the singing falls waterfall scribe logo capella, the goat shepherd's constellation
The Quill
Of the
Is Art
For The Mind
And Heart




~~*  Black Sheep Newsletter............Issue 112............Summer 2002  *~~


image of author


THE HOMESTEAD: Part of a Legacy



The annual Black Sheep Gathering will be taking place at the end of this week, even as I pen this article. Because I'll be entering some lovely mohair fleeces into the Wool and Mohair Fleece Show, I am spending a lot of the week in preparation. Stan and I are very excited to be able – again this year – to attend the Gathering. It's always a special occasion in our lives, an event we look forward to the whole year long. We have met so many good people there over the years – and look forward once more to touching bases with everyone.splash dot!


Part of a Legacy

I feel as though I am part of a great legacy. From its humble beginnings as a dream belonging to one woman, Sachiye Jones, The Black Sheep Gathering has become one of the biggest and best fiber events in the nation.splash dot!


bucks bucking

Kudos and Dreamer of Hideaway Homestead

For three wonderful days we fiber folk find ourselves drawn like moths to light – to the Lane County Fairgrounds in Eugene, Oregon. And yes, for three days we laugh, cry, inspect animals and fleeces, sell animals and fleeces, erect fiber booths, spin fiber, teach, learn, eat a grand meal together, and watch a parade of hand crafted wares draped around the animals whose fleeces were used to create them. We do much more, of course, but what I remember most (and I've been in attendance now for at least nine straight years) is that we share our visions, our failures, our hopes and dreams…laugh, cry – and then laugh some more, cry some more, laugh until we cry…splash dot!


Of course we think fondly of those who have come before and have paved the way. Some are still with us – and some have broken our hearts and departed too soon. Indeed, not long ago we lost a shepherdess whose writings over the years inspired us to keep our wool sheep quite fed and our spinning wheels spit shined. How she loved her flock! Joan Wooten, we miss you! Joan loved her sheep. I cannot pen a better epitaph. In the end I recall how her articles were a bit shorter than usual – but even though her health waned, her spirit was strongsplash dot!


Sharon Nofziger comes next to mind. Full of life – with a passion for all things fiber – her sudden passing was unexpected, catching any of us who even slightly knew her totally off guard. I did not know Sharon intimately – but yet I feel I did know her, for the gentle spirit that many of you have written of was spotted by me right off when I first met her.splash dot!


It was four Junes ago, if my memory serves me correctly – June 1999, in fact. That was the year that I brought my blue plaid mohair throw, hand woven of handspun mohair, to be entered in BSG's Fiber Arts Show. Sharon stood behind the counter that day accepting the entries as they filtered in.splash dot!


"I want to enter this mohair throw," I said to her, attempting to harness my excitement about being at the Black Sheep Gathering again.splash dot!


I will never forget her smiling face as she greeted me. I pulled the mohair throw from its plastic bag at that point and held it up before her. Her smile widened when she saw the work. She took the corners of the blanket with her hands and examined the deep blue hued throw under the bright lights of the room. It literally glistened as mohair so often does.splash dot!


"Oh, that is SO BEAUTIFUL!" she exclaimed excitedly. Her excitement was contagious. She handed me the 3x5 cards and as I wrote what was necessary upon them, she continued to admire the blanket of plaid color. "What a wonderful piece of art," she said as her careful fingers touched the yarns in the throw. Her smile that morning was infectious – and her praise for my work made me blush. After I had stopped blushing, I asked her, "You really think so?"splash dot!


"Oh, it's wonderful!" she replied. It was at that moment that I became absolutely SURE that the plaid blanket would garner a Grand Champion ribbon.splash dot!


The judging of the fiber art began later that day, open to the public. I sat in the front row.splash dot!


The judge began to speak when finally my blue plaid throw was in her hands. "This is a lovely piece," she began, as she held the blanket in her hands, its magnificent blue mohair draping becomingly, as natural fibers will. I beamed, sipping from the straw which drew in the last vestiges of a cold cola. I now had ice cubes only in the bottom of the large waxed cup and began to tip the cup - crunching on ice cubes, one by one, between my teeth (a bit nervously.)splash dot!


peocock plaid

The peacock plaid throw

I was ready for the blue ribbon, maybe a champion purple and gold, and my shoulders inadvertently lifted themselves very high.splash dot!


