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

Past Issues

"The HUB" Vol. XIX, No. 5
Bimonthly newsletter of September - October 1998


October 3, 1998, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Edinboro Borough Building, Edinboro, PA


Most weavers think of rigid heddle looms as simple, even primitive, but they are actually versatile tools that can be used to achieve weave structures usually created on multi-harness looms. At the same time, they are simple, and anyone can use them to weave successfully.

In October, Blanche Hall will demonstrate the possibilities of rigid heddle looms. She will bring looms set up with various weave structures: a simple weave; summer and winter; and Finn weave. Blanche will also bring textiles that she has created on rigid heddle looms and books on using these tools. If you have questions about using rigid heddle looms or have encountered problems, Blanche will try to help. Come to the October meeting and learn about the potential and power of this ancient loom design.

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



Our guild is sponsoring a workshop, "Spinning from Start to Finish," with Rita Buchanan on April 9-11, 1999. Rita is a noted spinner, dyer, weaver, and knitter. She is also a fantastic teacher. Look for a mailing with complete information about registration, costs, etc., in a few weeks. In the meantime, here is a description of the class to whet your appetite:

Day 1: Controlling twist by the rhythm method as you spin and ply. Understanding the role your wheel plays, and learning how to coordinate your body movements. Deciding how much twist to use for knitting yarns and for warp and weft. How much twist for different fibers. How to be consistent. How to make a balanced plied yarn.

Day 2: Controlling thickness as you draft different fibers. How to make a variety of singles yarns ranging from very thin to very thick. How to hold and draft different wools, cotton, and other short fibers, various long fibers, slippery fibers, fiber blends. Using short draw and long draw. Relating twist to thickness, to make yarns that are strong enough to hold together but soft enough to feel good. How plying affects thickness, and the pros and cons of 2-ply, 3-ply, and multiple-ply yarns.

Day 3: From start to finish. Fiber selection and preparation. Making the best use of different fibers. Choosing fibers for their particular qualities. Combining fibers by blending, plying, or putting yarns together. Working with color. Special things that spinners can do that you canÍt do if you buy yarn. Estimating quantities of fiber to buy, of yarn to spin, for both knitting and weaving projects. Sampling. Watching out for shrinkage and stretching. Finishing yarn before you use it.


Our guild workshop policy states that a scholarship to a guild-sponsored workshop will be awarded by lottery to a guild member. Our intention in creating this policy was to make workshops accessible to members who otherwise could not afford to go. If you are a member of NWPSWG, have a sincere interest in attending the Rita Buchanan workshop next April, and would like to be included in the drawing for the scholarship, please contact Ann Sheffield by October 2, or express your interest at the October meeting. The scholarship drawing will be conducted at the October meeting.


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 September 15 and October 20. 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.


Treasurer's report:

Checking balance: $943.91
Savings balance: $1091.36

Bonnie Crytzer reported that the Guild account has been moved to Northwest Savings Bank. We are listed as a non-profit organization, and the account carries no fees. Bonnie noted that the checking balance no longer contains the "hidden" $300, but reflects the true balance. She added that she has renewed Shuttle, Spindle & Dyepot for another two years. Two books ordered by the Guild, Deb MenzÍ Color in Spinning and a book on rigid heddle looms, have arrived.

Ann Sheffield announced that Rita Buchanan will be teaching a spinning workshop for our guild on April 9-11, 1999. Members offered suggestions about possible sites and ways to check on airfares. Sue Spencer will look into reserving Christ Episcopal Church in Meadville for the workshop. It was suggested that, since our usual April meeting falls on Easter weekend this year in any case, we simply hold our April meeting in conjunction with the workshop. Ann will consult Rita about the possibility of her giving a Friday night lecture as the Guild program for April. It was recalled that we agreed after our last successful workshop to offer two scholarships to Guild workshops, one to the workshop coordinator, and one to be chosen by lottery from among Guild members who ask to be considered. The drawing for the scholarship for RitaÍs workshop will be held at the October meeting. Those with a sincere interest in attending the workshop and who want to be included in the drawing should let Ann know by the October meeting.

