Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Dear Alice,

I wrote this in my 'Morning Pages' (see Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way) in 1993 when I had committed to morning pages work. Last night, at the AAFG meeting, Kathy Zasuwa talked of the many, many books out there for artists who are "Clearing a Path: Making a Creative Commitment", the lecture she presented last night. I had not read this entry in years...but remembered the colors I saw, the change in the atmosphere, and my yearly September commitment to new goals. So here it is:

"1 September 1993. The signs are there—the movement more and more often of the honking geese, the erratic, drunken, slow movement of first one, then another Monarch Butterfly. Pricks of brilliant red now and again in the green of the Shining Sumac making it look like early warning signs of...yes, Christmas. Somber, heavy heads of sunflowers bowing their heads in prayer. And fields gone wild claim their triumph with an unabashed display of regal gold...no other plant can compete...Goldenrod has won! Patches here and there this morning attest to the chill that settled in overnight, fog on little cat feet. And the moon. The moon shone so BRILLIANTLY that I was wakened by it at 2, or 3. What a sight! The Blue moon, it was, last night. Not another until 1996 they say, though I have noted so many now that that seems hard to believe. And this morning it directed my way as I headed westward 'til the sun glazed everything with a brilliant, shining orange. The grasses in the nursery I passed looked like angel hair because of the mists caught there. Such a delicate, lovely sight!"

Alice, there is a sweater that has been waiting to make its debut every Autumn since then. Really. Since 1993. That was the Autumn that Suzy and I took the Spinning and Natural Dyeing class from Beth Pennington. (I can only remember that it was 1993 because that was the address on here mailbox! Silly, but true.) Suzy was in 8th grade, and it would be the perfect science project for the Science Fair, so we did it, together.

Ahhh, the sweater. I should say THE SWEATER. It is Kaffe Fassett's zigzag design. After getting started with this sweater, I found that the little 5 yard samples that I had dyed were no where near enough, and so I embarked on another summer of dyeing after that initial Fall, and I can share the result of that adventure in another epistle. For now, let me just say that I learned after knitting Kaffe Fassett's 'House' vest for DH, and working at this sweater for, well, now the effort is 16 years old, I vowed somewhere along the way to never knit another of his patterns unless they indicated only 2 (two), let me repeat TWO colors, in one row of knitting.

This Autumn, Alice, I endeavor to finish it. I would like to become part of, to be lost in those brilliant colors that we experience in September in Michigan. You be the judge. There are so many ends to weave in, and I am getting really close. And, methinks, too, that I shall leave the little tags inside. Suzy's initials are on them, mine too. Maybe someday she will want the sweater from—let's just say—the sweater from Michigan.

Love to you, and we miss you,

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Threads of Friendship

Dear Alice,

As you well know, George is holding the sale of all sales yesterday and today, and then again next weekend in an attempt to disperse your huge yarn stash. My gosh, Alice. I knew you had a nice stash, but there are things that we Chicks had never seen.

Mary, Ellen and I helped out yesterday (well, yes, both by reducing your stash and helping with customers) and I came home with several cones of beautiful cashmere and cashmere blends, wool, silks, cotton, linen, ramie, and some fun novelty yarns. One of the yarns I am anticipating using the most is that wool cashmere blend. Big cones...two of them...and almost 4 pounds each. Yummm. You had some linen that will make some placemats that will go nicely with our Mason 'Pink Vista' dishes! I have put that task off for too long a time.

It will be back to East Lansing next weekend to help again. We had put the word out to Michigan League of Handweavers and as many guilds as we could. We had good traffic, but there is a lot more to disperse, so I hope that folks who couldn't come this weekend will make time next weekend.

One of our customers was a volunteer spinner and knitter at Greenfield Village, who promptly put in a call to Chris and Richard Jeryan, the restorers of the jacquard loom at the Village. They made it at the end of the day, but since we three were tired and had loaded our yarns, we left before Chris and Richard checked out. George had some cards for them. Richard was looking for some 40/2 linen, which was gone. Some very nice heavier linen is still there. (I wish I had seen that the new Weavecast audio features Richard and Chris before I had gone to Lansing yesterday!)

