Michigan League of Handweavers

A return to the land of the Dutch... complete with windmills and color theory for tapestry

I spent a wonderful week in Holland, Michigan teaching classes for the Michigan League of Handweaver's Conference. My mother is from Grand Rapids and is 100% Dutch. That makes me half Dutch and that part of me was happy to be back for a few days. I was very impressed by the caliber of teachers at this conference. It is a small conference and was so much fun. I think it would be a great choice even if you don't live near Michigan. It is a conference worth flying to.
This was my room for the three workshops spread over five days. I talked some about the first two in THIS blog post. Monday to Wednesday was a color theory class and I couldn't have asked for a better group of students.

We spent some time working with color aid paper. Anne was working with warm and cool contrast in this example. Paper is a good way to look at color interaction quickly. It is also a good way to start training your eye to see different aspects of color BEFORE you spend a year weaving a tapestry.
On the last day of class Millie was wearing these amazing fish pants. And I caught her working on some paper color projects in the sunshine.
Here a different Anne wove a wonderful study of warm/cool contrast.
And following are a few more studies in value and simultaneous contrast.

This value exercise that Beth did was one of my favorites. When we converted this to black and white, those bars almost all disappeared--the orange-red being the difficult color for everyone in the class.
Jenn's example beelow was turned around the back of the Mirrix loom. I loved the curves. And again, when converted to black and white it was an excellent value study. That orange-red being the one tough nut to crack!
And for those of you who are keeping track, 9 of 12 students in the class had Mirrix looms. That didn't count the two that I brought. This continues to astound me but I am happy to see it. They are great looms (and I will say again, I do not work for Mirrix).

One student with macular degeneration had this great idea to help her visually with her warps. She colored every other warp with a Sharpie, but you could certainly warp the loom with two colors of warp. Bockens makes cotton seine twine at least in the 12/6 size in many colors. This particular student gave me a fabulous idea for a little book the last time I taught at MLH, so probably I should try to spend more time with her. Her ideas are excellent. (The book is still in process, but it will show up one day before too long.) This loom is a Leclerc Penelope, thus the rigid-heddle-like shedding at the top.

And of course the tulips are long gone, but Holland is now sporting some roses.
I didn't go tilting at windmills, but one morning I did take a walk to see this one which I remember visiting as a child. The tourist booth was closed so early in the morning so I walked to an overlook and there it was.
And I love looking for cranes. I always say I'll be a birder when I retire many decades from now.
A crane!!!
My dear uncle and aunt rescued me from Holland and took me to Marie Catrib's for dinner in Grand Rapids. It is a wonderful place for gluten free food. And I'll admit that I added to the glut of deserts I ate over the week by topping it off with one of Marie's salted carmel cupcakes.

Soon I am going to go to my studio and do something I haven't had a chance to do in many weeks. Weave! ...just as soon as I send today's newsletter.

(pssst... if you'd like to get my newsletters, you can sign up HERE.)

What the white yarn in the bushes does to a grayscale and tapestry workshops that don't suck

I had to leave for the Michigan conference early last Friday morning. As I have learned (slowly) in the past few years, I need a final day to pack the suitcases and make sure all the lectures, handouts, and supplies are in order. And I need to sit on the deck and eat a big plate of nachos and relax for a bit. Because I knew this was coming the next morning...
Sometime Thursday afternoon Emily came inside holding a damp and rather grubby skein of white yarn and she said, "I found this in the bushes out front. Do you need it?"

This is what happens when you don't stick your hand all the way down into the 5 gallon pail that the yarn was soaking in overnight to find the last one (because it is too full and you don't want the water to go over the top of your glove if you must know). The skein-that-was-found-in-the-bushes was missing from grayscale #6. That color seemed awfully close to grayscale #7 which was the darkest black but I just chalked it up to the ease of dyeing gradation in dark colors. But now I knew. The skein-that-was-found-in-the-bushes was obviously dumped out with the soak water sometime later when I was cleaning up and being that I'm pretty wiped out after a week of dyeing and it was probably 11 pm, I didn't see it. Had that skein been in the pot, the #6 gray would have been lighter and I would not have had to spend 15 minutes today labeling that same grayscale so that I the students could get the colors in the correct order.