Ann also reported that she had heard from Kathryn Alexander in Pittsburgh. The cost to bring her to Edinboro for a Guild program would exhaust the yearly program budget. Other options, such as taking a trip to Pittsburgh to visit her studio, were suggested. Ann will call Kathryn to discuss the possibilities with her.

Susan Fenton reported that she had received a letter from the Mid-Atlantic Fiber Association (MAFA) membership coordinator to ask us to consider joining MAFA as a member guild. The cost would be $30 per year. All guild members would then receive a $35 discount on registration for the MAFA conference. Held every two years at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, PA, the MAFA conference is next scheduled for July 5-11, 1999. This conference always draws an exciting array of teachers and classes, so the $35 discount is appealing. MAFA would also probably ask our guild to volunteer for some activities. We agreed to join for one year and see how it works out.

Susan Fenton mentioned that the Meadville Public Library is looking for "magazine sponsors" to underwrite the cost of subscriptions. The program is primarily intended to generate support for existing subscriptions, but Susan suggested that they might be open to our sponsoring Handwoven, Piecework, or one of the other Interweave magazines. Sponsoring a magazine would help publicize the Guild and make information on the fiber arts available to a wider public. Susan will talk to the library to see if they are receptive to this idea.

Ann mentioned that she had received a letter from Erie & Chautauqua magazine asking for ideas about area artists to profile. Amy Albrecht and Sigrid Piroch were suggested. Ann will write the magazine with these suggestions, and we will add Erie & Chautauqua to the guild mailing list. She added that she also received information from a company that manufacturers fiber-processing equipment for cottage industries; contact her if you are interested.

Sue Spencer distributed membership cards; the rest will be included in a mailing of the Hub. Sue then reported on her experiences at the "Sheep is Life" conference on Navajo sheep and textiles. A video, "Weavers Talking to Weavers", was presented at the conference and was originally made for the Kennedy Museum of American Art in Athens, Ohio, which houses a significant collection of Navajo textiles. Athens is probably too far to go for a Guild program, but members may want to consider taking private trips there. Sue also mentioned that Spin-Off magazine is going to hold a contest to promote the use of wool from rare breeds; Sue has some Navajo Churro wool that she will donate if someone would like to spin it and enter the contest.

Elaine Fertig led a discussion of ideas for future guild programs. Among the suggestions were a program on rigid-heddle and other small looms, and a summer felting workshop/picnic.

Ruth Walker-Daniels announced that Dorothy Lick, a former member, was recently in the area and left some yarn and roving with Ruth to sell. Ruth also has some leftovers from her stash bash - contact Ruth if youÍre looking for yarn or fiber. Ruth then discussed plans for the Fiber Festival at the Sawmill in August. Most of the scheduled activities (fleece-to-shawl, wheel doctor, shearing demonstrations, etc.) will happen on Saturday. Sunday will be more relaxed and will feature Nancy GriffinÍs spinning workshop. The vendors will also stay through Sunday. Bonnie added that there were no entries for the fleece-to-shawl competition yet. However, the Hilltop Spinners have volunteered to demonstrate - they just donÍt want to compete.

At show-and-tell, Sue Spencer showed samples of (amazingly different) felt produced from Merino and Churro wool. Bonnie announced that "Stump Hill Acres is now international." The CrytzersÍ wool combs have sold to Canadians before, but Jim and Bonnie recently received their first order from New Zealand!


Each year at this time, Interweave Press makes a special offer to guilds: if enough guild members buy new or renewal subscriptions to Interweave magazines, the guild gets a free subscription. So, if youÍd like to subscribe to (or renew) an Interweave magazine like Spin-Off, Handwoven, or Piecework, please contact Susan Fenton or come to the October meeting prepared to make out your check.


