Monday, October 2, 2017

Spinning Flax and other plant fibers

The spinners this year have undertaken the spinning of "plant Fibers" If you're interested, let Greg know asap. The cost will be $20, and there's some good stuff coming.  How about banana fiber??  Or that cotton/milkweed down blend??

Their study began with a 2-day journey to spin flax into cotton with Stephenie Gaustad.  There was probably a little of the "act the way you want to feel going on."  Greg's friend  from Kansas City, who took the workshops, whilst spinning flax, repeatedly said, through a fixed smile and somewhat gritted teeth, "I love spinning flax." It's that love-hate relationship of a challenge, but on the whole everyone learned a lot and had a great time.  Stephenie is a great teacher...if you ever get a chance to take a workshop from her, do it.

Sharing their summer fiber journey,  check out these two show and tell wonders. Greg made this at a workshop in MN this summer. A Shetland fleece that is felted on one side.

It's kinda like a sheep skin but not. Could be used as a cover for sitting in front of the fire or on your bed....
Stephanie spun the many yards of these yarns and wove this rug over the summer at the Guild house. 

The spinners have another exciting years coming up. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

OPEN HOUSE September 10, 2017, 1-4pm

We're tidying up the place, laying gravel for a new parking lot, and inviting the community and members to an open house
Craig, Michael, and Lois spreading gravel
Come see what the Craft Guild is all about and see some of our fun projects and state fair entries.

The Pottery/Ceramics group display their wares,

 a quilter shares her mystery quilt.

A weaver shows her Krokbragd

A spinner's freshly dyed fleece ready to spin.
Everyone's ready, we have COOKIES. 

Weaving with Chenille, the Caterpillar That Becomes a Butterfly

When you see this piece, its hard to imagine Chenille being anything but gorgeous and yet weavers have a love/hate relationship with this fiber.
 Chenille in French means "caterpillar", that worm-like insect that becomes a butterfly. Most caterpillars are small, and covered wth short hair that give them a fuzzy look. Chenille yarn is quite the same, which is soft and fuzzy. Chenille is manufactured by wrapping short lengths of fabric, called piles around a tightly wound core, thus producing its softness and characteristic look, often having an iridescent look.   

Weaving with chenille can be a challenge in that if the sett is not perfect the yarn "worms", wiggles out just like a caterpillar. Experienced weavers say don't change anything, the tension, the way you throw your shuttle, or how you wind your warp. It is the sett and most suggest 12 e.p.i, weaving at 12-15p.p.i. And that ugly "S" word is mentioned often...sample, sample, sample.  Use your own judgement as to which you prefer. (
This year our guild challenge was to produce something from Chenille. These are photos from the challenge. All are luxurious, colorful and dynamic pieces.

This jacket has an almost velvet look and soft texture of velour.

There are no caterpillars here, only Magnificent Butterflies.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Grace's sheep...Baaaa-utiful

Check this out.  Grace just completed this darling sweater. It's such a cool treasure for some lucky child.

Now it's true that Sheep play a major part of our lives as fiber folks. As a spinner and a knitter, I'm often trying to figure out what to do with all the yarn I've spun.  Perhaps we should use this as motivation, or as an impetus to begin that new project. Grace can serve as a role model in how to produce something challenging and incredible. I must admit a little knitting envy at this piece.

Just in case you were confused about the guild hiatus, the evening knitters' group meets all summer long at 7pm at Panera's on the east side by Lucky's Market. Put July 19 and August 16 on your calendar. The daytime group does not routinely meet. If folks want to get together,  contact Linda and we can meet at Panera's at 2p, after the lunch crowd.  She said it might just be a great break from the endless list of summer shoes.  Yay, let's knit.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Summer Hiatus at the Craft Guild of Iowa City

As most of you know, the craft guild takes a summer hiatus during June, July and early August, however, there is still much happening. Knitting for the local Premie Project. (Check online for more information at, taking classes and watching demonstrations at the Midwest Weavers Conference in Indianapolis or at Iowa Sheep and Wool in Ames, sharing your passion at Local Spin-ins,  visiting Kalona Days where local Quilt history abounds from the sidewalk motifs to the Quilt Museums or a Summer of the Arts Festival, or simply enjoying the Iowa Outdoors.  Here is a montage of some of those activities.  Much more is available than could be mentioned here, but know that art, be it fiber, clay, fabric or paint lives on all summer long.  FYI: we are alive and accessible via email all summer and some of our work will be on display at the Coralville Library in August and at the Iowa State Fair.
(Thanks Stephanie for the photos.)

