Friday, March 28, 2014

Bib and Tucker at Next Guild Meeting on April 12

Lillis Taylor, a founding member of the Bib and Tucker Sew-Op, will speak at our next guild meeting, Saturday, April 12. On their blog ( Bib and Tucker is described as "a sewing cooperative dedicated to building community through the teaching of sewing and design skills amongst a multi-generational membership." Visit their blog to read more. 

This is a fascinating group and it is going to be very interesting to hear more about what they are doing. Save the date: April 12 at 10:00 at our regular location, St. Peter's Catholic Church. Visitors are welcome.

Watch for the newsletter, there will be more information about the meeting and directions. As usual, after the newsletter goes out, it will be posted here.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Congratulations to Barbara Mitchell, her work is in Scared Threads, a national art quilt show

Above is a photo and a close-up of guild member Barbara Mitchell's art quilt, “Prayers at the Wailing Wall.” 

From Barbara:

I created it last year after a trip to Israel in late 2012.  For me, the visit to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem was one of the most moving moments of my trip.  The wall is very high and made of large stone blocks.  People write prayers on slips of paper and tuck them into crevices between the blocks.  I printed prayers on silk and also used fabrics with writing, and hand-stitched them to the quilt.  I used green yarns to represent the bits of lichen and ferns that sprout.  Since I generally use a lot of bright color, it was a challenge to me to create something with pale colors.

My art quilt was juried into a national art quilt show called Sacred Threads; see for more information. some of the quilts in the show.   This exhibition was started to give artists a safe place to show quilts dealing with themes related to inspiration and spirituality.  The biennial exhibition consisted of about 200 art quilts and was in the Washington DC area in July 2013.  My quilt was one of about 40 chosen to go on to a gallery in Omaha, NE, in the fall.  This year, it is one of 25 quilts on tour.  It will be in national quilt shows in Savannah and Denver in March and April, and then another gallery in Seattle in May.  I’m so pleased that my art work is on the road and that it is being shown to so many people.

Congratulations to Barbara for the well-deserved recognition. A note to guild members, Barbara will be presenting a hands-on program for the guild on June 14. Save the date!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Pop's Red Sweater

Lisa Lee, one of the newer members of our guild, lost her father last year. In the photograph below, you can see Pop wearing his favorite red cashmere sweater, sitting with Lisa's mother, and surrounded by grandchildren. Lisa came across his red cashmere sweater as she was helping her mother with that difficult task of trying to decide what to do with the things their loved one had left behind.


At a knitting study group meeting, Lisa discussed the possibility of re-using the yarn from this iconic garment to make mementos for herself, her mother, and her sister, and she came up with a great plan!

While tossing back Bloody Mary's at the beach, Lisa and Karen Ford carefully dismantled the sweater, unraveled the pieces, and wound the red cashmere yarn into skeins.  They washed the curly yarn in dish washing liquid, letting it soak for a while, then rinsed it, squeezed out as much water as they could, and then laid it on the table out on the screened porch to dry.


Lisa is knitting scarves for her mother, her sister, and herself with the yarn from her father's cashmere sweater. She finished the first scarf in time to give it to her mother on Valentine's day this past February. Below is a picture of Mary Claire, wearing this very special Valentine's day present from Lisa and Pop.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Boston Marathon Scarf Project

Guild member Jennifer Justiss recently heard from her friend, Jane Watt, who belongs to Old South Church in Boston, also known by Boston marathoners as the "church at the finish line." Given its location, the ministers from this church were among the first responders during the Boston Marathon bombings in April last year.

This year the knitters of Old South Church are making scarves for the runners who come to their church the Sunday before the race. Usually more than 100 runners attend services there, but they are expecting many more due to the attention and support this city, and this event, received following the bombings.

The knitters of Old South Church are accepting scarves that have been knitted, crocheted, or woven in the official colors of the Marathon, blue and yellow, preferably 60 inches long and 4 to 6 inches wide. Scarves have already arrived from across the U.S. and Europe.

