Is it a Boy, or is it a Girl? Shhhhhhhh.

The Mistletoe Mart is over for another year.  For me, this show is all-shirts and fascinating people.  Some people load their arms up with the artsy gifts for their loved ones, and others glance around the booth and walk away.  I just go with the flow and try to be helpful.

This year, I had an experience I have never had before, and it made my day.  Amy, a young woman who has bought my shirts in previous years came in all excited and gave me a sealed envelope from her OBGYN’s office.  In the envelope was a document revealing the sex of her yet-to-be-born baby.  From my “Baby Clothes” bin, Amy had gathered a pink baby-T and a blue baby-T.  She asked me to open the envelope when she left my booth, look to see if she was having a boy or a girl, then package up the pink or the blue baby-T accordingly.  So I was given the honor of knowing her baby’s sex before she knew!

She wanted to share this information with her husband (who had been away and was returning that weekend) and she wanted to be surprised right along with her husband.  So I happily complied along with all the giggling shoppers in my booth as we double-bagged the appropriate shirt.  I resealed the envelope with strong tape and hunted Amy down along the hallways at the Mistletoe Mart.  She was excited, and so was I!

A few days later, I got this picture and a thank you note from Amy:

IMG_20151113_142245529 (1)

<<Hello Melinda!
I just wanted to write and say thank you so much for your help at The Mistletoe Mart!!! You were kind enough to package up the pink shirt for our sweet new addition!!! Norah Marie will be here in May and we can not wait to meet her!!! You helped me have a birthday that I will never forget! Thank you again for being a part of our great news!
Amy and Jason and James>>



6 New Kits Available!

Every week or two I will show pictures of the rya kits I am now offering from the Rauma company in Norway.  See if any of these turn you on.  Or maybe you will get ideas for your own designs.

These kits will come with everything you need from yarn, backing, needles, graph, instructions in Norwegian and my instructions in English.  If you live nearby, I’ll hold your hand as you get started.  If I ship to you, I’ll start the first row for you.

#783 Reds

Choice of two sizes: 60 x 110 cm (24″ x 43″) $350. 80 x 120 cm (31″ x 47″) $488.

And do you notice anything interesting about the rya below?

Choice of two sizes: 60 x 110 cm (24" x 43") $350. 80 x 120 cm (31" x 47") $488.

Choice of two sizes:
60 x 110 cm (24″ x 43″) $350.
80 x 120 cm (31″ x 47″) $488.

Alternative B has the exact same graph as the first red design.  Hard to believe that simply by changing the colors the image can change so much.

Rauma Folder14 #784A

Ruama Folder14 #784B

You have probably figured out that the last two photos are of the very same design with different colors.


And a Round option.  I carry round Rauma rya backings, so we could easily select colors of your choice for a unpatterned pile rya…just ask me.

#117 Langfloss Round

Ask for a price on this. I suspect it has a variety of yarns in this piece, so my standard price list might not be accurate. I’ll check.

And that is all I have time to list for you today.  Many more designs will be posted over the coming weeks.  Feel free to share with other rya enthusiasts.  Thank you!


Shall I Keep Printing T-shirts?

Mistletoe Mart and tree glasses 015I may have figured out a rough plan for keeping hand-printed shirts part of my active art life.  In my June Newsletter, I said that I was going to try to figure out a way to phase out the shirts.  I said I might not be doing shows that featured the shirts after 2015.  But I’ve heard from a lot of you that I should not stop, because you would have to go without shirts on your backs, and that could land you in the slammer, I understand.

But, here is my predicament:  I am writing a book on Designing and Making an Off-Loom Rya Rug… I am currently the sole supplier of quality rya supplies in this country–that I know of.  (Tell me if you know of others, please!)  Many people want these supplies and want to know how to use them NOW.  And I have a burning desire to keep creating art in the little art world I have built around my life in the form of floorcloth creations, oil and acrylics paintings and, of course, woodcut and linocut carving.  I don’t know how to do all that without letting go of something.  Carving James Ranch lino 023

So since the shirts have a following, I have decided to keep making them and selling them, but to do it in a smarter way which will make my life easier and maybe easier for you too.