One of the nicest comments we heard was from the woman who works at 16 Hands. A friend of hers said this when her mother had passed away and she asked all her mother's friends to come and take her mother's art materials with them as her gift. It was as if everything was going out into the world to be seen and appreciated, just as her mother had intended.

Alice, your legacy is infusing the world in many ways. I hope that there will be a nice recoup so that it will help to preserve your wonderful collection of books, papers, samples, and fabrics that are going to MSU's Museum.


ps Anyone out there who lives in or is vacationing in the lower peninsula of Michigan and needs more information on the sale of Alice's yarns, please be in touch with me for the location, dates and time of the sale.

Monday, July 13, 2009


Dear Alice,

It has been so long since my last postcard, and I have felt so guilty because I haven't written, that I think I will just dive in. 'Just start over, Nancy' I told myself when I alighted back in Ann Arbor this afternoon. So, here goes....

Mary, Ellen and I arrived home safely at 3 p.m. +/- this afternoon after our 12 hour drive from the NEWS Conference at Smith College. We started out at as soon as I finished up Daryl's Fast Warping class yesterday and drove as far as a bit east of Syracuse, arose at 5 this morning and continued the journey at 6:30 a.m. What a wonderful time we had! This was my first NEWS (not to mention my very first trip ever to Massachusetts!!), so I took advantage of every possible class I could. I signed up for every slot. There was so much to see, so much to do, vendors to check out, weavers to talk with, people with whom I was acquainted via internet to meet in person, architecture to see, the gardens (which I missed), Elm trees the likes of which I haven't seen in the USA (the one at Carl Linneus's garden is pretty impressive) Hancock Shaker Village, Fashion Show, Gallery Show, Instructors' Show...I was exhausted! I was so wound up I couldn't sleep. The inspiration I gained at NEWS will carry me a long way for the next year.

Thank you for introducing the Chicks to NEWS. This was Ellen's third, and I think this was actually Mary's fourth (she went with you, Sonja and Lois the first time. Remember that Hot Fudge Sunday in bed?)

I'll try to get some photos posted over the next few days. However, remember that tomorrow night is a Board of Trustees meeting, tomorrow morning I am taking Steve & Courtney to Detroit Metro at 5:30, Wednesday evening I am cashier for the AAFG booth at the Art Fair, I have a few details to wrap up on the "It's Spring Alice!" jacket, and then Saturday is the beginning day of the sale of your incredible stash (for which I have volunteered to help George out).

Chelsea, Scott and Stew are all glad to see me. And, of course, there is no place like home.

Love to you, n

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Programs, Workshops, and Learning—Oh My!

Dear Alice,

This has been a crazy/busy month, and this morning I decided that "the honeymoon is over". People have learned that I am there, and that there is someone who listens to their complaints (and more positively, their suggestions as to how their local government can run more smoothly and better).

And in the midst of all this new experience, I am plugging away at getting things underway for the Guild's next season. The theme for our 2009-2010 Season is "Say YES to Michigan!" The past year has been a difficult time economically in Michigan, so my thought was to do what we can to stimulate the economy locally. We have some very talented, skillful, brilliant, knock-your-sox-off creative people in Michigan, so I knew I could come up with some really great workshops and speakers, and keep costs down for our own members.

Because our guild is composed of approximately 115 members who are all over the map in terms of what their interests and skills are, we try to offer a variety of workshops. But, I also limit the number of workshops to three for the season—usually one in October, one in March, and if we have someone local, one in January (due to unpredictability of weather). At the beginning of my term as V.P in charge of Programs and Workshops, I sent out a questionaire with the monthly newsletter. One of those questions was "What workshop topics interest you? (check all that apply)" The choices were Weaving, Surface Design, Dying, Silk Painting, Design, Stitching--free hand embroidery, Beading, Quilting, Clothing, Mixed media, Basketry, Paper making, Felting, and Other. Yes, Alice, every choice was checked, and just about equal interest on every topic. Our Guild started out as a weaving guild and over the years became focused on all manner of fiber art, so I can't offer only weaving workshops (believe me, I hear about it if I do!)

