Posted by: bschutzgruber | August 24, 2016

City Mouse…. Country Mouse…. part 2

The third week of August brought more fiber adventures in a very different setting at the Michigan Fiber Festival held at the Allegan County Fairgrounds in Allegan, Michigan.  This gathering of fiber artists is also a feast of creativity and inspiration.


I first attended back in the mid 1990’s and have returned a half-dozen times since.  Workshops are held in the exhibit buildings and with camping available at the fairgrounds this festival has a slower paced, more relaxed, ‘Country Mouse’ atmosphere compared to the ‘City Mouse’ hustle and bustle of Convergence.

  ACF-Red-White-Green-Buildings  IMG_4149

This year I took 3 workshops: Felt Hats with Suzanne Petzold Higgs, Death Head Buttons and Chair Seat Rushing with Gail Hollinger.

I have taken classes with Suzanne in the past (see April 2013 blogs Felting with Suzanne Higgs Day 1 / Day 2) and was excited to take her hat workshop.  Suzanne is a terrific teacher who is constantly pushing the boundaries of creative felt making by using different materials and techniques to get amazing sculptural hats.

There were 12 of us in the all day workshop, coming from the Great Lakes region of the USA and Canada plus one attendee who has a natural dyes business coming all the way from Mexico.  We started with a discussion of different hat styles/shapes, how to take measurements and develop patterns.  Next we laid out our fiber and began designing our own hats.


I played with blending color….


incorporating beaded fabric and a 3 dimensional flower into the felted hat.

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Everyone’s hat came out beautifully!
Even though we all started with the same base shape…. each one is different!

Hat Felt Giirlz

The second day was a 1/2 day workshop making Death Head Buttons.  These are thread covered buttons dating back to the 18th Century. Though no one knows for certain how they got their name, scholars think it is because of the X design – similar to crossed bones, a symbol of morality.

Thread is wrapped around a wooden button mold creating the woven designs.  It takes quite a bit of skill to do this quickly and evenly!

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The front and back of a 4 section button

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Next I made a 6 section button with a change of thread color.

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These were fun to make but will certainly take some practice!

The third day was learning Chair Seat Rushing.  For the purpose of the workshop we used stool frames rather than full chairs.  It took me 3 tries to see and understand the wrapping pattern!  When the side is about 2/3 woven, cardboard filler is added to give support to the center section.

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This was a LONG day of hard work making sure I had good tension and rush was packed tightly.
Boy were my hands tired!!

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For me the best part of the Michigan Fiber Festival is being around the animals. There are competitions for sheep, goats, Angora rabbits, llamas, and alpacas. The animals are from small flocks and herds raised on family farms here in Michigan or neighboring states.  This is where I reconnect to the source of the fiber I use and am in awe of the day in, day out, year round commitment the men, women, and children have who raise them.

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City Mouse….. Country Mouse….. 
For me it’s not either/or….
It’s definitely both/and!!


  1. What fun! The buttons reminded me of Japenese Tamari balls.

  2. […] Michigan Fiber Festival in Allegan, Michigan. I’m rather sporadic in my attendance [see blogs August 2016 City Mouse…Country Mouse pt2 and August 2018 Big Looms…Little Looms…and a bit of color] but each time I am able to […]

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