Surrounded by felters…

Seems like a year ago, but it was only a week ago that I was settling back in from my trip to MA, to Snow Farm where I taught garment construction to the felters.  I mentioned in a previous blog I felt like the only instructor not from the US? Milliner Jean Hicks was from Seattle, and Lisa Klakulak was from Asheville, NC, and Gail Crosman Moore was from MA, but many of the instructors came from great distances to bring an aesthetic to the conference that was fresh and inspired.  I left the conference at the mid-point, because I had finished my class, and I really needed to be home.  I longed to stay and play, but knew that after 5 conferences in a row, I had kids to get back in school, and a house to sort out, and business to attend to, and I needed to get on the road.  As fate would have it, the conference followed me, so to speak.

Liz Clay, renowned felter from the UK, chair of the IFA (International Feltmakers Association) needed a place to stay near NYC for a couple of days, so she could easily access public transport for some appointments she had, before returning to England Wednesday night.  After much logistical preparation, it was decided that Gail would drive Liz to my house late Sunday night after the conference concluded, since Gail lives another hour south of me.  A couple hours after I returned from Millbrook Village (yesterday’s post), I welcomed Liz to my home, where we had a cup of tea, and decided on a plan for the next three days.

I put Liz on a NJ Transit bus to NYC on Monday, where she poked around a number of shops in the garment district, some on my recommendation, like B&J fabrics, and NY Elegant, M&J trim, etc.  Others, like Paron Fabrics, Liz found from a recommendation from someone from the conference who sent a great link for a walking tour of the garment district. Paron apparently has an annex where you can get fabrics for half price.  And of course there is always a trip to Mood, of Project Runway fame.  Liz returned exhausted and loaded with bags of all kinds of silks to felt with.

On Tuesday, I decided to take advantage of Liz’s knowledge and connections, and accompany her to NYC.  resevoirI knew the routes, and the transit system, and she had a lot of ground to cover, even though I’ve seen many of the things that were on her list.  We left NJ early, and headed uptown to the west side of Central Park, on a subway, getting off at the 86th street entrance to the park.  I have only crossed at 81st street, in the past, because my destination is usually the MET.  The Cooper Hewitt Museum of Design is further north on the east side of the park, closer to 90th street, so it made sense to cross there.  We started on the road, and Liz said, let’s not walk on the road, lets go through the real park.  I had no park map, and fearful of getting lost in Central Park, I followed her.  She took a couple of instinctive turns and ended up on the pathway around the Jackie Onassis Reservoir, which was a spectacular body of water, full of joggers, walkers, baby carriages, and city life out for some R&R. We excited the park on the east side, right in front of the Cooper Hewitt.

We arrived at the Cooper Hewitt, way ahead of schedule, entering through the employee entrance,  we were to meet up with Susan Brown assistant curator of textiles for the Cooper Hewitt, who organized the Fashioning Felt exhibit, which I saw last spring.  Susan was gracious, and knowledgeable, and very excited about the show, the catalog, in its second printing should be available soon from  If I understood correctly, the catalog was one of the best sellers of any show at the Cooper Hewitt. She was also in negotiations  to have the exhibit travel to the west coast, she wouldn’t divulge the location!  Susan took time out of her day to give Liz and me a private tour of the exhibit, before it opened for the day.  It was great to view the exhibit again from the curator’s perspective, and I saw things I completely missed the first time around.  Janice Arnold’s yurt in the conservatory was of course, beautiful, but I got a better understanding of the installation complications with such a massive structure in a historical space.  As it turned out, Janice had just flown in on the Red-Eye from Seattle, to do something with a videographer, and we had tea with her as well.

