Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Fiber World has lost an artist in Judy Adams's death

My friend, Judy Adams, died on September 13, 2008, this past Saturday. Here is a picture of Judy weaving with me at a festival last April. She offered to bring a small loom and accompany me to a 'country days' type of fair at one of Virginia's last remaining intact plantations. Typically, Judy brought much more than her loom. She carted along fabrics which she had woven recently, bags of fleece from sheep and llamas, all displayed in antique baskets from her collection. She wore a period costume which she had researched to match the time of the plantation's heyday, and sewed from her own hand woven fabric.
See, Judy decided a few years ago to devote her time to learning about the old ways of keeping comfort, before the industrial revolution diverted the hand artist away from the old crafts of weaving, knitting, spinning, rug making, tatting ... you name it! She wanted to learn as many of these crafts as possible.
Judy and I shared the love of dyeing, and had many conversations about commercial dyes, natural dye stuffs, and her garden of dye source plants. Judy had a bountiful crop of woad every year which she was sure her neighbors thought was a weedy mess. Woad grows everywhere in Virginia, but Judy's thought was that it was much easier just to go out to her back yard and pluck it at just the right time, than to wade into fields and crawl up roadside inclines. So, she planted woad in her garden and proudly displayed her blue woad fibers and yarns spun from them. She was a fount of knowledge on natural dyestuffs, the colors yielded with all the mordants. And, she was the type of artist who encourages others to reach inside and pull out their own art. Never teachy, always encouraging and always entirely expecting us to do something of worth.
In our area, we have only one fiber guild, Blue Ridge Fiber Arts, and it covers quite a broad spanse of central and southwest Virginia. And, it meets once a quarter. Judy decided that she'd like to offer the opportunity for anyone to meet more often, so she found a local library who's librarian is also a fiber enthusiast and put out the word. Every month she arrived with huge baskets of supplies. The month she taught us how to make rag rugs, for instance, her baskets held rolls and rolls of perfectly cut and miter-joined wool. One month she asked me to do a Kool Aid dye demonstration, and for months afterwards when I was able to attend, she would point out yarn being knit from that demo, making both me and the dyer/knitter proud of our contribution.
Another time, she and her travelling buddy, Carolyn Moore -- another weaver of note -- decided to present a series of weaving programs. I thought this would stifle attendance if anything would, having never acquired the love of the loom, as those two had. They each have several looms, including travelling ones, so they brought them to the library meeting room for three or four successive Saturdays, and took us through the steps of weaving. AND they had everyone up there dressing looms, threading heddles, and throwing the shuttle! I even went home and dressed my loom after that series.
Judy was a devotee of the John C Campbell Folk School, down in North Carolina. In fact, it was because of her that I have been there a couple of times, myself. Judy, though, did not just go for the experience of going, but she attended the Scottish weeks, and special advanced weaving programs. Scottish plaids were her forte, as a weaver. Oh, can I really say that one thing was her strength, in the fiber arts, as she was such a talent, pure talent. I did love her.
Folks either appreciate the dry Scottish wit, or they do not, and if you do and knew Judy Adams, you will have many stories to tell for years of her comments and dry observations of life. She was a delight to be around.
Lest you think that she poured all her creative energy into the Fiber Guild, I'll tell you that she also worked on a Prayer Shawl ministry in her church. Her priest sent out a letter about her contributions to her church, and mentioned that she filled the fall craft festival every year with her work. She was also a creative cook. As a diabetic, she was on the search for tasty recipes at all times.
She had a beautiful daughter. I mean truly a beautiful young woman, inside and out, and Judy was so proud of her, and of her granddaughter, too! I invited Judy to a small gathering for Ann McCauley, knitting designer who lives in Colorado and is from Bedford Virginia nearby, and Judy came with her daughter and her granddaughter, too. All three women, looking so much alike with that calm air that the Adams women have, sitting and knitting without glancing at the needles. Judy was not one for constant smiling, but she did smile an awfully lot around her daughter and beloved granddaughter.
I will miss her.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

How I spent my Saturday

For the past month, a group of knitters I know have been working on six-inch squares, hoping to have enough to put together in a lap quilt. This group effort was designed for the group coordinator, a woman of 42 years who recently suffered a major stroke, and we wanted to go something for her. What better than to knit for her?