If you are interested, you can find more information at,, and on Facebook at

If you would like to contribute a scarf, Jennifer has offered to gather and ship contributions from knitters, crocheters, and weavers here in Birmingham.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Guild Newsletter, March 2014

                     President’s Column                           

Hello Fiber Friends!
I trust everyone has had a great month! I know most are wishing for Spring but I have found this winter an inspiration for woolly things! And frankly I never look forward to hot weather!

I wanted to share with you my new rocking to me that is! For those of you that spin it's instantly recognizable! What clever human constructed this chair? It's from the 1930's Pennsylvania area....or so the dealer said! As I sit in my chair and spin or knit I think of those before us who did our craft because they had to for their family to be warm. We have a multitude of reasons for doing what we do but need is probably not top on the list! My Mother never understood why I did this when I could go to the store and buy it already done!! Partly for me it's the process, but also it's the connection to women of the past and the creative outlet. I think about the woman who used this wheel and the person who, rather than throw it on the fire, repurposed it into a rocking chair! How different our lives and times are!

And speaking of creative process...I am looking forward to our program this month on the dirty little secrets of pattern designing........not Mary's title but how I see it! It's a mystery to me, and I can't wait to have it unlocked.....also about submitting for publication! I am completely in awe of this kind of talent...and it abounds in our Guild!!

I look forward to seeing you all at the meeting!

Karen Ford



March Meeting - Publishing for Fiber Artists

Saturday, March 8th, 10:00 am
St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church
2061 Patton Chapel Rd
Birmingham, AL  (205) 822-4480


Mary Spanos, former technical editor for Spin-Off magazine, knitwear designer, and publisher at Big Canoe Press (, will be leading a program on publishing knitting patterns online and submitting proposals to magazines and yarn companies.  She will give a quick overview of how to prepare your own pattern, including some options for making charts, so knitters can upload patterns to sites like Ravelry.

This program is not only for knitters, but any fiber artist interested in publishing, and for any fiber artist who wants to understand how patterns are selected and edited in the books and magazines we read.  Mary Kaiser and Janice Weinstein will contribute their experiences with working with knitting magazines and yarn companies.  

Thanks,  Mary Kaiser


Note new time and location!  When you arrive at the church, park and then look for an awning at the front left of the church.  Enter through the door under the awning


 Why We Make Things and Why It Matters

Book Review by Mary Kaiser

It’s another snow day, and the gift of time waits like an unopened Christmas present—and what will I do with it?  Load a new lace pattern into my i-pad, of course, find another circular needle in size 3, and spend the morning in my pajamas working through the intricacies of yarnovers and directional decreases.  Outside my window, as snowflakes melt into raindrops, bare branches twinkle in the sun.  I hold up my new rows of lace to the light, and the wool yarn plied with silk sparkles.

Why is this fiber craft so dear to me?  Why do I shop for a new skein of yarn instead of a new pair of shoes or a jar of Dr. P.’s miracle wrinkle cream?  Why search Ravelry for another shawl pattern when I have a deep dresser drawer full of scarves, shawls, wraps and cowls?

Intrigued by a book title that offered to answer my question, I opened Why We Make Things and Why It Matters by Peter Korn.  A furniture maker and founder of the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Maine, Korn, like many passionate craftspeople, was educated for a more cerebral line of work, but fell in love with wood when he was in his early twenties.  In the mid-seventies, after college, a self-described hippie, Korn moved to Nantucket and took the first job he was offered, as a carpenter on a building site.  Once he fell in love with his life’s material, wood, and began to develop his skills, he became fascinated with furniture making, and, much to the dismay of his parents, abandoned the white-collar life for a career making things with his hands.

But Korn’s background as a child of an attorney and a lawyer remained an important influence.  He is a philosophical, thinking person who works with his hands, and so this unique book came about, as he explores the nature of craft, the reasons why people in the digital age still love to work with their hands, and considers the future of making, as he refers to what used to be called “craft.”

Korn discovered that meticulously designing and crafting pieces of beautiful furniture for elite buyers was such a slow process that he could never really make a living at it, and over the decades moved into teaching and administration in craft schools in order to support himself and his family.  But to this day, he continues to work in the studio crafting furniture by hand, burnishing and sanding and carving mortises, keeping in touch with his passion.