Sharing her love of Spinning at Davenport Spin-in
Knitting for the Premie Project. 
Iowa Sheep and Wool...Sheep dog at work
Learning a new Plying technique.
Weaving up that spun wool at the Guild House

Finding motivation for the next quilt
While a way a summer day turning this 

Into this.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Wounded Warrior Project

Spinners almost by definition, are kind-hearted and love to play with fiber. We tend to spin anything we can and then have the dilemma of figuring out what to do with all this yarn. And another times a project comes into our lives that we just HAVE to do.  This is one of those projects.
Susan and her Wounded Warrior Project

Susan, one of our spinners, was asked to make these slippers for a retiring Wounded Warrior. He has served his country for many years and was involved in more than one dangerous war zone. How do we can thank these men and women who have and are putting themselves in harms way?   As the grandmother of 4 marines, running into the face of danger is just part of their job; but they often come back with scars, physical, social and cognitive scars. How can we thank them?  While I know it was not an easy project for Susan;  it was one she was determined to finish. She was determined that at least one Soldier would know just how valued he and his service are.
Slippers for a warm heart

Thank you, Susan And many THANKS to your Wounded Warrior.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Deb Robson: Primitive Breeds and Crossbreds workshop

For Spinners- the virtual Encyclopedia of Fibers
Deborah Robson
 This weekend, the spinners were delighted to have Deborah Robson conduct two workshops. On Saturday, Deb presented the historical information about primitive and improved breeds, shared samples and the insights of each with those gathered. On Sunday, she continued our fleece study in crossbreds/purebreds.
It was humbling to be with Deb, she is so low-key, a skilled spinner and yet so very knowledgeable about the breeds and her craft.

DAY One: What exactly is a primitive breed? An improved breed? Thus began the crux of the discussion with Deb, a consummate researcher leading the way, addressing the criteria used, the data available and the confusion in the labeling of each. We were fortunate to experience, that is to say, feel, card, comb and spin the fleece from some of these breeds. In my former life, I spent a great deal of time researching Native Peoples, so the Navajo Churro jumped off the page of her handout. Navajo weaving has long a passion for me, but I must admit I just took for granted the wool I used. I understand the native practices embedded in the process of weaving and the sacredness of the sheep providing its wool, but never considered the historical significant of the sheep. So much to learn.
Day one: sheep to sample
Deb also introduced a documentation system. As spinners, we attend workshops and guild meetings trying out different fleeces or fibers. Only to think later...oh, what was that fabulous fleece Greg loved during our British Breeds Study and simply not have a clue. Record-keeping, or the simple making notes, clear concise storing of information that YOU gleaned from an experience is crucial. Yes, it's homework...Ugh. It's like the S word, sampling, Double Ugh. However, both are important in developing your skills and your satisfaction in your craft. I know of many a tine I thought I could skip past either of these, only to attend the court of regrets in regal fashion.

Purebred sheep...NOTE the smiliarities 
Crossbred...NOTE the distinct visual differences

DAY: Two

Purebred sheep are bred to maintain a specific size, color, fleece type, behavior and adaptation to their environments.
Crossbred sheep are bred often to increase a specific quality desired, whether it's increased lamb production, changes in muscle mass for meat production or in fleeces for the commercial industry, or simply to facilitate adaptation to a new environment.

sample fleeces of the purebred and crossbred

We had the opportunity to spin each of the purebred fleece and then its crossbred, i.e, Coopworth, Dorset; then Coopworth-Dorset. There was a definite difference in the feel, texture, or color of some, but in other, those differences were less apparent. I have not had the opportunity to spin each of my samples, but my hands are itching to start and I think I'm praying for outdoor spring chores this week. 

Deb demonstrating Navejo Plying

This was a weekend well spent. Deb was able to run the gauntlet of the very experienced spinners to the very novice with an expertise I personally found thrilling. I am that novice with much to learn, but I believe we all took away something of importance.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Jan Friedman, A Glimpse Inside the Weaver.

