Northwest PA Spinners and Weavers Home About NPSWG News Members Area
Contact US

Past Issues

"The HUB" Vol. XX, No. 1
Bimonthly newsletter of January - February 1999


February 6, 1999, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Edinboro Borough Building, Edinboro, PA


At one time or another, many fiber artists have ventured into the world of natural dyeing, with its mysterious mordants and beautiful yet unpredictable colors. Others have avoided this rich craft due to concerns about the possible environmental and health effects of the chemicals used as mordants.

For the past year, my students and I have been studying the mordanting process in our laboratory. It all started with a simple question: "When you mordant wool, how much of the mordant goes onto the fiber where you want it, and how much goes down the drain or into the environment?" When the first results came in, we were shocked - up to 75% of the metal is wasted in some cases! Since then, we have since been working to understand how and why a mordant "sticks" to wool: what are the differences between the different mordants? How much effect does the fiber itself have? What does cream of tartar really do, anyway? Is pH important? Our goal is to learn how to use mordants more rationally and efficiently.

This research is very much a work-in-progress. We have found some answers, but each seems to create new questions. At the February meeting, I will present a progress report on what we've learned so far. Since few fiber artists are chemists, I'll keep it as non-technical as possible and focus on the practical implications of our work, i.e., what can you do to use mordants more safely and less wastefully?

-Ann Sheffield

Board Meeting, all welcome 9:00
Coffee, conversation 9:30
General Meeting 10:00
Program 11:00



Elaine Fertig, our Program Chair, has put together a great selection of programs for our meetings this year:

February 6: Ann Sheffield - How Mordants Work: A Chemist's View of Natural Dyeing. (See description above.)
April 9: Rita Buchanan - Making Time for Fiber. Please remember that this meeting will be held on Friday evening on April 9 at Christ Episcopal Church, Meadville. This is both to avoid meeting on Easter weekend and to accommodate the workshop being taught during the days of April 9-11. Directions and the exact time of the meeting will be in the next Hub.
June 5: Mathilda Murphy - History of Looms "More than you ever wanted to know about Weaving."
August 7: Picnic at Sue Spencer's. The program will be Felting with Judy Hannanin.
October 2: Barb Lodge - Handcrafted Buttons for Handcrafted Garments. Make a button for your handknit or handwoven garments We may do Frogs & knots too.
December 4: Holiday Party. A volunteer is needed to plan this event. One idea is to make small bags with waxed linen thread.


It is with great sadness that I report that long-time Guild member Helen McCartney died on January 6 at her home. We will miss her warm and energetic presence.

Condolences may be sent to her husband, Ronald L. McCartney. The family asks that memorials be made to the music department of First Presbyterian Church of the Covenant, 250 W. Seventh St., Erie, PA 16501.


Treasurer's report:

Checking balance: $860.70
Savings balance: $1103.48

Sue Spencer announced that Joanna McDermot will be ordained a Deacon of the Episcopal Church in January, and everyone is invited! [Details appear elsewhere in the Hub]. Sue also announced that Amy Albrecht's church, St. Peter's in Waterford, was having their annual bazaar to benefit SERVE, and she encouraged members to visit the sale. Finally, Sue recommended that members check out the "Threads" exhibit currently showing at the Meadville Market House.

Barb Lodge identified books in the Guild library that nobody had checked out in the last twelve years, and she suggested getting rid of them. Sigrid Piroch volunteered to take them for the ARTS library. Barb also noted that we need a coffee person for February's meeting; Elaine Fertig and Sue Spencer volunteered. Elaine described the line-up for Guild programs next year [see list elsewhere in the Hub]. Susan Fenton described recent changes to the Guild Web page and encouraged members to visit the site.

Bonnie Crytzer discussed possibilities for the 1999 Spin-In. The Sawmill has decided to host only three weekend shows per year that use the outside spaces, so the Spin-In would be limited to the main building and the potting shed if we return to the Sawmill. The Guild agreed that this would not work well and voted to find another site. Bonnie agreed to research possible sites in Venango County, Elaine will check out sites in Crawford County, and Sue will investigate Mercer County venues.

