Category Archives: Classes/teaching

imageI spent a truly delightful weekend taking a workshop from the very talented Jackie Abrams.  Textile Center had Jackie come to teach a 2 1/2 day class on bias plaited baskets.  I am not a basketweaver, in fact, I had only ever made one basket before I took this class.  This gave me a rating of “0” on my name tag at the start of class.  There were several of us “zeroes” in class and although we were the total beginners, I never felt like I was struggling to keep up even though there were “fives” in the room, a credit to Jackie’s teaching style.  I took the class on a whim.  Jackie was organized and thoughtful and just lovely to email back and forth with while I was setting up the class (so I knew I would like her) and it has been a challenging spring for me creatively and I thought this would be a great jump start.  I am so glad I did.


Bias plaiting works on the bias.  You weave the base, over-under-over-under, and it looks just like a flat paper coaster.  It reminded me a lot of the woven paper placemats I have made with kids.  The bias comes in when you start to shape and you do that by bending things on the diagonal.  It was tough to get the hang of at first and I really forgot what it is like to be a beginner at something totally new.  It’s sort of rare that I jump into something that I don’t have a little experience with.  After wrestling with my first corner, I watched Jackie demonstrate again and it surprised me how much more it made sense the second time.  It also took me a little while to make the connection that I was working with the bias of a woven “fabric”, which stretches and compresses does all kinds of crazy things.  Once I remembered “oh yes, bias” and realized that I could boss the paper around a bit more, then things started to click.

imageOur material was painted watercolor paper, which is a lovely thing to work with. It’s thick paper which is hard to crease (which is a good thing) and is much less fragile than I had at first thought it would be.  We painted each sheet of paper on both sides because in this basket, you end up seeing both sides (and the contrasting colors are a huge help in remembering what piece to put where.)  Painting was fun because really anything goes and some of the wildest papers made some really great baskets.  We cut it into 1/4 inch strips using a pasta machine.  (Brilliant!)

You sculpt your flat paper by adding corners which change the direction and shoulders which are decreases (like k2tog for those knitters reading along).  Some of the class members went for asymmetrical sculptural pieces.  I (being a zero) decided that I would rather get a little practice with the classic symmetrical shapes first, so I made two different baskets in class: a “kimono” and a “pillow”.



The little clippies come from the electronics department at Radio Shack.  You should have seen the look on the face of the teenaged boy at the counter who asked me what project I was working on.  Basketmaking?  Priceless.








IMG_2062This is an ugly photo.  But I am posting it here because my digital design class is going to learn how to turn this photo into this seamless repeat…

Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 2.09.22 PMOr even this seamless repeat…

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If I post it here to my blog then it is easy for the whole class to find it and download it for class.  But I also thought it would be fun to talk about how that ugly photo gets to be something cool.  My top seamless sample needs a little work still to make a few more flaws disappear where the edges of the repeat tile meet, but once you add a filter effect on top of it (like sample 2) the flaws pretty much vanish.  For the third week of class, I let the students vote on what kind of a repeat we are going to work on and my class this semester chose to work with something photographic.  We are going to use a tool called Pixlr to do our photo editing.  It is a free online graphics program and it is pretty sophisticated.

In a nutshell, here’s what we are going to do:

Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 2.31.45 PMWish us luck!


20110210-081123.jpgAnother conversation, another blog post.   This week the topic of conversation has been all about dyeing.  We have been gearing up for summer camp at work and we do a lot of dye projects.  We have a dye lab and so it makes it very easy for us to do really great dyeing.  I have discovered that there is a LOT of mis-information about how and what to dye, so I thought it might be helpful to post some information in the hopes that someone might Google this someday and get some help.  I have been the supervisor of the dye lab for about 8 years now, so I have seen a lot of techniques.  I am not going to say that any of these things I am suggesting are the right way to do this (there is no one right way), but these are the things I have learned that should improve your chances of success.

What’s your fiber?

