Stitching Bee — Coracle Edition

Remember the books you read as a kid, where the pioneer ladies trekked through woods and snow to get together with friends around a quilting frame? This week’s adventure was a drive to Iowa for a stitching bee with Jo Campbell-Amsler and Joanna Schanz.

For almost 20 years, these two willow basketmakers from Iowa have taught, mentored, inspired and challenged me, and I’m lucky to call them my friends. So this week I jumped at the chance to spend a day with the two of them.

Jo was ready to put the cover on a willow coracle, a job that would be much easier with a couple extra pairs of hands. The coracle project started in 2010. A conversation in one of Jo’s classes inspired a small group of weavers in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to build two of the small willow watercraft as a winter project. Jo and her husband went up to the U.P. for the launch party last summer. And after narrowly losing the race series (to a teenager sporting an arm cast), Jo and Karen Tembreull wove a coracle frame for Jo.

The frame is dry, so this week it was time to get the cover on. Jo had the canvas seamed before we got there.

With three pairs of hands, it was quick work to stretch and clamp the fabric over the frame.

Then we stitched the fabric to the willow frame.

Joanna used a broom-making tool I’m calling a “palm thimble” to push the needle through multiple layers of canvas.

We stitched. We talked. We shared ideas. We completed a project. We added another chapter to our shared story.

So many tasks are easier and more fun when shared with friends. But sometimes it’s easier to to help a friend than to ask friends for help. I’m glad Jo asked.

Is there a project or task on your to-do list that could be turned into a bee?

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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

3 thoughts on “Stitching Bee — Coracle Edition”

  1. What a wonderful idea! I watched with interest when Olivia Elton Barratt and crew made their willow coracle in England back in 2000 or maybe before, so nice to see that you guys are also carrying on the tradition. Was it built in Jo’s studio? Thanks for posting all this to your blog and on Facebook.

    The Wicker Woman-Cathryn Peters

  2. Cathryn, Jo wove hers on a jig the crew in the UP built after (I think) they wove their first one. I believe she and Karen wove it in less than an afternoon.

    Sherri, I bet you could turn a few heads in your neck of the woods with one of these! Be on the lookout for “Lone Star” canvas!

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