Posted by: bschutzgruber | September 1, 2022

Summer comes to an end….

August brought one last round of workshops for me at the Michigan Fiber Festival in Allegan, Michigan. I’m rather sporadic in my attendance [see blogs August 2016 City Mouse…Country Mouse pt2 and August 2018 Big Looms…Little Looms…and a bit of color] but each time I am able to be there it’s been fabulous and seeing once again the giant rooster at the county fairgrounds gate always makes me smile!

This year I signed up for Naalbinding Mittens with Heidi Bukoski, Felted Vessel: Sculpting with Nicole Gillies, and Appalachian Hearth Broom (Besom) Making with Robin Goatey. Two of the three workshops were in the open air pavilion which was nice as the weather was fabulous.

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Wednesday – Naalbinding Mittens
Naalbinding/Nålebinding is the oldest form of looped garment construction. A Neolithic technique that predates knitting and crochet using short lengths of yarn and a single-eyed needle to loop and knot the yarn through previously created loops, gradually building up row upon row.

Several years ago I tried to learn naalbinding but had no success. Heidi’s explanation and handouts were wonderful and it all clicked….after several tries of course! I did not get a full mitten made but I did complete a very nice wrist warmer by the end of the day!

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Thursday – Felted Vessel: Sculpting
Felt vessels are always a welcome surprise. Most people don’t realize that they are wool until they pick them up, feeling the almost weightlessness and beauty of these pieces of art.

I’ve been felting for at least 25 years but have not done much in the way of making larger vessels. The smaller vessels I’ve done were made using the Merino wool so the vessel is softer and not as stiff. In this workshop we used Finn wool which is a heavier fiber and makes a much firmer felt than the Merino wool which is excellent for larger vessels.

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Friday afternoon – Appalachian Hearth Broom (Besom) Making
The original brooms were not flat nor made with wire but crafted with twine, a stick, Broom Corn & basket making reed.

This workshop was one of the most interesting I’ve ever taken! Robin Goatey is a woodcarver, woodturner, broom maker, coppersmith, folkways instructor and has taught at the John C Campbell Folk School. His depth, wealth and style of presenting the craft, history and lore of broom/besom (the Scottish word for broom) making is amazing.

Mine did now come out nearly as nice as his example but I purchased materials to take home to try my hand at making another.

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Checking out some of the other classes during lunch break….

…the spindle spinning class certainly looked like it could be part of an Ann Arbor Sword Club display.

Chatting with vendors as they set up…

…and watching the livestock get glammed up for the judging over the weekend…

…rounded out my days at the fairgrounds.

In previous years I’ve camped at the fairground. This year I stayed just down the road in the town of Plainwell and had a chance to checkout some of the local eating establishments in town. Having just finished several summer presentations of my program ‘When Beaver Was King’ (about beavers and their impact on Michigan’s past and present), it was fitting I should partake in a Crazy Beaver Cream Ale with a meal at the Old Mill Brewpub & Grill (built in 1869, the four story building was once the largest buckwheat flour mill in the country and is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places) and of course I HAD to stop at the Plainwell Ice Cream Company for something cold and delicious at the end each day!

All this added up to three great days at the Michigan Fiber Festival
and a wonderful way to finish out the summer!


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