Reading this book is very useful if you’re inclined to meditate about questions like the place of craft in contemporary society, or the differences between craft and fine art.  Korn argues that craft is the art of making things that people can use, and he believes that thinking about use places beneficial constraints on a maker’s creative energy.  Knitting a shawl that sits just right on the shoulders engages us in a three-way struggle among the material—“the material of the world does not bend easily,” he writes—the skills of the knitter, and the needs of the wearer.   So a craft can be judged on two levels, aesthetic and practical—is this shawl pretty, and can I wear it?   The apex of a craft is a product in which form and function meld—a garment that’s beautiful because it fits so well, because it looks just right on a body.

So, why do we do this when we can find tables and chairs, sweaters and socks at the nearest mall?  Peter Korn has some interesting responses.  First, he says, making things encourages independence.  Instead of passively selecting from the goods on the market, when we set out to make something we think for ourselves, which is “the wellspring of a good life,” he writes.

Making things allows us to make a statement and express our own aesthetic, to put our own stamp on things we use, and that’s extremely satisfying.  Taking the time to develop skills in a craft represents a commitment and usually introduces us to a whole community of makers, like our own Fiber Guild, which has surrounded many of us for decades, helping us to develop our own skills while we watch in admiration as fellow Guild members become experts at our craft.

Practicing any craft is a meditative process, because we are forced to slow down and take stitch after stitch, or move the shuttle back and forth across the weft, or twist the spindle thousands of times.  We are compelled to live in the moment, to watch and adjust and be aware of subtle differences, to go back to the dye pot or the spinning wheel again and again to get it just right.  It takes patience, and calls upon our ability to recover from setbacks and take on the beginner’s mind over and over again.

But most of all, a love of craft always goes back to the sensory pleasure of the materials themselves.  No matter how badly I mess up my lace pattern, my sheer love of handling yarn will keep me at the needles, pulling out the stitches and picking them up and starting again, but always in the joy of holding a strand of yarn in my fingers and watching what it can do, holding my knitting up to the window to see how the light strikes it.


Interesting Fiber Items to Read and Check Out...
From Clare Matthews....
  • This Is How I Go When I Go Like This by Linda Collier     This is a small book that I can only describe as “delightful” and has little essays that we as fiber artists can all relate to. At under $5 its well worth buying and reading. It will make you smile!
           From Amazon -"This collection of Linda Collier Ligon's essays in Handwoven magazine traces the ups and downs, joys and trials, and people and events of the weaving world over the last 25 years. In these essays textiles are the window to the world, and questions such as What does it mean to have a loom-shaped life? What's warp, what's weft? and What are the interlacements? are explored with precise, probing insight that is always engaging. Whether urging readers to act, describing her battles with a fine linen yarn, or recounting her computer's spell-check replacements for weaving terms, these essays from the founder of Interweave Press will enchant, amuse, and delight."
  • Two websites that have a math program to help you design pleasing strips or blocks of colour.  Once you understand how to play with the program (ie read the instructions) there are endless possibilities 
    • You select colours and numbers of rows of each color and it generates a pattern of stripes. Don't like the first suggestion, refresh the page and you get another.  Designed for knitting, but works for weaving or any design project really.
    • This one explores the Fibonacci sequence   Put a number in the white box above the grid and it will arrange the grid proportionally to please the eye using Fibonacci sequence…that thing about fir cones and the arrangement of its prongs.


It's MARCH and time for payment of your GBFG dues! Membership dues are $25 per year and need to be paid by THE END OF THIS MONTH!! Dues are used for our meeting supplies, rental costs for our meeting space, supplementing workshop fees when possible for Guild members,  and for administrative expenses. They may be paid to Nancy Lavender at March's meeting or mailed to: GBFG, P.O. Box 660723, Birmingham, AL 35266-0723. Please make your check out to 'GBFG' or Greater Birmingham Fiber Guild, thanks!