Back to the theme. Say YES to Michigan! I am thrilled with the line-up so far for 2009-2010. In September, the kick-off program for the year will be with Kathy Zasuwa, a talented weaver from Milford, Michigan. Her lecture will be "Clearing a Path: Creative Commitment". Isn't that a stunner for a start to the season?

In October, we will have Ann Arbor's own Karen O'Neal giving a paper-making workshop one weekend, and the following weekend teaching a workshop on creating your own book from your hand-made paper! (A good thing to have done before the Holiday season, no?)

November is always Member Showcase...one of my favorite programs because there are always beautiful pieces that come to be shown and shared. December is easy...no meeting...just a delightful party that one of our members hosts, a gigantic potluck, and lovely clothing (but remember to be casual if you want).

Usually January is the other member Showcase meeting, but in January 2010 we are going to have the talented Susan Moran teaching a workshop on shibori and dye-baths on Day 1 and shaped resists on Day 2. Enticing to us weavers, isn't it?

In February I have scheduled Diane Little from suburban Detroit area to give a program on textile conservation, and to talk to us about all the chemicals we may be using on our fabrics as well. Diane worked with textiles that were retrieved from The Titanic. How cool is that?

In March Charlie Patricolo, another of our members, is giving a two weekend doll-making workshop. Charlie lived in this area for many years, flew away to North Carolina to live and teach, and is back with us.

And so, finally in April we will have Member Showcase for the second half of the alphabet. That should give members plenty of time to wrap up what they have been inspired to do, especially since the Fiber Feast is always in April. Now all I have left to visualize is a program for May, and then get contracts out to each workshop leader and program lecturer, and procure/confirm workshop spaces.

This year's line-up is coming to a close (for this job anyway), and here is where you can see the whole list of programs and workshops. Delightfully, the theme for 2008-20009 was all about color. We had two workshops with Lois Bryant on Magical, Marvelous Color, and Daryl talked about color inspiration in her October lecture. This past Monday evening we had Victoria Silks give her lecture on "Color Energy: Reflection of our Inner Life". It was fascinating!

So, tell me...would you sign up for this line-up?


ps. Oh, GOSH! Alice. I almost forgot the best thing that happened today! I was asked to serve on the Endowment Committee for your collection of books, articles, textiles, and notebooks that you left to the Museum at MSU. I am so honored.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Design Game

Dear Alice,

I had been thinking about making up Ann Sutton's Design Game for over a year. Mary's birthday was fast approaching, and finally I got in gear to 'make' the game. I gathered different colored card-stocks, decided upon making a largish envelope rather than a box, dug out my inspiration for the envelope, and made a trip down to Hollander's. Oh, yummm. Dangerous place to visit! The papers, cards, and other enticements are hard to resist. I caught a glimpse of the fun thank-you note that Jean had sent last November and thought 'Ahhh...I can stitch that heavy paper.' I took a scrap of leather that is part of another project and created a closure. All in all, it was fun to do, the cards are colorful, and after cake on Saturday, we played our first round of The Design Game!

What is the Design Game? Ann Sutton describes it in her book Ideas in Weaving. She says:

"The Design Game is played like an open game of Pontoon (Twenty-Ones, Vingt-et-Un, Blackjack). Each card in the pack (at least 50) contains an element of design found in a woven cloth. A player is dealt two cards and is asked to read them aloud. If the elements conflict irredeemably, the dealer moves on to the next player who might have two cards which are more amenable, and feels that a third element could be incorporated into the cloth (the vision of which builds up differently in the minds of all in the group). A fourth card could then be accepted, and even a fifth. Each should be read out and considered, with solutions suggested by the group for any ‘impossibilities’. If the player accepts a card which counteracts a previous one and makes the fabric truly impossible, then the dealer declares him ‘bust’ and moves on to the next player.

"The purpose of the game is to produce, by chance, unexpected combinations of technique, weave, color, finishing, etc., and to create a problem-solving attitude to design challenges. It has usually been found to be a mind-stretching experience enjoyed by weavers of all abilities.