Here is what I have come up with. (Feel free to add your ideas and comments below.)

Shirts stacked1.  Instead of filling a shirt basket with a rainbow of various colors where each size is a different color (just because it was pretty) I will start filling the basket with one or two colors of that particular design and try to have one of every size in that color.  This would prevent major decision-making for you at shows where you have 30 designs to choose from and 20 different colors.  It makes your eyes glaze over.  I will continue to take orders for the designs in your choice of any color made by Comfort Colors.  The result of this action will be that I can answer, “Yes I have that design in your size.”  Rather than “No-but-I-could-print-one-for- you.”

2.   I’ll print shirts on a schedule about every other month and definitely right after my shows.  I will take orders whenever people place an order, but rather than planning an impromptu printing day just to get one shirt done, I will schedule the printing for the next print day even if it is a month away.  That’s just logical really.  Most of you are so kind when you place an order, saying, “No rush, Take your time.”  And I appreciate that.

fireflies blue3.  I will probably gradually phase out most of my silkscreened shirts. (Raven in Flight, Fireflies, Great Blue Heron, Brookie, dare I say Hops?) The storage bins are big and I need the room for yarn.  And besides, admit it, you all want the hand-done shirts anyway.

I love Art in the Park, and I can’t see selling rya rugs there…so I fully intend to be there again next year with shirts.  Hot August Blues at Oregon Ridge Park–Yes I’ll be there with full shirt baskets on August 15th (Counting Crows will be there!), and I will be at the Mistletoe Mart for three full days of shirts on November 12-14.Hot August Music Fest 2014

And if you still need shirts, come to Byrdcall Studio during the Carroll County Artists Studio Tour first weekend in December with your holiday lists in hand.  During the Studio Tour you’ll have a chance to see my rya supplies as well…but THAT is another story.

Thanks for talking me off the cliff.  I’ll still be your shirt person, but maybe a little smarter.

Comments welcome:

I’m Teaching Rya at Common Ground on the Hill this Summer!

Student making color blending choices

As you may know, I have been a regular “student” of the Traditions Weeks at Common Ground on the Hill  since 2000.  If you are not familiar with their programs, take a look at their web site.  It used to be a one-week long residential (and commuter) Arts Camp focusing on the arts in all genres from all cultures. For the past several+ years it has grown into a 2-week camp. During Week II, I am teaching Scandinavian Rya Design where you will design and make your own rya with my guidance. (If you don’t know about rya, watch this 10-minute video I made with the Carroll County Times in 2012.)

I highly recommend taking the whole week off of work or routine if that is possible, and immerse yourself completely in the program. There are 5 periods each day plus meal time and concerts and lectures in the evenings and nights. You will meet people not only from all across the USA, but also the world.  You can also just sign up for one class, but believe me, you will want to stay for more each day.

Byrdcall Studio is filled with colors today.

Students from a previous class create their color combinations that they will knot onto their woven backings.

My class (in Week 2) runs from Monday, July 6 – Friday, July 10 from 9  – 11:45 AM.  We currently have 5 students signed up, but this kind of class is even more fun with a few more because you all will get to see what each other are working on which expands your knowledge of the craft. You don’t need any particular skills or knowledge in fiber arts. I can provide all the supplies you might need since they truly are very hard to find otherwise.)  Click here to see my Workshop Write-up.

ShelvesofyarnFor those of you who live out-of-the -area, what a perfect chance for learning new skills, meeting new people, enjoying (and learning) arts and music from all around the world in a safe and easy environment–McDaniel College campus in Westminster, Maryland.  If this interests you, do not delay.  Classes are filling quickly.  Hope to see you there.  Feel free to share this with anyone who love the arts and sharing and learning with others.



This is the beginning of Angie Michal’s very first rya which she designed and knotted.


