Cyber Swoop But No Shopping Bag Story

There’s a dusting of snow on the ground, the Salvation Army bellringers are back in town, and I’m in a holiday mood. To share the joy, I’ve added a special bonus to orders of my book New Age Looping. Through December 17, each book order in my Etsy shop ships with 30 yards of hand-painted Irish waxed linen and coordinating beads. That $10 value is really priceless, because the painted thread adds such depth and richness to even a simple looping project.

If you’re hunting for other gifts online, here are a couple more places you might look: (Blogger is feeling fussy and I’m having trouble posting images, but you have a great imagination and links to click.)

  •  I added a Swoop Page to the blog recently to let you know when I have things for sale — like the two small art quilts I just placed in my Etsy shop.
  • I don’t know about you, but I have no trouble coming up with gift ideas for women but get stumped on some of the guys. Our neighbors Shawn and Stephanie can solve that problem for you. They use absolutely stunning, high-quality fabrics to create hammocks and messenger bags. Right now in-stock items are 33 percent off, and they’re offering free shipping. Here’s a peek at one of their messenger bags.
  •  Spoonflower is offering two-for-one pricing on fat quarter tea towels through Friday. There are a few I might have to add to my collection of vintage linen calendar towels bought at thrift stores!

I spent the weekend working on holiday gifts I’m making from fabric I dyed in the indigo vat last week. If you’re interested in indigo, I tagged a post from Japanese Textile Workshops in the Loose Ends box on this blog’s far right sidebar. I’ll post the tote bag story and picture I promised last time next time when Blogger is behaving better.

Add your voice to the conversation at facebook.com/donnakallnerfiberart

Supply And Demand

Any true magazine junkie will understand why I would pick up an old copy of Guitar World from the share table at the library (no, I don’t play), or haul away the unsold periodicals from a garage sale. You also know that nothing feeds an addiction like the excuse, “it’s research”. This explains a number of lost hours at newsstands and a whole expense category in our accounting system.

Recently I bought a copy of Mark Lipinski’s Fabric Trends For Quilters. I felt like a poseur, because I’m not a “real” quilter. Real quilters piece and organize their fabric neatly by color, right? But it was research, and I’m an avid learner.

Here’s what I found particularly fascinating. In Mark’s editor’s letter he writes that all of the fabrics featured in Fabric Trends are currently on their way to shops, and photos of actual quilts:

have been traded out for computer-generated designs, but that compromise means you can now actually make the quilts you see.

So here are the thoughts that swirled around in my head while I stitches this week.

  • Making projects that exactly match the pictures in a book or magazine isn’t my style, but I can appreciate why people do it.
  • How much is tied up in inventory in my local fabric shop? Yikes! And yet what they probably hear the most about is what they don’t have in stock.
  • How long can a manufacturer afford to warehouse and sell last season’s fabrics (or book titles, in the case of publishers) when it’s no longer the newest / latest / bestest thing?

And finally:

  • How long will it be before print-on-demand technology changes all of this? 

One day, will I be able to walk into my local fabric shop for needles and thread, browse racks of fabrics that reflect the current trends, then step up to a kiosk to reorder fabric from a year or two before? In the store, so the store owner who answers my dumb curious questions gets some benefit from the sale?

I am totally in love with Spoonflower, and have my own designs for sale there. You can upload your own designs or pick one from another designer and choose the type of fabric. Spoonflower will print the design, and it comes to you in the mail. But will this option kill the desire to buy fabric in person? No more than methadone alone eliminates the desire for other addictive substances. No more than e-readers will eliminate books you can flip through with pages you can dog-ear.

Stop. Rethread. Make a cup of tea. Resume stitching and pondering.

Earlier this month as I was working on the redesign of my web site, I debated what to do with my bibliographies. Some of my old favorite books are out of print, and some of my new favorites won’t stay in print for long, it seems. Perhaps in another decade, print-on-demand technology will make it possible for another generation of artists to obtain some of these titles without waiting for the yard sale that will begin shortly after my funeral. Perhaps it will be possible for me to get a copy of Toshiko Horiuchi’s From A Line without hocking the car. I can’t see any possibility, though, that the option of obtaining old titles would keep me from wanting new ones, too. That includes magazines as well as books.

