Friday, September 26, 2014

A treasure trove for weavers (and spinners, dyers, lace makers, textile historians, etc.)

If you haven't found the University of Arizona's On-Line Digital Archive of Documents on Weaving and Related Topics, you are in for a treat.

Find it at

Here are a few a my favorite things at this site:

There are illustrations.
A section on illustrations included this photo, labeled Girls at Weaving Machines, Evansville, Indiana.

There are all 46 issue of the wonderful magazine, Weaver's Journal, which was published from 1976 to 1987. You can sometimes find an old issue at booksellers' stalls at conferences or fiber events. They are all available under Periodicals. This great magazine included articles for the hand weaver and a few articles about spinning and dyeing.

There are incredible esoteric publications like the three part text for a correspondence course entitled,

Textile Dyeing (this link takes you to part one). These books appear to have been used by people pursuing a career in industrial dyeing.

There is so much more. Articles, books, and monographs for the handweaver and any textile artist or enthusiast. The items available on this site seem to be predominantly old and out-of-print. So they are not just gems, but rare gems.

Thank you to the University of Arizona for making this material available.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Looking for equipment and a teacher

Elizabeth Young is looking for handcards and double-pitch combs. If you have this equipment and would like to see it move to a new home, please contact Elizabeth at

Michele Byars has just bought a table loom and would like to find a weaving teacher. If you can help her by either being a teacher or pointing her to one, please contact Michele at

Monday, September 22, 2014

Photos from WWSIP on Saturday

Saturday's weather was beautiful, though still a little warm here in Birmingham, for World Wide Spinning in Public Day. Jennifer Lackey suggested that we celebrate and even though we sent out the word late, several spinners participated.

Above, at Caldwell Park, from left to right, Susie Strauss, Jan McMahan, and Jennifer Justiss (Jennifer Lackey took the picture so you'll have to imagine her spinning at that beautiful great wheel on the far right).

Karen Ford spun at a local craft fair and Nancy Lavender came along for moral support.

Put WWSIP on your 2015 calender on the 3rd Saturday of September. This looked like a lot of fun, we'll definitely want to try it again next year.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Last week of the 2014 guild show at the Homewood Library

This week is the last chance to see the 2014 guild show at the Homewood Library. It is a terrific show this year, including knitted, woven, handspun, and dyed pieces. The show is inspiring and beautiful every year, but this year there are an unusual number of large pieces, including Emily Levitan's large round knitted lace piece. Stunning!

 The Homewood Library is easy to get to, easy to park at, and across the street from Nabeel's, which is a great place to have lunch or dinner after you enjoy the show. In fact, that part of Homewood is full of great places to eat after you walk through the show, if you haven't had a milkshake at O'Carr's on the curve lately, now may be the time.

For those of you with items in the show, the show will be taken down on Friday, September 26. You can come to the library at 9:00 to pick up your pieces or get them at guild meeting in October.

Contact Mary Kaiser for more information.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Spin in Public This Saturday!

This Saturday, September 20, is World Wide Spin In Public Day (you can read more about it here). Having been totally focused on getting ready for last weekend's Fiber Frenzy, we let this sneak up on us, but thanks to new member Jennifer Lackey we will celebrate WWSIP day this weekend.

Jennifer just moved here from Maryland and left a great group of fiber friends there. They always spun in a public park on WWSIP day and enjoyed all of the questions from people passing by.

Here is how you can join in. Bring your wheel or spindle to Caldwell Park on Highland Avenue and join us from about 11:00 to 2:00-ish. You'll want to bring something to sit on and anything you might want to drink or eat.

If you can't make it to Caldwell Park, spin in public where ever you happen to be.

Whether you are at Caldwell Park with us, or at the mall, or even at a football game, take a photo of yourself spinning and send it to and I'll post all of them here next week.

Have a happy WWSIP day!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Elizabeth's Brilliant Nostepinne

Photos by Elizabeth Young

Meet Elizabeth Young, she joined the guild last Saturday!  She had a really impressive tool with her that she had made.

 It is a nostepinne now, but it started life as a travel case for Elizabeth's toothbrush. Here's how it works.

 Open the case and put the end of your yarn inside.

Close the case, catching the end of the yarn securely.

 Wind the yarn diagonally while turning the nostepinne just a little each time.

Open the case and hold on to that yarn-end while you remove the ball from the nostepinne.
VoilĂ !  A center pull ball!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Wow! That was so great!