Our next stop was a 10 block walk south to the MET.  The MET would take a month long vacation to see all of it, but there are a few grand spaces which are my favorites, where I take people who haven’t seen the museum at all, and the lunch in the basement cafeteria is one of my favorite places to eat in NYC.  So we grabbed lunch, and I took her up to the rooftop, spectacular views of Central Park, where there was a wonderful installation by American artist Roxy Paine. We left the roof, and wandered down to the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas.  This is one of my favorite departments, I love the primitive expressive quality of the work, and the simplicity of the forms.  I could spend hours in just this department bis-poles2alone.bispoles

Much to my complete surprise, an entire wing had been added onto the exhibition in the past year or two, that I had completely missed.  We spent a lot of time there and I learned about The Asmat Bis Poles, “The most spectacular sculptures of the Asmat people of southwest New Guinea, the ancestor poles known as bis.”  They were created as the vocal points of a memorial feast that honors individuals who have died recently and become ancestors.  Each figure on the poles represents and is named for a specific individual.  In the past, the poles also reminded  the living that the dead must be avenged.  In Asmat cosmology, death was always caused by an enemy, either directly in war or by malevolent magic.  Each death created an imbalance that had to be corrected through the death of an enemy.  So traditionally, a bis feast was held in conjunction with a headhunting raid.  Now a bis feast may be staged to alleviate a specific crisis or in connection with male initiation.” (Text summarized)

That would explain the very well endowed male figures!

We were allowed to take non flash photos, so Liz and I ran around with our little cameras, grabbing shots at whatever interested us.  I was totally taken with all the masks, the imagery, expressions, primitive interpretations of the human form, and in many cases, colorful sculptures, and playful characters.

oceania1oceania2oceania3oceania4oceania5oceania6oceania7oceania8oceania9I especially loved the woolly bear mask at the end.  The addition of stones, fur, ivory like materials, all added to the characters and their expressions.  I could see many of these masks as greeting cards with wicked sayings on the inside!  I’d love to know what the artist was thinking when they carved these creatures.  Especially the first photo of the male and female.

Liz and I ran through the Temple of Dendur, and the new Greek and Roman sculpture gardens, and then we set out for the 20 block trek to Julie Artisans Gallery.  Julie Dale has had this wearable art gallery on Madison Avenue for as long as I can remember.  Liz had some work there, and had an appointment to show Julie some of her new felted brooches, and scarves.  As we arrived, the gallery got very busy, so we waited for awhile before Julie could see us, which gave me lots of time to really study the work, the techniques, and watch a wearable art gallery in action.  I was blown away by how effortlessly someone spent a  thousand dollars on a  garment.  It has been many years since I did the craft fair circuit, and I have no reference point for fine American craft, especially in the textile world.  And I was really thrilled to see a venue like Julie’s survive in this very poor economic climate.  Julie selected a few of Liz’s floral brooches to try for the fall.

Liz and I hopped on an M-4 bus, and headed down 5th avenue, all the way to Penn Station.  We had an appointment to meet a boaclient of hers, or a potential client of hers, an absolutely charming woman, who, as she describes herself, works to feed her craft fair habit.  I instantly fell in love with her.  This woman had apparently traveled all the way to England to see a well known craft exhibition called “Origin” in London, the first two weekends in October, and had seen Liz’s work there.  We met up at the museum of FIT, a short walk from Penn Station, on 27th and 7th Avenue, where Liz got to see the Isabel Toledo exhibit, and the Fashion and Politics Exhibit.  We were quite exhausted at this point, so we were no longer absorbing anything we saw, but it was good to wander through the exhibits again, and share them with someone from the UK.

Afterward, the three of us went around the corner to a quiet pub, and had a beer.  It felt so good to just sit down, and relax, and Liz showed her client the work she had brought to show Julie Dale.  I haven’t done a craft fair since 1989, and it was fun to reminisce about the old days, the old shows like WBAI, and some of the key players in the textile arts.  And I was thrilled for Liz when her client purchased one of her ethereal felted scarves (pictured at the right, on Liz).  It was hard to see in a dark pub, but her client happily kept darting outside to see the colors in the sunlight.

Liz and I made the trek home, back to NJ,  just making the transit bus, and hitting virtually no traffic.  We were completely exhausted.  We raided the refrigerator for leftovers, had a feast, and fell happily in bed.

Tomorrow: felting with Liz!  (Can you see why I’m so exhausted?)

Is it fall yet?

