What To Do…What To Do….

Some upcoming fiber shows:

I love taking workshops and going to galleries and talking fiber to anyone who has an interest. Last year was all about relocating and I didn’t have the time or energy to go to workshops or conferences. This year all bets are off, and I thought some of you might be interested in some events on my list.

I began my fiber journey by taking weaving lessons with my mother when I was in college. We both took to it immediately. I was a Second Grade teacher and did not have the money or the time to get as involved in the craft as my mother did, but we both joined The Handweaver’s Guild of America and attended many of the biennial Convergence conferences across the US and Canada. Weaving was hugely popular in the 1970’s and 1980’s but not so much these days, so the group now embraces all manner of fiber crafts. The 2014 version is in Providence, Rhode Island, the home of the amazing Rhode Island School of Design and an area rich in textile history. I just downloaded the class and workshop list. {..sigh…} There is a lot going on! This is on the maybe list.

Long on my bucket list has been to attend something at Asilomar. Many moons ago they had a rug hooking week, but popularity for that craft has waned. The winters are now filled with quilting workshops, called Empty Spools Seminars. The locale, on a peninsula near Monterey CA, is supposed to be amazingly beautiful and of course any time you can immerse yourself in a craft you adore with like-minded souls for 5 days is heaven indeed! I wanted to attend a workshop with Melinda Bula and do a flower of my own (remember the wonderful zinnia top that’s waiting to be completed???) but this isn’t the year. They always have the most amazing teachers….

The big rug hooking event this year will be rug hooking week in Ohio at Sauder Village, August 13 – 16. I very much enjoyed it when I attended a few years ago. It’s always a treat to see a lot of hooked rugs on display, but this year an exhibit of woven coverlets will be included! On my to-do list when I started weaving was to make a coverlet…… not so much now, but I still love to look at them. This is another maybe…

The American Quilt Society has added two shows to their list this year, and since they are nearby, I am sure I need to go to them! One is in Charlotte NC, on July 30 – August 2. The other is in Chattanooga TN from September 10 – 13. I am hoping to throw Peter and his bikes in the car and have a little vacation there; it looks like a lovely spot. And maybe I should enter the quilt I’m working on in one of the shows???

There are all sorts of small, local events that I will be attending and will share with you. One of the many reasons we chose this area (of SC, NC and TN) was because there are many craft related events that seem to be well supported and attended.

This is just a sprinkling of fiber shows you may not have heard about. Where are you headed this year to feed your creative spirit???

Pro Chem Wool Dyeing Workshop

I have been dyeing wool for years and years and years. My mother and I took weaving lessons when I was in college and I found that the fibers I wanted to use only came in their natural colors. Not being a beige or white person, I started to read and do research. Way back then most people were into natural dyeing, which I tried but quickly discarded. It’s anything but natural with the strong chemicals that can be needed to fix a natural substance. I discovered the go-to company for supplies and information at a Convergence – Don Weiner and his Pro Chemical & Dye Company was and is the place to find anything relating to dyes! I attended some of his lectures and bought one of the few books which he endorsed. Some years later, when getting my Professional Crafts Certificate at The Worcester Craft Center, I had a lesson on wool dyeing from my teacher, Fuyuko Matsubara. Other than that, I’m self-taught. And I often have questions and when something goes wrong, I can’t always figure out why.

The wool dyeing workshop at PRO Chem caught my eye a few years ago and when I thought I’d be hanging around waiting for the house to sell this summer (ha!), I signed up. There were 13 of us, with varied and amazing backgrounds in fiber. Introductions were the first day, when we were anxious and excited, so I don’t remember a lot, though amazingly enough there was another rug hooker in the group!!! Our instructor, Vicki Jensen, has been working at Pro Chem for 17 years, and was full of great information and inspiration.

I was quite curious about how we’d do so many dye samples in two days. We used 12 of PRO Chem’s pure colors; that is the dye powders they use to formulate their other colors. Dyeing them in their many possible combinations is a lot of samples……1000? 1200? more? Turns out we steamed the samples, which is something I’ve never done. We were assigned a color family and we had to mix the dye formulas and paint the tiny skeins. The process of steaming only takes 30 minutes, as opposed to more than an hour for an immersion bath, thus we were able to get many, many colors done each day.

Painting dye

After being painted, they were carefully wrapped in plastic wrap and labeled and then put in a bucket to await steaming. And then we started on another formula.

Ready to steam

When they came out of the steamer, the plastic was wrinkly and sticky, but not melted! Vicki would sort them into their color families to cool.