The Fiber Frenzy yesterday was a huge success! There were so many people there and everyone seemed very happy to be together spinning, weaving, knitting, and talking about tatting, sewing, dyeing, and so many other much loved fiber addictions.

Thanks to everyone who came! It was really incredible to be with so many fiber friends, both new and old, who all live here, so near each other.

Thanks to St. Peter's for letting us use their great facilities and a big thanks to Debbie Scott for organizing the event. Thanks, also, to Karen Ford, the guild president, who--among other things--keeps us in St. Peter's good graces so they let us use their rooms, and a very warm thanks to everyone who helped.

If your work schedule allows you some time on the third Wednesday of the month, the spinning study group will be back at St. Peter's in the Holy Family Room from 10:00am to about 1:00 or 2:00, it varies. Park in back of the church, come in the rear main entrance, and follow the sound of voices. Bring whatever you are working on, it doesn't have to be spinning.

If you can't make it to spinning study, please come to the next guild meeting on the second Saturday of October. We'll be in the room across from the room we were in yesterday at 10:00 am (if you weren't there yesterday, park in the front of the church, come in the entrance to the left under the awning, turn down the hall to the right and we'll be in the first room on your right). Watch for your newsletter for more details, or check back here on the guild blog, the newsletter is posted here just after it goes out in email.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Making a lazy kate (this one is for sale with wheel at Fiber Frenzy on Saturday!)

Text and photos by Mary Spanos

The Greater Birmingham Fiber Guild has decided to stop spending guild money on storing equipment so we can spend it on things like workshops and speakers for meetings, things that members will benefit from. There were a few pieces of equipment that needed work before they could be sold and one of those was this lovely Ashford Traditional spinning wheel. It has been refurbished with a thorough cleaning and waxing, a new nylon drive band, and the really wonderful braking system that Peter Teal devised and wrote about in Spin Off. Now, this wheel spins great and I hope it will find a new owner at the Fiber Frenzy this Saturday.

 One of the unfortunate things about equipment being in storage rather than being loved and cared for in someone's home is that parts can go missing. This wheel had only one bobbin and no lazy kate. When I ordered two new bobbins I could have ordered a new lazy kate, too, but the cost of the bobbins and anything else that would be purchased would be passed onto the lucky person who buys the wheel, and I didn't want to make the decision of what type of kate they would want. There are a lot of very different styles of kates available these days and I didn't want to make that choice for the new owner. 

But, the new owner would need something to use as a lazy kate until they found the kate of their dreams, so Michael Spanos and I set to work making a kate out of things that we could find around our house and work rooms. The finished product works so well that I wanted to share the details with the rest of the guild, just in case someone else needs a new lazy kate.

Here it is, the new Spanos tensioned and portable lazy kate... Ta Da!

It is "built" in a green plastic box with a chrome handle, so it is ready to go from the living room to the porch, or to spinning study group meetings.

Michael and I enjoy making tools and some of the most fun projects are the ones where there is no plan, we wander around a hardware store or our house looking for something that will serve the purpose. This project was one of those.

I walked around the house with the two bobbins, looking for a box that was the right size to hold them. I was lucky to find this green plastic storage box that had holes all over every side and a shiny chrome handle. The holes made the construction process very easy.

Next, I found a small-diameter wooden dowel and cut 3 pieces so they fit across the box and stuck out a little. Two of the dowel pieces hold the bobbins, obviously, and the third piece is part of the brake system. I used rubber faucet washers and bind clips to hold the dowels in place (I used binder clips for the ends that would be pulled out to take a bobbin off or put one on).

 Rubber faucet washers are my new favorite construction part, they are available at every hardware store and inexpensive. With the right size dowel (which you can find by taking a faucet washer to the selection of dowels and testing to find the right size dowel), they provide a snug hold while being easy to pull off and push back on.

The braking system. A tensioned lazy kate makes plying much easier than trying to ply while the bobbins fly forward and jerk back. If the bobbins feed the yarn to you smoothly, then you can concentrate on the important job of making the yarn that you want. Below you can see the simple braking system that we made inside the green plastic box.

Looking above left and below, you can see that there is a spring tied below the bobbin that tensions the gold colored nylon cord. The spring was formerly doing service as the brake spring on the Ashford Traditional spinning wheel, shown at the top of this post. When I replaced that tensioning system with the Peter Teal tensioning system, the spring was no longer needed there so I used it here.

