Six-Way Mirror The Easy Way

Really, it was a good thing I was such a slacker this weekend. Otherwise, I would have finished writing thank-you notes to students from my Digital Fabric at Sievers before I read about

Hands On

Repper offers a free demo, so I decided to try it with a photo I took of everyone’s hands on the first day of class.

My square selection was from the far right side of this rectangular source image (to get the pink shirt into the pattern). For the tiling option, I used p6m, which is hexagonal and mirrored in six directions. I exported the JPG and uploaded it to Spoonflower to get the image you see at the top of the post.

I printed the source image and the Repper pattern JPG on a sheet of inkjet silk for each student and wrote my thank-yous on that fabric instead of paper. In each envelope, I tucked in an 8″x8″ Spoonflower color swatch. I ordered those just a bit too late to arrive in time for class. Rats — I really wanted everyone to see swatches printed on each of Spoonflower’s fabric options. I need to order the whole collection again to keep in my sample kit.

The heads-up on Repper came from Jezze Prints. Take a look at Jesse’s Repper designs, which are very cool.

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Reinventing The Wheel

You probably have a go-to color wheel, the one you reach for automatically. But my old wheel is looking a little flat now that I’m using Joen Wolfrom’s Ultimate 3-in-1 Color Tool.

I bought this color tool for the same reason videos go viral and aging parents finally decide to upgrade to the good walker with the big wheels and seat: I heard about it from a friend. Thanks, Ellen!

The 3rd edition includes CMYK and RGB color formulas, which is really handy when working with palettes in Gimp. For the record, I have no affiliation with the author or the publisher.

If you need some incentive to explore palettes, take a few minutes to check out the 22 pages of entries in Spoonflower’s current fabric of the week contest — bird fabrics based on a palette limited to black, white, Spoonflower blue, and one color of the designer’s choosing. Go directly here to see the entries and cast your vote.

Now if you’ll excuse me, the only colors I’m thinking about right now are Packer green and gold.

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Bye, Bye Bonehead

Sometimes it’s not what you leave in, but what you take out that makes the difference. I often remind students that Best Achievement in Film Editing gets an Academy Award each year. Now it’s time to put my delete key where my mouth is.

I’ve been editing the Digital Fabric class I’ll be teaching at Sievers next week. It’s time to decide whether an example using a photograph of chew bones from my dog’s toy basket…

a) memorably illustrates what you can do with Gimp, Spoonflower and Picnik and inspires students to throw out preconceived notions about fabric design, or

b) stalls the action.

I made the Bonehead design while testing a class challenge to photograph objects and create a story fabric. The exercise is in, but not with this example. I’ll take the Bonehead proof swatch along in my collection of printed fabric samples, but it isn’t a fabric I’ll use to illustrate process. So Bye bye, Bonehead.

Instead, I think I’ll use a photo of goldenrod-dyed silk against weathered wood…

…and move the exercise a bit later in the class, while students are working on different ways to handle repeats.

In teaching, making, coaching, gardening and many other activities, it’s beneficial to “Edit wisely,” as Project Runway’s Tim Gunn would say. Wonder what he would say about my red lentil exercise?

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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!

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Making Choices

It’s time to make some choices. I’ve been doing a lot of designs for digital fabric. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to design a winning lottery ticket, so can’t afford to just order yardage from every design. This is probably a good thing. If I ordered everything, most of it would have to go into a mouse-proof storage bin, and I would probably forget I have it before I could finish sewing the rest of the batch.

Still, I have a few more designs to upload to Spoonflower before I have to choose. Then I’ll order the Swatch Sampler before I spring for yardage.

If you’re interested in learning more about creating digital fabrics yourself, there’s a free PDF called Exploring Digital Fabric on my Tutorials/PDFs page. It touches on:

fabrics you can create with your digital camera and inkjet printer


fabrics you can create with


fabrics you can create with

Blogger is being fussy today, so please leave a comment if you have trouble with any of these links.

Better yet, tell us about your own adventures with digital fabric!

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Reunion, Renewal and Recharge

Every other year in the fall, Sievers School of Fiber Arts hosts a reunion. Students, faculty, family members, islanders and visitors get together for a weekend to reconnect, recharge, and get a fiber inspiration boost. The 2010 Gathering was last weekend. If you weren’t able to be there, let me see if I can share the essence of the event. I hope some of its positive energy transfers to you, and you’re not too jealous of my tremendous haul at the garage sale.