Ann Sheffield reported that the Rita Buchanan workshop scheduled for next April was filling fast with eight paid deposits so far. She added that the Guild had received a $500 grant towards the cost of the workshop and encouraged members to think of possible grant applications for next year. A lecture by Kathryn Alexander and a felting workshop with Karen Page were suggested.

Ruth Walker-Daniels talked about various Guild members who have been having troubles and would appreciate a friendly card or call. Helen McCartney has been suffering from serious health problems. [Sadly, Helen passed away on January 6. I'm sure her family would appreciate your condolences. -Ed.] Dorothy Lick's daughter lost her husband this past year and has decided to take a trip to work some things out, so Dorothy will be alone on Christmas this year. Finally, Twila Armitage is now living in an assisted-living facility; Ruth has her address.

Barb mentioned that the Guild currently owns the shawl we made at the Spin-In as well as the Guild coverlet. Dicussion of what to do with these items ensued. The general sentiment was to keep the coverlet as part of our history. We agreed to try raffling the shawl at the Edinboro Highland Games this year and to donate some of the proceeds to Christ Episcopal Church, which hosts our Tuesday spinning meetings.

Some of the items advertised for sale in the last Hub by Rachel Robertson are still available. Rachel is anxious to sell them and willing to negotiate. Ilene Elliston noted that Phyllis Grolsch has a Brother knitting machine that she is offering for sale for $800.

Cheryl Geist-Brozell has organized a mother-daughter knitting group at Villa Maria as part of a "reviving Ophelia" project to involve adult women in the lives of adolescent girls. Though none of the participants had knit before, all eight women and ten girls are knitting now, and Cheryl has turned them into "natural fiber junkies". She says spinning is next… Cheryl also asked for fibers to use at a demo at the school, and Bonnie described Sharon Reiland's hands-on fiber exhibits that she would probably lend.

Show-and-Tell: Barb Lodge showed the (finished!) shawl from the Spin-In as well as some photos of the work in progress taken by one of the judges. Barb also showed two notebooks of samples on loan from the Rochester weaver's guild. Joanna McDermot showed some gorgeous rugs made by Tibetan refugees and bought by her son Dennis on a trip to India. The rugs are apparently used for sitting on and are thick, lush, and very tightly woven. Sigrid Piroch showed a recent issue of Weavers magazine featuring a dog coat she made using "ribbed weaving". She assured us that the coat really fit the dog it was made for - the photographers used a smaller dog as a model! Ann Sheffield showed some spindles with hand-carved soapstone whorls made by her friend Bob Stine. Laura Fry announced that she got a used Baby Wolf loom for her birthday. She has now warped on her own for the first time and is weaving placemats. Matilda Murphy told an astonishing story of some friends who smuggled a Baby Wolf loom through customs in the Dutch Antilles by taking it completely apart. Apparently, they did succeed in getting it back together.

We then adjourned for the holiday party, featuring a "guess-the-carol" game and gift exchange, felt ornament making, and (of course) lots and lots of food. Many thanks to Karen Fry and her family for a fun and successful party!


Once again it's time to pay annual dues, still a bargain at $10.00 per family. Remember that you must have paid to be listed on the annual membership list. The list is published only once each year, and it is to your advantage to be on it.

Dues are now handled by our membership coordinator, Susan Fenton, who will make sure that your address, etc., are up to date. If there are any changes to your address, phone number, or email address, let Susan know when you send her your dues check (payable to the Northwest Pennsylvania Spinners and Weavers Guild; send it to Susan Fenton). Also, if you are on email, please let Susan know whether it's OK to list your email address on the Guild's Web page. If you already paid our Treasurer, Bonnie Crytzer, please make sure that Susan has your current address.


"God willing and the people consenting" Guild member Joanna McDermot will be ordained a Deacon of the Episcopal Church on Saturday, Jan. 23, at 11:00 a.m. at Christ Episcopal Church, Diamond Park, Meadville; a reception will follow. Joanna invites all members of the Guild to join her for this sacred event. Joanna has worked long and hard towards this day - congratulations and blessings to her!