The nylon brake cord goes from the spring, up and over the first bobbin, under the center dowel, up and over the second bobbin, and is threaded through the holes in the box from down low up to the top edge where it is secured with a binder clip.

The gold nylon cord came from the local HAM radio convention. I'm not sure what HAM radio operators do with it, but I use it for a lot of different things. You could use whatever type of cord or line that you use for the brake on your spinning wheel.

 That is all there is to the functionality of this lazy kate, providing a place for the bobbins to rotate while the yarn is being pulled off, and providing a braking or tensioning system to regulate how fast the bobbins rotate.

Like many wheels the Ashford Traditional needs to be oiled, which results in the ongoing problem of keeping an oil bottle around while keeping it upright so the oil doesn't leak out. Since there was room in the lazy kate box, I added an oil bottle corral that I made from brass wire, which is available at hardware stores. I use brass wire a lot. For this wheel, I also used the same brass wire to make the hook part of the Peter Teal tensioner and to make a matching orifice hook. To make the the brass wire look a little less like brass wire from the hardware store, I hammer it with a jewelers hammer on a jewelers anvil after I have formed it into its final shape.

For the oil bottle corral, I made a "U" shaped piece with curls on the ends, that fits into the holes in the box, with the curly ends locking it into place.

If you have thought about learning to spin, this Ashford Traditional wheel would be a great wheel to have, and if you buy it, you'll get the one and only Spanos Tensioned Lazy Kate.

I hope you will come to the Fiber Frenzy at St. Peter's tomorrow and try out the wheel and get some ideas for this new lazy kate for ways to make some of your own tools.

There is information about the Fiber Frenzy here.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Fiber Frenzy this Saturday at St. Peter's!

by Debbie Scott, GBFG Workshop Chair



The Greater Birmingham Fiber Guild is hosting a workshop this Saturday, September 13, at St. Peter's Catholic Church, Hoover, Alabama.

Address: 2061 Patton Chapel Road, Room C, directly across from our regular meeting room, which is through the entrance to the far left of the sanctuary entrance, under the awning.
Time: 10:00 am to 4:00 pm

Everyone is welcome and if you would like to join the guild while you are there, you can join for $25 (membership is paid to Nancy Lavender, our treasurer). 

Contact Debbie Scott, GBFG Workshop Chair, at for more information.

If you signed up earlier, then lunch will be waiting for you. If you didn't sign up, then there are several good places to eat close by.


We will have separate areas set up for:
1) Hand-spinning (bring your wheels)
2) Hand-spindles (bring your hand-spindle). We encourage those who want to learn to spin to come and try both of these out. 
3) Drum-carding – you may bring clean and washed fiber to card.  We will have some fiber on hand.
4) Weaving – Small looms
5) Knitting demo and questions
6) For Sale items – Members can bring fiber and fiber related items to sell.  All items need to be labeled with your name and price, if an item needs protection--like fleece or fiber--bring it in a bag. Each person is responsible for handling his or her sales.  The guild will not have change or be responsible for these sales.
7) Give-away – Members can bring fiber items that need to find a new home, including fiber-related books, fibers, yarn, and tools. If an item needs protection--like fleece or fiber--bring it in a bag.  If your "give-away" items are not taken at the Fiber Frenzy, you can donate them to the organizations that have expressed an interest in our un-claimed treasures. You can find out more about this on Saturday.

We hope everyone will come in the morning, have lunch with us or near-by, and stay through the afternoon, spinning, weaving, carding, knitting, browsing. Learn something new, share something you know, see old friends, and make new friends!

We hope we see you there!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The GBFG Show at the Homewood Library. Now, until the end of the month!

The guild show at the Homewood Library is beautiful! You may have seen some of the pieces at guild meetings, but to see them all at once, in one place is fascinating. You must go see it, it will make you happy, inspired, and proud of your own work, as well as that of your friends.

Thanks to the show committee: organizing: Mary Kaiser; installation: Nancy Lavender, Karen Ford, Janice Weinstein, Deb Kattus; and, labels and signage: Mary Spanos.

Here are photos taken by Mary Kaiser just after the show was installed.

As nice as Mary's photos are, you really need to see the show in person. There are so many impressive pieces in the show this year.

If life is hectic right now and you think you don't have time to stop by the Homewood Library, you could head for the library on your lunch hour, enjoy the show, then walk over to Nabeel's (a quick walk across the street from the library), have a delicious lunch, and pick up something for dinner in their market.

