Rosalie Neilson – Too Many Irons in the Fire

Last week, I returned from the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, N.C. where I taught a week long course in rep weaving during their Scandinavian Heritage Week. I learned the derivation of a term we’ve all used when we are overwhelmed with too much work …“too many irons in the fire”.

It’s a term derived from the blacksmithing tradition and was explained by blacksmith Doug Merkel during a Folk School demonstration. In order to work with iron, it has to be heated in a forge to the point of malleability when it becomes easy to shape. If the blacksmith has too many irons heating in the forge (i.e., “in the fire”), he can be easily overwhelmed.

The demo was during the afternoon of day three in the five and a half day workshop, and I think the weavers were feeling the pressure of getting their looms threaded and ready to weave. The demo was a nice break from our routine in the fiber studio. As a lure, the blacksmiths had door prizes. I was the lucky recipient of a shawl pin forged by blacksmith Charley Orlando and can’t wait to weave a shawl in my husband’s clan plaid to display it properly.

 So how did the weavers fare during the week at the Folk School? Despite some loom problems, all of the weavers finished earlier than I expected so I designed a lesson plan in profile drafting as the final session.

At the end of the week, each Folk School class sets up an exhibit in the main hall called Keith House. The four weavers who participated in the workshop were very pleased with the outcome of their work.

Interestingly enough, the range of “beating” was between seven and nine thick ribs per two inches. Once the “gauge” had been determined, each weaver redesigned their runner so that the finished size was approximately 12” wide by 62” long.

After teaching, I’m always inspired to come home to weave. I was looking forward to the new warp I put on prior to teaching at the Folk School. The warp colors were based on a magazine cover that predicted “Color is Back” for spring fashion. I laughed at this prediction because weavers always know that “color is in” and jewel tones, in particular, are one of our favorite palettes!  I couldn’t resist however, so I purchased the Elle magazine for the cover photo.

I used the jewel tones as inspiration for a table runner. Greens and turquoise are one colorway, while purple and magenta pink (the model’s lipstick color) are the other colorway.

I started weaving a couple of days before teaching, in hopes of finishing the table runner as an example for the class, but had to finally quit.

Upon returning, I remembered I needed to hem two wall hangings for an upcoming exhibit in North Carolina. So what is on my dining room table? The weavings that have yet to be hemmed.

The other wall hangings going to North Carolina, which are already hemmed, are on my dining room bench.

So if any weaver lives near Chapel Hill, the exhibit called “Woven Elements” features eight weavers and will be held at the Alamance Arts Council, 213 South Main Street, Graham, North Carolina. The Opening Reception is Thursday, April 21; the show runs through June 4.  

I had about a week to regroup after returning home … before my next teaching trip to Cincinnati Ohio. I left Wednesday morning and had to finish the work before sending it off.

I also repacked my weaving bag, took out some examples, and put in others while trying to keep it under the minimum of 50 pounds.

 So with weaving everywhere including the dining room table and benches, the question was — where do we eat? Let alone, what do we eat for dinner?

Chinese food take-out seemed the perfect answer, and we ate in the living room by a roaring fire. Fortunately, weavers don’t have to worry in the same way as blacksmiths. When we make a fire, we can put our feet up and relax!

Editors Note: Truly, Rosalie "lives in color." She works in her studio, Orion's Plumage, in Milwaukie, Oregon. Be sure to visit her website here.


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