjoyed this weekend is getting to know the various breeds of sheep, at least through their wool. I got a lesson on Navajo-Churro sheep today. They're an old breed brought here by the Spaniards in the 1500's. They were obtained by the Navajo from the Friars in the 1600's, were phased out through government intervention, and are now again being raised by the Navajo for their double-coated wool to make their blankets. Who would have thought sheep would have such history? The Navajo-Churro wool is too rough for clothing worn next to the skin, but is extremely warm and makes wonderful rugs and blankets. Thank you to Ann Fay of Rising Meadow Farm in Randolph County, NC for the historical information.
I also had the opportunity to watch and video-tape a demonstration of cotton spinning on a great wheel by Kelsey Schissel, of Plays in Mud Pottery Studio in Asheville, NC. Her father, Lyle Wheeler makes the Great Wheels. You can find him at
Neal Howard, the Weaver was also gracious enough to allow me to video-tape her while weaving on her Baby Wolf loom by Schact. She gave me quite a bit of information while being taped. Watch for upcoming episodes of my Craft Write podcast for these and the sheep shearing from day one.
Congratulations to Carolyn & Rick Beasley of Heelside Farms in Four Oaks, NC for winning Supreme Grand Champion for Ewe Wool Breeds at the NC State Fair. Just look at the expression on her sheep. Such a proud, pleased face.
Jeannie Giberson spent quite a while explaining to me and other knitters how to knit the border and entrelac sections on her Ashlar Cap. I bought Miss Babs "Yummy Toes" Sock & Baby Yarn for an Ashlar Cap for Eva and an ECU version adult size for me. I can't wait to get started on them. And, of course, I had to get some new Addi's in size 3 for these.
Most unique purchase of the day: New Zealand Possum/Merino blend roving from the Tail Spinner. Pictures yesterday of the needle felting class by Melissa Gray.
We didn't get back to the finish of the Sheep-to-Shawl demonstration. I did take a few pictures this morning of the process. We saw a demo of wet-felting a can cozy by Marlene's Felting Madness. This definitely looks like a future Fiber Arts Club project for school.

And last, thanks to JSMS Farm for taking the time to talk to me and Rheta about Romney sheep. I did learn one extra tidbit today: don't try to take sheep pictures at feeding time. They just won't stand still for such silliness as photos when dinner is being served.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

SAFF Is Here!

We're finally at SAFF! After waiting for months, my sister, Rheta, and I are having the time of our lives at the Southeastern Animal & Fiber Fair in Fletcher, NC. I've been told by several people, "Prepare to be overwhelmed." They were all correct. I can't believe the size of this fair. It's being held in the Agricultural Center here near the Asheville airport. So far, I've filmed a sheep shearing by Paula Ashworth, an incredible site watching an entire fleece being lifted in one piece from the small sheep. We've seen dozens of vendors with handspun, hand-dyed beautiful wools and fibers from alpaca to bamboo. I've finally been able to see up close the different breeds of sheep and to touch their wools. There is so much variation in the textures of wools such as Corriedale or Jacob's or Shetland. There are angora bunnies galore with the sweetest expressions. Too bad I'm not able to keep rabbits anymore at home; there are quite a few I'd like to add as my pets.
The Jacob and the Cotswold sheep have been the most interesting so far. I had a lot of fun filming and taking pictures of the various sheep and goats today. I didn't get to see the Jacobs yet. I believe they're arriving tomorrow. Some of them may have up to six horns and are really wild looking. I bought two sets of Jacob roving which is outstanding. I can't wait to get home to spin it.
There are classes galore. I haven't signed up for one yet, maybe tomorrow if one is open. I wanted to be free to see the demonstrations such as the sheep shearing today and the "Sheep to Shawl" demos going on tomorrow. I've also learned quite a bit from talking to other participants, such as the difference between spinning wool and cotton. I learned that you have to boil the cotton after it's spun to bring out the true natural colors and to set the twist. I also found out that it is illegal to grow natural species of cotton in most parts of the state because it might cross with the hybridized white species of cotton that are commercially grown today. I bought two bags of cotton roving to try. I'll try to take before and after pictures.
I did come across another rigid heddle loom which I couldn't pass up. I now have an Ashford 32-inch rigid heddle loom with stand which will find a place of honor in my studio at home. I already have plans for some rag rugs and woolen shawls. Well, more tomorrow.

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Broom Decor

Okay, I have a thing for brooms. The styling of such a simple, functional item fascinates me. Over the years, I've collected antique brooms of various styles, mostly through antique shops and ebay. I've been lucky to come across a few from the Berea College in Berea, Kentucky. This folk art school was started in the 1890's to preserve the native handcrafts and to provide a market for Appalachian crafts. Their handiwork is stunning. If you haven't visited their site before, you should spend a while enjoying their pages. Keep in mind when you see their brooms woven with colored broomstraw, this is not an easy task. Broomstraw has a very hard coating which takes an extreme amount of heat to break down so that the dye can take. It's not like dyeing wool or even pine needles.
I'm including some pictures in this posting of some of my brooms. I use them in my home as I would any other piece of art. They line one side of the stairway going into my studio. I also have them paired with pictures on the walls. They're often an odd size which may be just what you need to fill a space on a wall or in a corner where another picture would be just too much.
If you're in the market for an antique broom, try ebay or flea markets or antique shops. I don't usually find these to be very expensive. You may get lucky to find an original from Berea.
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Friday, October 9, 2009

Broom Making 101 Part I

Well, my favorite holiday is fast approaching. I was afraid being too busy with school work and fatigue would keep me from getting back to podcasting, but I have managed to film one episode so far. I decided to start with a video podcast of broom making, specifically, making a Cobweb Catcher broom. I just can't seem to get those short little video podcasts like some other crafters. I'm always afraid I'll leave out a step; hence, four parts to this one. I did manage to get a couple of steps out of order. It's been a few years since I've made a broom and the steps were a little slow coming back. I will note here that you need to not cut the cord after doing the first three rounds of waxed linen and sewing through the broom stalks and around. Leave the long tail and begin weaving under and over the stalks at this point. This will make it easier in the long run. You'll still leave a long piece at the end of the weaving to attach whatever embellishments you'd like to include.
To do the top, or bristles part of the broom, just wind the waxed linen around three times, pull tight and tie it off. You'll continue around like I show in the video to stitch it and end the stitching. I hope this isn't too confusing. You can do exactly like I did in the video, and the broom will come out lovely. I just felt guilty afterwards for inverting a couple of steps. Happy broom making and Halloween. Please send any questions; I'll be more than happy to answer.
The videos will be posted on youtube under Kathryn Jacoby and on