The Rita Buchanan workshop, "Spinning from Start to Finish," is full! In fact, it filled even before we opened up the registration to other guilds, and some of our own members are on the waiting list. It's unfortunate that we couldn't accommodate everyone, but it's also exciting to know that there is a real demand for this kind of class in our community. Registrants can expect to receive directions and further information by early February.

Also, the Butler guild is taking advantage of Rita's coming to our area and has arranged for her to teach a one-day class for them on Thursday, April 8. The Butler class will be on "Spinning Cotton". Here's Rita's description: "Everyone loves the comfort and easy care of cotton fabrics. Cotton cloth is even nicer if you start with handspun yarn. Spinning cotton isn't difficult, but it feels very different from spinning longer fibers or wool. It calls for a very gentle touch and relaxed movement. This is a useful skill to master, because the techniques for spinning cotton also work well for cashmere, camel down, and other short, fine fibers. Learn how to adjust your wheel, how to shop for cotton, how to hold and draft the fiber, and how to make cotton yarns suitable for knitting or for weaving." The cost will $23-29 per person (includes materials). For more information, contact Amy Guggenheimer.


The Tuesday Spinning group continues to meet the third Tuesday of the month at Christ Episcopal Church on Diamond Park in Meadville, 10 am - 2 pm. The next two meetings are on January 19 and February 16. As always, all are welcome to attend, with beginners especially encouraged. Bring a project, a wheel or handspindle, and a bag lunch. Beverages are provided; bring a treat to share if you wish.


The guidelines for the Spin-Off "Save the Sheep" contest are now available. There are two categories, a contest for finished articles and a swatch collection. For the contest, a "significant portion" of the item "must be made from the handspun yarn of an endangered breed." There is an entry fee of $15, which covers the return of the article to you. You also get a "Save the Sheep" T-shirt. The deadline for the contest is November 15, 1999. Swatches for the second category must be made from the fiber of an endangered sheep breed. There is no fee, though contributors may purchase a T-shirt for $15. Swatches will not be returned, but will become part of a permanent collection. The deadline for swatches is also November 15, 1999. To get a list of qualifying breeds and a copy of the entry form, call 1-800-645-3675. Rare breeds not on the official list can also be used, but the spinner must document their endangered status.

Now for the challenge - I, Ann Sheffield, am hereby committing myself publicly to get something done for this contest. If anyone would like to join me in making a similar commitment, send me your name, and I'll publish it in the next Hub. Then, when we triumph or fail, the whole world (OK, theGuild) will know it. If you're interested but don't know where to begin, I can fill you in on the fiber characteristics of many rare breeds and also suggest sources of fiber. I hope this challenge will motivate me, and others, to follow through and really do this! (Joanna, are you with me?)


Le Clerc 4-harness counter balance loom, weaves 48" wide, with 5 reeds and bench. $600. Contact Ilene Elliston.

10' LeClerc counterbalance 4-harness loom, sectional backbeam with sliding bench, three reeds, two beaters (one a flyshuttle) and extras. Asking $2500.00 plus shipping. Rug wools, $1.75 per 1/4 pound (color families only). Contact Laurie dill-Kocher


Over the years, fans (including yours truly) of Alice Starmore's knitting books have developed very high expectations of her - masterful use of color, ingenious patterning, subtle and effective shaping, all adding up to designs that are both gorgeous and wearable. These can be taken as given in an Alice Starmore collection. Tudor Roses still took my breath away.

The book presents patterns for twelve sweaters inspired by members of the royal Tudor family of England. (Four of the designs are actually contributed by Alice's daughter and apprentice, Jade.) Each design is accompanied by a fascinating account of who its namesake was and what s/he was like. Because the people who inspired these sweaters ranged from demure to dignified to coquettish to bombastic, the designs have a similar range of styles. The book includes monochromatic, textural patterns (e.g., "Elizabeth of York" , my personal favorite in the collection), patterns that make subtle use of color to accent the design ("Catherine Parr"), and patterns whose colors clamor for attention ("Katherine Howard").

In short, Tudor Roses is a sumptuous, satisfying book, and I highly recommend it.

-Ann Sheffield


Susan Fenton, our Guild Webmistress and official computer whiz, writes:

If you haven't visited the Guild Website in the last few months, you haven't seen the total redesign that occurred over the summer. Be sure to stop by soon to check it out. (And, if you ever forget the address, just pick up a recent copy of the Hub - the Website address appears on the first page, under the Guild name.)