So there are lots of kinds of dye and each one of them is great with a certain kind of fabric.  So the first thing to do is to figure out what fabric you are working with.  Read the tag, check the label.  You can even do a burn test if you are totally stumped.  If you have a blend that is at least 80% something, you should follow the instructions for the predominant fiber.  For instance, we dye 80% wool/20% rayon felt (using the instructions for dyeing wool) and get a nice heathered kind of appearance because the wool takes the dye and the rayon doesn’t.

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(Click to download a .pdf of my Dye Chart and to be able to see it larger.)  Once you have figured out what fiber you have, then you can find out what kind of dye you need to use. I have given you very very simple instructions for each dye.  Check out Dharma Trading’s website for really great how to’s for working with all of the different dyes.  They are a great source for ordering both dyes and dyeable fabrics too.

In a nutshell

The reason dyes work is that there is a chemical reaction going on between the fiber and the dye solution.  Molecules of the fiber react with molecules of the dye to make a (hopefully) permanent chemical bond.  If you get the chemistry right, you will have great colorfast dyed fabrics that don’t bleed and fade.  If not, you might have purple ninjas.  But more about that later.

Just in summary…

Cotton & plant fibers • Procion/Fiber Reactive/MX  dye •  needs soda ash • NO heat

Wool & animal fibers • Acid dye • Needs vinegar/citric acid • Needs heat

Polyester • iDye Poly • Needs heat

Silk • Dye like plant fibers or animal fibers with slightly different results

A few interesting facts.  Nylon behaves like animal fibers when it comes to dye.  You can make really cute tights and camisole dresses by dyeing thrift store finds that are nylon fabrics.  Koolaid works great to dye wool because it contains two key components: dyes and citric acid.  You can’t dye acrylic.  They just don’t make consumer dyes that can do it.  There is also one more class of dyes called “sublimation dyes”, which work on most man-made fibers and are activated by vaporizing the dye under high heat.  That is what is in Crayola Fabric Crayons.  But the process is SO different for these, I am just leaving it at that.  I am also not going to go in to natural dyes.  Totally amazing and cool, but the chemistry for those is a whole other art form.

Purple Ninjas?

You will notice that RIT dye is nowhere on any of my lists.  Why?  RIT is a Frankenstein Dye.  Because they want to make it work with anything you throw at it and so they can say it dyes anything, they mix together all kinds of dyes in one little packet.  In the mixture there is bound to be the right molecule to bind with whatever fiber is dropped in the dye bath.  The problem is that in trying to do everything, it really does nothing very well at all.  All of those extra chemicals just get in each others way and the heat/salt/acid that one reaction needs, makes some other ones not work so well.  So the overall result is everything works a little and nothing works very well.  A good friend emailed me just before Halloween a few years ago with an example of just this effect.  While trying to make a ninja costume in proper ninja black, she got something more like yucky faded purple.  Black is a hard color to dye even if you are using exactly the right chemistry; throw in some Frankenstein and you get nothing close to black at all.

PicMonkey Collage

I am teaching a Photo Help class tonight and one of the hands-on projects we are going to do is resizing some images using PicMonkey.  As a bonus I thought I would post one of my favorite PicMonkey features that I know we won’t have time to cover in class:  Photo Collage.  You can totally do this in Photoshop, but it is about 23 extra steps.  PicMonkey makes it super easy.

When you go to the front page at PicMonkey, there is an option right in the middle of the page for “Create a Collage”.  Click that and the steps are basically to follow the icons.


You just drag your photos from this thumbnail grid over and place them in the template where you want them. Click on a photo with the 4-way arrow tool that pops up when you hover over the image and you can reposition within its box.  By hovering on the border of a box, it also allows you to drag around and resize the boxes within the template using the double sided arrow tool, so you really can customize it any way you want to.  It even has some built in templates that are sized perfectly for your Facebook page, for instance, so that you can make a new banner with a cool collage of pictures on it pretty easily.