I started going to Gatherings in 1996 and have made it to maybe all but one since. While Bill has taught at Sievers (rustic furniture) and gone as a student (printing and dyeing fabric), this is only the second time he’s been able to go to the Gathering. We were both looking forward to seeing friends and enjoying all the special events.

Most years there are workshops on Friday afternoon. One year I took Anita Luvera Mayer’s Mud Pies for Adults class. One year I took Stephanie Lewis Robertson’s workshop on Thermofax screen printing. This year I taught Local Color Jewelry. My voice held out through the afternoon as nine students got an introduction to the possibilities of using inkjet heat transfers to make pins, bracelets and other jewelry. In addition to Island images I shot on other trips to the Island, we also printed transfer paper with a photo I took Friday of the vines on Tomson Hall in their early-autumn splendor. We cut that transfer paper into bracelet-size strips that made lovely abstract elements for a project they can do on their own to truly capture the Local Color of a Gathering weekend.

The Friday night program was by Mary Jo Scandin, a Sievers instructor since 1982. It was a treat not only to see images of the work she’s done in batik and silk painting, but also to hear the stories behind the pieces. My only disappointment of the weekend is that I got distracted and didn’t get to look at Mary Jo’s fabric books after the program. I’ll save the story of how Mary Jo sparked Bill’s fascination with silk painting for another day. For now I’ll just say she inspired both of us and many others on Friday night!

On Saturday morning, we hit the Sievers fiber art garage sale as soon as it opened. People donate books, tools, yarn, fabric and more. Proceeds from the sale go to benefit different organizations, so you can feel really good about donating items to the sale and buy stuff at the sale. This year, the money raised is going to the Red Barn Theater, the Washington Island Rec Center, and the Island Players’ Dramatic Arts In Education program. I was too busy buying to take pictures, but here’s what I got:

  • a big bag of angora to spin for $10
  • a big bag of mohair locks for $2
  • two bags of wool roving
  • two drop spindles
  • a set of circular needles
  • a bag of lovely cotton yarn
  • a bundle of wool fabric
  • three books
  • a pile of knitting and spinning magazines
  • and a set of Louet hand carders and a case of gift amnesia. I’ll act surprised when these show up under the Christmas tree, but I might not wait to use them.

After stashing my loot in the car, we picked up a few things at the Sievers Shop, where yarns were 30 to 50 percent off the regular price, and visited the vendors, who were set up in the Sophie Studio. I got some silk caps and extra bobbins for my spinning wheel from Kathi Cascio of Apple Hollow Fibers in Sturgeon Bay. Patty Brooking from Izora’s Beads in Fish Creek had some irresistible seed beads and findings. I fingered every one of the beautiful handspun yarns made by Cindy Ellenenbecker of Bleating Heart Haven in New Holstein. (I totally spaced out on taking pictures, and wish I could show you the vest she was wearing — sorry!). Bill and I kept up our strength for shopping by splitting a pumpkin cupcake from Island Bread Company and brought home a loaf of their naturally leavened, brick oven baked whole wheat sourdough bread — yum. (Bill also got the last 5 chocolate-chocolate chip cookies a little later.)

During the Gathering, there’s always a display of work students bring to show and share. After shopping, we oohed and aahed over the exhibit and (you guessed it) I added those inspirations to the stew of ideas that’s simmering in my head.

On Saturday, there are usually demonstrations in the morning and afternoon in the Walter Studio. I’ve learned a ton from the demos over the years. That’s where I first saw an auto-lift iron, and a costumed historic reenactor making traditional willow baskets. This year, I did a demo on digital fabric on Saturday afternoon. Here’s a PDF copy of the Digital Fabric Powerpoint program I had running during my demo. I forgot to ask Bill to take pictures for me during the demo. He was too busy anyway over at Kathy Sorensen’s table doing silk painting with Color Hue dyes.

After my demo, I packed up my stuff and we scurried over to Tomson Hall for Mary Sue Fenner’s Trunk Show. Mary Sue is the first teacher hired by Sievers founder Walter Schutz, and has taught every one of the school’s 31 years.

