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).

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