It’s All About The Base

Last week I made a trip to Iowa’s historic Amana Colonies to visit with basketmaker Joanna Schanz, who curates the Philip Dickel Basket Museum Gallery.  The looped white pine bark egg gathering basket I made last winter is now on exhibit there. And there’s nothing like a long drive to help me sort things out in my head. I spent some time thinking about bases, but also about making do, making things that are useful, and making friends.
Amana coiled bread rising basket repaired.

First, making do: This coiled bread rising basket is one of the samples of historic Amana baskets that complement the work of contemporary makers in American Baskets: Made To Be Used. Notice the different colors? Different materials were used when this basket was repaired.

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Roses In The Freezer

After 10 days, the heads on my 25th anniversary roses were starting to droop. So I channeled my inner Morticia Addams and cut off their heads.

Recycled anniversary roses are saved for ecoprinting.

They’re in the freezer now until I have a chance to use them in an ecoprint project. I also pulled the stems out of the vase to let the leaves dry. When I’m ready to bundle, I’ll rehydrate the leaves with hot water.

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Spring Cleaning And Mending

Inviting a bunch of friends to a party at your house is good incentive to get spring cleaning done. About the only time I had to take pictures, though, was while my braided hall runners were in the front-loaders at the laundromat. After 14 years, they still looked pretty good when they come out. Except for where the stitching needs to be repaired.

Curved needle for mending.

Generally I loathe stitching with a curved needle, but not in this case. It’s absolutely the right tool for the job of repairing a braided rug. I draped the rug over a bench and sewed up the gaps while we watched Mad Men on DVD one night.

I finally got to the top of the wait list for Season 1 of Outlander at the library, and am planning to mend jeans while I watch it. My new mending basket is all set up and ready to go. More on that another time. I see a spot I missed on that window.

Ode To Willow Weavers

Years ago, I read a rhyme used to help stake-and-strand weavers learn their craft. On a solo drive to a basketry conference in Michigan, I expanded that rhyme into an ode, recitations of which were so hammy that I’m glad there were no cell phone cameras back then. I found that poem again while cleaning last winter. Since April is Poetry Month, I give you An Ode To Willow Weavers. Feel free to post your own hammy YouTube video!

Ode to willow weavers poem.

Looping — Read All About It

In casual conversation with non-fiber people, I try to keep a lid on my enthusiasm for a technique many people have never heard of. Don’t want to scare people with raving and weird vocabulary. But when someone wants to talk about looping and asks great questions? You can’t begin to know how much I appreciate it!

Spring 2015 artist profile of Donna Kallner in NBO Quarterly.Leanne Jewett did just that when she interviewed me for the artist profile in the National Basketry Organization’s Spring 2015 quarterly magazine. It arrive yesterday, and NBO gave me permission to post a PDF of the four-page article. You can read it here.

There’s still time to register for my July 15-17 workshop New Age Looping: Process and Possibilities at the NBO biennial conference in St. Paul, Minnesota. The class is open to all levels. We’ll cover basics, even if you’ve been looping for a while (I’m a big believer in solid fundamentals), then I’ll be able to tailor challenges for students of different experience levels and interests. Want to come spout weird vocabulary with me?

Natural Dyes: Rhubarb Leaves and Bark Extracts

When I can glean materials for natural dyeing that would otherwise end up on the compost pile, I’m a happy dyer. That’s what I’ve been working with lately — the waste from processing bark for this basket, and rhubarb leaves I saved from last summer.

Rhubarb leaf natural dye on wool.

Bill and I grow rhubarb, which we gorge on in summer and freeze for winter. When I harvest the stalks, I save the leaves for natural dyeing. The oxalic acid in rhubarb leaves seems to help yarns take up other natural dye colors better, but on its own the color is not that special. Usually.  This time, I got an electric yellow-green — best color ever for me from a rhubarb leaf dyebath by itself. So now I have a fade test going to see how colorfast this yarn will be.

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Looping With White Pine Bark

For thousands of years, people have learned to make the most of materials they can grow or gather locally. To celebrate that tradition, for an exhibition in Iowa this summer I’m sending a looped basket made from white pine bark I gathered in my own yard.

Looped white pine bark egg basket by Donna Kallner.

The show is American Baskets: Made To Be Used at the Philip Dickel Basket Museum Gallery in West Amana, Iowa. The technique was inspired by the Swedish bastabinne tradition. There are very good videos that show bastabinne looping technique here and here.

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Natural Dyes — The Unscientific Method

My cavalier approach to natural dye documentation must drive some of you nuts. Any 8th grader knows from working on science projects that I go about things all wrong. Well, maybe not all wrong. But I certainly don’t make it easy for others to replicate my results. When was the last time you read “weight of fiber” here? Right.

Experiments with pH shifts in naturally dyed wool yarns.

This is going to sound awful, but I really don’t care if others can “replicate” my results. I do care, and care deeply, that others feel encouraged to explore uses of natural dye materials they can grow or gather where they live. That’s why I share these experiments in the first place. Chances are you won’t have access to the exact same materials. Or you won’t have the recommended weight of materials in relation to weight of fiber. Or your water chemistry will be different. Or any number of other variables will make your results unique. That’s why I write about the process, instead of the product.

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More Fun With pH

That’s a variation on one of my alkaline extraction natural dyes on the left, and a pH modifier test on the right. I’m tempted to leave them hanging on the towel rod in the bathroom because they look so pretty in there.

Naturally dyed yarns by Donna Kallner.

For the one on the left, I simmered the wool yarn in a rhubarb leaf immersion bath. That helped use up some of the frozen dye materials that were relegated to the porch in my recent freezer purge.

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