For what it’s worth, I moved an abbreviated bibliography to this page here on Two Red Threads.

As for the rest of it, I’m curious about how you would use today’s print on demand technology to shape the world of tomorrow. What are your thoughts?

Add your voice to the conversation at facebook.com/donnakallnerfiberart

You Know, The One Where…

Old journal cover collage by Donna Kallner

Do you have conversations like this with yourself? “What was the name of that book? Really good book. It was about….something. The author was… it’s on the tip of my tongue.” I have to hop in the shower regularly in hopes of remembering this stuff, because it only surfaces when it’s not possible to jot down specifics.

Which leads me to bibliographies. My web site is getting a makeover, and I’m trying to decide what to do about the bibliographies. I put the link into that sentence, but by next week it may lead nowhere. Not unlike  those start-and-stop conversations amongst me, myself and I.

Back when I was teaching coiling classes, some of my favorite books were out of print or hard to find. A bibliography was really useful for any student who wanted to track down those titles. As for looping? Let’s just say, if you run across Odd Nordland’s Primitive Scandinavian Textiles In Knotless Netting at a library sale and buy it because of my bibliography, you could show your thanks by getting a second copy for me.

Much as I would like to, I don’t own every book I treasure. It’s just not in the budget. I do, however, have access to a very good public library where I can arrange interlibrary loans. That’s how I got this copy of Digital Textile Design by Melanie Bowles and Ceri Isaac. It’s mine, all mine, until next week.

As my work has transitioned toward mixed media textiles and vessels, my thoughts about bibliographies have changed. While some of my favorite books are still long out of print, there are great new books coming out all the time. You can type into a Google Search, “you know, the one where…” and it comes up with the title. That’s a little creepy, but it’s also convenient.

So how useful is the bibliography? Do you get enough reading recommendations every time you visit Amazon, or should I add a tab here on the blog with titles you might find intriguing? Your comments are always appreciated!

Add your voice to the conversation at facebook.com/donnakallnerfiberart

New Age Looping & A Whole New Mind

Last week I had the pleasure of doing a workshop and lecture on New Age Looping for the North Shore Weavers Guild in Evanston, Illinois. Before I do this lecture, I always spread out the contents of my Looping Trunk Show — a rolling carry-on bag filled with some of the more portable pieces I’ve made over the years. I also put out my bead looping cell phone case, my looped MP3 player pouch, and a few other looped pieces I use daily. Then I fill my travel mug with tea to sip as I speak to the group.

Invariably, after a program I expect to hear two questions: “How long did it take you to make all that?” and “May I look at your mug?” It’s a simple thermal mug I bought because it has a lid I can close completely (I’m a recovering spiller). The freeform looping sheath I made to go around it gives me something textured to hold onto and something pretty to look at.

After the lecture, I drove home sipping tea from that same mug, thinking about the lovely people I had met and replaying snippets of conversations in my mind. One guild member is an archaeologist, and I hope to continue our brief discussion of one of my favorite books, Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years by Elizabeth Wayland Barber.

Somewhere north of Milwaukee, I was struck by an unexpected parallel between Women’s Work and a book I read recently. In A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink describes a new age of a different kind – one that prizes aptitudes he calls “high concept” and “high touch.”

“High concept involves the capacity to detect patterns and opportunities, to create artistic and emotional beauty, to craft a satisfying narrative, and to combine seemingly unrelated ideas into something new. High touch involves the ability to empathize with others, to understand the subtleties of human interaction, to find joy in one’s self and to elicit it in other, and to stretch beyond the quotidian in pursuit of purpose and meaning.”

For 20,000 years, stitchers and weavers have done just that. If you’re going to make something that people will see or touch or use, it might as well be beautiful. As Barber notes, for most of human history time wasn’t perceived as a commodity. Something takes how long it takes.