When It Rains . . .

So just when life is rosy, and I’m feeling spunky, I made a big booboo. You see I am showing my shirts at Art in the Park this Saturday, (June 6, 2015) and recently booked a booth space at the Deer Creek Fiddlers Convention for the following weekend (June 13) to make the most of the time it takes to prepare for a show and load the van…. I just figured I’d leave the shirts in the van between shows…

van doorSo, the booboo: I was taking non-show stuff out of the van a couple of nights ago, and got distracted.  I left the side van door wide open all night.  Why was this a problem?  Well, it rained about 4″ that night and my carpeted van was quite saturated. Luckily no art work was in there, but still a wet van is nasty.  So I shop-vacced it, ran a little space heater, even used an iron on the carpet with a blotter fabric…and finally remembered the dehumidifier (which is working great.)

Why haven’t we had the hot Maryland days that we had last week to help me dry out? We went weeks without rain and now its is raining every day which doesn’t help me much. Now I’ll have to unload all the shirts as soon as I get home from Art in the Park so they don’t absorb funky smells from drying carpet.  Ahh, the best laid plans. Shirts stacked

So my bins of hand-printed shirts and much more await loading until the very last minute.  By the way I have a ton of shirts and I hope you will take one (at least) home from Art in the Park or the Deer Creek Fiddlers Convention.

Then to top off this streak of bad luck, I slammed my finger in the van’s sliding door a couple of hours ago. It’s not broken, but it is a fat and damaged finger which I can not bend–well maybe because it is splinted. How do you like my professional bandage and splint job?  finger splintThanks for letting me take a few moments of your time to whine and share my booboo wirh you. I do feel better now.  See you this weekend or next.  And know that I have gone to great measures to keep your shirts smelling fresh for you!  Cheers!



Rya in a Day!



OK, I admit, it is only 12″ x 12″, but that is because I made it for the 12th Anniversary of my favorite art people, the Carroll County Arts Council.  The Carroll Arts Center opened the doors to their new home in the old art deco theater at 91 West Main St, Westminster, Maryland 12 years ago.  (I was fortunate to be a member of the Board of Directors back when this excitement was taking place!) They are celebrating with an art exhibition where every piece hanging on the wall will be 12″ x 12″ and sell for $144.00.  What a bargain! The show is called Footworks and will run from April 16 – June 5.  Opening reception is 4/16 from 5:30 – 7:30 PM.

1Now for you rya-curious folks (or rya experienced folks) here is what I did.  I hemmed an acrylic rya backing to 12″; no problem.  Then I did something I have never done before.  I cut the backing vertically to 12″.  I’ve always told people not to do that because it would compromise the strength of the rug, but, hey, this is only a 12″ piece.  No one is going to walk on it.  So I zig-zag stitched the edge a few times, and it was a perfect 12″ x 12″ piece.

Then with a laundry marker I drew the rough image of concentric “flower bloom” lines [Theresa Nkonde’s interpretation] or “nebula explosion lines” [Marge Simmons’ interpretation].  By 9 AM I had the drawing complete.  I had no intention of working on it all day.  I gathered a few small partial skeins of random “hot” colors and started knotting at the lower left corner.  My intention was to work for a half hour or so blending the darker colors to the yellow-hot center adlibbing all the way.3

I had yarn orders to fill, I had a book to write, a dog that needed a walk, and a lasagna to make before supper; but throughout the day I kept going back to this little rya just to see how “one more row” would change its appearance.


I was addicted, I admit, so I worked feverishly off and on all day.  Why did I use the acrylic backing you ask (instead of wool)?  For one thing, I have a lot of it, and it is the least expensive backing I have. Also, it is white which makes drawing images on it a cinch, and while it is not really a floor-worthy backing, it is great for a wall-hanging or work of art.  And for the first time, I used 4 strands of yarn on the needle instead of 3 to really give it a rich solid feel.  And finally for you really perceptive folks, you might be wondering how it would fit as a 12×12 piece of art when the pile clearly extends beyond the 12×12 backing.  You are so observant!  As I knotted, I pulled the knots just tight enough to bring the width to 11.5 ” and the pile extends out the extra width to make it a perfect 12×12.