"The cards should be similar to playing cards in size, and all of exactly the same size for easy shuffling. These cards include a list of suggested elements. It will be found that a near even quantity in each of the seven categories will give the best results but the cards should be mixed together and not dealt from the separate lists."

The categories are Technique, Color, Yarn, Fiber, Finishing, General Design, and Weave, and each category has several descriptions of possibilities. Using chance to design a new cloth. Great fun! We felt you peeking over our shoulders as we described the fantasy cloths in our imaginations.

I hope it is warmer where you are. We are getting tired of single-digit temperatures.

Yours on the road to discovery,
* Today's photos by Mary.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Long Overdue Postcard

Dear Alice,

When we went to Illinois to visit Mom at Thanksgiving, Scott and I decided that we would really like to visit Bishop Hill again. It had been many years since we had gone there the day after Thanksgiving with the children...it is always fun to try to catch the Julbuck playing tricks on people. We also needed to stock up on some Kalle's caviar.

Bishop Hill was an early Swedish settlement on the Illinois prairie. I remember studying it in the 70's when working on my BLA, and wrote a paper for my urban planning class at the time. Back then the buildings were in terrible disrepair. By the late 80's the settlement had been restored somewhat as a historic site by the state government, and sadly, the most recent governor pulled any supporting funds from important historic places like Bishop Hill and Black Hawk State Park.

There is a wonderful spinning guild that serves much of the western Illinois community, the Bishop Hill Fiber Guild. Many of those who are members have work in the Prairie Arts Center, a lovely shop that we visited. They have really grown since the last time we were there! On the 28th of November, there was a lovely lady demonstrating weaving--weaving rag rugs with sock loopers. In fact there were four looms set up that day, but only one weaver at the time we visited.

There are wonderful treasures in some of the other historic buildings, things that unfortunately will be hidden away now that they have lost funding, so some of the State-owned buildings will not be open to the public. Do not hesitate to visit Bishop Hill, though! The architecture is fascinating, and there are some great little privately owned shops and restaurants.

I'm sorry it took so long to get this in the mail to you,

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Little Like Pennies from Heaven

Dear Alice,
Last Monday we had 'Member Showcase' at our regular Guild meeting. At first I thought I would be lucky to find something that I had done in the past year, since often I give things away before that meeting rolls around for me. I had sent Caiden's newly finished sweater off the week before, I had finished Penny's sox shortly after New Year's Day (but not yet delivered them), I had just finished weaving my first-ever rag rug, and not yet hemmed the ends, and I had finished weaving the Big Bluestem project, but not yet finished the ends and sides as I have envisioned. So...nothing to show? I decided that I could take the "It's Spring Alice!" fabric--after all, it was finished! I carefully unrolled it from the tube I had rolled it on, packed it up and took it along to the meeting. Tuesday morning, when I decided that it should be rolled back on the tube (so as not to become creased where I had folded it) I tipped the tube as I was about to put it on and lo! a roll of paper fell out. "What's this?" thought I. Indeed. Notes from Heaven. Alice, it was the instruction sheet for your crackle weave blanket gamp. Thank you...it made me smile, and it made my day!

In the meantime, I have hemmed the first-ever rag rug. It was merely an experiment. I used Janet Meany's Rag Rug Handbook instructions to get an interesting pattern. Rather than use wool, though, I used cottons, a cotton/linen blend, and even a velveteen (OK, yes, it's too thick with the other fabrics, but it was the right color), and I used quarter-inch seams. Of course those are little bumps all over the rug. That day, though, I tossed perfectionism to the wind and recalled Jean's words as I did it. One of the cards I tossed into the fire on New Year's Eve said 'perfectionism'. I really just wanted to play with the rag rug warp since I had never done one before. Jean had said the day before: "I'm always a bit anxious about trying something new like this, but I keep reminding myself that it's only a bunch of thread, and if it gets too ugly, there's always the wood stove." Don't you love it?

Thanks for the serendipity!