Ready to unwrap

Then they were rinsed and spread out to dry. Here are some wet value studies…..


We spent two days doing this. It was quite hard work as each sample had its own set of formulas. We had to concentrate to make sure that we would all get accurate samples. Aren’t these great?

More samples

All About Eliza

I finally have some free time to write about Eliza, the rug that I started in the class with Donna Hrkman in March!!! Although I wasn’t doing anything as complicated as a face, dear Eliza is giving me a challenge! The first question I had for Donna, was should the birds be hooked realistically or in a fanciful folk art style? Donna felt that they should be fanciful to go with the Fraktur nature of the design. My other big concern was I might use for the background of the center of the rug and happily we both liked the “parchment” colored plaid that was among some that I had chosen to audition. {whew} Finding a background can be A Big Deal. The wrong color can kill a design, for sure.

I love/hate the birds and as they are the central part of the rug design, I need to get them right first. The flowers will be fun and easy. Their necks and funny heads appeal to me, but the tails and wings seem so like peacocks, which is not the sort of bird I want to hook. Donna and I sat down on the floor with my big container of colored wool and picked through it. There really is a lot of area in each section of the birds and they are about equal; the neck/breast, the wings and the tail. Here’s the first color try during the first day.

Peacock colors˜

Foxy Ladies meets in Lisle, IL, which was at least a 45 minute drive for me. On the way home, zooming along in traffic, I thought about what I had hooked on Eliza….. By the time I got home and Peter asked if I was happy with what I had hooked that day I said “No!”. Here’s what I told him – The plaid/texture in the wings as well as the gold I’d chosen to highlight them was too “dull”; my colors are pretty bright and clear. And though I did not want to hook a peacock, somehow I had chosen what screamed to me as peacock  blue-green for the head/breast area. I needed a new plan. That night every time I woke up I puzzled over the color dilemma. And the next morning I had another 45 minute drive to think some more. When I arrived at the workshop venue, I spread the rug and wools all over the floor again. Below is the next experiment. I love purple and the breast/neck is now hooked in two over-dyed houndstooth fabrics that I bought from Donna. They are mellow but happy colors. You can see just how different the two color plans are! She suggested that the eyes pop out and I always like birds that have crazy and kooky waddles or eye colors, so that went easily.

Pretty purple

Then I started to play with the wing area. In Asia, I saw a lot of blue greens and yellow greens put together and I like the sweet/sour aspect of that, so I tried a section. Notice I did the feather area… I’m not sure whether I like the criss-cross area of the wing. Then it was time to decide on the tail colors. Donna pointed out that I had used all cool blues, greens and purples so far…..I hadn’t done much in the pink/orange families, so I chose another of Donna’s over dyed houndstooths in magenta. I like the idea of incorporating every color I want to use in the rug in the birds and then the flowers and leaves will relate well to the middle. Looking at the magenta, it just seemed so strong. I don’t want the bird to be all about the tail!

Too much magenta

I made some time, the week after the workshop, to dye some more of the colors I thought I would want. I also ordered some back up colors from Donna. What to do? What to do? The tail is giving me fits!

Crocheting Granny Squares

I am not ashamed to admit it; I love Granny Squares, but they give crocheting a bad rap, I’m told.

When I took the crochet class a year ago, I thought I knew how to crochet and had just forgotten. As I worked along, having so much trouble managing the yarn and making stitches, I realized that I didn’t! Many, many years ago both my mother and her mother began crocheting granny square afghans for a nursing home that had just opened. Mom went to our wonderful 5 & 10 cents store in town and bought every color of Red Heart polyester wool they had. She would pick and choose what color to use in each row; some were pretty; others not so much, but when the whole afghan was crocheted together, it was wonderful. I wanted to know how to do everything she did, so soon I was playing with the colors myself. And now I realize that Mom taught me how to make a granny square, not how to crochet.

When I mentioned in the crochet class that I wanted to make granny squares, my teacher proceeded to bring out samples and patterns for other projects I might do. She did divert me with the potato chip scarf, but I was determined to make granny squares. I had another private lesson with her last week and discovered that she really dislikes granny squares, so now I know why she keeps trying to lead me in another direction! I get it; they can be crude looking, but I love them. Here’s my thinking:

Granny Squares = crochet     as    Grandmother’s Flower Garden = quilting

Granny squares are an easy take along project that can be lovely and sublime or dreadfully garish. I have a (subdued) selection of wools that I know I will enjoy playing with. It’s a wonderful color plan; all these soft heathers with a dark purple to lace them together. Making granny squares with my mother was probably my first exposure to playing with color!