It is a great show. Don't miss it!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Guild Newsletter, September 2014

          President’s Column                           

Hello Fiber Friends!

My husband and I like to take the dogs to Pepper Place on a Saturday morning. The vegetables,  and the people are so varied that it is always a fun experience. Several weeks ago I encountered a woman selling sheep cheese! Well, you know my eyes lit up and we started chatting. I was curious as to what kind of sheep she had. Well, come to find out she had a breed I had not encountered yet....Gulf Coast Native Sheep. We made arrangements for her to bring a fleece the next week! It is a beautiful, soft fiber and reminds me of merino wool! I know I've been in a de-stash mode but fleece is ALWAYS hard for me to resist! She also brought an East Friesian sheep fleece...never heard of it either! I plan on taking these to Spinning Study to spread the joy!


Please always share your love of fiber with anyone who will listen....and be sure to invite them to a Guild meeting! You never know who may have always wanted to learn but never know where to go or how to start...and you could be the catalyst! Maybe you could bring a friend to the Fiber Frenzy in September! And don't forget to let Debbie know you are coming....the Guild is providing lunch that day!

See you at the meeting!



September Meeting -
Fiber Frenzy!!!

Saturday, September13, 10:00 - 4 pm
  St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church
2061 Patton Chapel Rd
Birmingham, AL  (205) 822-4480



YES ... the GREATER BIRMINGHAM FIBER GUILD is hosting a workshop on Saturday, September 13, at St. Peter’s Catholic Church – Hoover, Alabama. Address:  2061 Patton Chapel Road.  (A map can be found on Google.)

Time: 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.  The workshop will be in Room C, directly across from our regular meeting room.  If you are new, this is to the left of the sanctuary, a separate door
entrance to the building.

FREE Catered lunch for all those who have registered.

REGISTRATION DEADLINE is WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 3.  Please let us know if you have NOT already registered.  NO sign-ups after that date, as we will need to get a count for lunch.

If you aren’t a member of the guild yet, you can join for $25.00 but you will need to sign-up for the event by September 3. Membership is paid to Nancy Lavender, our Treasurer.  

You may contact:  Debbie Scott, GBFG Workshop Chair - by Wed., Sept 3.  This event is for MEMBERS only.


The workshop will begin at 10:00 a.m.  We will have a separate areas set up for:

  • Hand-spinning (bring your wheels)

  •  Hand-spindles (bring your hand-spindle)

    • We encourage those who also want to learn to spin come and try both of these out. 

  •  Drum-carding – you may bring clean and washed fiber to card.  We will have some fiber on hand.

  •  Weaving – Small looms

  •  Knitting demo and questions

12:00 NOON we will break for Lunch.  The guild will provide coffee, tea, water and a catered lunch.   

DOOR PRIZES – YES! We are asking everyone to respectfully wait to handle sales/giveaways until AFTER lunch.  Thank you.

For Sale items – Bring only Fiber related items.  All items need to be labeled with your name and price.
 Each person is responsible for handling his or her sale of the item.  The guild will not have change or be responsible for these sales.

Give-away – Fiber related items that might find a new home.  Items for these can include books, fiber, yarn, tools.
This is your chance to take home some BARGAINS!

We ask that items such as books or fiber be in bags or boxes labeled with name and price.  If donating, we still need for you to bring items bagged or boxed.  It makes it easier!

After lunch, we encourage members to continue to spin, card, weave, or knit.  Ask questions, we are here to help and have fiber fun, too!  SEE YOU SOON!

Debbie Scott/GBFG Workshop Chair



We need YOU  to return your Workshop Questionnaire, if you haven't done so already. Your input is so important for the Guild's board to plan for workshops in the upcoming year. So, please bring it to the next meeting or put it in the mail to:

Greater Birmingham Fiber Guild
P.O. Box 660723
Birmingham, AL 35266-0723


Interesting Fiber Items to Read and Check Out...

From Pat Donald...

