Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Design Africa

I’ve recently come across a very interesting company called ‘Design Africa’. This project was initially funded by CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency) and the original purpose was to develop a market for the designs of talented artisans in specific African countries. Have a look at their web site: to see their brochure and several short videos which give an idea of some specific projects.

The countries which are participating in the project are: Ghana, Ethiopia, Mali, South Africa and Senegal. Although most of the participants produce textiles and baskets, there are also furniture, wood and ceramic artisans.

Through CIDA and the Federal Trade Facilitation Office in Canada, these products are brought to the attention of importers and retailers, guiding the businesses through the maze of regulations to reach overseas markets. The high quality of their designs will hopefully place their creations on a different level, where they will not be supplanted by copies from Asian countries. These small businesses employ those whose options are otherwise very limited, and have had a relatively dramatic effect on the numbers employed and the amount they are paid per hour. Some of their products are found at the shops of Ten Thousand Villages.

The 2008 Design Africa presentation will be held in Canada in two locations: at the Montreal Interior Design Show at Place Bonaventure, 22 - 24 May, and in Toronto at The Richmond, 477 Richmond St. West, #104, 27 & 28 May. Further information is available from the Trade Facilitation Office Canada in Ottawa: toll-free: 1-800-267-9674.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Two important announcements:

Update for those who have been planning to join the Scottish Skeins & Skerries Tour this July. As of today, there are two places left. Once these are gone, I can try requesting more air seats from Loganair, but cannot guarantee they will be available. We are travelling during high season when air space and hotel rooms are at a premium, plus the aircraft on these routes are relatively small and have limited capacity. If you want to join us, I urge you to contact me immediately at: or by phone at: 613-695-0889.

Shetland Textile Working Museum: Due to the generosity of Madrona attendees and the organizers of the overall event, the amount raised to contribute to this worthy project was $1322.14 USD. It will be forwarded to the bank account of that name on Shetland.

Should you wish to contribute and were unable to attend Madrona, we are working on another way to support the project.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

More about Madrona & Tacoma

More about Madrona: I took two full-day workshops: one given by Lucy Neatby--‘Cool Socks!’ ( As with all Lucy’s classes, in addition to specific sock techniques, we learned many helpful skills which can be applied to any knitting project. The other class was by Nancy Bush--Making a True Haapsalu Rȁtik’- A Traditional Shawl from Estonia’ ( In this project, we knit a sample shawl with many ‘nups’ which formed a pretty lily-of-the-valley design.

The venue for accommodation and all events in Tacoma was the centrally-located Hotel Murano The hotel was in the final throes of an extensive renovation, but my room and any public rooms I visited were all very comfortable and attractively furnished. On each floor, the hotel displayed a masterpiece of a featured glassblower selected from around the world.

Tacoma is the home of outstanding glassblower, Dale Chihuly ( The Museum of Glass ( is a unique building housing numerous examples of his unbelievable talents, and was reached by walking under the Bridge of Glass. While at the museum, I watched master glassblower from Murano, Italy, Lino Tagliapietra, demonstrating the many steps in creating an intricate piece of art.

I also went to the Washington State History Museum and saw two special exhibitions: ‘The Art of the Stamp’, 100 small works of original art which were used to create postage stamps. The exhibition was developed by National Postal Museum the United States Postal Service, and was organized by the Smithsonian Museum. It showed the development of stamp design from the original concept to final artwork—everything from dinosaurs to Elvis Presley, the most popular U.S. stamp of all time. The second exhibition was called ‘Remembered Light’ and was composed of shards from damaged church windows. These fragments were collected by an American Army chaplain during World War II.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Madrona Fiber Arts Event & Shetland Guild

I was fortunate to travel to Tacoma, WA in mid February to attend the many events organized by the 2008 Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat; (The dates for the retreat in 2009 are 12-15 February and the schedule will be on their website this October.) The event was very collegial and offered a wide variety of daytime classes, evening events, a marketplace and a special charity night--which took place on the evening of 14 February and was called ‘2008 Giving from our Hearts’. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee ( was the keynote speaker. At this time, four projects were selected for presentations—Doctors Without Borders (sponsored by Knitters Without Borders); the Mother’s Day Project (designed to draw attention to the human cost of the Iraq War); Caring for Kids (a project which helps underprivileged children and families in the Tacoma area.

The fourth charity, dear to the heart of many knitters, was to help the Shetland Textile Working Museum in their efforts to raise enough money for their own textile museum, specifically dedicated to the preservation and display of their Fair Isle and Shetland lace collection. In addition, there will be space for meetings, workshops, a designated room for one of the oldest handlooms on Shetland, and an area for washing and dying fleece. A committee of three, Mary Adams from Denver, Melinda Mullins from Seattle and I collaborated to present a case for the worthiness of this project.

Those who have come on previous Scottish Skeins & Skerries Tours,, will remember with fondness our visits to the Weisdale Mill, which used to be home of the Shetland Guild of Spinners, Weavers & Dyers. The guild was only renting space at Weisdale and has had to find a new home—hence this dedicated project. A site has been selected in the west mainland area. There are the remnants of a 16th C. building, which the Shetland Amenity Trust will virtually reconstruct, however the Shetland guild is responsible for all interior fittings and will be renting the space from the Trust. As you can understand, it is very important to ensure their unique collection is properly stored and displayed. These Shetland textiles illustrate the history of spinning, knitting and weaving in the islands from their earliest days to the present. This is an expensive project for any guild and they are working very hard to raise the necessary funds, however require outside assistance.

