Posted by: bschutzgruber | June 28, 2021

The Things We Do For Love

I love to weave
but I don’t necessarily love all the steps involved.

Some steps, like winding out the warp, bring me to ‘my happy place’. When I say this, some weavers look at me in shock and disbelief because for them winding out the warp is a dreaded and tedious chore. If they could avoid it, they would, but they love to weave so they soldier on through this part of the process. I, on the other hand, find the rhythm and repetitive gross motor movement soothing. I reach across the warping board, swaying back and forth as I wrap the yarn around the pegs again and again.  If the warp does not have a lot of color/yarn changes the process becomes a meditative physical mantra.

warping-board

Others parts, like designing the warp, are a slow and deliberate process for me that often causes much wailing and gnashing of teeth. This is where being slightly OCD and having stubborn streak at times comes in handy! Figuring out the color sequence, how many ends per inch and do I have enough of any given color is where I have to buckle down and just do the work.

The National Storytelling Network will hold an online auction July 21-25, 2021 and I offered to donate a woven shawl. For my warp stripe sequence, I started by counting the ends in the stripes used in a tartan fabric I have and then did a test winding to see how the colors I wanted use would play out together.

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Using an Excel spreadsheet I laid out the sequence for the full width and began working out the individual ends for each stripe and how many yards of yarn for each color. I shifted the width of some of the stripes to match numbers in the Fibonacci sequence and added ends to make a point where I would be changing the direction of the 2/2 twill threading. I counted and recounted multiple times slogging my way though this part of the process.

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At last I was ready to leave the drudge work behind, go to my happy place and begin winding the 607 ends of 10/2 cotton yarn! Things were going swimmingly as I shifted between colors, keeping count each inch as I followed my chart. When I took the warp off the board and hung it by the lease sticks check it over I realized there was an ‘Uh-oh…oops!’ in it. Something was amiss – my stripe colors did not match up! MULTIPLE hours were spent counting out the pattern to see what I missed and then adding 13 ends.  AARRGGGHHH!!!!!!

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FINALLY the warp was ready to go on the loom and I could begin weaving!

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After a MUCH longer time than usual
I am happy to say that ‘Elements of the Earth’ cotton shawl completed
and will be up for auction in July.
Ah yes, the things we do for love!

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Posted by: bschutzgruber | May 30, 2021

When First You Don’t Succeed…

[If viewing in an email – click on the title to see the final slideshow]

March 2020 brought a cancellation of all in-person exhibits due to Covid-19. Many of the venues shifted to virtual exhibits which was a marvelous way to see art work from all over the world that I would never have had the opportunity to see in person even before the pandemic. As wonderful as that has been, I’ve really missed being able to see fiber creations in person. There’s just something about actually seeing the textures in a piece – in person – that has always brought the art to life for me.

Summer 2021 has brought the reopening of in-person exhibits! WOO-HOO!!!!

In July the Ann Arbor Fiberarts Guild will once again have an exhibit of members work at The Village Theater at Cherry Hill in Canton, MI so I pulled out the pieces created in 2020 but did not have the chance to be shown in-person – Hiking the Coastal Path [February 2020 blog] and Fire on the Horizon [November 2020 blog].


For a long time, another piece of felt has been tugging at the back of my mind. Several years ago I had played with felting some two-tone roving just to see what it might do. The result was a solid piece of felt (26″ x 16″) with interesting ridges. It has been sitting in the “Don’t-know-what-to-do-with-this” pile ever since. Every now and then I pull it out but it always ended up back in the pile. With 2 weeks until the AAFG jury session for The Village Theater I decided to see what I might do with it.

First attempt
Wet felt a marsh scene with fireflies (wool) and will-o-the-wisp swamp gas (silk fibers). The new yellow and green wool was able to grip in but the silk was not and the over image was not coming together at all…YIKES!

I turned it 180° and it had a bit more potential as an image of waterfalls.