I need this summer to be over.  I am tired…

I have so much to blog about, and absolutely no time to sit down and write.  And that’s frustrating me.  I spent the weekend volunteering for two days at Millbrook Village, an old 1850’s farming village on the Delaware river, demonstrating weaving and spinning, dressed in period costume, with my daughter.  We had a great time, and I’ve got pictures to share, but that will have to wait until tomorrow.

For now, I would like to finish up with the Felter’s Fling, I took some shots of some of the work from  the other classes, before I left last Tuesday to come home.  The conference continued for another four days, ending this morning.  Since I was only teaching the first three days, I opted to leave after my class.  I would have loved to have stayed to play, and see what the students made, but I needed to be home.



Karoliina Arvilommi and Roderick Welch, from Finland, taught a class in Scandinavian Feltmaking/Color, Design and Form.  The rugs were beautiful, so well made, and the imagery fresh and interesting.


Liz Clay, from the UK, taught a class in Elemental Rhythms/ Felt and Photograph.  I loved the work that came from this class, especially two of the pieces that Sharon Costello did.  The top photo was made from a photograph (on the right) juxtaposed with a piece of felt that was manipulated, stitched, and embellished to recreate the same feel as the photograph.  I posted a shot of Sharon working on the piece on my blog from a couple of days ago.  The photo below, of the fungus, is also by Sharon Costello, the large fungus in the front is in dimensional felt, and the smaller one behind, is a photograph.  Everything the class did, was interesting and sensitive.  And lucky me, Liz Clay was dropped off at my house tonight, and is staying with me for a couple of days while she plays in NYC.  I’ll take her to the airport Wednesday night before I head off to my guild meeting.


Myfanwy Stirling from Australia, taught a workshop called Feature Texture, Felt Vests or Smocks.  While learning to add surface texture to the felt fabric, students created interesting vests that fitted the body and celebrated the wearer.


Jeanette Sendler, also from the UK, taught a class making Collars, Cuffs, and Mantles, some of the work was displayed on the folding screen, so I could get a group shot.  Beautiful surfaces.



Jean Hicks, from Seattle, WA taught a class called Millinery Questions for Feltmakers.  She is wearing one of the hats in the top photo, and some of the other hats made during the class were lined up across the table.  There were such amazing shapes, and styles.  All were wearable!

I had a great time at the Fling.  Sharon Costello, who organizes this event every two years, does a wonderful job, and I’m really loving the felting community.  And I’m looking forward to having Liz Clay in my studio/home for a few days.

Tomorrow I’ll blog about my Demonstration days at Millbrook Village.

I’m Home!

Actually, I’ve been home for a couple of days, but I got in really late Tuesday night, and I hit the ground running Wednesday morning, with very little sleep.  Could it have been the caffeine I consumed to keep me awake for the four hour drive Tuesday night?  Duh…

Anyway, I spent Wednesday morning with my 16 year old daughter at the local county college, where she was taking advantage of a HS challenge program and signing up for a class in Japanese.  Her five text books cost $125.  She was very excited to think of herself as a college student.  Of course she still has two more years of HS…  But it is a great opportunity and she will get college credit for the course.

I spent the rest of Wednesday unpacking, doing the laundry, actually working in the yard for an hour, which felt wonderful.  I haven’t spent any time, either working on or enjoying my lovely gardens this summer, and playing in the dirt after such a grueling six weeks of conferences was healing.  My husband, bless him, has done an amazing job keeping up the gardens which I assure you is NOT a one person job.  There is a ton of weeding that needs to be done, to be sure, but he has kept the worst of the weeds at bay, and installed a ton of downlights around the ponds, which glow like fairy pools in the late evening.  I’m looking forward to the fall, which is usually glorious in NJ.

Last night, my husband and I bought tickets, right before I left, for Noises Off, at the NJ Shakespeare Theatre which is housed in a gorgeous building at Drew University in Madison, NJ.  We bought the tickets based on the Newspaper review, which was stellar, and we laughed through the entire performance.  I adore British farces, lots of door slamming, flawless timing, as only a Shakespeare Company can do, and we enjoyed the show so much, we bought additional tickets for Twelfth Night, and The Grapes of Wrath, which close out the 2009 season.  In addition, we just received the season tickets for the Papermill Playhouse.  So much live theatre to see!