Mary Sue brought 98 jackets, made over the course of 35 years (maybe longer?). Each chair in the studio was draped with one of her creations. I didn’t get to see it before people arrived, but Mary Sue gave me permission to share one of her photos:

Mary Sue Fenner’s 98 Jackets

As she described jackets — many handwoven, some felted, many hand-dyed, some constructed from commercial fabrics, many with matching scarves and accessories — items were passed around and we could see them inside and out. Members of the audience became impromptu models. No one ducked out the back door with a piece or two, although I’m not the only one who was tempted. It was an amazing body of work, and I can’t wait to play with ideas it inspired.

After Mary Sue’s program, there were drawings for door prizes (I won a pine yarn crate). Winners of the Student Fiber Work Viewer’s Choice award were awarded. And winning bids for Silent Auction items were announced: I got a beautiful pair of merino-and-silk fingerless mitts knit by Sievers’ Carolyn Foss. Mary Sue Fenner snuck in a bid while I was demonstrating and beat me out of a pair of mittens knit by Sievers’ Ann Young.

After picking up prizes, we drove over to Trinity Lutheran Church for a chance to sit down and visit with friends, eat a lovely meal, and enjoy a musical program by Sievers’ own Cindra Hokkanen and Dan Hansen, program director of the Red Barn Theater. Cindra and Dan used the Sievers 30th Anniversary cookbook to inspire their set list — a celebration of food and beverages. A Nancy Sinatra tune, “Summer Wine,” is one of my new favorites. You might be surprised (or maybe not) by how many people spontaneously sang along with “On Top Of Spaghetti”. The hands-down favorite was a new tune called (I think) “The Recipe” by Wisconsin folk singers Lou and Peter Berryman that captures the zany essence of multi-tasking. It was hard to control the laughter, but we didn’t want to miss any of the lyrics!

I’ve made many friends at Sievers over the years, and love having a chance to catch up with some of them at The Gathering. We were able to visit  with old friends and new friends over the Captain’s Platter (fresh lawyers and whitefish livers) at K.K.Fiske, breakfast at Sunset Resort (Icelandic pancakes filled with cream and yogurt and topped with cherries), and scones at the Red Cup. We snatched a few moments to spend with Ann & Butch, Cindra, Carolyn, Connie and Kathleen — the team that keeps everything running smoothly at Sievers so teachers can concentrate on teaching and students can relax and enjoy learning.

It always goes by too fast, and there’s never quite enough time to visit with everyone. I’m still being careful with my voice and didn’t get to talk to nearly everyone I wanted to catch up with. But it was good to see them all, and I look forward to next time.

In the meantime, special thanks to all who sent healing energy my way. It really helped, and I’m very grateful! I hope you’re also getting a recharge that gives you the energy to explore the great ideas rattling around in your head.

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Swatch This Again

It’s the first day after Labor Day, a time when kids are expected to stand up and read essays about what they did on their summer vacation. I’ll stay seated, if you don’t mind, but here’s how I spent the 12 days since my last post:

  • I broke my toe (doing something stupid, so don’t ask).
  • I took a 5-day spinning class at Sievers (it was wonderful — I’ll tell you more next time).
  • I made pretzels for the first time, for a Labor Day potluck (and they were a definite hit).
  • Bill and I “hosted” a two-stage rocket launch in the back 40. It was so much fun, we invited everybody back next summer for a catapult toss (note to self — get catapult-building on the calendar).
  • And we picked tomatoes in the dark, because there was a chance of frost.

While we were busy celebrating the long holiday weekend and the change of seasons, Spoonflower was busy printing and shipping my digital fabric order. I ordered swatches in a hurry on the last day of my parents’ 10-day visit and was too busy to think about them again until they arrived in today’s mail.

Without really having a plan, I still came up with some stuff that will coordinate well enough to use together.

I ordered in some black-and-white fabrics to color as needed with fabric paint.

This is the first time I’ve had Spoonflower print on their organic cotton knit fabric, which is lovely. The design on this swatch was done entirely using the Picnik imaging utility. Sorry — I was working so fast I didn’t take notes on which “stickers” and effects I used.

The rest of the designs came from work I did in the 6-week Gimp for Textile Designers class I took in July and August.

It’s been a great summer for learning as well as teaching, and my mind is a-swirl with possibilities. While I prep for upcoming classes at the Textile Center later this month and for The Gathering at Sievers in October, I have lots of ideas to incubate.