So, most of our small group, began to knit 6 inch squares. Now, I will tell you that we have a group of mixed skill levels and some learned to increase and decrease on these squares for the very first time. Some felt it was too hard, so a few of us had to take up the slack. Forseeing this possiblity, my friend, Vickie (pictured far right) and I (in the middle) each knit 16 squares.

The results are lovely. As a group, we each realized that this project was a defining moment in our existance, and I am sure that we are stronger for this effort. Mixed yarn fibers, mixed skill levels, and ... yes ... mixed interpretations of how much six inches really is ... it all came together beautifully. I can just imagine our friend touching the knitted quilt and looking at the squares, and hope it gives her one tenth the pleasure that it gave us to put it together.

What's New?

New yarns ...

I really should have introduced them properly before now, but, honestly, I have had my attention riveted to a slowly eroding website. The OSCommerce site -- and I am not blaming this open source program! -- and a server host have combined to put a real kink into my business plans. I think I have told several of you, and even written about the freaky electrical explosion at the building where my server is hosted. Ever since that event in June, things have gone from bad to worse. BUT relief is on the horizon, in the form of new computer whizkid types. I will say that I have had to wade through so much technobabble in the past month that I have had enough for a lifetime. That is, though, wishful thinking!

But back to the happy talk of lovely, luscious yarn, yarn, yarn! Platinum Sock and SuperAran have taken off, and my calculations were a bit off on the Platinum and the dreaded out-of-stock situation just crept up on me. No worries, though because it is on it's way and should be here in two or three weeks. I will definitely crow when it arrives on our shores.

Surino, that's new. New, soft, luxuiously soft, and affordable, too. The website woes had my attention diverted so that I actually forgot this yarn was coming, so imagine my wonderful surprise to open boxes and boxes and come across something so very nice. Surino is a 50/50 blend of the coveted Suri Alpaca with extra fine merino. Two soft, fine fibers blended into a versatile sport weight (1488 yd/lb), and presented in 100 gram skeins of 327 yards each.

Sport weight is beginning to show up more and more in the dyed yarn catalogs and in local yarn shops. Take notice, the next time you are wandering through a yarn shop, entertaining yourself at the prices being asked. (and guess what? people actually pay those prices! Just think how you might be underpricing your own handdye for a second here...) Anyway, one of the reps for the commercial companies told me a couple of years ago to watch for sport weight to gain importance with the major commercial companies. I am also seeing the pattern support for sport weight, and in the magazines too. Surino will work fine for any of the sport patterns you may be using to promote your dyed yarns.

Two new laces: Butterfly Lace and Angel Lace. I decided to bring in two upscale laces this fall to fill a void in my lineup. Honestly, compared to sock yarn, for instance, sales of lace do not begin to compare, so it seemed like a good idea, and I was more than pleased with the actual lace when it arrived. Too, since getting it out there, the reports are terrifc. They both take dye well and are both luxuriously soft!

Butterfly Lace is an 80/20 blend of extrafine Merino with Silk. Angel Lace is a 70/20/10 blend of baby Alpaca, silk, and cashmere. Yes, you read right! AND, I am offering them for sale by the 100 gram skein, making these rare fibers absolutely affordable to every knitter. Angel Lace, for example, in a 100 gram skein of 1,312 yards sells at $22 per skein. And Butterfly Lace is at $18 per skein of the same number of yards on a 100 gram skein.

Some of my customers have been writing to comment on the new presentations in 100 gram skeins. I am trying this format out for this season to see if customers prefer the smaller sized skein to the 8 oz skein I have only carried in the past. It costs more to have the mills measure, skein, and package the 100 gram skeins, but I am thinking that it may be worth the effort, and look forward to feedback on this question.

Let's see ... oh, yes, I wrote a book. Well, a booklet, actually on starting an internet business. It's based on the articles I published here on my blog last year, but expanded, and I unabashedly recommend it to newbies in the handdye world. It's listed on the website under Accessories.

And, the very last thing that is new is not even a reality yet, but is on the computer horizon. The computer horizon is an intangible goal off in the distance somehwere, and while I personally have never reached that horizon, I am hearing assurances from the new Web Designers, that such a place of nirvanna exists. I will let you know when the new site is up and running, and want/need/crave customer feedback on how it is working. But! Not yet! I'll let you know.

Please write to me and tell me what a great writer I am and that I really should make more blog entries!