Saturday, April 21, 2012

Interests? Passions? Hobbies? Crafts?

I have decided that I have FAR too many "hobbies".  I actually dislike the word "hobby" just as I am not really fond of the word "craft".  Perhaps I should refer to these things as my "interests" and my "passions".  Usually what happens is that I fall in love with a certain process and just can't get enough of it for several years.  Then suddenly, my interest wanes and I am off to the next. While I do lose interest after awhile, like some kind of fickle lover, I do revisit these old loves and rekindle the flames.  It might be 2 or 3 years or even longer before I will revisit my "friend", but rest assured, I will.

I have always had hobbies and interests, (as a child it was stamp collecting, collecting toy horses, collecting rocks, etc . . . all relatively cheap hobbies) but it really kicked in when I was in college and began taking Appalachian Studies classes.  I suddenly realized that it was COOL to like things like quilting. Plus, my dad & grandmother gave me my first dulcimer while I was in college. Thankfully, I realized that things like quilting was COOL before my grandmother died, so she showed me how.

I confess. I am a spinner, a dyer, a knitter, a weaver, a quilter, an embroiderer, a gardener, a musician. AND, I have all of the equipment, supplies, and toys to go with each of those interests! (Yeah, my house is a tad junky from all of the stuff.) I tried needle tatting and rug hooking but thankfully, I never really got into those or I would have even more supplies.

Items that I have spun, natural dyed and woven
@ 1990

For the last 2 1/2 years, I have fallen back in love with spinning and knitting. When I am not spinning or knitting, I am thinking about them. Or plotting how to get more fiber and yarn. Or planning my next project. Or my next road trip to a fiber fair. Or looking at various internet sites that revolve around all things fiber. I have taught workshops on drop spindle spinning, spinning on a spinning wheel, and natural dyeing. Currently, I am also selling some of my yarn, so hopefully I can actually make a bit of money with one of my "interest"! I can think of at least 5 people that I have "infected" with the spinning germ in the last couple of years. Mission accomplished!

Before my current affair with fiber, I was in to all things mountain dulcimer for about 7 years.  I added quite a few dulcimers to my collection during that time, as well as numerous songbooks, books about traditional music, as well as doing my own research into the history of the dulcimer which you can view HERE. I attended week long dulcimer workshops, day long dulcimer workshops and competed in the Old Fiddler's Convention in Galax. I made videos of myself playing the dulcimer in the Galax-style of playing, which is not very common, and posted them on youtube. I made many lasting friendships, all connected to dulcimer playing.  Oh yeah, and I "infected" several people with the dulcimer-playing germ during my years of intense involvement with the dulcimer!

Western Carolina Dulcimer Week @2006
See me in the back row?

Before the dulcimer mania it was quilting. I used the same methods used in the 19th century.  That meant no rotary cutters or sewing machines for me!  I used period scissors to cut the pieces out and then used a needle and thread to sew the pieces together.  Then, I would put the quilt in a rectangular homemade hanging frame and quilt the three layers together.  On this binge, I completed about 5 quilts and pieced together a couple more.  Oh yeah, and I became really interested in the history of quilts, so I had to do some research also.

Working on a Log Cabin quilt at Humpback Rocks Mountain Farm
on the Blue Ridge Parkway
@ 1989
Before quilting, it was period embroidery on 40 count linen (or even finer fabric!)  I bought 18th & 19th century patterns, embroidery floss in every color imaginable.  Boxes for organizing the threads. Lots of needles. Frames for holding the fabric taut.  Oh yeah, and reading glasses for trying to work on very fine fabric!  I reproduced quite a few period samplers and made up some of my own. Then, boredom struck. (I do not have any photos of my samplers and I was feeling too lazy to dig them out of storage to take pics!)

Nine Patch Quilt that I made

Then it was weaving.  Not a cheap hobby by any stretch of the imagination because looms are so expensive, but I managed to get a used 45" wide Gilmore loom at an unbelievably low price. The weaving years began.  I wove shawls, placemats, fabric for garments, and lots of hard-wearing rag rugs. I have always loved weaving, but I sure do dislike "warping" or "dressing" the loom.  Having to deal with threading all of that yarn through the dent and heddles was something akin to torture for me.  That is why I have not woven a single thing in about 10 years!

The first fabric that I ever wove out of my handspun yarn.
If you look closely, you can see a broken warp thread
lying on top of the finished fabric that I had to weave
back into place using a needle

The thing that always interested me about weaving was that it had been done for thousands of years. One night, not too long after I first learned to weave, I was sitting at home, looking through some of my new weaving books and then a lightbulb went off.  My mother worked for J.P. Stevens as a . . .  wait for it . . .  WEAVER! I had just never made the connection that it was the same process. Mom usually worked 3rd shift and I remember her coming home from her shift, talking about how tired she was from standing on the concrete floors all night long, about the looms and about a bad batch of thread and all of the warp threads breaking which meant that she had to shut down the looms to repair the warp threads.  I remember her talking about how many "picks" she did on her shift.  Of course, I had no idea what she was talking about at the time. Years later when I became a weaver, I realized that picks per inch was how many weft threads was thrown by the shuttle.  I also remember digging through mom's pocketbook for chewing gum and she would have these weird long hooks. Well, as least to ME they were weird long hooks!  Now, I know that they were used to pull the broken warp threads back through the heddles and reeds. I use the same type of hook when I warp my looms. This one simple little thing made me feel so connected to my mom. I wish that I could have talked to her about this thing that we had in common.

One of the worst stories that I ever remember her telling me happened after she became a trainer.  One night, when she was training a new girl how to operate the looms, she turned her back for just a second The girl put her hand in the way of the beater and when it slammed back, it cut her finger off. Mom was so upset, but she remained calm, called the rescue squad, retrieved the finger and wrapped it up. The doctors were able to reattach the girl's finger.

Mom actually took me into the plant a couple of times.  The NOISE was incredible! A huge room full of looms all running. The shuttles flying back and forth carrying the weft thread and the beaters slamming the the thread into place. There was always so much lint flying around in the air that it almost looked like a fine snow.  Before my mom died in an accident, she had started coughing pretty badly and was always worried that she had developed brown lung from breathing the lint for over 25 years.

Last weekend, I bought a used Leclerc Dorothy 4 harness loom table loom. I guess that I am getting back into weaving . . . and I am pretty excited about it! Now, I am torn. Do I start a weaving project next? Spin some beautiful fiber into yarn? Dye some yarn or fiber in a beautiful color? Start a new knitting project?

Too many interests, not enough time.

Copyright 2012--All Rights Reserved--The Wheel & Distaff by Kimberly Burnette-Dean. 


  1. I used to not like the word "craft" either. Now, though, I think of it as having a skill or skills in a particular medium or technique.

    Those are some great stories about your you began weaving and made that connection...isn't life funny?

    The loom business is dangerous, fingers getting chopped off and all.

    1. Let's just say that I am glad that my loom is Kimberly-powered because there is no danger of me getting my fingers chopped off! :)

  2. That's what we all love about are so good at so many different things!!!!



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