"I love the way this artist incorporated the natural black mohair to make these bold plaid stripes throughout this piece," she continued. I am that artist, I mused proudly. I found myself sitting at complete attention at that point and quit munching ice cubes, becoming as quiet as a mouse, barely breathing. The suspense was heart rending.splash dot!


Then my eyes visibly caught a long length of thread hanging from the midst of the blanket, a lone soldier out of place in a virtual army of perfectly aligned threads – a straggler, a loner, a misfit. I cringed. I froze in my seat. My paper cup was being mangled by a nervous hand and I did not even realize it. I felt suddenly faint.splash dot!


It was a long untucked in "end" that any weaver knows better than to leave showing on a garment. It should have been carefully sewn back into the weaving. It did not belong out front like that. Somehow I had missed it when scanning the blanket earlier for finishing work.splash dot!


An urge came upon me to jump up out of my seat and GRAB the blanket from the judge's scrutinizing hands right then and say "this blanket, Judge, is not complete. Let me grab this darn darning needle and darn that darn loose end right into this darn blanket, as needs be…"splash dot!


…but the choice was not mine. The moment was past when I could make repairs on my work.splash dot!


That long piece of mohair yarn lay there gleaming under the electric lights of the room and I felt as though all eyes in the room focused on it alone. Indeed, they probably did.splash dot!


"Here, however, is a long end that should have been finished into the piece," the judge finally said. I shuddered visibly when the words were spoken, sinking low upon my folding metal chair.splash dot!


She turned to Sharon (who sat marking the judging card in the seat next to her):splash dot!


"Take off 2 points for this unfinished end, Sharon." She then commented on how even my edges were and complimented my work more by saying she loved the look of "2x2 twill" (which, reader, is a weaving pattern that all true Scottish plaids have – a weft that is aligned like this: \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ against a IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII warp.)splash dot!


2x2 weave

2x2 twill up close

Well, a first place blue ribbon was mine, notwithstanding the out of place thread. The memory of that day still haunts me – but in a good way. I examine my finished work as though under a microscope when it is off the loom. It is forever etched in my memory for another reason, also – for that is the day I met the gentle spirited Sharon Nofziger.splash dot!


How many other fiber people have touched my life deeply, carving their niche in my heart – creating in me a desire to work diligently at the spinning wheel and loom as though I were born in another era? Linda Rich, perhaps you were the first. You and I were neighbors then in the high Rockies of Colorado, on the banks of Clear Creek. Will you ever forget that lovely hollow where we as neighbors were knit together as friends forever?splash dot!


How very young we were, Linda! Was I 29? That would make you 24 at the time. Your mother was a weaver in England who taught you the loom and she held you on her lap as she spun the yarns from sheep wools.splash dot!


It was you who taught me so patiently to spin on that Ashford wheel (between diaper changes on those two babies in your arms.) Within two weeks time Stan bought me my own wheel. Indeed, he was the visionary then: he foresaw something far in our future that I did not yet glimpse (as is his way.) I recall how you then patiently taught me how to knit the handspun yarn, you a "lefty" and me a "righty" – but we did it.splash dot!


Soon I was knitting wool caps for my husband, each one a different color than the last, a different length – some with tassels at the tip of the hat, some without. (He always tore those tassels off any way – so I don't know why I insisted on putting them there.) Those knit caps kept his head warm during those frigid Colorado winters, and later Montana's icy storms.splash dot!


When he finally had four or five knit caps – I recall how he carefully petitioned me one day. "Hey, these hats are great, really." Then he cleared his throat. "You think she can teach you another pattern, maybe? Like socks or mittens or scarves?"splash dot!


doe and kid resting

Friend Pat (right) on the banks of the River North Umpqua

Friend, Pat. Though you were my "student" for awhile there – in time you excelled me in your spinning and your weaving. The years passed and you wove like there was no tomorrow. Then there came a time that you could not keep animals anymore (neither your angora goats or your Shetland sheep) because your body just could not handle the task any longer (a fact that set you to bawling your eyes out.)splash dot!


It was you who first taught me that it is OK to cry when a kid goat dies, and it is OK to do everything in my power to save a tiny life that no longer wants to breathe. Oh, and hey - you still weave the most beautiful garments and beddings that I have ever seen. And lastly, should I ever master "pick up" (that lovely and easy way of weaving that you have perfected) – I will have you to thank.splash dot!