Last month we had the privilege of our own private showing of the exquisite tapestries and other weavings of Jan Friedman. She has been a fiber artist for more than 40 years. Her tapestries and collages use hand-dyed wool, cotton, rayon and silk and well as many other natural materials.  I see  sticks and twigs, rocks and pebbles as yard work. Jan sees those same sticks and rocks as elements in her Art.

There is an inherent beauty in a leaf, a tree, a rock, all of which inspire her. Often using nature as a theme, she employs a gradation of color in her fibers that reflects light and color in much the same way as a painter uses watercolors. Her samples of the materials used in her collages drive home the point that a collage, while carefully thought out, has a life of its own and creates itself, albeit guided by deft hands. 

In the beginning of her career it was mainly tapestries, however she shifted to framed fiber collages to us a variety of materials. This is her life, but it is also her job she does many pieces on commission. Her works can be seen in hotels, office building, schools as well as private homes here and aboard. Thanks, Jan for the glimpse inside your world of sharing your passion while earning a living doing so.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Beginning Weavers Learn about Weaving with Wool

Our beginning weavers joined the larger group to lean about "Weaving with Wool" at the monthly weavers meeting. Wool, like every fiber, come in different weights, twists and texture. It is recognized as a good insulator, dyeable, resistant to wear, is flexible, absorbent and elastic.
A handwoven vest with interplay of patterns

Woolen or Worsted, each having its own set of characteristics and which works best depends on the final purpose, the weave structures and finishing. Finishing in weaving is more about blocking and washing/misting of your woven product than just the completion. There are a lot of pre and post weaving decisions to make, especially so when the fiber is wool.
Finished vs Completed 

When fabric is handwoven, the finishing helps the fiber to bloom, to intertwine & fibers connect, thus determining the texture, strength and size of the completed fabric.  There are resources to facilitate your weaving with wool, check out the weavers' library.  This all seems complicated, however, like any learning experience you break it down into manageable pieces and focus on learning the simple before jumping into the complex experience.  We are all learning everyday...beginner, intermediate and expert weavers alike. 
Handwoven vest

Each fall, the weavers hold a beginners weaving class. Cathy, the primary course instructor determines the schedule, usually beginning in Mid-September after the Open House and finishing near the end of October. Sometime after the first of the year, there is usually a sample style workshop in which the new weavers get to experience multiple weaves while only warping one loom-a sampling of the complex while mastering the small piece.
Excited beginning weavers show their first fabulous runner. 
The instructor tries to link each new weaver with a mentor to reassure them that help is only a phone call away. I must admit back in the day I viewed it as a lifeline, a way to continue to learn the process without frustration.  Today 15 years later, I still pick up that phone and ask "Vicki, Are you busy, I have a question." Weaving is a dynamic experience, as you master one technique, there is always another one of interest.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Spinners Tools in Everyday Life.

The January gathering of the spinners choose to celebrate more than just their spinning prowess. The spinners were asked to share alternate uses for their spinning tools or household tools for spinning use.  We've all used those rake combs to detangle yarns ends, or the freezer to prevent moth infestation, but here are a few novel ideas that are simple to use and readily available.
Terry is demonstrating the use of a lazy susan to assist the    winding of your spun yarn. 

Greg has taken landscaping tape and a indelible marker to use as waterproof labeling of skeins of spun yards for dyeing.
Two different drop spindles are used to wind string for later use in bundle-tying of yarn prior to washing/dying.

And lastly we all struggle with tangled christmas lights, Colleen suggested try using a nitty-noddy to organize them.
It was a fun night of spinning, knitting, laughing and all those fun things that happen 
when spinners gather.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Krobragd Weaving

This season, our weaving study group topic is Scandinavian Weaving. Krobragd is a boundweave structure that is usually woven on 3 harnesses, using a point twill with pickup draft. This resulting weave has floats on one side and a tighter weave on the other.   Danish, Norwegian, Swedish versions are similar but there remains some distinct difference in the design patterns. Historically,  these weavings served a functional purpose, and only the wealthy used them exclusively for decoration. My limited knowledge is showing. All I really understand is they are awe inspiring, whether a wall hanging, a rug or a coverlet.  In early December, Dorothy, one of our weavers,  completed this marvelous piece of Krobragd.

She designed it using the patterns and colors of her ancestors as a gift to her son. She shared that it was a fun, rewarding and sometimes challenging project that took a little time (I believe that's an understatement), but so worth it to hear her son's appreciation in his  "Thanks, Mom."