Luckily I could peel off the now prefelted blue silk and printed out a photo to do a rough sketch of the concept.

Second attempt
The challenge now was how to add the the waterfall details. I learned in the abstract landscape class [January 2020 blog] about beginning with what’s furthest away and ending with the foreground but I was now doing the opposite and I do not have the skills to pull that off!

Third time’s the charm!
By slowly needle felting in details I created Secret Forest (25.5″ x 15.5″).

Taking photos of Secret Forest the sun came through the window onto the piece.
WOW!!! Now I want to figure out how to create this same effect when felting!!!
On to the next adventure…

Posted by: bschutzgruber | April 18, 2021

Fiber Folktales -The Three Aunts

This month’s post weaves together my two great artistic loves: fiber and stories

When I studied comparative folklore in college and grad school I was drawn to the old stories from all parts of the world that featured spinning, weaving and stitch work as tests of worthiness and as ways to outwit adversaries. I began collecting these stories and they have been the foundation for my storytelling programs over the past 35 years as a professional storyteller.

The Aarne-Thompson-Uther (ATU) classification system of indices classify, organize and analyze folklore narratives. Included are the Motif-Index and Tale Type Index which catalogues some 2,500 basic plots from which European and Near Eastern storytellers have built their tales. During the pandemic I worked on a retelling of ATU 501 Magical Helpers – The Three Spinners. It’s a story about a girl who must complete three tasks and receives help from thee very unusual women.

I chose the Norwegian version, The Three Aunts, as my starting point and had wonderful discussions with an international and varied group of flax spinners, linen weavers, and bespoke tailors as I worked the story.

For your enjoyment I present The Three Aunts.
(If you don’t see the YouTube video – click on the story title.)

Posted by: bschutzgruber | March 28, 2021

Zoom Workshop Postscript

Taking a workshop via Zoom [see New Ways of Learning – Zoom] had some perks: easy access to my stash and not having to drive to a venue in a snow storm. Another benefit was not having to wait until I got back home to continue playing with techniques covered in the workshop. After the color blending workshop I decided to use the 6 cones of blue rug yarn I’ve had for a years to develop a color progression.

To make bundles I can use for small tapestry weaving I un-plied each yarn and then retwisted/plied sets of 3 strands each. This took 3 full days to make bundles that are only 10yds long.

To move along a bit faster I divided each of the cones into 9 balls – which involved lots of calculations & weighing each ball as I wound off from the cone.

I combined 3 full strands of yarn to make bundles of thicker weft yarn.

With a new seine twine warp on the loom my plan was to use the thicker weft combinations to weave a color progression weft faced rug (the warp is completely hidden by the weft) but the combined rug yarns did not pack down enough to cover the warp so I’ll need to do some samples before I move forward with this project.

Not wanting to waste the warp that was on the loom I went back to my stash. I pulled out a bag of dyed Blue Faced Leicester roving and decided to use that as the weft.

I liked the texture that was created and used about 1 pound/450 grams to weave 75″/1.9 meters x 13.5″/34cm

I was curious to see how this would felt down. I rolled for several hours then put it into my washing machine with hot water and heavy agitation and finally into the dryer on hot. The final result still has the texture I liked and is now 63″/1.6meters x 12″/30.5 cm. I’m leaning toward making a carpet bag out of the yardage.

The month of March is one of transition and change when it comes to the weather
and it certainly was that for my weaving projects too!

Posted by: bschutzgruber | February 23, 2021

New Ways of Learning – Zoom

New ways of learning continue….
with two opportunities to participate in NOT in-person workshops.

Taking workshops via Zoom

Michigan League of Handweavers decided to hold a virtual conference for 2021 via Zoom with lectures, seminars, workshops and exhibits scheduled January through August.

