Be a part of the solution

29 09 2008

I won’t go ‘partisan’ on you.  But let’s be a part of the solution.  Support Americans. This year, instead of buying cheap stuff or expensive stuff in department stores for holiday gifts, give American made quality fine craft and fine art items.  Support America by recognizing quality in your own country.  Don’t go out and buy cheap Wally Market stuff, actually spend a little extra, pay cash, so you aren’t sinking yourself deeper in debt, and buy a fine American made quilt, or afghan, or handwoven throw.  Buy pots from the local potter, prints from the local photographer, and scarves from the local felter.  Don’t look for cheap, junk.  That supports poor craftsmanship.  Actually spend what you can, and be a part of the solution by keeping your money local.

Be aware that wool, alpaca, and other local fiber producing animals are not harmed in the harvest of their fiber, and it is a renewable resource.  Buy items made from easily, readily and locally re-newable resources.

When I was at one of the ‘gourmet’ grocery stores the other day, my kids and I were tastin gelato, and the attendant giving us samples kept saying,” This is locally produce from Maryland, from Pennsylvania, from Georgia…..” We are in Richmond, Virginia, so our ‘locally grown produce is from Richmond, and the surrounding counties.  If it took more than 5 gallons of gas to get it to me, it’s not local. Thanks.

If you agree with this, cut and paste the above message on your blog, in your e-mails, and at your workspace.  We need to be a part of American as a sustainable economy.  Again, buy locally. Buy nationally. Buy Quality.


“life on hold”

26 09 2008

It seems like my life is on a brief ‘hold’.  My 20 year old son has been in Iraq for 7 months, fighting, and he returned to the states today.  We haven’t heard from him yet, and we probably won’t for another 8 hours, because they have to be ‘processed’.  Be happy with me today for the return of our son.  I’m tearful as I write this, as my heart aches to hug him.


(mother first, fiber artist second)

Wet-felted Vessels class

24 09 2008

If you ask me why I love to teach, I would show you pictures of todays class on Wet-felted vessels.  The students were FUN, the medium is a fave of mine, and the results were astonishing.  I’ve uploaded pics to the webshots website and will post a few here also.

I’m too tired to re-cap the class, as I returned to Richmond, and taught my evening weaving class, which is going very well.  I’m also including some pics of what’s going on there:

One student is weaving m’s and o’s with tencel (sorry, that’s finished), she is weaving maltese cross from Davison, another is weaving Rambler Rose from Davison (black on black alpaca weft on a silk/alpaca warp, another tencel piece, and the beautiful plum/purple piece.  This class is being offered 2 times in spring 2009 at 2 different art centers.  Please check my class schedule page for more information on these March classes.

Please ask questions if you like, as I’m probably not being very thorough tonight.  The many pictures of the workshop are here:

More on the local alpacas

23 09 2008

Teri got back with me about all the fun things Fireweed Alpacas is involved with in the near future. Here is a list of some of the upcoming fun:

State Fair of Virginia
Saturday, September 27   9 am – 9 pm

National Alpaca OPEN HOUSE
Sunday, September 28,  12 pm – 5 pm
2280 Camelback Road
Maidens, VA 23012
(804) 556-2526

4th Annual Taste of Goochland
Tuesday, October 14
5 – 8 pm
Boy Scouts of America
1723 Maidens Road  (this is actually on our property!  See you there)

Teri is having the open house in Maidens, and it’s a great opportunity to see the alpacas in their home environment.  The “Taste of Goochland” is an opportunity to come out and see what Goochland County has to offer.  It’s a large # of Goochland businesses reaching out to the community to introduce themselves.  It was great last year. Fireweed Alpacas did participate and drew a great deal of attention with their crias and adult alpacas.  There is much more information coming from Fireweed, and an opportunity that my local fiber friends will LOVE!  We can participate with shearing day, and earn fiber to boot.

Stay tuned.


Alpacas and Fiber Fun with my neighbors

19 09 2008

Some of you know that I live very near several Alpaca farms.  Both farm families are wonderful, and active in promoting alpacas.  These two farms are Thistledown Alpacas, and Fireweed Farm Alpacas.  From my perspective, one farm is very oriented toward showing alpacas, and have championship animals, while the other is very focused on the husbandry, transporting alpacas, and shearing.  Both farms sell alpacas. Both farms are very welcoming to the public.  That doesn’t mean, Just drop in! I’m going to give you contact info, so you can make an appointment to visit, and I’m going to give you some dates, so you can see them in public forums.