At the Fiber Fest in Cooks Forest, the Northwest Pennsylvania Spinners and Weavers Guild fielded the world's slowest fleece-to-shawl team - Amy Albrecht, Elaine Fertig, Barb Lodge, Sue Spencer, and me (Ann Sheffield). Our only competition was the Butler Guild, who do this kind of thing all the time - they are organized, efficient, and fast. So, we decided right away to not even worry about time and just try to do a good job. Not surprisingly, we did not finish the shawl by the appointed deadline of 1:15. (Butler finished early.) At 2:00, we bowed to reality and declared a lunch break - this may be a first in the annals of FTS competition. Even the judge gave up and went home (though sheÍll be seeing Barb at another meeting soon and will critique our shawl then). Around 4 p.m., we finally finished. The shawl is beautiful, thanks to BarbÍs design and skillful weaving, so our slow but dauntless efforts were rewarded by second prize in the field of two and a lovely shawl that the guild can sell or raffle.


In an effort to help preserve and promote rare livestock breeds, Spin-Off magazine is sponsoring a new contest called "Save the Sheep". To give people time to locate fiber and create projects, the deadline is not until Fall 1999. Any item made from handspun yarn from the fleece of an endangered breed may be entered. Spin-Off has a list of rare sheep breeds that qualify. Breeds not on the list (including species other than sheep) can also be entered, but the spinner needs to document the breedÍs endangered status in these cases. To receive a copy of the contest guidelines, call 1-800-645-3675.

Many of the qualifying rare breeds are familiar to handspinners, but little known outside the world of fiber artists. HereÍs a sampling of breeds on the list: California Variegated Mutant, Cotswold, Jacob, Karakul, Lincoln Longwool, Navajo Churro, Shetland. There are many more! If anyone knows of local sources of fleece or fiber from rare breeds, please contact Ann Sheffield, and I will publish them in the Hub. In the meantime, a good source for a wide variety of rare fibers is Little Barn in Harvest, AL (205-852-3366). Sue Spencer also has some Churro fleece she is willing to donate to a spinner who wants to enter this contest.


The Navajo-Churro sheep is the traditional source of wool for Navajo rugs. The breed was nearly lost when economic pressures favored keeping more "mainstream" sheep breeds. Recent conservation efforts, spearheaded by the Navajo Sheep Project, have sought to conserve this unique breed and preserve its gene pool. Now, the Project needs help. As Spin-Off reports, the Project "is experiencing challenges in its efforts to relocate the base flock and research efforts from northern Utah to a site closer to the animalsÍ traditional environment in northern New Mexico and Arizona. The sheep have been moved to a temporary site in New Mexico while a permanent facility is being sought. Tax-deductible donations and other support will be welcomed at Navajo Sheep Project, PO Box 4454, Logan UT 84323-4454."


The following letter was sent to Susan Fenton by Kathie Mennel of Dallas, TX.

"I bought some table linens from a weaver in Emmaus, PA, Homespun Weavers, in 1992. The telephone number is no longer a working number, nor can the phone company find any comparable listing. I am not positively sure these are handwovens; but they seem to be. Do you think you know this weaver? I'd be very grateful if you would inquire of the others in your group."

If you have information that could help Kathie, please email her directly at or contact Susan Fenton.

And, The Gamp, newsletter of the Buffalo weavers guild, carries a request from anthropologist Bonnie Madere. Bonnie is researching what connects people to fibers and textiles and would like to hear from as many "fiber people" as possible. Contact her at


Two-harness counterbalance oak rug loom - Union or Union copy. Contact Dorothy Kloss,



Time weaves a mystic pattern
On this queer old loom of life,
His shuttle is the fleeting year,
His warp the joy and strife;
His woof and web the hopes and dreams,
Good fortune and despair,
But Friendship is the golden thread
That makes it all so fair.

[Author anonymous; poem gleaned from the Bulletin of the WeaversÍ Guild of Boston. -Ed.]

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