Extreme Sampling With Illinois Prairie Weavers

In my view, sampling workshops are right up there with dark chocolate and salty snacks: I love them! As a student, I appreciate the opportunity to try things I might not wrangle together on my own. As a teacher, watching ideas start to flow when students discover new techniques is so much fun I forget all about dark chocolate and salty snacks.

This week, I got to play the Illinois Prairie Weavers. First, the whole group heard my spiel on sharing stories through textiles (a.k.a. my Complete Fabrication lecture).

They’d already done a bang-up job of telling their stories during their show-and-tell before the lecture. That’s the line-up of people ready to share their beautiful work with the group.

And this is show-and-tell work spread out for a closer look after the program.

My lovely host wore a formerly white handwoven silk vest she had overdyed with pink acid dye. When I left her house, that vest was soaking in the sink ready to go into the indigo vat for its next incarnation. She’s planning to keep adding surface design alterations each month to wear to guild meetings. I’m hoping to see pictures of the vests evolution.

As usual, I was too busy to take a single picture once I started teaching the dry techniques part of the workshop that afternoon. But here’s what the kit looked like before I packed up and left home. In a whirlwind of sampling, the group got an introduction to the possibilities of some pigment-dye products and disperse dyes (with a side of inkjet heat transfers and inkjet fabrics).

The wet workshop was held the next day in my host’s garage, where running water was just a few steps away (a luxury compared to my own studio). As usual, the day was almost over before I thought to reach for my camera. By that time we had set up a vat of pre-reduced indigo, steamed acid dye samples, dipped a lot of samples in blue dye, and discovered one leaky glove!

While Inkodye samples were developing I did get a few shots. This may be my favorite student photo ever: Four classes of dyes, 38 samples over two days — and they’re still smiling!

When I left, the students were planning the extreme sampling show-and-tell they’ll do at their next guild meeting, and how they might use techniques they had learned. That put a smile on my face that stayed there through the drive home and the unpacking.

Now I’m off to build a thread-winding jig inspired by two my host has made, neither of which I took pictures of. Really, why is it so hard to remember to take three seconds to take a snapshot?

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Donna Kallner

fiber artist, teacher and explorer, inspired by ancient fiber techniques and all the ways contemporary fiber artists give old ideas a new spin

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