In addition to design changes, a column of news has been added to the homepage. This is the place to watch for news and announcements that may come too late for the newsletter. An email directory of Guild members also went online recently.

We'd also like to add a monthly feature article - maybe a profile or a note about a project in progress or just completed. Photos would be welcome, too! Any Guild member who would like to suggest a feature, or better yet, write one, please contact Susan Fenton ( With everyone's help, we can make our Website a vibrant gathering place for fiber people!

One final note: Want an easy way to remember to visit the Guild site? Just set the homepage of your Web browser to be the Guild's homepage. You don't really want to go to Microsoft or Netscape every time you get on the Web, do you? I didn't think so… Making your browser always open the Guild Website is easy, and it only takes a minute. To do this in Netscape 4.0 or higher or in Internet Explorer 4.0 or higher, follow the instructions below. If you're using a different browser, email Susan and she'll try to help you figure it out.

Netscape Navigator 4.0 or higher:

  1. Open Netscape Navigator, connect to the internet, and go to the Guild Website.
  2. On the Netscape Navigator menu, click Edit > Preferences.
  3. If necessary, click on Navigator in the left pane of the Preferences window.
  4. Make sure "Navigator Starts with Home Page" is selected.
  5. Click the button "Use Current Page" in the Home Page area of the window.
  6. Click "OK".

Internet Explorer 4.0 or higher:

  1. Open Internet Explorer, connect to the internet, and go to the Guild Website.
  2. On the Internet Explorer menu, click View > Internet Options.
  3. If necessary, click on the General tab of the Internet Options window.
  4. In the Home Page area of the window, click "Use Current".
  5. Click "OK"


Bill Ralph, an expert on antique spinning and weaving equipment, is planning to open "The Home Textile Tool Museum" in Orwell, PA. Bill supplied some further information to the Black Sheep Handspinners Guild, and his comments below are quoted from their newsletter:

Our emphasis will be on domestic and home use textile equipment, such as spinning wheels and looms prior to the Industrial Revolution. This is in contrast to the textile museum in Lowell, MA, which we [Bill and his partner, Dr. Michael Holcomb of Rutgers University] recently visited and in which I was disappointed. Between us we already have almost 100 wheels and a dozen looms and have already benefited from several donations.

[The museum] is still very much in the planning stages. At this time we are looking into incorporation and filing with the IRS as a non-profit enterprise. Once we have the obligatory bureaucratic paperwork established, we will commence with the renovations and the displays. In the meantime, I welcome any interested persons to come visit us and see what is being planned. Just call first and if I can manage the time I will be glad to give you all a peek at our potential.

Will visitors be able to get close to the equipment? You bet! No glass partitions, not even a rope barrier. With certain exceptions, any spinner or weaver will be invited to try any display if it is in working order, which most will be.

The displays will probably be rotating, since the hall is relatively small, and our present resources already comprise [the looms and wheels mentioned above] plus other artifacts such as yarn winders, flax processing equipment, patent wheels, lace-making bobbins, whatever is pertinent.

We plan to invite school children tours, with hands-on participation (certain wheels and looms will be set aside for their use). We also plan to sponsor seminars and workshops, keep an extensive reference library, offer consulting services for the identification of old wheels and looms, perhaps even have a "garage sale" of related equipment once a year as a fund-raiser. The possibilities are endless, limited only by our time and monetary resources.

So come see what we have in mind. You won't see much at the present time except just wheels and looms, but if you exercise your imagination, you will see a place where the history of home spinning and weaving and its wheels and looms are preserved and perpetuated.


The Mid-Atlantic Fiber Association Conference (MAFA '99). As usual, MAFA will be held on the campus on Bucknell University in Lewisburg, PA. The dates this year are July 5-11. This conference covers a wide range of fiber arts and always attracts first-rate instructors; this year's line-up includes Sharon Alderman, Alden Amos, Ingrid Boesel, Archie Brennan, Rita Buchanan, Nancy Bush, Jason and Peter Collingwood, Madelyn van der Hoogt, Deb Menz, Ginny Dewey Volle, Patsy Zawistoski., and many, many more. The conference offers extended workshops, weekend classes, a fiber Kids Camp, "Shop 'till you Drop" night with 40 vendors, a Fashion Show, a Sample Exchange, and a range of exhibits.