When you save, it gets a little silly.

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You can choose a low/medium/high resolution to save it at depending on what you want to do with it.  It gives you the pixel size at the bottom there and you can also adjust that if you want or need to.  PicMonkey Basic is free and you can do a LOT with the free version.  The upgraded “Royale” just has more fun bells and whistles.  Abby at While She Naps has also written some great PicMonkey tutorials for some other fun effects, so you should check out her posts too.


Screen Shot 2013-03-01 at 5.11.17 PMI was walking to my car earlier and trying to figure out why I was so tired and started thinking back on my week.  I think I might just need to go to bed right now.

In the last week I have…

Gone to a baby shower, got a flat tire (not my car), seen a movie…

Listened to 2 concerts, watched the Oscars, done a little knitting…

Worked with a kindergarten field trip, wrote budgets for 6 programs for the next fiscal year, gave a lecture for the MN Contemporary Quilters…

Made some slides and some handouts, worked on some more budgets, taught a digital design class…

Welcomed some 3rd graders for a field trip and then taught a group of kindergarteners how to make felt,  finished more budgets, designed custom artwork for an Etsy order…

Checked up on a class or two, bought a bunch of materials for field trip groups, wrote up a new class proposal, started design work on a gallery piece…

Opened registration for summer camps, designed a postcard, updated a website, turned in a section of a big secret project, finished budgets, washed some towels (from kindergarteners)…

and somewhere in there was a little sleeping and dog walking.

How was your week?

The photo above is a version of a design for the class proposal/gallery exhibition.  Class project is learning about how to “preserve” a vintage or fragile textile by scanning it and using it as the basis for a new design.  This is a piece of tatted lace that I have scanned and colored.  I think I am going to print a different version, as this one is a little too large scale for the project I am thinking of, but I love it and will probably use it for something else.




You might be wondering about the grid that appeared on my blog last night.  I taught a class for the last 3 weeks all about intro to fabric design.  Last night we were tackling seamless repeat patterns and needed a grid to work with in order to place all of our objects and motifs so they would repeat.  We have been working in an elementary school computer lab and they have a lot of the features of the computers disabled (so the kids can’t mess things up) and we were having a jump drive issue.  So uploaded our practice grid to my blog because everyone could get there to download it easily.  It was a GREAT class – one of the best I have ever had and I really hope that they keep working on their designs.

Our very first night of class we did this design as a group.  I didn’t tell them why we were drawing on little squares, but since our first class was just before Valentines day, we did a love theme.


We then scanned and made a repeat from this and printed it, so we each had a swatch of collaborative fabric to take home last night.

Valentine Grid repeat at Spoonflower. Collaborative class project.

Valentine Grid repeat at Spoonflower. Collaborative class project.

In just about 10 days I am teaching a beginning embroidery class at one of my very favorite yarn/fabric shops, Darn Knit Anyway in Stillwater MN.  This is our sample project for the 5 stitches we will learn in class.  I thought it would be fun to do a “cheater” crazy quilt block.  The block is 8 inches square and is Spoonflower printed fabric.  I printed tiny white dots right on the design so that you can basically “connect the dots” with the various stitches and the dots will help you keep everything evenly spaced and remember where to put your needle.  I made 3 different colorways (because why not?!) and the embroidery 2 class will have matching blocks with 5 new stitches to learn.  For this block we will do running stitch (and some variations), chain stitch & lazy daisy, back stitch, chinese knots and cross stitch.  Embroidery 2 is couching, satin stitch, blanket/buttonhole, fly stitch and feather stitch.

I stitched some polkadotted batik fabric around the edge of my sample and it’s now ready to be a pillow cover or a “mug mat” for my teapot.