Then there was Don Weld – or "Big Wooley" as he called himself over the CB radio. He had worked for Pendleton Mills and knew the big machines that turned out the wools like the back of his hand. Big man that he was, he possessed a big heart, also. Devoted to helping the fiber community – he tried to encourage folks like us who were interested in making our livings as shepherds, handcrafters, weavers, spinners.splash dot!


We brought the antique drum carder home with us from the Welds' home place in Tillamook, Oregon on a fine spring weekend. Meanwhile, that entire weekend, Don patiently taught Stan how to run the machine. It was a heavy piece of cast iron and it contained a lot of drums. The carding cloth was new on it. The machine had originally been made to card silk. Don and Stan spent hours adjusting and fine tuning the mammoth machine for mohair. Finally, the moment arrived late on Saturday.splash dot!


"Bring the mohair," someone called to me. I walked into the garage and handed the guys some adult clip that we had brought along. The nicest mohair battes anyone could want began to form on the drums. We were ecstatic and took the carder home with us early Sunday morning. Then, a few months later, we received the sad news that Don had passed away. We lost another one of the greats in the fiber world.splash dot!


A legacy handed down – that's how I sometimes view this fiber arts business. Which brings me full circle to the loom in my living room, the big fold up maple loom that takes so much space up in this tiny cramped room that I can barely shift my computer chair back 6 inches before I bump into it. So be it – it belongs here.splash dot!


I don't know the loom's original owner. Whether she made her living weaving and had other looms also or whether this Payton was her only loom, I may never know. All I know is that she was a weaver sometime in the early 1950s (judging by the spools of cotton that came with this loom and the loom's vintage.)splash dot!


It occurred this last autumn, actually. The antique dealer was about to liquidate all the old merchandise in his shop and was having his big close out sale. Wanting the loom out of there badly, he was happy to see someone that seemed interested in the piece – for not all antique buffs are weavers, of course. Not all would be so smitten by an old loom. Me? I fell instantly in love with it. There should be no doubt about the fact that I wanted the loom the moment I saw it, and so I told my husband so.splash dot!


"I don't know much about her," the man commented about the loom's previous owner. The antique lanterns hung above and behind him from hooks embedded in barn wood siding. Blue and white Willow Ware china gleamed expansively behind spit shined counter glass. He laid his hands, folded, on the counter, old cherry wood, and continued talking.splash dot!


"Her kids got the place when she died. Everything was in the old Roseburg homestead just as she left it. My goodness, what a jaunt that was - up a long winding road - to get to the place. I bought a few things there, including this loom. All these yarns and spools came with it," his voice trailed at the last. He seemed a bit impatient. It was near closing time. His folded thumbs twitched.splash dot!


I touched my foot lightly to the treadle to see if the harnesses moved readily. They did. There were four of them. My hand carefully glided along the breast beam, back and forth, as though polishing it. There were at least two good reeds that came with the loom. 45 inches wide. That's what sold me. I could do a lot with that additional 5 inches. My other loom was only a 40 inch.splash dot!


Stan and I, together, began to adjust the folding mechanism. It worked just fine. The loom would tuck away neatly against a wall when not in use. Then I saw it. A dark green apron sat primly folded in a box next to the loom, packed with the spools. 1950s vintage, like the loom. It was a short "tea apron" – flounced and full at the hem. I recalled Lucy Ricardo wearing aprons like that on the "I Love Lucy" show.splash dot!


It's a legacy, after all. We suddenly find ourselves weavers, hand spinners, fiber artists, keepers of the flock. We wonder to ourselves at the strange and arbitrary, yet wonderful way we came into this lifestyle.splash dot!


Indeed, we really never know the lives we touch as we wend our way through this labyrinth of life. It's an exciting prospect to be a part of such a heritage, such a legacy – and especially – to be able to pass it on.splash dot!


doe and kid resting

Doe and her kid, entwined while sleeping (Singing Falls)

goats butting heads


scripted signature


Alexandra Scribe
Homestead Home


Stanley & Alexandra Petrowski
34620 Tiller Trail Hwy.
Tiller, Oregon 97484