Sunday, 30 September 2012

Victorian Fibre House Tour


 Feature Festival Event

                   Victorian Fibre House Tour
                                     By: Joan Beswick

 Amherst’s prosperous history is reflected in the stately homes lining its main streets, and a highlight of the Christmas season has traditionally been the ‘Deck the Halls Christmas House Tour’.  This year, the fifth anniversary of the Nova Scotia Fibre Arts Festival, Amherst’s First Baptist Church is hosting a three-home tour on the afternoon of Saturday, October 13, the last day of the festival. And this tour offers something special – an opportunity not only to tour the three most popular homes from the Christmas tour, but to also see them bedecked with quilts, rugs, embroidery, knitting and all things fibre. 
The Van Snick home was built in 1907 in a Queen Ann style. It features round towers, oval windows, cobble stone work, and a large stairwell with Newell sculpture.  The home will feature the work of local fibre artist, Janet Moses, and is a perfect setting to showcase her vibrant colour palette. 

The Duvar home was built in 1875 and has been lovingly restored with impressive results. The decor of this home, a tasteful blend of Victorian and Traditional taste, offers a fitting canvas for the creations of Cumberland County’s talented fibre artists. For those who love Christmas, this home will also offer a Christmas Fibre display. 

Bent Cottage is the oldest home in Amherst, dating back to 1770. It was built on 500 acres granted to Loyalist blacksmith, John Bent. It is filled with heritage pieces, including antique samplers, early hooked rugs, and many primitives. Bent Cottage was the childhood home of Canadian artist, Alex Colville, and the tradition of creativity continues with its present owners. Daniel G. Walker’s exhibit ‘Pear Shaped’ and Rev. Don Miller’s ‘one-of-a-kind birdhouses’ will be featured. 
The Victorian Fibre House Tour runs from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 13. It begins at First Baptist Church, 90 Victoria St., Amherst. Tickets are $5, and can be purchased at the church. The three houses are close to each other and within a short distance from the church. Since participants will be walking through all three houses, they are encouraged to wear slip-on shoes or bring slippers.

Oh, and not to be forgotten ... tea and cookies.
When you’re inclined to rest and reflect, ‘tea and cookies’ will be served at the church all afternoon between 1:00 and 4:00 p.m.  

Please join us in celebrating the fifth anniversary of the Nova Scotia Fibre Arts Festival. Come and tour three of the most beautiful homes in Amherst, a community steeped in heritage and ‘obsessed with fibre’.



Thursday, 27 September 2012


Festival Feature Event:

Kumihimo – Art of Japanese Braiding

Instructor: Brenda Trafford


                                                                By: Joan Beswick

We’ve had many questions about ‘Kumihimo’, the most frequent being ‘how do you say it?’ So we asked instructor, Brenda Trafford.  


Brenda is a multi-talented fibre artist – felter, knitter, crocheter – who will be offering a full day workshop on Kumihimo at the Nova Scotia Fibre Arts Festival this year. Last year, she won the  ‘booth award’ at the Zonta Fibre Arts Bazaar.

Brenda said to say the word phonetically - it sounds like it spells - /koo me he mo/. She then described this ancient and very functional art form as ‘the Japanese art of braid making or interlacing strands of fibre such as cord or ribbon’. Historically, the kumihimo cords were used by samurai to lace their armour and their horses’ armour. Historically and currently, they are also used as ties on jackets and kimono sashes.



Today, fibre artists find many other uses for kumihimo braids. Brenda makes kumihimo handles for her wonderful felted bags and creates kumihimo necklaces to hold beads and pendants.




In fact, she was first introduced to this art form at the conference of the International Society of Glass Bead Artists in Louisville, Kentucky about five years ago.



So just how difficult is this ancient art? According to Brenda, it’s quite easy to get started. She said ‘we’ll wind ribbon on a bobbin, work the braid down the middle, and go from there’.


At the festival workshop, Brenda will provide the necessary tools and materials: a hand-held disc with a hole in the middle and grooves on the outside, bobbins, and enough ribbon for two cords. She will also have additional bags of ribbon if people want to gather more supplies. She suggests that participants bring lunch, as well as a clip like the one below to use as a weight.