6Well, you guessed it, before the sun set, it was complete, and I love it.  So HOT!  I realize I could do the same backing preparation for others and gather similar yarns in small amounts (in some cases just a few strands of certain colors.)  So this will be a high priority for me to make available for others.  I’ll come up with a few color schemes, too.  Stay tuned–or if you can’t wait, just ask me to make a kit for you.  The acrylic backing is really 27 inches wide.  I might suggest keeping it that width so it doesn’t have to be cut.  The over all look would be almost the same.  Just wait and see what I come up with as an offering for those of you who really like this piece.  I call it FIREFLOWER.

Watch it GROW in time-lapsed video–a one day rya.  Click below for a silent 30-second show.

Has anyone else tried drawing a pattern on a backing?  How did it work for you?  It sure makes for a fast knotting project.  Feel free to offer comments below.  Your comment won’t appear immediately, but soon after you post, it will be shared.  Thanks for reading along with me.

New Feature: Rya Artist Spotlight on Judy Nelson-Moore


I generally share info about what’s happening in the studio or how I do a certain art technique, or fun art shows coming up.  This month I want to share with you someone who has amazed me beyond words. Judy Nelson-Moore, an accomplished ceramics artist from Santa Fe, had never made a rya rug in her life, but contacted me with an email that started: “After seeing your website, reading your blog and email news, buying a rya backing, and ordering rya yarn samples, I almost feel like I know you!  I hope you will not mind if I send you pictures of the entry rug I plan to make using the backing I bought from you and ask your advice about the yarn.”  Thus began the a relationship across the states, of one artist with another.  Judy shared with me her technique for graphing her design with the help of her extensive computer know-how.  2original imageGraphing with the help of a computer had been something I’d been trying to figure out for months!  She applied logic and figured it out.  She went on to say, “Unfortunately, the ease of doing the designs was almost a liability.  I have about 200 images in my “rya” folder.  It has taken me far too long to decide, but I finally have the selected design.” The design she chose was full of blended shades which could be daunting to most beginners, but I had no doubt she could do it.  3FinalDesignwGraphOverlayShe made a graph overlay and plotted out her course.  Next she had to select colors to make this design come to life. Since she had the sample color card in hand, she selected lots of colors.  I am always happy to help a designer by cutting skeins so they don’t have to buy more than they need just for small areas or highlights.  5YarnFrom MelindaByrdForFirstRYARug_1000

So once Judy gave me her yarn request, I piled it on the studio table and send her a photo to be sure the pile matched her vision of her rya.  The yarn was all Lundgren yarn (my grandparents’) and the backing from Finland if I’m not mistaken.  With the yarn in her hands, she was able to more accurately chart out her progress. 6 RyaRugYarnSwatchColorAreasShe created needle threading combinations and a color chart for herself. Everyone does this differently and it is great fun for me to see how she chose to keep her vision on track.  In essence, this is comparable to the painter’s palette where countless color combinations can be created.  (Other rya artists, how do you create your color combinations?)

At just beyond the halfway point these are some of the most subtle blendings I’ve ever seen in a rya. (And I’ve seen a lot of ryas!)  Look at the strands of yarn on the margins–her way of knowing when to change colors.   She followed the graph very closely up to this point she tells me.

7january judynelsonmoore rya - CopyI can only imagine that half way into the rug, she began to feel like the “captain of the ship” and details of the graph become less important than the feel of blending colors.

8judy nelson-moore with rya (2)A few days ago, I received another email and more photos from Judy.  It read, “Melinda, I finished the Rya Rug I had started knotting in September.  In retrospect, it doesn’t seem so very long, but it has seemed like a long time during the making!  Thank you for being there when I decided to make this rug…couldn’t have done it without you!  I really love the finished rug.  My husband thinks we should hang it on the wall instead of putting it on the floor where our three cats will probably adopt it, but I am fixated on putting it in the entry to replace my grandmother’s rug. “9Completed rya in situ

What do you think, friends?  On the floor or on the wall?