Thistledown Alpacas ( )is the farm of the Christies.  They are in Manakin Sabot, Virginia.  Some dates you might find interesting are:

National Alpaca Farm Day Weekend at Thistledown Alpacas, 489 Manakin Ferry Road, Manakin Sabot, VA 23103:
Saturday 27 September, 2008 – 12.30 p.m. until 4.00 p.m.
Sunday 28 September, 2008    – 12.30 p.m. until 4.00 p.m.
Fall Fiber Festival of Virginia, Montpelier, VA – October 4-5, 2008. For more information, please visit
Centerville Pumpkin Festival, Centerville, VA – Saturday 11 October, 2008, 10.00 a.m. – 4.00 p.m. For more information about this wonderful family-oriented arts and crafts festival, now in it’s third year, visit                                                                                     VAOBA Expo, Lexington, VA – October 17-19, 2008. Thistledown Alpacas is proud to be a Platinum Sponsor of this show for the second year. For more information about the largest alpaca show in Virginia, please visit

The Thistledown Alpacas

The Thistledown Alpacas

Jane’s children are a very integral part of the Alpaca farm, showing the animals, caring for them, and interacting with the public with very good information about the animals.  To contact Thistledown Alpacas for a visit, fiber, or more information on Alpacas, their e-mail is:

Fireweed Farm Alpacas ( is the Alpaca farm right down the road from me.  Teri and David are also very good about educating the public on alpacas.  They hold workshops on breeding, and neonatal care of alpacas.  They also specialize in transporting alpacas, and shearing clinics. They too, welcome visitors.  I’ll edit this post later, with important dates for Fireweed.

Bye for now.


rigid heddle loom review

18 09 2008

In order to do this, I want to preface it by saying the Harp is not reviewed.  So if you are looking for that review, you won’t read the whole post looking for it.  The rigid heddle looms I have used and am familiar with are the Beka, Leclerc Bergere, Leclerc Penelope II, Schacht, and Ashford.

The simplest is the Beka.  It’s a very rudimentary loom.  It’s a very simple design, inexpensive and easy to assemble. I like the Beka because it’s an inexpensive way to have rigid heddle looms to take from art center to art center without renting a larger vehicle.  They are lightweight, and graceful looking.  If you have never used any other type of loom, or any other rigid heddle loom, you may be satisfied for a while. They are too rudimentary for me to use for long.  As a result, I don’t use them for the art centers anymore.  The block that holds the rigid heddle up, or down, is just that, a block of wood, as a result, the heddle slips off a good deal.  I also don’t find it comfortable as a lap loom.  I just doesn’t rest well against the table, and if tilted, the rigid heddle is even less likely to stay in the up or down position.  If you have the money for a better loom, don’t spend your money here. This loom should cost approx $110 for a 20″, and $127 for a 24′ .  Included equipment are 2 stick shuttles, a pickup stick, and a threading hook.  Be aware: No warping device is included!

Schacht rigid heddle looms Schacht is an ok lap loom.  Again, it’s very rudimentary, streamline, and graceful looking. It’s very light weight, and easy to travel with.  I like the Schacht for the same reason I liked the Beka.  I also like the fact that Schact notches the block that holds the rigid heddle up, or down.    As you know, anything with the Schacht name is not “economy” priced. I dislike it because it is rather an economy loom,by design, yet at nearly twice the price of the Beka. The warp brake is tightened by screwing the block on the back beam, which allows slippage, leading to frustration in my classes.  So between the price, and the slippage, I don’t use Schacht. It comes with a clamp, warping peg, stick shuttle, and threading hook. Generally, these looms cost approx $180 for a 20″ loom, and $200 for a 25″ loom.

Ashford has a nice looking loom.  It’s a lot like the harp without the warping board attached.  I thought I was really going to like it.  It looks rather modern with it’s colorful ratchets and it’s wonderful instruction booklet. Another nice thing about this loom, is that the craftsmanship is quality.  The looms are soundly constructed, finished nicely, and fairly well designed.  The very best feature of the Ashford Rigid Heddle looms, is the clear, instruction manual that accompanies the looms.  A full color instruction booklet that is nearly failsafe is priceless for self-taught beginners.  This is a wonderful feature!  For some reason, however, I find the ratchet/dog system failed me several times, and winding on the warp is not a simple task, because the loom doesn’t have a crank on the warp beam.  All of the above mentioned looms are simple in design, and structurally should make very good lap looms.  I found this one is the best lap loom. It rests easily on the table, and the heddle stays firmly in place when the warp is sufficiently tight.The 24″ runs about 165.00 and it comes with 2 stick shuttles, 2 threading hooks, a clamp, and the precious INSTRUCTIONS!

