Prep, Pack, Present

Netting practice samples ready for Donna Kallner's students.

Student materials are prepared. I’m packing and ready to be off for the Midwest Weavers Conference. Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker kept me company while I netted starts for 15 students to practice on. One disc left to go, and I don’t think I’ll have time to listen to it. My car still has a cassette player in it. I think it will be Harry Potter making the trip with me. Again.

Waste Not

Despite all the snow on the ground, birds are returning and looking for places to nest. So I’ve emptied the little box where I collect odd snippets of thread and yarn and stuffed that fiber into a small netting bag as an offering to the birds.

Netted string bag for bird nesting material by Donna Kallner.The bag, worked in the round from a grommet start, is a project I often use in diamond mesh netting classes.

Diamond mesh netting in the round with Donna Kallner.

Normally I describe it as sized for a water bottle or thermos, instead of waste thread, dust bunnies and dog hair. In any case, it’s a useful size.

The string bag I put out for the birds is made from some lovely hemp thread my friend Phyllis gave me a few years ago when she was cleaning out materials she no longer used. Over the weekend, as I was doing some similar cleaning in my studio, I thought of Phyllis and all the friends who are part of a vast materials recycling network. I think of Jo when I look at my willow beds, Jacki when I open a fabric bin or reach for a darning egg, Di when I reach for that lichen dyeing booklet, and so many others every time I turn around in my studio.

How about you? What materials do you and your friends pass along?

The Season Of Excess Expectation

I’m not talking about kids and toys or teens and electronics. I’m talking about how much I think I can get done in the time available. Specifically, how fast I think I can work to get the last gift finished and in the mail before Christmas. You probably have your own version of this holiday classic.

For the record, I love making gifts. But yes, I suffer from Excess Expectation. My expectations didn’t seem so excessive when I made the plan. After all, Bill and I sort of takes turns on making the majority of our holiday gifts, and this year is his year. I did help him cut copper pipe one day while he assembled and soldered.

He also made gifts for all the young fishermen, and I just made little bags from recycled T-shirts to hold them. Easy peasy — something I could do while watching a movie.

For my mom, I made a bag of stationery from fabric scraps in my Black Hole.

They’re still on dial-up, so no worries about letting the cat out of the bag. The bag for the stationery I made with fabric I designed and had printed on Spoonflower from a photo I took of my mom’s old Singer sewing machine. That’s the machine I started sewing on. One of the first things she had me do, lo these many years ago, was stitch on heavy paper. I had major flashbacks while stitching 24 pieces of stationery.

Dad is also getting a gift made with Spoonflower fabric. This one is made from a photo I took of a wooden serving tray he made years ago (there’s a photo of the tray at the link). I made a drawstring dresser caddy that folds flat when not in use.

There were a few more small gifts on my to-do list that I can’t show just yet. The chances of those beloved young people reading my blog are slim, but it is possible.

And really, with Bill doing so many of our gifts, I figured there would be plenty of time for me to make this gift for his sister (who does read this blog, but also knows what the gift is because we talked about it and she gave me the measurements).

When it’s done, this gift will measure 8 feet by 12 feet. It’s a piece of netting to spread over their koi pond to keep the neighborhood heron from eating the fish.

When it’s done, it will have taken less time than knitting a sweater or crocheting an afghan. But it’s taking longer than I estimated, mainly because of the materials I’m using. I usually net with linen or hemp and for this project I’m using bonded nylon. If When I’m not careful, the knots slip.

This net won’t be perfect, but it will do the job. It’s designed to do it unobtrusively so as not to distract from the flower garden around the pond.

With a bit of luck, it will be in the mail in time to arrive Christmas Eve. But before it goes, we’re getting a picture of it spread out. Will probably have to do that outside.

Good luck with your own holiday preparations!

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Diamond Meshes Are A Girl’s Best Friend

Marilyn Monroe, eat your heart out. This is my friend Lisa wearing a Civil War-style hairnet she made herself from diamond mesh netting. Priceless and timeless!

Two years ago when the Midwest Weavers Conference was held in Grinnell, Iowa, Lisa took a one-day class I taught on diamond mesh netting in the round. She told me at the time of her interest in Civil War reenactments, and her plan for further study of the technique so she could make hair nets.

As I was loading to teach the same workshop at the 2011 Conference in June, I hoped I would get to see a hairnet on Lisa. And I did. She wore it the evening of the fashion show, and I got to admire it during the after-show reception. It was every bit as beautiful as I expected.

Another student in that class two years ago told me she made a hairnet for the wedding of a young woman who does reenactments from another era. As happens with many weddings, things got busy and Collyer didn’t get a photo before the piece left her hands. But she promised to send me a picture if she gets one. I can’t wait to see it.

If this piques your interest in hair nets, you might enjoy this collection of medieval hairnet images from the blogger known as Alys In Wonder Land. We had some fun with this in early May on the New Age Looping Study Group on Facebook. My favorite is #14. What’s yours?

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Dream Catcher

Are you sometimes afraid the great ideas that sail through your mind at night will drift away before you wake up, lost in the mist of dreams? Me too. This piece, showing through June 29 at the Ed Gray Gallery in Calumet, Michigan, is my Dream Catcher.

Dream Catcher by Donna Kallner

It began with the odd figure on the left, printed by metal on a recycled pillow case. Usually dreamcatchers are made of knotless netting worked in a circle on a round willow frame, to hang in the window and snag any bad dreams that might try to get in. But this made me think of a dream catcher whose job is to snag the good ideas that drift through my head when it’s on my pillow.

On the design wall

I pictured the Dream Catcher casting a net across the deck of a vessel that struggles like a fish.


 He picks the net as he hauls it in, throwing back what is too small for now, to catch it again another night.

The vessel in this piece was made from recycled quilt blocks given to me by my sister-in-law’s best friend, from her aunt’s estate. I overdyed them in the indigo vat.

The frame is made from flannel blocks from the same source, also overdyed, then turned to use the back side so the prints were more subtle.


Netting is a knotted form of looping, close cousin to the knotless netting (also looping) found in other dreamcatchers. This netting was worked with a shuttle and gauge and linen thread, which I dyed before netting and hand-painted with gesso after it was stitched on the piece.

Bill suggested the anchor when I was talking about feeling “unmoored.” When my lines get frayed and snap, setting me adrift, he’s the Dream Catcher who keeps me from losing it.

Next time, I’ll take you inside another of the pieces from the show. In the meantime, sweet dreams.

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Thought Loops

In many ways, I’m more interested in ancient technologies than in modern ones. Right now, though, I’m wishing I’d learned to use the video setting on the digital camera when we first got one. Then I might have thought to get motion pictures of this man throwing a cast net in the Everglades.

The piece I’m working on right now has a figure I want to be casting a net, and I’m having trouble picturing which hand the net would release from. It’s not a problem for the piece, which isn’t meant to be that realistic. But like a song that gets stuck in your head, I can’t seem to get this movement resolved so it keeps replaying.

On the whole, if I’m going to keep running a thought loop, I’m happy enough to have it be something interesting like “How would I throw a cast net?” It beats, “Did I turn off the iron?”

Know any good cures for earworms and thought loops?

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