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.

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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.


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.


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 [] 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!

Posted by: bschutzgruber | August 23, 2020

Skin: We’re All Part of the Same Cloth

For me cloth is the visual representation that we are all interconnected.
Woven together each thread is important keeping the cloth whole. 

The death of George Floyd at the hands of police on May 25, 2020 brought an outcry from communities across the United States and around the world calling for the end of systemic racism. As a result of conversations, discussions and listening to people’s stories throughout the summer, one image kept coming into my mind – skin. If I look only at bone and muscle there is very little difference between people. It is our skin, a colored layer of tissue that wraps our bodies, that has too often been used to separate and treat people differently.

But what if we could see ourselves part of a wide range of skin color? 

I decided to weave a color gamp shawl based on skin tone. A color gamp is a cloth that contains a set of color stripes in the warp that are crossed by the same set of color stripes in the weft. It lets you visualize how different colors will combine and blend. I chose colors from pale pink to dark brown.

Once I got the warp wound on I realized I had placed my darkest warp yarns furthest from the window making it more difficult to see any errors as I went along = oops! Rotating the loom 180° was not an option. Using a lot of painter’s tape and chaining I was able to keep the warp yarns in order as I flipped it over.

The structure is a plain/tabby weave with a 2/2 twill box in the center of each square. The weft colors followed the warp order moving from light to dark then dark to light – repeat.

As a shawl the blended color squares encircle the body with the wonderfully wide range of skin tones.


Skin: We’re All Part of the Same Cloth
will be part of the
Michigan League of Handweavers Virtual Exhibit
to be posted on their website starting October 1, 2020.

Posted by: bschutzgruber | July 31, 2020

Adventures at an Auction

Last months musings ended pondering “I wonder what July will bring…” as June had been filled with a wide range of activities. [See last month’s blog ‘Variety is the Spice of Life’]

Well, July has been more relaxing but still had its moment of excitement.

Celebration Shawl came off the loom and photos were taken for the National Storytelling Network‘s summer auction which ran from July 14-21.


Bidding was quite lively for the shawl when I got a message from one of my nephews:
“Hi Aunt Barb. I liked the shawl you have up for auction. We put a bid in but I just got out bid and unfortunately I won’t be bidding more. I can’t top $17,000.”

For a brief moment I was over the moon! A five-figure bid for one of my creations!!!  WOO-HOO!!!
Even the auction coordinator had that brief moment of excitement as she did her daily tally. But we were both brought back to earth when she checked with the bidder just to make sure. And darn, it was a typing error. Ah well…it was nice while it lasted!

This story does have a happy ending in that the auction raised over $5,000 for NSN with Celebration Shawl generating a bidding war. Though the winning bid was not five-figures, Celebration Shawl brought in a very respectable $275 and was the top item sold. 

And it’s true….
I can legitimately claim one of my creations received a five-figure bid at auction.

If I’m willing to bite my tongue on the rest of the story!

Posted by: bschutzgruber | June 29, 2020

Variety is the Spice of Life

Variety is the Spice of Life
This certainly has been true for the month June as each week has involved VERY different projects!

First week of June
I received a phone call at 11pm on May 30th from the National Storytelling Network that I was receiving an ORACLE Award for Regional Excellence – North Central Region!! Regional Excellence Awards recognize the creativity, professional integrity, and artistic contributions of tellers who have greatly enriched the storytelling culture of their region. To be given such a prestigious award from my peers is an honor and privilege.

The ORACLE Award Ceremony and Performance were scheduled for June 6th and 7th as part of NSN’s annual conference. Because of Covid-19 this year’s conference was held completely online as a Virtual Conference and Festival. 

Being thrown into the deep end of the ‘Zoom’ pool with 1 week to figure things out and practice speaking to the computer camera instead of live audience members certainly was a learning experience.


Second week of June
With temperatures in the mid-high 70’s F (24-26C) this next week was spent outside working on some needed changes in the stone edging and weeding in our back garden area.

Third week of June
This week was spent as a final push to finish washing the rest of the fleece I’d been working on last month.
[see last month’s post “It’s you want it?” for the full story]

I am extremely happy to say I am FINALLY done with the first stage of cleaning the wool from one sheep! Some needs further washing; all of it needs to be combed and carded to get all the bits of plant fibers out, THEN I can do some felting with it!


Fourth week of June
I have offered to weave an item for the National Storytelling Network’s online summer auction scheduled for July 14-21 so it’s back to loom! In celebration of our Supreme Court’s momentous decision this month in favor of protecting L.G.B.T.Q. people against workplace discrimination I chose a color spectrum/rainbow inspired warp to weave a Celebratory Gamp Shawl! 

And so the month of June comes to an end.
I wonder what July will bring…

Posted by: bschutzgruber | May 28, 2020

“It’s free….do you want it?”

“It’s free….do you want it?”
A friend with Romney sheep said those 6 little words to me. Though I am not a spinner, MaryAnn knew I did wet felting and thought I’d a have some fun playing with a fleece she had. “FOR SURE!!” was my reply. I took the bag home and hung it up in the garage.

Three years later…the bag is still hanging in the garage unopened.
With the Covid-19 pandemic ‘stay-at-home’ order shutting everything down in March I thought to myself I’ll use this quarantine time to FINALLY process the fleece. Well March came and went with snow and freezing temperatures so working with water outside or even in the garage is not going to happen.

Then April came and went with its the rollercoaster of weather.

Now it’s the month of May which has been a ‘3 seasons-in-one’ kind of month!
Finally Spring?
Nope, back to snow.  
Finally Spring?
Close but it’s rain and still cold.