Yarn from "All for Love of Yarn". BFL/Silk and Merino/Cashmere/Silk

I share a booth at the Shepherd’s Harvest Festival with my friends Doreen (Goldfish Love Fibers) and Jen (Strawberry Moon Fibers).  I could not ask for better partners.  They both dye fiber and spin yarn and make the most outrageous gorgeous color and fiber combinations.  They are like fiber sirens – people cannot help but be drawn over to see our booth.  In addition to having my own stuff at the festival (the same things I sell over in my Etsy shop, with a few additions), I also helped staff the Textile Center’s table and I taught a class.  (Can you say busy?!)  I didn’t remember to take a single photo at the festival this year.  The weather was beautiful, the crowds were huge, I saw tons of friends there and I came home with a few treasures.  The yarn above is from Angela at All for Love of Yarn.  She does these wonderful semi-solids that have enough variegation to be interesting, but not so much that they look like confetti.


Yarn from Goldfish Love Fibers.

Doreen sent me home with some of this colorway which I promised to knit up into something and post it on Ravelry for her as a sample.  The color in this photo doesn’t do this yarn justice – it is intense!    I think I might knit a version of this Wingspan shawl, which could be fun since it is short rows and might end up looking stripey or this one called Shizuku with the little droplets on the edge.  Definitely something to wear in gloomy February when you need a little pick me up.


Chunky Handspun by Doreen of GoldfishLove Fibers

This skein I am just going to wear like a necklace.  It is about as big around as my finger in the thickest spots.  I plan to just felt the ends together and tack it on a few spots so it stays in a neat loop and wear it like a cowl.  I love it.


Mawata Silk Hankies by Goldfish Love Fibers

This is a lovely orange colorway of dyed silk “hankies”.  These are unfurled silk cocoons and the crazy thing is you can just pull them apart and knit with them.  The Yarn Harlot started a craze for mittens made this way.  Not sure what mine are destined to be, but it is silk so it will be good.

I also have to give a shout out to Rachel and Sadie, who were the lovely ladies in my Photo Help class.  We were a small class but we had fun and they were both absolutely sweet and charming.

I have almost finished unpacking and will have some new little sheep for my etsy shop soon.  Stay tuned!

I am teaching this Sunday at Shepherd’s Harvest Festival in Lake Elmo, MN.

Photo Help

Sunday May 13, 2-4 pm, $20

Don’t know your MB from your DPI? This session will help you out with the vocabulary of digital photographs. Every publication, show jury and call-for-entry has a different set of requirements for your images. Learn how to re-size, crop and rename your images to fit the requirements for submitting them to gallery shows, craft fairs, magazines and more.

We are going to work through a bunch of samples and I have a great handout workbook that you can use as a reference later on.

They have closed online registrations but you can still register in person at the festival or email  Right now the class is very small so there is lots of space and I would love to see you there!

Fabrics by Heather Ross

You might recognize some of these prints.  That goldfish one has always been one of my favorites before I ever knew who the designer was!  The whole catalyst for the NYC trip was that I went there to take a class from Heather Ross about Photoshop for Fabric Design.  There were some amazingly creative people in class with me and some designs that I would love to see printed on fabric.  Although I am pretty good with Photoshop, I did love the sneak peak in to the way Heather works and the excuse to get a lot of practice with my Wacom tablet. If you get a chance to take a class from Heather, do it.  She is laid back, ready to laugh and generous with her ideas and skills.  It was a lovely vacation from the real world.

My vintage Wacom actually was a curiosity for the Mac-geeks upstairs from our classroom.  Class was held at Tekserve on 23rd, which was awesome!  The people who worked there were so friendly and the shop itself is worth a visit.  Almost any blank surface is covered with antique technology: old radios, video cameras, a Mac signed by “Woz”.  My computer station was placed right under the latch hook apple logo!


I haven’t quite finished the repeat of my design from class but you can see a little sample.  Just before we started sketching, I had a conversation with the amazing Ava (Mac genius, class assistant) about being from South Dakota and after that I had to do buffaloes.  A grassy version and a dusk version.