So today, I looked at my poor neglected house, and decided that I needed to spend the day, really cleaning it, which meant all sorts of detours, including cleaning out the snake cage.  Don’t ask.  I worked straight through the day, and only managed to clean one floor.  That’s what happens when you leave for a few weeks, the house gets dirty without you.  I’ll continue it tomorrow, but tomorrow, being the end of the month, is paperwork day.  I have a huge stack, all the accounts and bills have to be addressed, and that will be my priority tomorrow.

Since Project Runway starts in half an hour, I thought I’d post the photos of the jackets from my class at the Felter’s Fling.  They were amazing.  I had five students, and they were working like crazy right up to the end, there are still a lot of pins in the jackets, along with tailor’s tacks, and errant threads.  But everyone was really thrilled, they learned so much, and I heard from more than one student that, “they enjoyed this so much they might even start sewing!”


Felter’s Fling

OK, I know I’ve been a bit lax in my postings.  Overload wouldn’t even begin to cover it.  But I’m having a great time up here in MA, at a craft center called Snow Farm where Sharon Costello, felter extraordinaire, has organized the fourth Felter’s Fling, which is a gathering of international felter’s, who spend a week doing, well, felting.  The instructors come from all over the world, and so do the felters.  I feel positively local coming from NJ.  Though I’ve only dabbled in felt, I am here as an instructor teaching the felters how to make jackets from their felt.

The first night I arrived at the “Fling”, I judged the Felted Hat contest, where all the conference attendees wore their newest headpieces and millinery creations, and the instructors all got together as judges.  What an amazing parade of creativity.  We all came up with our favorites, and awarded prizes to the most “amphibious”, the most “green” (made from scraps), the most “likely to crawl away”, the awards were as fun as the hats!


I have to say, I adore working with felters.  Not that I want to become a full time felter, I am a weaver at heart, but there is such a different approach to creativity in the felting community than in the weaving community, it is fun to be here, immersed in wool, for a change of scenery after four weaving conferences in a row.

The biggest difference is the spontaneity of process, with some soap and hot water, and some wool, the most amazing things can be formed, shaped, and invented.  Yes, it takes some skill to be really good at this, but the process couldn’t be simpler.  And there is no huge investment in equipment, and no HUGE learning curve, no threading the loom, no mathematical calculations, (except in how much wool you need), just seeing where the wool takes you.  The felt itself, when cut, doesn’t ravel, doesn’t have a grainline, and has this gorgeous organic edge that can be used in all sorts of decorative ways in a garment, instead of seam finishes, hems, and edges.  So the standard jacket pattern I use for teaching handweavers to sew, becomes something entirely different when used by felters.

I shot a few photos of some of the jackets in progress, it is fun to watch the students change course mid stream, run out and felt another piece if they need it, cut up and piece and overlap and embellish as the spirit moved them, and see these wonderful jackets just take form and develop into personal stories and statements.

embellishingSome of the students continued to work on their felt panels, embellishing and piecing, well into the second day.  Can’t do that with handwoven yardage, it is what it is.construction2

The range of fabrics was amazing, from gorgeous flat wools, to textured collages of bits of everything that could possibly be held down by the wool. The layout was thoughtful, and well planned, and placement of the natural edge of the felt was used in wonderful ways.

jacket3We even had some interlopers come in from other classes to use the needle felting machine I brought, or the free motion stitching capabilities of the sewing machines I brought.  I own a Janome xPressions embellisher machine, and of course I brought my Janome professional 6600.

jacket2sharonconstructionjacket1I’ll try to get some photos of all the nearly finished jackets tomorrow afternoon after the class ends, before I head home.

Comb binding mania!

