Peggy Strang, fulfilling her life with yarn and music

FEATURE ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAL, 10-22-00, By NORMA HIGGINS, Morning Journal Correspondent

AVON -- Peggy Strang keeps her hands busy at her spinning wheel, knitting machine, weaving looms or playing her hammered dulcimer.

''Although, I've been knitting for over 35 years, I never considered myself a creative person. Give me a pattern and I'll follow it, was my approach to literally hundreds of knitted and sewn garments,'' she said.

Strang, 49, a prize-winning fiber artist began knitting when she was 12 or 13 and a blue mohair sweater at F.W. Woolworth's in Willoughby caught her eye.

''I bought the yarn, bought the book and taught myself how to knit,'' she stated.

''I remember, also, while I was in college, to keep myself in knitting projects. I would take my friends to the knitting store, they would pick out the yarn and the pattern, and I would knit it for them. And all it would cost would be the yarn and pattern, I didn't charge, because all I wanted was something to knit and I couldn't afford it myself,'' she explained.

Strang graduated from Western College in Oxford, Ohio, receiving a teaching certificate in Spanish, however, she has never used it.

''I went into international business with the Nordson Corp. in Amherst in 1974 because of my background in Spanish and Portuguese. After we, Jim Strang and I, were married, I continued with the Case Western Reserve Weatherhead School of Management, attaining a master's in business administration.''

She and her husband are parents of Megan, 16, Amy, 14, and Ben, 11, and when the children started arriving, she decided Nordson could find someone to do her job, because there was no one at home to do hers, except for herself.

By the time the children were in school, Strang said, ''I had time on my hands and creativity to spare.''

In 1993, she suggested to her husband that a spinning wheel would be a great Christmas present and received a disassembled spinning wheel mailed from New Zealand ...

As soon as the Christmas visits were over, she started spinning. ''By the end of that evening, I had spun two bobbins, plied them together and had knitted a hat,'' she laughed, pleased with the memory ...

Today, in her three-room French Creek Fiber Arts Studio located in the Gibbs - Binns House, [behind the Tree House Gallery and Tea Room] the home of an Avon pioneer family, there are a number of looms from a small table loom to one that fills one room.

[The Tree House Gallery and Tea Room is located in the "front" house of Olde Avon Village, which is the Alten - Casper House, the original farmhouse of the Mathias Alten property.]

''I opened in July, 1999, on a day topping 103 degrees, and I was trying to sell wool hats and scarves.''

Purchasing the large loom was the result of a serious savings program of the money she earned by teaching others weaving and knitting, as well as teaching students how to play the hammered dulcimer.

''Meanwhile. I went to Artstown, in Avon Lake, and studied with Charlotte Ballas, and I had a chance to use bigger floor looms and a chance to do larger projects.

''My background was from crafts. In other words, follow the directions and make what is pictured, but there I was exposed to weaving as an art, creating in your mind what you wanted to make. I learned to do things from a blank sheet of paper. I learned about design and color and materials.

''While I was weaving there, I found the loom I was looking for, in Pittsburgh, which is over 5 feet wide. It can weave 7 feet wide,'' Strang said. ''But we had to get rid of our couch in our front room at home.

''It was where our Christmas tree always stood, so we just put the Christmas lights on the loom that year,'' she laughed ...

Every nook and cranny of her Avon home was filling with the items she made and there was no place to sell them, she said.

''I was driving through town, watching people come out of the Tree House Tearoom and Gallery, and I thought, there's the market I would like to show my stuff to.''

''The family was growing up and I wanted to get back to work,'' she said. So, using her business acumen, in the spring of 1999 she prepared an extensive business plan as preface to renting the studio.

Strang
Peggy Strang plays a hammered dulcimer at The French Creek Fiber Arts Studio in Avon MORNING JOURNAL/PAUL WALSH

In addition to weaving, Strang teaches students at her home how to play the hammered dulcimer. The echoing tones of the dulcimer set off the sprightly Celtic and mountain compositions that she so enjoys.

''Very simple, very portable and found in every culture of the world in one form or another,'' she said of the dulcimer.

''I had always played music as a child -- the oboe, piano, recorder, and I got my first dulcimer in 1982.''

She taught at the Irish Music Academy in Lakewood and plays her repertoire of Irish and American traditional music at weddings, ice cream socials, mother-daughter banquets, art shows and other events.

''It's like any other instrument. Playing it a little is not hard, playing it well is.''

''I have gifts which were given to me at birth. There are some things I have done to develop these gifts, but I can take no credit for their being here,'' she said about her multi-talents. ''All beauty comes from God and the ability to create beauty that other people can perceive allows God to touch them through the medium of the beauty. So it's a calling, is what I'm trying to say.''

There is much to still learn in her art, said Strang. ''The body of knowledge about weaving is such a vast subject that I can be a beginner for the rest of my life. There will always be a technique I haven't tried, or a texture I haven't explored.''

Her first French Creek Fiber News has been mailed and Strang is expecting a busy fall and holiday season. People can visit her Website at www.frenchcreekfiber.com to find a list of workshops.

''In fact, if you stop here at Christmas time, you will hear the county's only musical loom,'' she said. ''I have a set of bell chimes that I combine with greenery, and when it is plugged in, plays Christmas carols in harmony, and when I weave, it sets the bells off.

Her studio is located at 36840 Detroit Road. The telephone number is 440-934-1236.

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