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.

Posted by: bschutzgruber | February 28, 2020

Abstract Landscapes – pt 2

The Abstract Landscape class at the Ann Arbor Art Center is an 8-week class so February has brought new assignments and wonderful experimentation.

Week 5 – Texture
The painters in the class used salt and paper to give their paintings some 3-D accents, which was really interesting to see. Because I would be adding heavier materials to add texture, I decided to use a piece of wool pre-felt as my foundation vs. the silk chiffon I had used for weeks 1-2-3-4. I continued using dyed wool roving for my background and added pieces of silk fabric, fleece locks, and wool nepps (tiny balls of tangled fibers) on top. I was especially interested to see how the nepps would look when placed under pieces of fabric.

12″ x 12″

The actual felting process took longer and needed more effort because I was working on a pre-felt base compared to the silk chiffon base and the silk fabric strips.

7″ x 7″

When it was felted down textured image reminded me of the US Southwest. I liked the lumpy texture the nepps gave to the silk fabric I placed over them. I used needle felting to add the outline of a building to go with the plants/garden in the foreground.


Week 6 – Texture continued
I went back to using a base of silk chiffon since felting is much quicker and easier vs. using a wool pre-felt. Grey locks, white silk chiffon fabric strips, colored silk and multi-dyed locks were layered on top of the wool roving background.

12″ x 12″

Because the locks were from 2 different breeds of sheep, the grey locks were much fuzzier after felting than the locks I used at the bottom, which had a silkier appearance. Again I played with needle felting to add some lines on the dark blue area

final 7″ x 7″

Week 7 – Final Project
This would be a larger piece that incorporates elements from the previous weeks with a tree in the foreground. I also wanted to create a pocket by folding a section of the silk base fabric to the back and using a resist to keep the opening clear so I can slide in a hanging rod. I finished the basic dry layout by the end of class.

18″ x 18″ – dry layout

Week 8 – Final Project continued
Having a week to think about my design and bounce ideas off several others I made some changes and started felting.
The technique for creating a pocket for a hanging rod worked OK.

back pocket for hanging rod

I’m pleased with how the tree came out and will continue to play with the layering I used to give the texture of the bark.

Final 12″ x 12″

This was a GREAT class!!! I learned a lot and my confidence has certainly gotten a boost. So much so I immediately started work on a much larger piece at home – 44″ x 60″ start size.

Final layout – dry

Wet felting in progress

I’ll continue adding bits to it and hopefully it will be ready to submit for the Ann Arbor Fiberarts Guild annual show in the lobby of the Power Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Michigan come April.

Posted by: bschutzgruber | January 30, 2020

Abstract Landscapes – pt 1

I don’t know how to draw pictures.

The Kindergarten to 8th grade school I attended back-in-the-day had no art teacher. ‘Art’ class, when we might have it, consisted on a photo from a magazine being taped to the chalk board and we were simply told to “draw it” with no instructions for how to go about doing that. Our drawings were given 2 letter grades – one for content and one for neatness. The high school I attended had a fairly good art program but was only for those who already had basic drawing skills. I was in college taking a required Art for the Elementary School Teacher course before I heard the words “It’s OK to play when creating art.” That simple sentence opened a window for me as I now play with yarns and colors when I weave. But I still do not know how to draw pictures.

I’ve tried over the years to re-create some of photos I’ve taken using wet felting as my medium but I struggle. Because I don’t know how to draw pictures I can’t make the picture look the way I want it to look. Only once have I even come close, and that was with a lot of help.

When the winter catalog came for classes at the Ann Arbor Art Center, the Abstract Landscape class caught my eye:

“Using the landscape as a point of reference this class will explore compositions that venture into abstraction. This class is best suited for those with some previous painting or drawing experience who are excited to investigate the subject mater of landscape in a new way! Students are encouraged to work in their preferred medium for this class, choosing one medium for the duration of the class. Acrylics, oil paint, and watercolor are great options. Class meets once a week for 8 weeks.”

This sounded interesting. Abstract shapes could work very well for wet felting and I won’t have to draw a picture. I signed up for the class and let the instructor know that I will be wet felting with wool fibers. The instructor replied that she knows nothing about felting but is willing to let me have a go. I am the only fiber artist in the class; everyone else is working with acrylic or water color paints. All have been interested to see how the process of felting works and I’ve been fascinated to see what the others are doing.

