By Ardeana Hamlin
of the Weekly Staff
When the Friday Fiber Friends meet each week at the Page Farm and Home Museum on the University of Maine campus, they are surrounded by artifacts of Maine’s farming history, including examples of handcrafted items and the tools used to make. The Friends arrive with their own tools and projects, and the conversation is peppered with talk of pins and needles, wrongs side and right side, hand stitching, raw edges, youtube stitching tutorials, and speculation about what’s going to happen in the next season of “Downton Abbey,” the popular series aired by PBS.
On Friday, March 1, four women braved the snow to gather upstairs in the spacious loft of a building that once was a barn.
Carole Haltemann of Orono was putting the finishing touches on an appliqued wall hanging inspired by “penny rugs.” It features hearts cut from wool felt she purchased at Fiddlehead Artisan Supply in Belfast, and hand embroidery. The piece is one of 930 quilted items she has stitched in her lifetime. She also operates her own quilting business, Colorfest.
Cheryl Zeh of Medford, who for several years was the power behind the recently disbanded Pine Tree Kneedlers Guild, was knitting socks from hand dyed yarn she had purchased on a trip to California.
Rissa Moore of Orono, a carpenter by trade, was knitting a shawl from midnight blue wool in a pattern that sometimes is called Horseshoe and sometimes Dragon Scales. The women around the table agreed they liked the reference to a dragon. She had her ball of yarn neatly corralled in a bright pink plastic mess bag that started its life containing bean thread noodles.
Mary Knowlton of Orono was knitting a shawl for the shawl ministry at her church. She used a soft, off white yarn.
Mary Bird of Orono, who was not able to attend the gathering, said in an email that the advent of group has its roots in 1997 when the Page Farm and Home Museum was fairly new to the UMaine campus. At that time several spinners were volunteering to do spinning demonstrations for schoolchildren at the museum.
That evolved into lunchtime meetings once each month. From there the group went on hiatus for several years, but regrouped in 2001 with a haphazard schedule. It wasn’t until 2007 that a regular meeting schedule was set.
Bird was one of the group’s original members, along with Kathryn Sprague-Cook, a historical re-enactor and American Sign Language teacher at Eastern Maine Community College; Elizabeth Worden, director of EMCC Academic Support Center; and Jodi Clayton, owner of One Lupine Fiber in Bangor.
The aim of the group, Bird said, is productive, guilt-free fun with fellow fiber enthusiasts. Occasionally, a speaker is invited to talk about fiber-related subjects, such as textile history or sheep shearing.
The group is free and open to anyone who wants to work on knitting, crocheting, quilting, embroidery, spinning or other fiber project from noon-1 p.m. Fridays. For information, email Bird at Mary_Bird@umni.maine.edu.