Having attended the in-person conference several times over the years I was curious to see how instructors would adapt their workshops for NOT in-person sessions. I signed up for a 1/2 day seminar Silk Scarf Collage with Mary Sue Fenner (Wisconsin) known for mixing fabrics to make colorful creative wearables and a 3 1/2 day workshop Exercises in Color Blending and Texture with Jan Friedman (Iowa) known for her unique color blended tapestries, fiber collages, and scarves.

Silk Scarf Collage (2 hours)
Use your beautiful hand-crafted silk scraps and yardage to make a fun and creative silk scarf.

First hour:
Mary Sue explained her process, which types of silk work well (and which ones don’t!), showed examples of scarves, and demonstrated pinning and sewing techniques.

Second hour:
We went to work laying out our designs, pinning, and began sewing. As the seminar came to an end I had one side of my scarf stitched and was ready to continue working on my own with the other side.

Having the seminar scheduled for the morning was great as that gave me the afternoon to complete my scarf.  Because I was focused on the construction techniques I did not spend a lot of time thinking about over all design elements. I started second guessing my color combinations when I looked at the scarf laid flat and breathed a huge sigh of relief when I saw how it looks when worn!

   


Exercises in Color Blending and Texture (seven 2hr sessions over 3 1/2 days)

This workshop will concentrate on teaching you how to weave slow color gradations using color groupings.

I put a 2 1/2 yard warp on the floor loom – 12/6 seine twine, 10″ wide and 6 epi. We each received a fabulous package of color progression yarns, contrast yarns and silk fabric strips.


I had to get creative for viewing the demonstrations due to Jan’s camera placement but hey…. it worked!!

Friday evening session – Jan talk about what we would be doing, showed some samples of her work and demonstrated some basic tapestry weaving techniques. We had time at the end to begin playing with our yarns.

Saturday and Sunday were split into morning and afternoon blocks of 2 hours each. One of best parts of in-person workshops is being able to see what others are doing. In this case, we sent photos of our work to the moderator who shared her screen for the slide show.

Jan’s use of the the silk fabric strips to add texture and dimension is fascinating. I have a variety of ribbons in my stash and had a good time experimenting with them. 

At the end of Sunday I had completed Sample #1

ColorBlend Sample #1
(9.25″ x 20″)

Monday-Thursday were spent working on our own.
I wove 2 more samples playing with ribbons, accent contrast yarns, and working with the red and purple in combination.

ColorBlend Samples #2 and #3
(9.25″ x 7.5″ each)

We met again on Friday for a slide show of the work everyone had done and Jan talked about how she finished her work for hanging.
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It was certainly was different taking these 2 workshops virtually!

It was nice having my entire stash at my fingertips rather than try to guess in advance what I might want to use.
It was very nice not to be driving to a venue during a snow storm!

Styles of presentation that work well in-person do not always work well virtually.
Tech Moderators are the BEST!

I will always prefer in-person workshops but I’m glad I gave these workshops a try.
Thanks to Zoom – I have new ideas for future projects.

Posted by: bschutzgruber | January 27, 2021

New Year – New Ways of Learning

I am a workshop junkie!
2020 was tough because all in-person workshops were cancelled due to the pandemic but 2021 is bringing new learning experiences!

Taking a Class Online

Rebecca Mezoff has developed and produced a series of online tapestry classes. I took an in-person workshop with her several years ago through the Michigan League of Handweavers summer workshops. Her clear instructions/encouraging teaching style worked well with my learning style. I’ve watched several excerpts of her online classes that she has posted on her blog. Her camera work is some of the best I’ve seen and her instructions are clear and easy to follow. In her blog and newsletter she mentioned an interesting technique – fringeless tapestry using a warping technique that produces selvedges on all four sides!

“This online class teaches you how to warp a loom so that when you are finished weaving, there is no fringe and no hem. This warping method is often called four selvedge warping. Taught by master tapestry artist, Sarah C. Swett, it is a unique opportunity to learn how to warp and weave tapestry in this fun way while getting all of Sarah’s inside weaving tips. You’ll see Rebecca in this course also asking questions, giving her two cents about tapestry weaving, and generally keeping the camera rolling.”