I’ll drink to that.

Add your voice to the conversation at facebook.com/donnakallnerfiberart

Puppy Love & Dog-Eared Pages


Like a lot of fiber artists, I learned much of what I know because I found it in print. I still have and use that little orange embroidery booklet from Coats & Clark. A circa 1959 copy of Good Housekeeping’s Complete Book of Needlecraft by Vera P. Guild, which I pinched from my mom years ago, was my introduction to netting with shuttle and gauge, and much more. In high school, I bought Mara Cary’s Basic Baskets and some reed and taught myself to weave. My idea of a good time is scouring a used bookstore for titles that may be long out of print but still offer insight and ideas.

In the studio today, I needed someone else’s opinion (winnowing or threshing?), and thought maybe I’d find it in Ed Rossbach’s The Nature of Basketry. I got sidetracked in his chapter on Temporary Baskets. That’s where, years ago, I dog-eared the page corner and underlined this:

“The perishable thing which survives speaks most potently of time, of all time rather than the moment of its existence.”

Later today, I read the first issue of a new online magazine, Needle. Fabulous images, lovely articles. Don’t miss Jayne Coleman’s “The Wisdom of Grannies”. My first thought was, how do I dog-ear this page? I want to stumble upon this again when I’m looking for something else.

It’s hard not to think of magazines as perishable, and online magazines even more so. But this one created a beautiful memory for me. I haven’t figured out how to store it with the back issues of Piecework in my basement, but I’ll keep you posted.

Add your voice to the conversation at facebook.com/donnakallnerfiberart

Another Collaboration


When Joan Molloy Slack and I first met, it didn’t take long to discover that we’re both fascinated by the work of our ancient ancestors. For a recent show at Nicolet College, we honored that work with a collaboration that combined her pottery and my netting.

Most objects the ancients used in everyday life were made of perishable fibers that disintegrated long ago. But archaeologists have found 28,000-year-old clay fragments marked with the impression of netting. The skilled execution of the knots shown in those impressions suggests that netting wasn’t new to them, that people had been using the technique for some time to catch fish, snare game, and carry unwieldy objects. People still sometimes decorate pottery with the imprint of netting.

The ancestors who once pressed a net into wet clay left us an even greater legacy than physical evidence of ancient material culture. They left us a tradition of collaboration. In Niche, Joan and I celebrate the women who went before us and those will come after us, working together to make even everyday objects more beautiful.

If you have a chance, go here to read a 1998 article from Discover magazine by Heather Pringle called New Women of the Ice Age. Archaeologist Olga Soffer’s comments about net hunting are offer a wonderful example of the power of working together.

Add your voice to the conversation at facebook.com/donnakallnerfiberart

Two Red Threads – 194 Years In The Making

Haven’t we met before? I’m Donna Kallner. I teach fiber art workshops around the country (and take workshops, too, when I can).

At these events, wonderful, interesting people begin fascinating conversations. And I’m the one who cuts in and breaks the thread of thought. When I’d like to say, “Tell us more!” I have to say, “Excuse me,” so I can do another demo, answer a question, or check on progress around the room.

This blog is a place to continue the conversation, untangle ideas, share stories, and reflect on what we learn by making fiber art. Thanks for coming by and joining in.

I’ll be posting a couple times a week (more some weeks, less others) about topics like looping, stitching, surface design, image transfer, digital fabric, mixed media textiles and vessels, stuff I’m sampling, books and blogs. I’ll post occasional tutorials, creativity exercises, prompts and challenges. And I’ll be asking readers to share work made in response to classes and challenges.

You can make sure you know what’s happening at Two Red Threads by subscribing, using the button in the sidebar.

So why is it called Two Red Threads? Stay tuned, and next time I’ll tell you about an unfinished project that should make you feel better about your own UFOs.

Add your voice to the conversation at facebook.com/donnakallnerfiberart