Joan Sheridan, who two decades ago opened the doors to Heritage Spinning and Weaving in Lake Orion, did so because she noticed something was missing in the world of textile arts.

"I saw a gap in the marketplace for spinning and weaving in particular, and things kind of grew from there," she said. "We added knitting and crocheting early on." During the years, Heritage Spinning and Weaving has grown into a popular "destination business" for people wanting either to learn a form of textile art or advance their skills. 

"We sell and service weaving looms and spinning wheels, as well as have a wide selection of traditional yarns and tools for knitters and crocheters. The company is known for its knowledge base -- together the staff has over 1,000 years of experience in the textile arts," said Sheridan, who has more than 70 published patterns, many in the Fair Isle knitting technique, to her credit. She also teaches at regional and national conferences and has written project-based articles for a number of textile art magazines. 

To mark the 20th anniversary of Heritage Spinning and Weaving, the Lake Orion resident plans to host several fun and exciting events throughout the year, starting with "Fair Isle Day," set for March 28-29.

What's Fair Isle Day? Sheridan said, "(It's) an exploration of knitting in the Shetland Isle. Knitters of all levels may attend and learn about the colorful knitting heritage, which relies on using a minimum of four to five colors, worked two colors at a time, to make sweaters, hats and other accessories. Heritage has (been) Michigan's Fair Isle knitting headquarters for nearly 20 years."

The event was held last year with 25 attendees, which slightly exceeded the maximum capacity for the shop. "We can accommodate 21 maximum each day," she noted. A second day was added this year to accommodate more participants. "You can come both days, or one, and we'll have the same prizes." They're "identical days," down to the "same tea and biscuits."

Knitters will be using size 1 and 3 needles with a fingering weight Shetland Wool, available at the shop in 225 colors, and priced at $7.10 for a ball with 115 yards. 

"Shetland yarn is unique because the sheep are raised in a harsh environment, on an archipelago 200 miles north of Scotland and exposed to the harsh north Atlantic winds. This living on the edge makes tough people and fine wool, originally dyed using the colors from plants on the islands as well as those traded with seafarers," explained Sheridan.

"As with many cultures, modern life departed from traditional crafts, including knitting, which was done commercially in most Shetland homes," she continued. "Seen as work, the skills were being lost until a volunteer group made a concerted effort to teach the school children on the Islands once again. The Fair Isle Day at Heritage is a fundraiser to support the Shetland Peerie Makker (little knitter) program to help ensure the skills are kept alive and well in their native land."

Sheridan said she learned about the Shetland Peerie Makker program through being a member of several Facebook groups. "I think it's so important that we share our knowledge. The textile arts are from my hands to your hands," she said. The name she chose for her business reflects her "goal" to pass her fiber art skills on to others. 

The fee for Fair Isle Day, which includes refreshments, is $70 (per day) and "most of that goes to Shetland as a contribution for the Peerie Makker knitting program."

Sheridan said, "We'll have three dedicated teachers -- one will teach beginner level, one intermediate, and I will work with the experienced advanced knitters. You must have basic knitting skills and be able to knit in the round. It is technically an intermediate knitting skill to be able to knit in this style." 

Beginners will work on making either a muff or wrist warmers, those at the intermediate level will make a hat, and anyone with advanced skills will work with (pattern) design.

Hours for Fair Isle Day are 9 a.m.-4 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday, and there will be a one-hour break, allowing participants to lunch and/or explore the nearby area on their own. "We have 15 different restaurants within our five-block downtown area," said Sheridan. 

There's no deadline to register for Fair Isle Day, as long as there's space available. Interested people should register in advance at Shetland Wool will be availablefor purchase the day of the event. "We will have some special kits, and there will be various options, depending on the project," said Sheridan. 

Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, or

Contact Heritage Spinning and Weaving (47 E. Flint, Lake Orion) at (248) 693-3690 or Email:

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