Leclerc Bergere is a tabletop rigid heddle loom.  It has metal ratchets, and dogs, handles to wind the warp on, and the rigid heddle securely rests in the notched “castle post”.  It’s a more complex design than the aforementioned rigid heddle looms in that it is raised off the table by legs, and has a castle type device for the heddle, rather than simply a support block.  It comes with a styrene boat shuttle, 2, 28″ long stick shuttles, metal lea sticks, a set of 2 warping blocks (each has 2 pegs for creating a cross in your warp), and warp sticks with cord.  As you can see, this is a loom, and if you want to learn the entire process of warping, this is a great place to start.  You get a lot of equipment for a weaving studio, and a very good table top rigid heddle loom.  I really like this loom.  It’s good for me because as an instructor who travels to art centers(that don’t own looms) to teach, I can take a loom that I can actually teach the entire process of dressing a loom on, and it translates to the student’s floor loom also, because the loom is designed to be dressed back to front like a floor loom.  The rigid heddle rests firmly in the notches, and there is a ‘rest’ position for threading it.  it travels well with the loom warped by simply putting rubber bands around the joint where the rigid heddle rests in the castle post.  It comes with a very clear, though instruction booklet that will easily get a beginner started with the loom, and with some elemental tapestry techniques.  However, what I don’t like, is that it is not graceful and complact.  It doesn’t have a simple design, and really isn’t a lap loom.  Also, although I like Leclerc looms a lot, the craftsmanship on the older Leclerc looms is better.  The craftsmanship on the loom is rudimentary.  At just $165, this 24″ loom stands head and shoulders above the others for my purposes. (best overall rigid heddle loom in this review)

Leclerc Penelope II is a rigid heddle tapestry loom.  It is weaves 22.5″ and works as an upright double rigid heddle loom.  It can be used with a single rigid heddle, but comes equipped with 2.  The craftsmanship is very good on this loom, the beams are braked with metal ratchets and dogs, the beams also have cranks for easy beaming of the warp.  As the loom is designed to be used vertically, the rigid heddle supports are designed to hold the heddles securely in this position.  The loom is designed to be warped with lea sticks, and in a ‘back to front’ fashion.  Again, this makes it a wonderful pre-cursor to a floor loom, if that is the direction the weaver is headed.  This loom gives very good tension on the warp, and is comfortable for a variety of tapestry techniques for tapestry, but is not an efficient loom as a substitute for plain weave, or pattern weaving quickly because of it’s upright position.  I’m very impressed with this loom.  It comes with tapestry bobbins, metal lea sticks, 2 warping blocks, which have 2 pegs each, for creating a cross in your warp, heddle hook, and 2 long stick shuttles.  Now, for the downside, it also comes with an instruction booklet that has instructions for the Penelope, but not the Penelope II.  As of the date of this review, I had not been able to get instructions from the company on how to use the 2nd rigid heddle with the loom, as the instructions are for a single rigid heddle design.  Thanks to Schacht for the clear instructions on how to thread a 2 heddle rigid heddle loom. What do I not like about this loom?  As I mentioned, it’s not for someone who wants to ‘crank out’ rigid heddle work. Other than that, I can’t come up with a single thing I don’t like. It’s definitely a rigid heddle loom for the tapestry weave, or a weaver who wants to do 4 harness work on a rigid heddle loom.  .  At $235, this loom is a bargain. (I own 5 of them, and am getting ready to order 3 more… mostly for teaching, but occassionally, for some ‘me’ time).Excellent loom

Bye for now.


Teacher’s Pet

14 09 2008

It’s not what you think. My pet is my favorite piece on the loom right now…. and it’s not chiengora, either.

Here is an alpaca silk scarf that I’m weaving from a 3 color warp I put on this little Compact 24.  I’ll get 4 scarves from the warp.  This is the second.  I’m having a great time.  It’s a 4 harness grouped thread, reversing twill. Uh, sort of.  It’s tromp as writ, but it’s just one I made up.

Do you like it?