‘Kumihimo – Art of Japanese Braiding’ will be offered on Thursday, October 11, 2012, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. It will be held at the Cumberland County Museum, 150 Church St., Amherst. The cost is $40, and all supplies are included. To register, call 902-667-2561, or contact

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Knitting – the Very Beginning

Feature Festival Event:

Knitting – the Very Beginning
                           with instructor, Carol Oram
(and a bit of history on famous knitter,
                           Eleanor Roosevelt)

                                By: Joan Beswick

I just came back from visiting Campobello Island, New Brunswick, as well as parts of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.  Now since this is not a travelogue, but rather the Nova Scotia Fibre Arts blog, I’ll not ramble on about the wondrous scenery and fall foliage. However, being away last week prevented me from interviewing a fibre artist and posting that information on this blog. But all is not lost ... because fibre artists, past and present, are always with us.  And in a visit to the Roosevelt Cottage on Campobello, I discovered that Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of U.S. president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was not only a teacher, writer, and human rights activist, but also an inveterate knitter. As you can see above, her love of knitting is commemorated in her statue at the FDR Presidential Library in Hyde Park.
Eleanor knit on the beach ...

on planes ....

and at the United Nations where she was actively involved in drafting the universal declaration of human rights.  In fact, Eleanor’s knitting needles were so ubiquitous that Douglas Chandler’s 1949 oil painting is a composite of portraits showing her with pen in hand, glasses in hand, head in hand, and knitting needles in hand.

My visit to Campobello included ‘tea with Eleanor’, a twice daily event wherein park staff serve tea and cookies, and acquaint visitors with the life of Eleanor Roosevelt, a multifaceted life in which she played many roles - parent, writer, teacher, political spouse, and human rights activist. Nevertheless, despite the many demands on her time and a hectic travel schedule, Eleanor continued to knit.

Now, fibre artists who read this will know why Eleanor knit ... knitting is productive, relaxing, creative  ... it keeps your hands busy and out of the munchies while watching TV ... it allows you to make beautiful things. Why, oh why, then, have some of us never learned to knit? Oh, we have excuses ... too busy, too clumsy, no talent, no teacher ... but these excuses really don’t hold water. My friend, Carol Oram, is a consummate craftsperson, but her first love is knitting. She assures me it requires no talent and is easy to learn .... even those of us who are ‘all thumbs’ (she means me) can do it.

To the rescue comes the Nova Scotia Fibre Arts Festival committee – it has come to their attention that there are ‘wannabees’ out there - non-knitters - people like me who for some reason or other, just never learned.  So the festival committee has convinced Carol, a retired educator and versatile fibre artist, to offer a very basic introductory course entitled ‘Knitting - the Very Beginning’. This will be a friendly affair lasting approximately 90 minutes. It will take place at Deanne Fitzpatrick’s Studio, 33 Church St., Amherst, from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. on Friday, October 12. The cost is $30, and all materials will be provided.  To request more information or to register, call Carol Oram at 902-667-2656.

Carol will teach us how to ‘cast on’, do the ‘knit’ stitch, and ‘cast off’.  Those are the basic skills required to go from ‘non-knitter’ to ‘knitter’, and after that, as they say, 'the sky is the limit'. Who ever knew that 90 minutes could witness such a transformation?  Eleanor would be so pleased.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Quilter's Connection Fall 2012 Issue

The fall issue of Quilter's Connection magazine is now out, and it features an article on the 5th annual Nova Scotia Fibre Arts Festival!
Amherst author Pauline Furlong has done a terrific job showcasing our festival to the world. 
Copies of Quilter's Connection are available by subscription, at all Chapters locations, as well as at selected quilt shops.  You can check here for a location near you. New this issue, you can also download a digital copy of the magazine directly to your computer. 

Wednesday, 12 September 2012



Fibre Arts Brochure – Feature Event

“Stitch and Knit for Lit”

By: Joan Beswick


Although this title is catchy and the words rhyme, a number of people have told us they don’t really know what the session involves. So to prevent a great idea from being consigned to the dustbin of obscurity, we talked with the people involved to find out what it’s all about.

The braniacs behind this session are Deanne Fitzpatrick, hooker extraordinaire, and Denise Corey, Deputy Chief Librarian of Cumberland Public Libraries.

Deanne has noticed that people like to ‘hang out’ in the studio, to talk with other fibre artists, to explore materials and share ideas.