Granny squares yarn

If you’ve looked at patterns for them, Granny Squares run the gamut from the basic square to designs with really cool 3D flower middles. My plan for this afghan is to make a bunch of the basic squares and then sprinkle in the fancy ones. I am using this book to give me ideas.

The Granny Squares Book

I have been working away and in this week’s private lesson, I will learn how to make some flowery middles!

First Granny Square

All About (Human) Faces; with Donna Hrkman

The past two weeks have been so busy; readying the house for the painters to come, getting wool and supplies collected for the Foxy Ladies’ workshop with Donna Hrkman and then starting to get the house re-organized and cleaned….. I know some Foxy Ladies have probably been waiting for this post!

We had Donna working with us for three days! I’ve never done a rug hooking class for that long and you get a lot done and learn so much. If you look at her website, Donna’s speciality is faces, both human and wild ones. This rug was designed and hooked by Donna for the annual Sauder Village Rug Hooking Week challenge. The rules were that the pieces had to show an athlete and include all the colors in the Olympic rings in the piece. Isn’t this a fabulous design ???

Donna Hrkman Olymoic Spirit

As I mentioned in another post, with all that’s going on now, I just couldn’t do anything that required much thought or originality. There are several family photos which I would like to hook some day, but this isn’t the time.Though I wasn’t hooking facial features, I did enjoy listening and watching as people’s “subjects” appeared. Some of the patterns were drawn by Donna from photos that were sent to her, but several of our group drew their own designs. They are all going to be such fun and special pieces.

Karen was working on her own design of her son swimming in Lake Michigan. We all loved his towhead and also the great sand and water texture that Karen was busy hooking on the third day. The background is going to be all about texture and color and movement. {I bet she has it done by our next meeting!}

Karen's son

Carol was working on these four bathing beauties drawn by a friend. She is using a wide cut of wool and eye-popping colors in this stylized design. If you look closely, you can see that Donna drew some cute patterns on the bathing suits. It will be fun for Carol to hook.

Carol's bathing beauties

Lynette was hooking her kindergarten school picture. In this shot you can see how everyone was working from a photograph, or several. Donna called this the source material and used it to help each hooker decide where to put what value. Many people had the photos posterized, which lessens the colors and makes the image more graphic so it is easier to see, draw and hook the values.

Lynnette's self portrait

Linda had a challenging design with three faces! You can see that she has a great start on them.

Linda's faces

Pam was working on a self-portrait of herself hiking some years ago which Donna drew for her. Pam’s face was one of the smaller ones being hooked and required less detail but bolder values for her face to emerge.

Pam's portrait

And I do like the way that Pam works. She fills these baskets with all the wools she is using. They are so appealing and make it easy to choose the next color. I am afraid that the cats would find them appealing as well…

Pam's baskets

Donna did several demonstrations and here she is hooking a human eye. Trained as an artist, she had so many great tips about how to paint with wool. Here she is talking about adding the white dot to make the eye look real.

Donna's eye

{Sorry ladies – I missed a few human projects – I know I photographed them but I think my camera was not working, and if you want to send me a picture, I will post it.} In another post, I’ll share photographs of the animal portraits being done.

Beth, who was sitting opposite me, was hooking a portrait that she drew of her grandson Will and she kindly sent me his photo to add to this post! This is his school picture and I think she’s doing a great job with him. Can you see the white dots in his eye that make him look so animated?

Beth's Will


The Livingroom Rug Quilt is Completed!

Dreaming of India top

Hooray! I have declared that this quilt top is  finished. I was debating making it bigger, but the borders are wide and this quilt just needs to be done. As you can see, I added a corner detail to the border. I dug out the discarded color samples of flying geese and New York Beauty and added some of the vine-y fabric that is in the centers of the quilt squares. In looking at Toby’s quilt, there is a detail that I have been debating – the bias binding. She hand sewed it along the edge of all the flying geese.  I am thinking that I may just do it around the center medallion. It’s beautiful, but again, she was making a show quilt.

While I was sewing the blocks together I flipped them the wrong way and discovered  another interesting variation of this pattern. Wouldn’t three of the medallions be pretty down the center of a bed? I laid it on our queen and twin sized mattresses, but I think it would be a perfect fit for a double bed. Playing with the setting of quilt squares is really fun!