I am bleary eyed…  All I’ve done for the last couple of days is laundry (smelly clothes from a week at girl scout camp) and print monographs and handouts for the Michigan conference, which is August 5-9.  This is the conference where I have a 12 hour turn around, I arrive home from Colorado late evening next Monday night, and leave Tuesday morning for a direct flight to Grand Rapids Michigan.  But that’s all happening on the 4-5 of August.  Right now we are still in July, so my mantra for the day is, “Don’t project…”

crock2The crock pot is doing its thing, I’ve done shades of bronze, olive, rose, and teal, and today we are cooking a canary yellow.  I’m enjoying this explosion of color, and I can’t wait until fall when I can really play with this wool.  I’m hoping to be inspired hanging around with all the felters for a few days in late August at the Felters Fling. I’ll be teaching a jacket making workshop, and one of my goals here is to make my own “Daryl Jacket” from my own felt…binding_handouts

So, I’ve gone through about $6-700 dollars in toner, and printed reams of paper.  The monographs are handoutsstacked, and the handouts are so big, I’ve forgotten just how big this particular handout is, that I need more 1/2″ comb bind spines.  My wonderful shopper husband is out at Staples as I write.  So I decided to take a break and blog, because I am really bored just punching chads from all this paper with the binding machine…  (Would that I could listen to a book on tape, but alas, I do have to pay attention here, I’ve punched handouts backwards and talk about awkward when you hand someone their handout and oops!)

coverI have so enjoyed reworking my design journal from the last nine years, that I’ve almost finished.  I created a cover from a collage I didn’t end up using for my website home page, but it worked well here.  I only have six projects left to redo, I’ve completed 18 of the projects, each with a two page spread.  I’ve had to dig around in the attic to find scraps of companion fabrics, when I failed to include them originally.  This notebook had mostly the weaving notes, not much was entered once the fabric was finished and I turned the fabric into a garment many years later.  So I’m reconstructing all that, which is an organizational blast, and gluing everything in place.  I took more detailed photos of two of the  projects, in case dear reader, you are interested…

This project was called Softened Edges, and was an 8 shaft deflected double weave from rayon.  I chose a pattern for a jacket that could be reversible since the fabric was two sided.  I used felled seams and bound the edges with a lovely wine colored jacquard silk.

The second project was done on a dare.  I attended the ANWG weavers conference in Pendleton Oregon back in 2003. pg1a pg1bIt was my first time at that conference, and I had been asked to give the keynote address.  It was a wonderful experience, and Pendleton is very charming, and plucked right out of the Oregon trail.  The Pendleton Mill tour ranks up there with my top fiber experiences.  They welcomed the conference attendees, and as a thank you for coming gift, we all got bales of the Pendleton blanket selvedges they cut off after fulling, before they bind the blankets.  These were huge bales, and I talked them into shipping mine home after purchasing a lot of wonderful things from their outlet store.  Some of the local weavers, sick to death of the Pendleton worms, sent theirs home with me as well…

pg2bpg2aSo the dare was to come up with some piece of clothing, since that’s what I do best, made out of the worms.  I ended up weaving a Theo Moorman inlay, where the backing was a wool combination of things in my stash  and the inlay threads a 20/2 rayon, also in my stash.  I wove in the worms, on the surface of the plain weave background, held down by the tie-down threads.  I planned the colors carefully, matching up like “worms” from my bales.  I loved the effect of the color changes, (calling the finished coat “Butterfly“), and ended up constructing the coat by cutting the worm fabric on the crosswise grain.  Since the fabric was too fat and lofty to seam in the traditional way, I cut off the seam website_success1allowances, and used a wool jersey to bind all the edges, connecting the seams together with the jersey.  It is one of the techniques I detail in my Seams and Edge Finishes Monograph.

So back I go for more endless punching of chads…  My husband has returned from Staples. All of these have to be shipped on Tuesday.  I am currently printing the last of the monographs, which is the newest one in the collection, Website Success.  I will offer it for sale on my website, once I give the presentation to those that signed up at the Michigan Conference.  I want to be able to tweak any thing that isn’t completely clear, and I won’t really know that until I give it to a room full of mixed levels of computer experience.  Stay tuned…