Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Fiber Fun in Bedford

This past weekend, Sweetie and I had a no-kids weekend in Bedford, PA.  Bedford – in western PA not far from the MD line – got on my radar when Anne blogged about the antique spinning wheel exhibit at the National Museum of the American Coverlet.  We went there partly for that, partly for the hiking trails in Blue Knob State Park (second highest point in the state, Steven!), and partly for the peace and quiet.  It was a great choice for a weekend getaway, less than 2 hours from Gettysburg.

We got there about lunchtime, so commenced walking around downtown looking for a good place to eat.  On the way to a delightful meal at The Green Harvest Company (the kind of place that has more vegetarian options than non – a rare gem in the rural landscape), we spotted a place called Backstage Alpaca Shop.  I had a lovely chat with the owner, who also raises alpaca.  The store stocked some handspun yarn and many things made of alpaca.  We bought some short summery socks in an alpaca nylon blend (think SmartWools, but alpaca and a summer weight).  The owner also gave us some tips for dinner. 

Next we headed to FireSong Handweaving Studio.  I remembered seeing a fullpage ad for this place in the MDSW 2010 catalog and noting that it was in Bedford.  It turns out that it’s new, and only open on the weekends, which was no problem for us.  We got to chatting with the owner and she seemed so familiar to me.  Finally I noticed that some of the tags on her yarn said “Cooksville, MD.”  A-ha!  I asked her name (Diane Kelly) and remembered that she taught my 2-day intermediate spinning class at MDSW 2009.  She and her husband still spend the work week at the farm, but they are planning to retire to Bedford and run the studio fulltime.  The shop is in the old county jail, and it’s such a neat building:IMG_6394 I didn’t take any photos inside (drat!), but it was an exquisite little shop, full of handspun and handwoven and handknit things.  Even some of the iron hooks were handmade (her husband blacksmiths).  I found the shop’s vibe to be very inspirational.  If I lived in Bedford, I’d be tempted to take a weaving class with Diane!  I bought some fiber there – this is 4 oz of 75% BFL 25% mohair roving, hand-dyed by Diane.  Pretty…IMG_6465 After this stop, we went to the National Museum of the American Coverlet, which is a new museum (just opened in 2007).  Like FireSong, this museum is in an interesting old building: a school opened in 1859.  We got a personal tour given by the Director/Curator, Melinda Zongor. At the end, I commented how lucky we were to get such a tour, and she replied “oh, we pretty much insist upon it!”  There is some signage in the museum, but a personal guide imparts so much more information.  It was truly a pleasure to hear about coverlets and weaving from her.  Here’s one picture of an interesting wheel – it has a little trolley-like car that slides back and forth horizontally.  I’m not exactly sure how it works (oh, to have Judith MacKenzie McCuin around to explain!) but it sure looked cool:IMG_6406 If you want to see more photos about Bedford, check out my Flickr set (doubleclick to open the full version and see all the captions).

I also came away from this museum with two more books for my to-read list:

  1. Jacquard's Web: How a Hand-Loom Led to the Birth of the Information Age
  2. Big Cotton: How a Humble Fiber Created Fortunes, Wrecked Civilizations, and Put America on the Map

I know this is a fiber-y blog, but I’ve got to leave you with one last iconic photo from Bedford:IMG_6426This is one of those great Route 30 Lincoln Highway roadside attractions, so many of which were built in the early 20th century.  This one was built in 1927 and was meant to beckon travelers to the adjacent gas station.  This thing has so much more character than a Sheetz sign (which is ubiquitous along route 30 today).  I just loved it and insisted that we do a big U-turn so that I could photograph it.  I googled a little and found out that Bedford isn’t the only place to have a roadside coffee pot – there are so many more to explore!  These will have to wait for another fun getaway weekend, though.

[Steven, note the Roadside America app for iPhone – looks kinda up your alley.]


  1. I have to say that aside from one brief moment in which Google Maps did us wrong and the ac went out (temporariliy) in the car at the same time, this was a fun and delightful trip! Who would have thought some little town in western PA could keep us so entertained. Janelle did not put in any comments about our lovely, but @&&-kicking hike the next day. Also great.

  2. Wow -- I feel like this post was a personal shout-out to me. I'm very jealous -- it looks like a good time. I read Jacquard's Web in 2005 (according to my nerd-o-rific pre-Goodreads spreadsheet) and can highly recommend it.

    Love the big coffee pot -- and will check out the app. I think I'd rather dine inside this coffee pot than inside the skirts of this giant mammy doll restaurant I saw back in my library school days...