Week 1 – Soft & Simple
Make a horizon line and work each side with thin layers of similar colors. I’m using 12″ x 12″ silk chiffon as my base. It was fun to play and am pleased with how my piece came out. Everyone was amazed at the 40% shrinkage that happens when wet felting.

12″ x 12″ dry layout


7″ x 7″ final

I like how it looks different depending on how it’s rotated!
This class is going to be fun!!!

Week 2 – Soft & Simple continued
Work with one or more horizon lines which can be at angles. Because my piece from week 1 used 2 base colors (blues and yellows) the instructor challenged me to work from a single base color. I choose reds but only got the base laid out before the end of class.

12″ x 12″ dry layout

The TV news reports of the fires in Australia influenced my choices as I continued to work at home.

7″ x 7″ When the Land Burned

Week 3 – Colorful Contrast
We played with dark vs light as well as complimentary colors. The discussion on how to get a 3D effect from a 2D surface was such an “OOOHHHHH! THAT’S how it works!” eye opener for me! I worked with blue/orange for my color contrast and played with light and dark.

12″ x 12″ dry layout

I had time to wet down the fibers before the end of class. The light/dark contrast was quite dramatic.

12″ x 12″ wet

It was interesting to see how the piece changed in appearance yet again once it was fully felted. I still get a sense of foreground and distance but have lost some of the drama that was there when it was fist wetted down.

7″ x 7″ final

Week 4 – Colorful Contrast continued
My goal for this week was to work on a path going off into the distance. I used purple/yellow as my colors.

12″ x 12″ dry layout


12″ x 12′ wet

I decided to add a bit more to the foreground to help add to the depth.

7″ x 7″ final

January has been a month filled with new insights and I’m getting more confident.
I’m looking forward to more adventures in February!

Posted by: bschutzgruber | December 31, 2019

End of a Year – End of a Decade

As 2019 comes to an end tonight along with the decade of the ’10s
I took a look back through my notebooks and what a decade it’s been!

78 major weaving projects
38 major felt projects
2 large looms built and several small ones acquired
dozens of felt purses & ribbon scarves
weaving and felt making demos

Inspired by fellow guild members and amazing teachers
I learned techniques
to weave tapestries and narrow bands
to make fine felt for flowing garments
to create vessels from paper and plant fiber
to work with dyes and leather

Here’s a sampling of the journey…
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It has been an amazing decade of growth
and I raise a glass to the next 10 years:
Let the roaring 20s begin!

Posted by: bschutzgruber | October 22, 2019

Leather: An Interwoven 3D Network of Fibers

Belonging to the Ann Arbor Fiberarts Guild has broadened my exposure to the wide range of techniques and materials that make up the ‘Fiber Arts’ with an eclectic range of speakers and workshop presenters/instructors. This October the guild offered a workshop with Michigan artist Brenda Geiger

and I had the opportunity to work one of the oldest materials human’s have used to make clothing and straps…leather. Never having worked with leather I was was curious to see what this fibrous by-product from animals raised for meat, dairy and wool is like and how it might be incorporated into future sewing or felt projects.

In the workshop and her talk at the guild meeting, Brenda gave an introductory explanation as to the different grades/types of leather,

what is involved in the tanning process (historic and modern), the impact that vegetable, aldehyde, and chrome tanning have on the environment, and where to find ethically produced leather for projects.

For the workshop she had plenty of examples of tools and types of leather for us to see, touch and use.

In the workshop we made a simple purse with a cross-body strap.

We punched the holes for stitching 

which produced quite a bit of what we humorously came to call ‘mouse droppings’,

then we worked on our stitching skills.

Next came making the petals for the flower embellishment.

I added a glass button and ribbon for a unique pop of different textures.

Sewing each petal individually, then stitching the flower to bag gave me new appreciation for anyone who works with leather!

Rivets were used to secure the strap to the hardware and the purse.

It was amazing to see that even though we all started with the same basic pattern, we each added our own personal touch to our purses!

I enjoyed working with leather
and can see myself playing it in future projects down the road!

Posted by: bschutzgruber | September 21, 2019

To Dye or Not To Dye?