In fact, it’s time to get serious about hatching some ideas. I’ll share some of the process I use on my other blog, Compost and Creativity, which has been sorely neglected over the summer. Maybe a little neglect isn’t such a terrible thing, when it feels so good to pick up where you left off.

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Swatch This

Digital fabric printer ran a free swatch promotion for 24 hours starting at noon Thursday. Thursday was also the last day of my parents’ visit. I wanted to squeeze in a few minutes to upload some new designs I made in my Gimp class.

If yesterday was your first experience with Spoonflower, don’t be dismayed by how slow the site was. I’m sure the traffic was very heavy, and that slows things down. What I thought would be a quick job took quite a bit longer than I expected. But that’s OK. Mom sat with me to watch and visit as I uploaded my order, and it was a treat to share that extra time talking fabric with her!

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Observations on Observation

Remember back in olden times (a couple of years ago) when, during the first week of January, everyone rushed to the drugstore to have rolls of film (look it up on Wikipedia) processed after the holidays? Did you hear last year that Kodak no longer makes Kodachrome film? Digital camera technology has changed just about everything related to taking pictures. Just about. What hasn’t changed is this:

The greatest skill any photographer can hope to possess is that of observation.

That’s from a post called 4 Practice Techniques to Develop Photographic Observation  by Christina N. Dickson at Digital Photography School.

This is right in tune with the exercises I use in my Local Color workshop, where we use digital photography to capture observations, rather than images. I love prowling around with the camera, as if I needed an excuse to slow down and really see what’s in my own back yard.

But during the holidays, things move so fast all I can do is occasionally grab the camera, point and shoot. Past practice at observation helps me stand a better chance of capturing the spirit of a moment. When I come back to these hurried photos later, I’m not surprised to see things I didn’t consciously notice at the time.

I may crop an image and use fabric paint and markers to make a picture I print on fabric more like the idea captured in my imagination. And for me, there’s always stitching. You have no idea how much I can’t wait to embroider this thicket of willow. To me it represents the thicket of responsibilities and opportunities that loom before us, and the strength and resolve we need to bolster us until we can spot a rabbit path through it.

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What’s In Your Stocking?

Just in case Santa brought you an Amazon gift card that’s burning a hole in your stocking, I thought I’d post a couple of things you might consider spending it on besides books. Not that one can ever have too many books. You know me better than that. In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that these are links to my Amazon affiliate store. If you buy from one of these links, I make a little money on the sale.

Sony Cybershot DSC W150. This link is for the students who took my Local Color classes last year at Sievers and The Textile Center and for the Inkjet Fabric students at Bead & Button. This is the camera I’ve been using for the past year. The shooting modes let me point and shoot automaticallyor manually adjust the exposure (remember that P mode?). I can shoot close-ups with great detail, soften the focus for portraits of people and flowers, shoot in vivid color, black-and-white or sepia. This camera also lets me manipulate images I’ve shot in the camera without altering the original photo. For example, in the View mode I can crop an image, blur and dim the periphery, or change the area surrounding the focal point of a color image to black-and-white. And that’s just the stuff I’ve figure out so far. There’s no end to the ways you can use a digital camera to create inkjet fabric. Use it to shoot objects that are too large or awkward to fit on the copy bed of an all-in-one. Build a stock photo library — for example, by shooting, flowers, fallen petals, leaves, plant grouping, and other garden elements to use in floral fabrics. Set up still life arrangements to photograph, playing with different camera angles and reflectors that change the lighting. You’ll find many ways to use these photos as backgrounds for other images as well as on their own.

HP Photosmart C4580 All-in-One Printer. This is the printer used in the above classes. It doesn’t even have to be hooked up to a computer to print wonderful fabrics. You can simply lay elements on the copy bed and press a button. It has ports that accept  the media cards from some digital cameras.(To check out the media card specs, got to my Google Group page and click on Local Color Media Card Specs. And yes, you can always hook it up to the computer to print something scanned to and stored there.

OK, I can’t resist. One book. From Image To Stitch by Maggie Grey. If you love image transfer techniques, this one has some that will curl your toes.

More of my favorite fiber art books are featured in my Amazon affiliate store. I’m adding fiction favorites as fast as I can remember what I read (I really meant to keep a reading journal…). And for years, students have heard me talk about how much I love listening to audio books while I stitch, so you’ll find the complete selection from Amazon here. Search on Young Adult and Classics for some great selections.

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