For more information and a registration form, write to: MAFA '99 Registrar. PO Box 144, Lewisburg, PA 17837-0144. Or, call their toll-free number (1-888-966-4612), send email to, or visit the conference Web site,

Midwest Weavers Association Conference. The theme of this year's Midwest conference is "Reflections & Projections". It will be held in Bloomington, IN on July 13-18. Featured speakers are Philis Alvic, who will discuss "the contributions of the pioneer weavers of the southern Appalachian Mountains," and Sheila O'Hara, who will talk about "high-tech weaving." Betsy Blumenthal, Jason Collingwood, Jan Crook, Jan Doyle, Anita Luvera Mayer, Sheila O'Hara, Sigrid Piroch, Frances Potter, Vicki Tardy, Madelyn van der Hoogt, Liz Williamson, and Patsy Zawistoski will all teach major workshops at the conference, and many more teachers will also offer classes. There will be juried and non-juried shows as well as a Members' Exhibit and Guild Exhibits. Other activities include a Swatch Swap, tours of the area, additional exhibits, and special interest group meetings. [Note: this conference is not just for weavers! It always offers exciting classes for spinners, knitters, dyers, and other fiber artists.]

To receive a registration booklet for the Midwest conference, send your name, address, phone no., and email address to: Reflections and Projections, MWA Conference '99, 2214 Old Mill Court, Bloomington, IN 47401-4588.

Touchstone Center for Crafts in Farmington, PA, is again offering a number of classes of interest to fiber artists this summer. Classes include Beginning Weaving; Glad Rags - Rug Weaving; Dye-Painting Your Weaving; Color and Weave Effects; Tapestry Weaving; Fabrics that Go Bump (with Madelyn van der Hoogt); Space-Dyed Warps; and Navajo Style Loom Workshop. If your family is unhappy about your going off to weave for a week, maybe you can tempt them to join you - Touchstone offers a wide range of classes in ceramics, metalwork, painting, glass making… even Scottish bagpiping! You can reach Touchstone at: Touchstone Center for Crafts, RD 1, Box 60, Farmington, PA 15437; phone 1-800-721-0177; email

Fiberart International '99 is a juried show organized by the Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh. Slides of work to be considered must be submitted by February 12. The following types of work are eligible: "Individual or collaborative entries are invited. Two and three dimensional innovative fiber art is encouraged. Work most not exceed 8'6" in height or width. Each entry must be original work completed after February, 1997. The jurors will not consider work that replicates the design, imagery, or compositional content that is identified with another artist's personal style nor work that was completed as part of a course or workshop." The works accepted will be displayed at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts from September 9 - October 30, 1999. Several prizes - the Best of Show Award is $1000 cash! - will be awarded. To learn more about the exhibit or how to enter, contact Millie Barnes or Sally Yunis.

IF (with apologies to Rudyard Kipling)

If you can wind a warp and never miss the cross;
If you can thread the heddles one by one and never suffer loss;
If you can reed the thread and never miss a dent,
And smilingly repeat your pattern and never once resent
An interruption or a muttered curse from workers at your side;
If you can start to weave and find the threads you thought were tied
Are loose; if you can cheerfully retrace your steps and do it all again-
Then call yourself a weaver, friend - your patience has no end.

[Gleaned from the Gamp, newsletter of the Weaver's Guild of Buffalo, which gave the original source as South Landing Craft Center, Queenston, Ontario -Ed.]


A young girl was presented to James I as a prodigy. Impressed by her proficiency in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, the king was not without reservation. "These are rare attainments for a damsel," he remarked, "but pray tell me, can she spin?"

-The Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes, 1985.

The mountain sheep are sweeter,
But the valley sheep are fatter;
We therefore deemed it meeter
To carry off the latter.

-My grandfather recites this poem in ringing tones whenever the subject of sheep comes up; original source unknown.

Home | About NPSWG | News | Members Area
Contact Us | Search NPSWG