Medallion variation

Here is the livingroom quilt with the livingroom rug and a chair that it might sit on. (The quilt is brighter in this picture; the background is close to the golds in the rug.) I’m pleased. I think I’ll call it Dreaming of India.

Livingroom rug/quilt

If you know and love cats, then you get this picture. When I am doing just about anything, the kitties are nearby. Gizmo thoroughly sniffed the quilt top as though he’d never done so before and then burrowed underneath it for a nap. I guess the Inspector has approved it.

The inspector

And here is something for quilters only! I found this on someone’s Pinterest page and sent it to all my quilting buddies. Here’s the link for you.

1344347302406_1717161 Of course, now this quilt top moves to the machine quilting to do list…….

More About the Zinnia Quilt

Here is Melinda‘s lovely pink zinnia to inspire me. And here is mine at the end of class, ready to be put on the background fabric.

Out of my suitcase comes the pattern, instructions and the roll containing the partially completed zinnia and already fused fabrics. I move the zinnia to the background fabric and fuse the middle of it – petals will still need to be moved to arrange the highlight fabrics. I clear a table and sit down with the directions and the rest of the pattern pieces and fabrics…..there’s lots more cutting to be done!

Looking between the pattern and the flower, trying to decide which petal is which is making my eyes cross. I decide to number the petals with stickers and mark the pattern with red marker so I can easily see what petal I am working on. Look at all these bitty pieces…..lots and lots of them. I decide to cut each color and carefully place it on the petal.

As I move from petal to petal, I am placing the tiny pieces, moving them about and trimming them when I think they look odd. It’s not easy to do as most of the petals have so many highlights. Huh.

After some fiddling around, I realize that all the tiny pieces need to be on each petal and then I can arrange and cut them to fit. So (below) you can see it – all the little pieces are on the corresponding petal and it looks like the camera didn’t focus. What comes next is fiddling, making each piece look like it belongs on the petal. Melinda suggested in class that we be freer about cutting and placing the highlight fabrics…. I get that idea, but it’s not my pattern or my colors. For this first attempt, I am pretty much following her pattern.

I bring it upstairs to the kitchen table to watch/listen to the Sunday games. And then I realize that the light in the kitchen is better. However, I need to keep the cats from helping. Their little hairs get on everything….

And here it is, ready to quilt! It’s amazing how the highlight pieces make such a difference! Fusing makes me nervous – the top seems so fragile.When I get it quilted, then I can store it and feel like it is safe. I am pretty pleased with my zinnia!

And now, back to the livingroom quilt……

Teaching an Extreme Beginning Quilt Class: the preparation

I had the pleasure of teaching a beginning quilt class at the Glen Ellyn Public Library last week. I thought that those of you who like to teach or who are looking for new places to offer classes, might like to know how I plan and execute this type of class. I enjoy these groups because you get such a variety of curious people, much more so than when you teach at a quilt shop. I dub them extreme beginning classes as most people have not worked with a needle and thread…

I started teaching at libraries a few years ago. We have a friend whose wife is a librarian and in charge of programs. She is always looking for new ideas and when her husband told her about my studio full of fiber stuff, she called me and we came up with a plan. The libraries in this area pay about $100 per 2 hour class. It sounds like a lot, but I provide everything (except scissors) and so I have a lot of preparation. In these days of high gas prices, they will often add some money for that. The participants pay a $5 fee. More than paying for the class, I’m told that the fee makes people actually come to the class.

Of course I teach my favorite hand sewing shape – hexagons – and sometimes baby blocks.  It’s worked well. Nancy, my first librarian, has been in charge of  enrichment activities for years and she helped me shape my class.

Here is what I take:

  • Threaded needles! Nancy was very concerned that people could not thread needles and that sure is true! (Bad lighting plays a big part) In the photo below you can see pieces of pink felt with the threaded needle and a few pins.
  • The template for them to make and use at home.
  • Mechanical pencils, plastic templates, sandpaper, scissors and thread
  • A sample ready to sew. You need “swap outs” as they are called on TV, so I have some hexes ready to sew together and some sewn and ready to attach to the middle. (Use contrasting thread so that the ladies can see your stitching.)

  • Six hexes cut and ready for the students to sew for the “petal” area of the Grandmother’s Flower.
  • Fabric choices for the middles.

  • An iron, an extension cord and a towel to press on. I do want to show them the whole process and pressing is an important step.
  • Rulers for them to add the quarter-inch seam.