Over the years I’ve taken a variety of workshops on dyeing involving both natural and chemical dyes. They range from a couple of hours to a full day. I find these workshops interesting and informative but they’ve always been too short for me to develop a solid grasp on the processes. I don’t have the space at home to set up a dye studio to do the repetitive practice that I need. I’ve thought about taking a longer dyeing course but the ones I’ve come across cover a variety of methods so that still would not give me the practice and repetition I need. The result of all this is that what little dyeing I’ve done up until now has either been with the help of other dyers or small projects on my own using an old microwave (never be used for food again!) and very random colors made by combining primary colors.

This past August my course at the AGWSD summer school was ‘Tapestry to Dye For’. [See my 3 blogs from August 2019] The first half of the course dealt with dyeing wool yarn and developing color charts using the red, blue and yellow primary colors to make other colors. Because we had the space and materials right there, I chose to continue creating colors that I plan to use in a future project as others moved on to weaving. 


After 25 dye batches over 6 days I FINALLY have gotten a handle on working with acid dyes and small skeins of animal-based (wool or silk) yarn. Our instructor, Dot Seddon, gave us the materials to take with us so we could make our own stock solutions for future use.

Once I got home I pulled out the dye kit I’d picked up several years ago. This was a kit for fiber reactive dyeing which works on plant-base fibers (cotton, linen, hemp, jute, sisal, ramie, rayon). I had 2 garments (one linen, one cotton) in my closet that I wasn’t really happy with the color, plus a number a number of un-dyed cotton skeins in my stash so I decided to see what I could do this these. 

I mixed up the powdered dye into 1% solutions like we had used for summer school and used them to create a color chart mixing each base color with black to create stepped gradation.


When I had used the black dye at summer school I could see that blue was a key element in creating black dye. Seeing how quickly yellow shifted to green and the red to purple really reinforced that understanding.

I chose one of the dark turquoise for the garments and I was pleased with how they came out.


I now moved on to working with the skeins of cotton yarn using a low-water method and adapting the formulas to match the weight of yarn in each skein.

My calculations did not come out as I had expected as there was a lot of excess dye even after 5-6 heavy rinses under running water. I decided to use my washing machine on intermittent extra slow so they could be rinsed in a large vat setting. FINALLY I got the coveted clear rinse.


What I had not taken into account when using the washing machine was that the agitation that worked so well to rinse the skeins also made each one a tangled mess as they had been loosely tied for dyeing = OOPS!!

For the next 6 days I slowly untangled each skein into a ball

then rewound into proper skeins.

To dye or not to dye… that is the question now.

What I have learned from all of this is:
I’m never going to be a serious dyer!
I’ll continue to play with small batches of yarn
using acid dyes like I did at summer school
but large batch dyeing is not for me.

Nope…dyeing is not my thing
so I will happily support the folks who love to do it!!

Posted by: bschutzgruber | August 11, 2019

AGWSD Summer School – York Part 3

Tapestry to Dye For with Dot Seddon

Day 5
Everyone in the class was now weaving….

…everyone except me. I don’t do much dyeing at home so I chose to take advantage of the dye studio setup as long as I could!  I dyed several skeins of black, a dark green, and several shades of brown.


We had several more sessions with Dot explaining different elements of design.

My final experiment in dyeing was to compare a loosely wound skein vs a very tightly twisted one. The results were interesting.

Late afternoon the Trade Fair opened.


The day ended with an informal fashion show were attendees have a chance to show what they’ve been creating over the last 2 years.

Afterwards I gave a storytelling performance.

Day 6
More weaving….

And I finished winding the rest of my ‘newly dyed this week’ skeins into balls.

The afternoon is open to the public for a walk-about to see what all the classes have been doing so time to clean up my station. Not much weaving on the loom (I DID get it warped!) but lots of wonderful colors that I’ll be using for a future tapestry.

Late afternoon it was time to pack everything up and empty the room.

A gala dinner, for which I wore some of my work, and ceilidh with music by Fiddlerswreck Ceilidh Band (and oh did we dance!) brought the week to a glorious finale.

What can I say….this has been a week of:
Renewing past and creating new friendships
Learning and becoming more confident in new skills
Being surrounded by a vast array of creativity & inspiration

It has been BRILLIANT!!


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