Denise has noticed there is great demand for fibre arts DVDs, videos, and books in this fibre obsessed community.

So they put their heads together and came up with the idea of ‘Stitch and Knit for Lit’, a festival event with two components.

First of all, it’s basically a ‘stitchers’ bee’ or a ‘knitting bee’ or a ‘fibre art bee’, hence the ‘Stitch and Knit’ portion of the title. As such, this session is an opportunity for fibre artists of any stripe - stitchers, knitters, crocheters, hookers, embroiderers, etc. – to come together during the festival, to chat, to have a mug of tea or coffee, to share their stories and their art.



Secondly, since the demand is high and the funds are limited, the $20 fee participants pay for the session will be donated to Cumberland Public Libraries to help them expand their collection of fibre arts literature, hence the ‘lit’ component of the session title.

The ‘hang out’ for this event is Deanne Fitzpatrick’s studio at 33 Church Street, an emporium of ecstasy for fibre addicts.



Between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 13, participants can gather, relax, stitch, knit, sip, chat and enjoy, while also having the added pleasure of knowing they are enriching the resources available for fibre artists in this region. Denise says there is great demand for Karen Neary’s quilting book and for Lucy Neatby’s DVD; the library will use the funds from this session to purchase more of these types of materials with particular attention to those developed by artists from the Nova Scotia Fibre Arts Festival. And she mentioned an added bonus – since the library is a registered charity, participants can request a tax receipt for their donation.


Stitch and Knit for Lit” sounds like a delightful day shared with old and new friends - fibre artists of all stripes from all over.  You can register by contacting Deanne’s studio at 902 – 660- 3220. Thanks to Deanne and Denise for this great idea!

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

                              Featured Artist: Kathy Tidswell

                                                                                           Interviewed by Joan Beswick

Kathy Tidswell takes her own photographs. Trained as a biologist, she has closely observed nature in its many forms and her nature photos are the subject matter for both wearable and decorative fibre art. However, she doesn’t take photos of herself, so when asked for a current photo, Kathy offered one taken by her husband on a recent trip.

This picture was taken at the end of a day spent exploring the wonders of Costa Rica – it shows Kathy relaxing with a glass of wine, enjoying ‘the best nachos ever’, and taking a break from a busy and creative life. Kathy is an accomplished fibre artist with a long list of accolades and awards including the 2005 ‘Teacher of the Year Award’ from the Canadian Quilters’ Association (CQA/ACC).  

Kathy’s website reports that she combines ‘painting on fabric with free motion embroidery to produce works of art’(  She didn’t start out as an artist. Prior to staying home to raise a family, she worked for Environment Canada as a fish health technician and a forest genetics technician. In 1989, she began to explore traditional quilting, but her creative juices were really stirred in 1991 when Ann Boyce, an American teacher, introduced members of her quilting guild to the creative potential of using sewing machines. To hone her creative skills, Kathy followed up with courses on drawing, quilting, embroidery, and painting. She found inspiration in books such as Liz Hubbard’s “Thread Painting”, discerned the link between art and fibre, and developed her own unique techniques. The result has been a new career as a fibre artist. Kathy uses her own photographs as inspiration and employs various techniques, including painting on fabric, machine-based free motion embroidery, and quilting, all of which are reflected in the photos below.


 In addition to creating fibre art, Kathy has, since 1993, been teaching and sharing her skills with others. She will be teaching a course in Luxembourg this fall, and then moving on to Amherst to teach a “Free Motion Embroidery” workshop at the Nova Scotia Fibre Arts Festival. Participants will be asked to bring a photo of a favourite pet and a sewing machine. Over the two days of the workshop, they will learn to “use the machine needle like a paint brush” and create a portrait similar to those pictured here.
Kathy encourages those who are interested but uncertain “not to be intimidated”. Although “not everyone will be a Rembrandt”, they can come, “have fun” and “feel their way”, while learning new skills and creating unique portraits of their special pets.

Kathy’s ‘Free Motion Embroidery’ workshop will begin on Thursday, October 11, and will run for two days from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. It will be held in the second floor ‘heated room’ at the Amherst Stadium, 185 Church Street. To inquire about further details, and/or to register, contact Kathy by phone at 506-363-3560, or by e-mail at