And then, in this final week, Mother Nature flipped a switch and it’s summer with temperatures in the mid to upper 80’sF (26-30C). Time to take down the bag and have a look inside. Even though MaryAnn had said the fleece should be OK after all this time I was not sure what I would find. I am glad to report it was not nearly as scary as I had feared. Yes it was really grungy and dirty but it did not smell rancid! I went through my notes, watched a couple of YouTube videos and organized what I’d need.

The water after the first soak/wash was pretty disgusting.

But the second wash was noticeably better.

After one more wash and 2 rinses the water was clear!

I’m using window screens on sawhorses for my drying racks.

One batch down…LOTS more to go!

It takes 6 gallons of hot water to fill the tub for each wash and rinse so I am getting an upper body and core muscle workout with multiple bucket trips from the laundry room sink to the tub outside. At least emptying the tub each time is easier as I’m using a drill pump to drain out the water.

At this point I’ve done about 1/4 of the bag and am getting the hang of it. 

Some of the wool has washed up very nicely but some of it needs to be washed a few more times as there’s still some dirt embedded in the locks and I want to see if the discoloration that’s there will come out. 

After it’s all washed and dried I still need to pick and card it to remove all the plant debris that’s still there. Once that is done I’ll have to see how it felts up. It would be great have an end product that is a ‘back-to-back’ (sheep’s back to my back) wearable item.

“It’s free….do you want it?”
Six simple words that bring adventure indeed!

Posted by: bschutzgruber | April 28, 2020

April’s Rollercoaster Ride

April has been a month filled with ups and downs.

During this month the number of Covid-19 cases here in Michigan climbed to third highest in the country. BUT as the month ends 7 weeks of staying-at-home/sheltering-in-place are paying off as the number of cases has begun to slowly decline, dropping us down to 7th in the country, and plans are being worked out to slowly reopen businesses.

At the start of the month our weather was filled with the beginnings of spring as daffodils bloomed and chicks hatched.

But then we were hit with repeated bouts of winter’s return = UGH!!  But on the upside, the cold and snow made it easier to follow the ‘stay-at-home’ directive and gave me the chance to wear the mitts and sweater I brought home from a pre-pandemic trip to Iceland.

The rapid increase of Covid-19 cases brought shortages to our hospitals for PPEs and the call went out to the fiber and quilting groups to start making cloth masks.

A steady new routine developed as I worked my way though the cotton fabric in my stash, cannibalized the Star Wars bedsheets from when our kids were young,

and purchased fabric online with curbside pick-up.

It’s been an interesting process doing production work, especially figuring out how best to cut the yardage in order to get as many masks as possible leaving zero or little waste. At this point I’ve sewn over 100 masks that have gone to family, neighbors, friends, and donation sites.

Through all the ups and downs dealing with the virus’ effect on how we go about our daily lives, it’s been great to see creative lawn art and appreciation for medical and essential workers throughout the neighborhood.

This rollercoaster ride isn’t over yet but
together we ARE stronger
and we’ll get through it!

Posted by: bschutzgruber | March 29, 2020

March = the month of transitions!

We have a saying here in Michigan about the month of March
In like a Lamb – Out like a Lion

March, the month of transition from winter to spring, can be a real rollercoaster for our weather. We know if the weather is mild at the beginning of the month we’re going to get high winds and that ‘one last snow/ice storm’ before the month is over. This has been true for March 2020 which started out fairly mild weather-wise but now as the month comes to an end, the winds have come with heavy rain.

March 2020 has also been a rollercoaster due to the spread of the Covid-19 virus. I’ve moved from my usual activities and preparing items for the Ann Arbor Fiberarts Guild‘s annual spring events of the Power Center Show and Fiber Feast to constant reminders of the importance of washing my hands throughout the day; mandates for physical distancing, the closing of schools and businesses, shelter-in-place, self-isolation and quarantine to help flatten the curve and slow the outbreak; store shelves empty of toilet paper and other goods; and medical centers being pushed to their limits. 

Yes, the Lion is here.

By nature I’m a ‘glass half full’ person so I’ve been focusing not on what has been canceled and restricted but on what I am able to do with this unexpected down-time that is free from the pressure of deadlines:

–Twist the fringe on the scarves I wove in February.


–Add some final details to ‘Walking the Coastal Path’. Hopefully the AAFG show in the lobby of The Theater at Cherry Hill will happen as scheduled in July.

–Weave a longer ‘rainbow’ scarf.

–Adjust the hem on 2 pairs of pants.
–Start putting away, organizing, and completing projects that have piled up on my worktable in the sewing room.

–Enlarge the crown on one of the caps I use with the 1840’s dress I wear when demonstrating weaving at Cobblestone Farm.

–Re-work a purse I made from a hard handle and single snap closure to a shoulder strap with a full zipper closure.

–Make several cloth face masks. 

–Finish the alterations started back in January on a jacket I wove 10 years ago. The fit has always been large but I was able to refashion the sleeves from inset to raglan for a better fit and I added faux suede for the cuffs and front band.

–Translate my chicken scratchings for the last 3 projects into readable notes.

–Actually see the top of the worktable again!!

Today is the 29th of March. I still need to organize my notes from the workshops I’ve taken over the past year

and I have a year’s worth of fiber themed magazines to look through

but I might just get all the items ticked off my list before March ends!


The month of March is leaving with a roar but winds can lift kites into the sky.

Spring continues to make her appearance as birds nest on the porch

and daffodils rise again from the earth.

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