We always encourage guests to attend our meetings but if you come more than a few times in the year, we kindly ask that you join.
Remember that as a GBFG Member, you have access to our Yahoo Group in which we discuss current fiber news and events, priority registration and possible reduced fees for GBFG workshops, and equipment rental.

Remember the New Guild Blog!


We're trying something new for sharing information online about guild activities. Please check out the new guild blog at:

We want to post links to pictures from guild events, so if you take photos at meetings and upload them to a photo sharing site, please send the blog person a link (the current blog support person is Mary Spanos, you can reach her at You can see the photos from the Christmas party now (scroll down to see that entry). Newsletters will also be posted there, so if you think you've missed a newsletter check out the blog!. Since the blog archives everything, you will even be able to look back through old newsletters.

We want to support our members, professionals and enthusiastic amateurs, and would love to show your work on the blog. If you have completed a project that you are proud of, send Mary a photo and a description. You can also provide a link to your web site, your Ravelry page, your own blog, or any fiber-related site.

If you know of upcoming fiber-related activities or events, please send that information to Mary ( so we can share it with everyone.

You can even sign up to receive an email notification when the blog is updated. And if you need to get in touch with anyone on the guild board, links to their email addresses can be found by scrolling down and looking for the list of officers on the right side of the page.

So, visit the new guild blog soon and send in your pictures and information!


Study Groups Meet Monthly

  • Spinning Study Group:  4th Wednesday of the month from 10 a.m to 2 pm at St. Peter’s Church in Hoover.  Please check out the GBFG Blog  for cancellations or schedule changes.
  • Nancy Clemmons is interested in sharing her love of tatting with others by teaching one or more in her home. Please contact her if you are interested.
  • More groups may meet in the future.  Watch the newsletter for more information and let a board member know if you are interested in a study group.

Photos taken at Kyiv (Kiev) Days
from Emily Levitan's visit to the Ukraine




The Fiber Guild will be displaying items once again at the Homewood Library during the month of October. Our theme this year is Natural Fibers. So the handmade items can be knitted, crochetting, sewn, woven, quilted, whatever AS LONG as they are made from Natural Fibers. Items will be collected at the September meeting and returned at the November meeting. Please have your items labeled with your name and fiber content. Display labels will be prepared for each item. If you are interested in helping with the setting up and breaking down of the display, please speak with Deb Kattus.

Newsletter News...

Each month, I am planning to have items coming from YOU, our Guild members. These will include short book reviews related to any fiber art; a tip you have discovered and used that make your fiber art a little bit easier to execute; any fiber related articles; and a fiber question you would love answers or suggestions from other guild members. Please send your ideas, suggestions, book recommendations, questions to me (Susie Strauss) by the 20th of the month to go into the following month's newsletter. Email me at and put GBFG Newsletter in the subject line.

Greater Birmingham Fiber Guild
The Greater Birmingham Fiber Guild is comprised of individuals dedicated to the dissemination and preservation of fiber arts.  Meetings are the second Saturday of the month, 10:00-12:00 (no meeting in July and August). Visitors are welcome.  The Guild offers programs almost monthly, focused workshops several times a year, and equipment rental (see below).  Southern Strands, the Guild newsletter, is published monthly (no issue in August); deadline for submission of material is the 20th of each month).  Send items to Susie Strauss at

 2014 Officers and Board 
Karen Ford – President
Mary Kaiser – Program
Debbie Scott – Workshops
Emily Levitan - Membership
Nancy Lavender – Treasurer
Janice Weinstein - Secretary
Mary Spanos – Website
Susie Strauss - Newsletter
Janelle Zorko Schultz - Past President


Rental of Guild Equipment & Materials

The Guild has available, for rental to members, the following:
  • Looms of various types (floor, table, rigid heddle, tapestry), spinning wheels, drum carder, and more. Rental fee is $10 dollars per month with a deposit of $100 per item. Deposits will be returned when equipment is returned in good condition. 
  • Lucy Neatby's DVD knitting collection. Deposit of $30 per DVD. This is the current replacement cost. One-month checkout. See for description of DVD contents.
  • See inventory list and photos of Guild equipment in the Yahoo group folders section (you must be a paid member to access the Yahoo Group files and photos).