I am teaching at the Michigan League of Handweaver's conference in Holland, MI this week. I arrived Friday to a flurry of activity and things have been rocking every since. What with the fashion and the sewing and the knitting and the eating, there has even been some tapestry weaving going on.

Saturday I taught my new Introduction to Tapestry class. I loved that class. I have no idea if the students liked it even remotely, but it was my baby. I enjoyed giving my unbiased opinion about this fiber medium that I love so much and I do hope they came away with something of interest. At least they got yarn cards.
I made two mistakes on these cards, so by the time I corrected them for the students they didn't look quite as pretty as this (I like things to be pretty). AVL is not a yarn, it is a loom. ALV is a yarn. And I left off Weaving Southwest's tapestry yarn. They had to punch another hole to add it and though the symmetry of the card was improved, the type was not.

Sunday I taught The Mobile Tapestry Weaver which is a one-day class I teach on portable looms made by Jim Hokett. These tiny looms are loved by many. The class was a lot of fun for me, though I think a few students quickly learned how much more difficult it is to learn tapestry techniques without a shedding mechanism. May they persevere (and get a bigger loom for learning--but then they can totally go back to the Hokett for the rest of their lives).
And today I started Predicting the Unpredictable: Color in Tapestry which is a three day workshop. I have an amazing group of students in the class who made me laugh right out loud more than once. We did some exercises with Color-Aid paper and then we started working on value using yarn and a grayscale. Some people see value quite quickly, but if you dig a little bit, you usually discover they have had a lot of visual experience with this somewhere. People who have not practiced looking at value struggle a bit. But they get better.
We are staying in the dorm at Hope College in Holland, MI. I feel a little like I'm a sophomore in college again what with the cement block walls, extra long single beds covered in vinyl, shared bathrooms in which the stall door does not close, raucous meetings in the dorm hallway among my new best friends (the distinguished teachers of MLH)... and the absolute worst lighting in the world. But it is home for a few days and we love it.

P.S. Many of you have asked to see a photo of the little black dress.
There is no photo. Such evidence didn't seem wise at the time. But just to make you happy, here is a photo from the first time I wore the thing, one hand-built house, two hand-built businesses, and two children ago in my sister's life.
I know. Mostly you can't see the dress and you definitely can't tell whether I had on a strapless bra (I can guarantee I didn't), but that is all you get because I don't know where the rest of the wedding photos are right now and what is more, I don't care.

Michigan League of Handweavers Conference 2012

I had the great pleasure of teaching at the Michigan League of Handweavers conference in Holland, Michigan this past weekend. The conference was extremely well run, the people were all super-friendly Michiganders, and my students were brilliant. They were shiny and happy and cooperative and they made beautiful things. I loved them all immediately....

You may notice a theme here. Michigan is very welcoming. Millie brought me a wonderful gift and was a charming and gracious student. She is a talented tapestry weaver and I wish I was related to her. Thanks Millie!

The class I was teaching was Color Gradation for Tapestry. When you start seeing this on the student's tables, you know they are getting into the material:

This is the yarn palette I brought for this conference. I am still somewhat new to this workshop teaching circuit (and being surrounded by teachers who have been doing this for decades was both intimidating and exhilarating--they were awesome and I got some wonderful advice from a fellow weaver and veteran teacher), and as a newbie I have to continually tweak what I am doing (not tweet, tweak) until it feels like the right thing. The yarn is an evolving experiment. I started with a basic jewel-tone sort of palette and have slowly added colors that I think the students will enjoy more. Every conference or workshop I teach I ask the students what color they would most have liked to have during the workshop that they didn't and I dye that color pick a color I like from all the responses and dye it. This week they said they were missing brown. I think I can add that one though I suspect it will have a hint of purple in it.

The color experiment of the summer was red. I did dye a cherry red, and though it is still not exactly what I am looking for, it is much much closer to what I had before. I was trying to match this paint swatch labeled "Red Geranium". The colors in the photo are not quite right and it is interesting that the light reflects differently off the wool and the paint chip (this is a good lesson for fiber artists! Yarn is different than paint.) The colors of the ball to the left of the paint chip and the chip are actually almost identical.

The whole palette before the workshop began. These students surprised me and just about completely cleaned me out of yarn at the end of the workshop. I will not have to ship a box of yarn home. Thank you Michigan weavers... although now I have to go home and do more dyeing.