Your choice, Judy. On the wall, it will always look as beautiful as it does today. On the floor, it will still be beautiful, but will gradually show signs of living and household activities.  In this photo, the rya is a great focal point in your hallway gallery.  I think if your three cats have any say in the matter, it will stay on the floor.


10Diablo Inspects 1stRya

I am often asked if I find satisfaction working on the computer so much, cyber-connecting with people who I may never meet…such an impersonal way to conduct business.  NOT!  Most of my rya connections are with people who live very far from me.  But with connections like I’ve made with Judy, I can honestly say that I am more than thrilled with life as it is.  Once my how-to rya book is published, I will be able to get out more, meet people, teach classes.  I am really looking forward to that.

Would you like to learn more about Judy Nelson-Moore?  You might even see in her ceramics works designs similar the the rya design she brought forth.  Take a look at her website to see her other works.  I think I would like to see her add on to her Dancing Mud Studio an area called Judy Dances With Wool!

11nextprojectIn Judy’s first email to me, she had just selected her design from many she had created.  Here is another of her designs that I really liked and hope it becomes her next reference for rya #2.

Wouldn’t you just love to see this in wool?   I have already put the bug in her ear that she may have requests for designing assistance from others. We’ll see. Go, Judy, Go!

PS  Judy recently wrote about her experience with the rya project from her perspective.  It has a lot more detail and background info.  Take a look for “the rest of the story.”


The Yarn Guys Come to Byrdcall Studio

The Yarn Guys

Three Yarn Geeks: Me, Dennis Rinkenberger, and Jeffrey Wall in Byrdcall Studio

One year ago this month, I found The Yarn Guys.  They are the exclusive distributors in North America for the Rauma Wool Factory in Norway which has been producing excellent wool yarns since 1927.  Anyway, I found The Yarn Guys in Illinois in pursuit of the best rya rug yarn available to supplement my rya yarn supplies.   It is spun of fleece from the indigenous Spaelsau sheep of Norway, a tough and hardy breed.

Gorgeous natural grays

Gorgeous natural grays

I have been gradually buying more and more ryegarn (rya yarn) colors from them as well as awesome heavy wool backings.   It has been years since I’ve seen natural grays in rya yarn… Look at the mixed fibers in these skeins.  And the dyed yarn is gorgeous, too.

So it came as quite a nice surprise to get an email from Jeffrey Wall of The Yarn Guys yesterday saying that he and Dennis Rinkenberger–the other Yarn Guy–were heading to a yarn show in New York City and heck, Baltimore is nearly along the way from northwest Illinois, so why not stop by my studio, bring me some Rauma Rya kit catalogs and check out my studio.  We had a great morning together “talking shop.”

Look at this luscious spectrum of colors!

Look at this luscious spectrum of colors!

Why is this so exciting to me? Well, how many people do I come across in real-life-time who even know what rya (rye) is, much less work with the yarns everyday?  So much of my day is on the computer emailing and responding to rya questions, which–don’t get me wrong–I enjoy very much, but face to face with other humans who live and breath this stuff is exhilarating. One of the most exciting things that I learned is that I am the only supplier in the USA at this time for the Rauma rya backings!  That is very cool.  And I am totally sold on the quality. I think that I will soon be on my way to adapting my “hundreds of designs” to fit the Rauma backings.  The other cool thing about meeting these guys today is the fact that they are just learning about rya rug-making now, and I’m hoping that they left feeling like the possibilities are endless…which they are.

… And later in the day, the floor loom that my grandfather, William E. Lundgren, made half a century ago came back home to me today… but that is another story for another day.