I decided to gift myself this course for Christmas! 

One of first things in the materials list is that the loom has to have tensioning ability. The small looms I have all have fixed sides.

This means I get to make a new toy!!!!  Plans are included for making a tabletop pipe loom out of galvanized, copper or PVC pipe. I decided to make mine from 1/2″ copper pipe (for about $20) that can be taken apart for storage. I cut 2 different lengths for the side pipes so I can have a shorter or taller loom depending on my project. This was the same principle as my large pipe loom but much easier to make!

I also needed to sort through the seine twine I have in my stash to figure out what sizes I have. The numbers from one company to another are not always the same!! I compared thicknesses and picked open the plies to count the ends.

I watched the entire course from beginning to end so I would better understand what I needed to do. Sarah does a great job explaining what she is doing and Rebecca explains the technology, how the platform works, and offers plenty of troubleshooting help. Now I was ready to actually work through the warping steps using 12/6 seine twine set at 8epi. It took me 2 days and then I was ready to start weaving!

   

My first fringeless sample is not fancy as I was focused on the warping process. I’m pleased with my overall result – especially the top and bottom selvedges.

For my second try I used 20/6 seine twine for the warp set at 12 epi and played with a more varied color palette of finer wool. This was much harder to weave and the top selvedge is rather rough!

This was a fun course and I will definitely keep playing with it! 

Next up:  2 workshops via Zoom! 

Posted by: bschutzgruber | December 30, 2020

RIP 2020 – What a Year It’s Been!

2020 began with high notes as I took an eight-week class at the Ann Arbor Art Center focusing on abstract landscapes which opened a world of creative possibilities for me, and a trip to Iceland – what a beautiful and amazing country!

And then the world shutdown due to Covid-19.

2020 continued with a roller coaster of emotions:
–mourning the death of friends
–celebrating those who recovered
–disappointment as travel, events, exhibits, conferences, and performances were cancelled
–worry and prayers for the continued strength and good health for family and friends who work in the medical professions, as first responders and essential workers
–anger seeing the brutality of systemic racism that still rears its ugly head yet again and again 

2020 has also given me hope. Monthly guild meetings, conferences, performances and exhibits moved into the world of Zoom and digital postings as people across the country and around the world connected and had conversations about changes that are long over due.

I processed and vented all the ups and downs through felting, weaving, making masks for donation, creating items for local, state, and international guild exhibits, cleaning the work studio, writing up project notes, creating a space for Zoom performances, finally processed a Romney fleece I’d been given 3 years ago (definitely a learning experience that spanned several months), and even creeped out the neighbors with my Halloween porch decor.

[if viewing this in an email – click on the post title to view the slideshow]

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I am happy to see the back of 2020.
It has been a WILD ride!

Posted by: bschutzgruber | November 27, 2020

Fire on the Horizon

2020 has been a year filled with flames.

It began with Australia in the middle of an unusually intense bushfire season in many parts of the country with 46 million acres (186,480 square Kilometers/72,000 square miles) burned and 34 people dead. The TV reports and news footage inspired this felted piece When the Land Burned.

January 2020 When the Land Burned (7″x7″ felted wool)

The year continued with the largest wildfire season in the western United States with 8.2 million acres (33,000 square kilometers/12,740 square miles) burned and at least 37 people dead as of November. One story resonated for me. On September 6, 2020 about 200 people found themselves suddenly trapped in the Sierra National Forest by the rapidly growing Creek Fire. Many waded into the Mammoth Pool Reservoir to escape the falling embers and ash.

This story echoed one I had heard repeated many times at family gatherings about events here in Michigan 130 years ago.