This form of weaving was developed in Japan and practiced in secret by the noblewomen of the Saga clan in the 18th century.  These women wove hair ornaments using colored Japanese rice paper for warp and the waxed paper similar to that used for umbrellas in the weft.  It uses a bamboo shuttle and pickup stick from the weaver’s garden. Since it was regarded as a spiritual practice and known to only a few, it was never developed commercially.   There is some commercial development now but it is considered secondary to the art form and spiritual practice.  In more recent times the paper warp is from the bush, kozo or mitsumata. Gold or silver leaf is affixed to the paper with a native glue or lacquer juice from poison sumac tree. Once dried, the paper is cut into fine strips. Three-ply reeled silk is used for the weft. The traditional patterns are point twill while more contemporary patterns include floral motifs. According to articles  (Handwoven 1991 J/F p43-45 and SS&D 1984 59:50-52) presentations about this art form were made at Convergence in 1984 and 1990 and some classes have been taught in the U.S.. I purchased my earrings at Complex Weavers Seminars 2014.

From Karen Ford...

To find out more about East Friesian Dairy Sheep, check out this website -

And what about Gulf Coast Sheep?!? -

From Janice Weinstein...
Knitting on PaperLaylock Knitwear Design
Here is a link to knitting graph paper that really looks like knit stitches!


Which one are you?

"A man who uses his hands is a laborer
One who uses his hands and his mind is a craftsman
He who uses his hands, his mind and his heart is an artist"
                                      - Louis Nizer

    (thank you Janice for sharing this!)                     

Georgia Alpaca FiberFest
Columbus, GA Convention & Trade Center
Classes, Shopping and a Fiber Fashion Show September 12–14

Fall into fiber this September as the Georgia FiberFest comes to its new venue at the Columbus Convention & Trade Center with classes, shopping and special events. This year’s event will be held Friday, September 12 through Sunday, September 14.

Now in its third year, the Georgia Alpaca FiberFest’s mission is to introduce fiber lovers to the wonders of alpaca and other natural fibers with a weekend of classes, demonstrations and a vendor market. Alpaca is a truly sustainable fiber offering something for every fiber lover.

Choose from 50 different classes in the areas of knitting, crocheting, felting, dyeing, carding, spinning, and weaving. Registration for classes is open now. Visitors can also shop the free vendor market area for all things fiber- and gift-related, such as coffee, tea, purses, jewelry, handcrafted soap, and ready-made garments and accessories, etc., to get a start on holiday shopping and enjoy free demonstrations.

The Festival hours are Friday, 2:00-6:00 p.m., Saturday 9:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m., and Sunday 9:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. The market vendor area is free to the public.

Highlights during this fiber-filled weekend include:

Friday, September 12 at 7:00 p.m. -   Alpaca Fiber Fashion Show

Come see what luscious fibers can do! The FiberFest is bringing its own version of Fashion Week to Columbus! See our vendors’ and teachers' runway fashions made from alpaca fleece and other wonderful natural fibers. See some eco-friendly ways to use materials that otherwise would have been discarded. The Fashion Show is free to the public.

Saturday, September 13 at 7:00 p.m.  - Guest Speaker Matt Tommey and Dinner
Matt Tommey, a native of Columbus, is a widely acclaimed speaker, author, creator of sculptural art baskets and encourager to creative people of every artistic medium. His engaging style, contagious energy and practical approach leaves audiences with the practical tools and motivation to succeed at whatever they have a vision to pursue in their creative life. Join us for a dinner and special talk by this talented artisan. Reservations for dinner are required and can be made on website.

The Columbus Convention & Trade Center is located at 801 Front Avenue, Columbus, Georgia 31901.

For information or to sign up for classes or the dinner, please visit, or visit Ravelry - and Facebook - for more information and updates.

Homewood Library Exhibit Guild Show

September, 2014


The guild’s annual exhibit is now showing through September at the Homewood Library, in the display cases at the entrance and in display tables along the central hall.  Thanks to guild members who contributed their work, and thanks to the graphic design talent of Mary Spanos and the styling of Nancy Lavender and volunteers, our exhibit is both elegant and educational, a treat for the eye.  Please stop by to see it this month.

We will be taking the exhibit down at the end of the month (the exact date will be posted on the guild blog), and if you contributed your work, you can pick it up at the October guild meeting


   Start thinking about the Guild's December Gift Exchange!

Our Holiday Lunch will be held at Mary Kaiser’s house on December 13.  Our gift exchange this year is “gadgets.”  Wrap up your favorite little tools or fiber gadgets (limit is $15), and bring them to the party to exchange.

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.

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). Visitors are welcome.  The Guild offers programs almost monthly, focused workshops several times a year, and equipment rental (see below). 

 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)