A word of warning – librarians may push you, so be careful what you commit to! My second gig was for a librarian who had done some quilting with her church. I tried to sell her the GFG class but she wanted more. (In hindsight I think that she chose the class for her needs rather than the participants’) I had taken some quilts to show her and she chose two patterns she liked…… She wanted me to teach this basket and an Ohio Star and include everything they would need! It’s hard to remember why I agreed but it was a tremendous amount of work to prepare for and then to teach. And waaaaaaay too complicated for most of the group. Simple is better!!!

Do not forget to bring extra fabric, needles, supplies, everything!!! I did not bring extra fabric when teaching the flower basket class and it was a disaster! Luckily not everyone who signed up was able to come and so I took apart the kits and quickly cut some pieces, but the librarian was quite annoyed. And I was so angry with myself for getting hornswoogled into teaching an inappropriate beginning project!

A Hooker’s Gathering 3/24

Saturday was a busy day! I had two events at Pieceful Gathering; one was the second meeting of Primitive Rug Hooking and the other was A Hooker’s Gathering; our attempt to get the ladies who have learned how to hook, together. PG has many clubs and we are hoping to get one going for the hookers. I thought it would be fun to give everyone a free pattern each time we have a Hooker’s Gathering. If they like it, then we can get it traced onto linen and color plan the design. Here is what I have completed of the Spring design. It’s a runner I called Welcome Tulips!

I was very pleased that my hooking buddy/student/fellow blogger Laura said she’d like to do it as well. Laura loves all colors and designs primitive and I knew hers would be dramatically different from mine. And here is Laura with a brighter than usual palette! (She must have been feeling Spring-y too.) She is using a wider cut of wool, so her overall design is larger.

Laura has done a lot of hooking since taking a class with me. Here is her latest rug next to an antique rug of mine.

Nancy came to the Gathering and brought a new piece she’s started.

This woman came to the Gathering with lots of projects she had hooked. I am sorry I don’t remember her name! This was a pattern she said she’d designed herself. Very sweet!

And this pattern I think she said was supposed to be a runner. She didn’t want to do it that way and divided it and made two pillows. Clever idea!

Two ladies from former classes have been working on the Katie’s Leaves pattern. Julie is done and was trying to decide how to finish her piece. She’s thinking of making a pillow.

Brenda worked on her pattern during the Gathering and class and got quite a bit done.

I thought the Gathering went well and am hoping for a good group attending on June 16th.

Gail Garber Class – day one

Peter and I drove down to Bloomington Indiana last Thursday, so that I could take a quilt class and attend The Indiana Heritage Quilt Show. I’m not sure how I got on their mailing list, but this year when the e-mail came, I looked over the classes and was pleased to find one just for me – a two day design class with Gail Garber! Though I wasn’t sure I knew her, when I looked at her website, I certainly knew her work. I do a lot of drafting, but not stars or circular flying geese, so the class would be a great challenge.

Here is the stack of fabrics I collected. Happily we were driving, so I was able to take whatever I wanted and not pay baggage fees! The fabric on the top is the focus fabric and there are backgrounds and light and dark values of a lot of colors. Plenty to choose from, but not too many….I have discovered that I can get caught up with choosing colors!

One of Gail’s primary rules is that she only gives 3 sets of instructions at a time and then the students get to work on those. I appreciated that as I was a bit nervous about dealing with a protractor. I had nightmares remembering Sophomore geometry class with Dottie D as I got more and more lost and confused! I bought one of the protractors that Gail recommends and sells and it is a nice tool. We began by learning how to draw circles and all the necessary divisions to draw our designs. Most everyone was finished drawing by lunch, which was amazing to me.

Then we chose fabrics. I was sitting with my stack in my lap and Gail came by to help select. It was really fun as she and I have similar taste. As I went through the stack and a great color would appear, we’d both quietly gasp and I’d pull out the fabric. I was glad to have her help as she has done so many of these stars she had a good idea of where to put bright colors and where they should be less so.

Then to the cutting. Gail’s rule, and a good one it is, is to measure each piece, add a generous inch and make the shapes rectangular, rather than the weird shapes they actually are. I had trouble with that precut-all-the-pieces-before-you-sew rule. I am sort of an instant gratification person and I was so anxious to see what my wedge would look like. But precutting means that you can sew and sew, so I did it.

This is the fun part. Here is the wedge, all sewn and looking really crazy.

And here it is, all neat and tidy!!!

Whew! That was a full day of work. Much as we probably all wanted to stay and finish the whole circle, the ladies arrived at our door to lock it for the night and Day One was over.