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My maternal great-great grandparents Michael and Ann Gannon left Ireland during the famine and found work in the shipyards of western Scotland. In 1865 they came to the USA, homesteading a farm in what is now Huron County in Michigan’s Thumb area.

The Great Fire of 1871
October 8, 1871
After a summer of extreme heat and draught Chicago Illinois (the most famous) and Peshtigo Wisconsin (the most deadly) were burning. In the state of Michigan the wall of fire stretched from Lake Michigan to Lake Huron. The flames crossed the Thumb moving from Saginaw Bay toward Lake Huron within a matter of hours. Michael, Ann, and their 4 children (ages 11 to 3) ran the 5 miles east, wading neck deep into the bitterly cold waters of Lake Huron to escape the flames. The only items they managed to take with them were the citizenship papers and the 3 brass candlesticks that had been Ann’s dowry. The fire continued to burn for 10 days with smaller fires flaring up throughout the month. When they were finally able to return to their farm, there was nothing left. Across the state over 200 people lost their lives and 15,000 became homeless, many of whom suffered from fire blindness, third-degree burns, and starvation. With winter coming and the crops burned churches in Detroit and Toledo sent relief barrels of food, clothing and household goods.

Michael and Ann stayed and rebuilt their farm.

The Great Fire of 1881
September 5, 1881
Another hot summer with little rain since April. The smell of burning and smoke from small fires had become a daily event. Having lived through the Great Fire of ’71 Michael and Ann took some precautionary measures. They coated household items with clay to protect them from the flames. They buried some and suspended others in the well. When an eerie darkness fell at midday the livestock animals were released and Michael, Ann and 7 children ran east wading into Lake Huron again. Hurricane force winds moved the 100 foot high wall of fire from Saginaw Bay to Lake Huron. Within 4 hours 2,000 square miles were aflame and fires continued to burn for 3 days. Across the Thumb 282 people lost their lives and 3,230 families were now homeless, and once again the crops were gone with winter coming. Relief came from Detroit and other cities in Michigan as well as New York and Boston. This disaster also brought the first relief efforts from the newly organized American Red Cross.

Michael and Ann stayed and rebuilt their farm again.

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Michigan’s past and the world’s present
are the inspiration for ‘Fire on the Horizon’.

November 2020 – Fire on the Horizon (felted alpaca & silk 32″ diameter)

Posted by: bschutzgruber | October 23, 2020

“It’s free….do you want it?” The Saga Continues

Chapter I – Scouring/Washing Fleece
Back in May I finally got around to washing a Romney fleece I’d been given in 2017. [“It’s free…do you want it?” ]
I ended up with 3 bags (36″ x 16″ x 5″) of washed fleece but there was quite a bit of plant debris that still needed to be removed.

Chapter II – Removing Plant Debris
For several days in July I sat on the back deck combing, shaking, and picking out plant debris by hand from the fleece.

Several weaving projects [Adventures at an Auction, Skin: We’re All Part of the Same Cloth, and Accepting a Challenge!] took priority for July, August, and September so I’m just now able to get back to the fleece.

Chapter III – Sample Test
I’ve felted with Romney wool in the past but it had always been carded (brushed until the fibers are more or less aligned in the same direction). This wool was still pretty chunky but I like the crimp. It also has some canary staining which is a result of bacterial action in wool under wet and humid conditions, and does not wash out. I was curious to see how the color would blend and if the crimp will remain after felting so I laid out a 12″ x 12″ sample to felt.

When held up to the light the resulting felt has some interesting details but the felt itself is pretty rough so I will need to card it. 

Chapter IV – Carding
The prospect of carding 3 bags worth by hand was not something I was looking forward to doing so I put out a call to my fellow Ann Arbor Fiberarts Guild members to see if anyone had a drum carder that I could borrow or rent. I was very happy when Agnes Soderbeck [http://www.wildedgefelt.com] emailed to say I could come to her studio and use her drum carder = Yipee!!!