Love ya!   Melinda

Last Minute Shopping Made Easy


Yes, I know, I never post “ads,” but I was so happy with how these Great Blue Heron linocut printed shirts came out, I just had to show them off to you.  And while I’m showing them off, why not give you a chance to grab one (or two) for a gift.  The ink is dry and they are ready to mail.  You can ask for custom orders at this point, but they won’t be done by Christmas.  These in the pictures below are ready to go today… first requested, first served.

Normally my black ink shirts are $25 for short-sleeves and $30 for long-sleeves.  The Great Blue Heron is my only two-block process which takes and extra day of printing, so they cost $5 more.  But I think you’ll agree they are worth it.  If you want one, email me right away at and tell me which style, size and color you want.  You will get the actual shirt in the photo (unless someone requests it before you.)  I’ll send you an online safe credit card invoice from and that just takes a minute.  Then the shirt(s) go in the mail.  If you are requesting from Maryland, I must add 6% tax, and if I’m mailing it as opposed to you picking it up, I’ll add $4.00.  OK, here are the available shirts:

Men’s (Unisex) Short-sleeve: gbh3 copy

Ladies Short-sleeve: gbh5 copy

Ladies Long-sleevegbh4 copy

and for Youth/Child Sizesgbh2 copy


And in case you are wondering, I have hundreds of other shirts in other designs, but if your brain is as frazzled as mine, I thought you might benefit from a simple one-design choice.  And, it’s a lot more fun to get a hand-printed gift from a local artist, than a Walmart special. Try to relax and breathe.  (Actually, that advice was for me.)  Happy Holidays to you all!



Open Studio: Old Friends, New Friends, Cookies, and Mead

Having a good time gathering gifts for friends while sipping on cider and home made mead.

Having a good time gathering gifts for friends while sipping on cider and home made mead.

The first week-end in December brings the Carroll County Artists Studio Tour. Nearly a dozen local artists open their studios to the public to visit, purchase gifts, and learn about the various arts being creating in our community.  This was my fourth year as a participating artist.  We had about 50 visitors Saturday and about 30 on Sunday.

I like Open Studio because I don’t have to pack bins and load the van, nor unload and set up at a satellite location.  All I really have to do is “clean house” (studio), make things visually accessible, and bake cookies.  Since so many of you asked, here is the recipe for the most popular cookie on the plate: Swiss Cinnamon Crisps.  I added sliced almonds on top of mine in the egg wash. (I’ve got to make more , since you all ate mine.) 😉

Gypsy, my studio Lab Assistant, curls up in my chair during a quiet moment

Gypsy, my studio Lab Assistant, curls up in my chair during a quiet moment


Can you still buy shirts or yarn before the holidays?  Yes. I still have lots of shirts (hand-printed and silk-screened) which I can mail in plenty of time for the holidays.  If you are nearby, we can arrange a drop-in visit.  Email me at or call 410-549-4889.  Or check out my “buy-it-now” shop at Byrdcall on Etsy.  And here is a very special offer just for you blog readers.  If you order anything I offer on Etsy before Jan.31, 2015, use the discount code BYRDCALLBLOGREADER when you check-out and 10% will be deducted from your purchase.  (That will definitely defray any postage charged.)  But, mum’s the word–this is a special just for you.

inkle loom with barrettes

I found time over the weekend to weave on my Inkle Loom (which I haven’t done in ages).  Here I am making the rya yarn barrettes that I often wear.  They have long yarn which I like because it looks like I have mini “dreads” in multi-colors.  When I finish making them into barrettes, I’ll post them in my etsy shop.  This week as time permits, I’ll bring the etsy shop up to date with listing of the actual sizes and colors of all shirts on hand. [To see the link on etsy Click here.]

I hope you are all finding a little time to breathe and enjoy friends and family during the holiday season.  It can be pretty tough when we don’t.  I have to keep reminding myself of that.

Cheers!  Feel free to add comments below!

A Close-up of the weaving on the Inkle loom.

A Close-up of the weaving on the Inkle loom. I chose the natural gray wool edge so it will be “believable” mini-dreads in my hair.