This is a wonderful bit of tapestry from Sharon. Her fingers were very familiar with a tapestry warp. In fact, looking at the sample now it reminds me of my time on Prince Edward Island in July and the red rocks and sand against the ocean.

Here is another student's work. Sue really got into the color gradation. This was what I was hoping to see and she really nailed it. She was creative and thoughtful and made a beautiful bit of weaving.

All of the students worked hard and I was so proud of their efforts. Tapestry is a very slow process and they worked diligently on the exercises presented.

This is the talented Jenny Schu. She made her own loom (that tells you something, doesn't it?). She is an amazing bead artist. You should check out her website and blog... and then order some jewelry from her or visit her gallery in East Lansing, MI. Young people in fiber arts? They are out there. We need them. And we need them involved. Jenny is all that (and she is good at tapestry!).

This was the beginning of the end for the yarn table. It was great to see people fired up about color.

I may have to adopt Jeanne and Barb's new name for flat-bottomed hachure: Soggy Bottom Boys. It sounds so much better than some stuffy French tapestry term. We did learn a lot about color gradation including use of hachures. I am not convinced that hachure is a technique I should be teaching however. Does anyone use them anymore? Is there really a point? I started teaching how to make them because other people teach how to make them, but it isn't really me. And perhaps I need to take that to heart and realize that what I teach should be what I am excited about. Soggy Bottom Boys are good mind-bending technique-learning things, so perhaps that is their value. It taught the students about making smooth angles and which way to wrap the up or down warp threads. Beyond that we need to go to France.

I had to give a talk about my work Friday evening to the whole group in an auditorium with a powerpoint and a microphone and it was great. I had some nice photos, but I have to tell you that you really don't want to see yourself 12 feet tall on an auditorium screen. The other teachers at this conference are all very experienced and also all very funny. Chad Alice Hagen had me laughing for 20 straight minutes and I'm not even a felter. Juliane Anderson (owner of Threadbender yarn shop which I detailed HERE), Mary Sue Fenner, and Wynne Mattila all make beautiful things out of bits of fiber this and that--magicians really is what they are. (Wynne was in the Helena Hernmarck class with me a couple weeks ago and we've met again already! ... yes, I know, that blog post is coming. It was a special time and it is hard to put it all together! Have patience.) Donna Kallner is an amazing woman and I wish I had three more days to pick her brain about just about everything including goats, Wisconsin, fabric printing, and looping. She was teaching a class about designing fabric using the computer. Silly string and photoshop make a great combination it turns out. And I was lucky enough to be teaching next door to one of the dearest people I know, Jennifer Moore. She is from my home state, and just being near her made me feel calmer (there is something about being from Michigan and/or the midwest that I don't understand. It isn't personal, it is cultural--I think anyway). Jennifer is a brilliant double weave artist. I highly recommend her book, videos, and most of all a workshop with her. Her art is gorgeous.

And this is my special, Hope College-prayerful, word of thanks to the wonderful cook in Phelps Hall who made these Oreo-like gluten free cookies, keeps them hidden in the freezer so the high school football jocks won't eat them all, and gave me free access to them. You are a goddess of the gluten free baking. These cookies were amazing. We only ate at Phelps hall on Friday and when we transferred to Cook Hall dining room for the rest of the weekend, I was mighty disappointed to find that the weekend cooks there had no idea what I was talking about... "What gluten free secret box of cookies in the freezer? You are crazy, lady. We ain't got no stinkin' Oreos!" ... or that is what I heard anyway.

And as a traveling story aside, I had great connections in Minneapolis... but on the way over I hadn't had anything to eat that day, had been up since 3:45 am, it was nearing noon and I only had about 5 minutes to find something before the next plane boarded and THIS was the only restaurant close to my gate.

With some choice words and a large sigh, I crossed the terminal to a bookstore and grabbed this for lunch instead.
I don't suppose Chick-fil-A is going to care one bit, but I wasn't going to give them any of my money. Plus the sugar rush from the Snickers and the caffeine from the Diet Pepsi held me nicely until I got to Grand Rapids, was picked up by a fantastic woman who used to go to college with my mother and who drove me straight to Arnies for lunch. (Where I had a SALAD! ... but only because it is the only thing at Arnies I could eat. And I had to walk by banquet to get into the place. If you don't know what banquet is, you aren't from Michigan.)

It was great, Michigan! Ask me back sometime soon.