Agnes’ studio space is in a barn that from 1929-1945 housed the elephants for the winter camp of the Michigan based Lewis Brothers Circus. [One of the stories of the circus is that of a tragic accident that occurred in 1942 near Canton, Ohio, when a train hit one of the show trucks, killing an elephant handler and two Elephants (Lew and Tony).]

Oh yes….I have studio envy!!

Over 2 afternoons I carded the fleece.

I brought along a bag of dyed sliver that’s been in my stash since 2013. This was also an ‘It’s free….do you want it?” item.

10 hours of carding later…. 4 bags of Romney and 1 bag-and-a-bit of the sliver.

Chapter V – More Samples
I wasn’t sure what the colored wool was so I did a test felting it plus I tested the Romney batt.

The Romney batt felted much better and the colored sliver turned out to be alpaca.  I’ve been felting for nearly 25 years but have only worked with alpaca a few times so I wanted to see how it would felt to silk chiffon fabric and the Romney wool (it did OK with both), plus I needed an estimate on shrinkage (30-35%).

At this point I’m in good shape and on track to create some new felt projects!
The saga continues…..

Posted by: bschutzgruber | September 28, 2020

Accepting a Challenge!

“What you produce is entirely up to you.
There are no prizes apart from the delight of sharing
your unfettered creativity with others.
Let your imagination run riot!

I’ve been a member of the OnLine Guild, affiliated with the UK Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners, and Dyers for a number of years. For the past 5 years the guild has presented an Annual Challenge where members are invited to respond to a theme, either literally or to spark creativity, and undertake a personal project using any combination of skills and techniques, that include at least one of the core processes of spinning, weaving or dyeing. This year’s challenge is Trees. “Trees are the focus for this years challenge. Whether you are a tree hugger or not, most of us have an affinity for trees. They lend themselves beautifully to our disciplines with their changing colours, range of shapes and sizes, branches and bark, foliage and flowers.”

I have not participated in the previous Annual Challenges because I struggle with the concept of envisioning from inspiration vs attempting a literal depiction. But having taken an Abstract Landscape class through the Ann Arbor Art Center at the beginning of this year (See posts Abstract Landscapes – pt 1 and Abstract Landscapes – pt 2) and the fact that I live in the Great Lakes Woodlands Area of the USA where I am surrounded by fabulous deciduous trees and forests = this year’s theme called to me!

But it still took me a month of looking at the trees in my neighborhood and seeing photos other OLGuild members were posting for the Challenge before I closed my eyes and took the leap.

My inspiration came from the 9-acre natural area & woods behind my house.

I knew the end product would be a shawl or wrap of some sort. I wanted the vertical lines of the tree trunks to be vertical on the body so I rotated the photo 90° using my warp as the general background and and my weft to weave the ‘trees’. I also challenged myself not to purchase any yarn but to only use yarns already had in my stash. 

The warp has four different shades of brown – UKI yarns cocoa, mead, bark, medium brown in 10/2 cotton to represent the ground and a ‘it’s been in the stash for years’ space dyed green 8/2 cotton for the leaf area. Choosing the weft colors was more difficult as it took 3 tries before I settled on black 10/2 cotton for the trees and the UKI bark for the space between the trunks.

The weave structure is a 2/2 point twill changing weft colors in a random pattern to create the lines of the trees. I wanted the black weft yarn to create an upward point /\ for the trees and the brown weft yarn to create downward point \/ for the space between the trees so I worked off a standard point twill treadling pattern.

But with the warp set at 24 and 28 ends to the inch with lighter colors and the weft at 13-16 picks per inch with darker colors, my trees ended up with the \/ shape and the space between had the /\. Ah well… lesson learned for next time!

Fingers were crossed as it came off the loom, was washed, dried, and ironed.
Fringe twisted and shawl folded in half with a shoulder seam sewn.

I am pleased with the final result
and even more when I see ‘The Woods’ next to the woods!

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