Although the new Shetland Museum in Lerwick has an outstanding collection of the textile arts, the concern is that knitting was poorly paid and undervalued, and was viewed as ‘women’s work’ and thus not as important!

I haven’t heard yet how much was raised for all the charities, and specifically for the Shetland project. As soon as I know, I’ll post the figures on this site. In the meantime, we are working on a contribution process for any of you who would like to help the Shetland guild.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Memories...From a Previous Tour to Scotland

Duart Castle, Mull
photo courtesy:
Patricia Grant Hathaway
Tour: A Scottish Journey by Joyce James Tours
Next Tour: Scottish Skeins & Skerries, July 4-19, 2008

Sunday, March 9, 2008

World's fastest knitter

Results of the International Speed Knitting Contest at the Craft Yarn Council of America event in Minneapolis: The title of the world's fastest knitter went to Hazel Tindall, a member of the Shetland Guild of Spinners, Weavers & Dyers. Second prize was won by Miriam Tegels of the Netherlands, and a close third place by Wannietta Prescod of Canada.
You'll be able to meet Hazel on Shetland during the Scottish Skeins & Skerries Tour this July.
Hazel's comments on accepting her prize:
"I am delighted to have won the 2008 competition and grateful for the sponsorship of UK Hand Knitting Association. After hearing about the competition some people have been inspired to pick up their needles again. The best way to learn about knitting is to meet more experienced knitters so I'm pleased to see so much useful information about knitting groups/clubs listed on website where such help can be found.
I'd like to dedicate my success to all the speedy Shetland knitters whose work had to be top quality and quickly produced in order to keep their families from starvation."

Joyce James
Trips for Knitters & Friends

Looking for the perfect gift? Give the gift of Flickr!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

A replica of a Shetland croft house garden at the Chelsea Flower Show

A replica of a Shetland croft house garden will be one of the highlights of the Chelsea Flower Show in May, 2008. The garden will be set against a facade of a traditional Shetland croft and will feature local wildflowers, a stack of peat and a small vegetable and flower garden. There will even be a 'kishie' (a traditional basket for carrying peat) and a Shetland sweater stretched on a jumper board to dry. There will also be a replica of a walking stick, as this particular presentation is to highlight the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

Joyce James
Trips for Knitters & Friends

World’s Fastest Knitter title on the line at Craft Yarn Council of America

Hazel Tindall, a member of the Shetland Guild of Spinners, Weavers & Dyers, will compete for the title of the World's Fastest Knitter at 'Knit Out', during the annual meeting of the Craft Yarn Council of America. This competition takes place in Minneapolis at the Mall of America on Saturday, 16 February. Hazel holds the record for the U.K.'s Fastest Knitter. Her speed is 255 stitches in three minutes.

Previous travellers on Scottish Skeins & Skerries Tours will recall meeting Hazel when we visited with members of the Guild.

Don't forget, I'll be taking a knitting tour to Scotland in July. Get more information on my 2008 Scottish Skeins and Skerries tour at this address: or click the links at the upper right corner of this page.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Scotland Trip planned for July '08

To My Friends & Fellow Travellers:

Happy New Year to you all and best wishes for 2008. I am settled in Ottawa now, having left my nomadic existence in the past, and I look forward to hearing from you. My new phone number is: 613-695-0889 or you can reach me at my email address,

I am pleased to tell you that I have responded to some enthusiastic urging and am organizing a trip to Scotland from July 4 to 19 this year. This will be the twelfth “Scottish Skeins & Skerries Tour”: the itinerary will include Edinburgh, Shetland, Orkney and the Hebrides, and is intended for both first-time and repeat Scottish travellers. The itinerary and highlights are described on my website: As usual, the trip will offer a relaxed, personal approach and will feature private visits with talented craftspeople, both new and familiar.

Free time is scheduled in Edinburgh at the outset of the tour. During our five days on Shetland, you will have ample time to enjoy the sights of Lerwick and visit the new Museum of Shetland; take a cruise to the bird cliffs; perhaps visit the tiny island of Fair Isle or the Shetland islands of Unst and Yell, the most northerly islands in Britain. Certain to be welcome additions to previous tours will be the workshops with members of the Shetland Guild of Spinners, Weavers & Dyers. They will demonstrate their skills in the intricacies of Fair Isle and Shetland lace knitting, and will also be pleased to help you with any knitting problems you may have.

On Orkney we’ll tour the stunning archaeological sites, plus visit talented jewellery designers. We’ll be in Kirkwall during an exhibition of the Orkney Craftsmen’s Guild and you will have an opportunity to purchase the rare North Ronaldsay yarn.

During our visit to the Hebridean islands of Lewis and Harris you will be able to visit the weaving sheds of two well-known Harris tweed weavers, a dyer who uses local plants, and a genealogist who traces the journeys of Hebrideans to all parts of the world. We’ll also have a memorable community dinner prepared by area cooks and a Ceilidh, with local musicians and storytellers.

Throughout the tour we'll stay in centrally-located, comfortable hotels. The tour size will not be large and there will be plenty to interest non-knitting companions. Please watch my website for further details and directions to register. I expect to have the tour cost finalized very soon. In the meantime, please let me know if you have any questions. As I’ve already had a number of requests about this tour, please let me know if you would like to come, and I’ll set aside a place for you. If you have any friends who would like to join us, I would appreciate your passing on this information to them, or letting me know and I will contact them.

With my best wishes,
Tours for Knitters & Friends