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.

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.


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!

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