Local Color At Sievers

One warm, sunny October day in the mid-1990’s, I fell in love with Washington Island. I was in Jo Campbell-Amsler’s willow backpack class at Sievers, and we left the studio to weave at what is now called Percy Johnson Park. 

Now I take my own students there when I teach a Sievers class called Local Color. The class combines field trips, natural dyeing, photography and digital imaging, and printing and embellishing images on fabric and transfers.

Continue reading Local Color At Sievers

Stocking Up On Inspiration

Last weekend was a great one for inspiration and ideas, which are still buzzing in my head. Now that stuff is unpacked and I’ve washed the yarns from my Saturday afternoon demo, I have some time for winding yarn into balls and pondering.

Sock yarn leftovers overdyed with Kool-Aid.

The Gathering at Sievers School of Fiber Arts is one of my favorite places to stock up on inspiration as well as fiber. The inspiration is my favorite part, but I came home with my share of tangible items, as well, from this biennial event.

Finished project photo from a former student.

On Friday, I managed to get a few pictures, like this one of a former student showing the end result of a project she began in my class.

Books and patterns at the Sievers fiber art garage sale.

I had good intentions of snapping lots of pictures all weekend, like this one of some of the books and patterns in the fiber art garage sale on Saturday morning.

"Knit while watching television, trim in your spare time."

Contrary to expectation, I came home with only a handful of vintage books and patterns….

Yarn and more yarn at the Sievers garage sale.

…and one small bag of yarn (but that bag was a luscious angora/silk/cashmere blend). People donate so generously to this event, which raised $2,300 dollars and will benefit two Washington Island non-profits — the Art & Nature Center and the Friends of Plum & Pilot Islands.

Donna Kallner demo at The Gathering at Sievers in 2014.

The picture-taking part of my brain shut off on Saturday when there was so much going on, so I’m borrowing some pictures from Carolyn Foss’s post about The Gathering on the Sievers blog. That’s me above, doing my “New Life For Leftovers” demonstration. The scent of simmering Kool-Aid drew in people who learned how quick and simple it can be to overdye wool and silk yarns. Now that they’ve had that taste of a “gateway dye,” I hope they’re addicted to the possibilities of overdyeing. Much of what I used for the demo was stuff I bought at the Sievers garage sale at the 2012 Gathering.

Donna Kallner visits with rug hooker Betty Heath at The Gathering at Sievers 2014.

In the afternoon, I had a chance to visit the vendors and see the other demos, including this one by rug hooker Betty Heath. The rug hookers went above and beyond in the inspiration department, winning both Viewers Choice awards.

Betty Heath's hooked rug at The Gathering at Sievers 2014.

Show And Tell was an absolute blast! People were so generous in sharing all kinds of work, from wearables to samples to challenges.

Show & Tell at The Gathering at Sievers 2014.

I wish I had pictures of more of the pieces from Show & Tell, and had taken time to make notes about some of the stories people shared. But I can tell you that while Pat Hewitt knit the elegant wearables in the photo above for people, what she was binding off that afternoon was a sweater for the new puppy coming into her home soon. And that the elegant model in the center above (whose own creations are always stunning) finds some of her inspiration on the water on a stand-up paddleboard.

Show & Tell items from The Gathering at Sievers 2014.

People shared items that came from all kinds of inspiration sources — from family to favorite places to travel, life experience, classes, and more. It’s amazing to see students of Daryl Lancaster model garments that fit perfectly, busting the myth that some of our figures are “flawed” when what’s really flawed is the fit — and that can be fixed. We had “weaver’s poker,” overshot in unconventional colors, a basket made from scraps fished out of the trash in a class, and much more.

Empty Bowls display at The Gathering.

But what really pegged my inspiration meter was all the ways people contribute to their communities. The island is blessed with quilters who make something warm and meaningful for every kid who graduates from their small school, every resident of a halfway house in Sturgeon Bay, plus many others distributed locally and around the world. And island quilters participate in the Quilts of Valor project. Papermaker Linda Hoppe, who is also a ceramic artist, shared her community’s Empty Bowls project. I even showed the sample for the aviation windsock project for the rural fire department that is so important to my own community.

Contributing to your community can be like overdyeing yarn: First you think, “Is this worth the effort?” And then something kind of wonderful happens. I’ve written about that on other occasions, but haven’t used the yarn analogy because this one is a new discovery.

Wool garage sale yarns and felt overdyed with Kool-Aid.

In 2012 at the Sievers Gathering, I bought a cake of mystery yarn. The burn test indicated wool. It felt like nice yarn, but it wasn’t a nice gray. So I held it back for an experiment before this demo. I wanted to see if I could leave out the steps of winding and tying the yarn into a skein and just dye the center-pull cake of yarn. So I wetted it thoroughly and popped it into a saucepan of water with two packages of grape Kool-Aid. At one point, I used a slotted spoon to flip the cake over, hoping it would dye more or less evenly. After cooling and draining, I was convinced that I had ruined the yarn by felting it with rough handling.

So I plugged the center with some waste yarn and shoved the cake into the toe of a nylon stocking. That went in the washer with a couple different loads of clothes, then into the dryer on high heat. When I took it out of the stocking, I expected a pin cushion. Instead, the plugs dropped out and the yarn pulls beautifully from the center. Only the outer layer is slightly felted. Inside, there’s enough to knit a kid-size hat, which I’ll donate to a local charity. If I were a kid, I’d want purple instead of gray.

In every community, there’s a need for volunteers. Or for makers who donate their work to those in need. Or those who donate their work to raise funds for good causes. When it keeps leftovers out of the waste stream, that’s even better.

There are many ways for us to put our talents to work for the good of others, and much joy and inspiration that come from connecting with others. So I’d love to hear: What do you make for community or charity?

New Life For Leftovers

When people know you do things with fabric or yarn, they become very generous with their leftovers. Sometimes there’s gold in other people’s passalongs and the stuff you haul home yourself from thrift stores and garage sales. And sometimes you wind up with stuff that’s too good to pass on but not quite right for anything you do. That’s why for The Gathering at Sievers this weekend I’m doing a demonstration called New Life For Leftovers.

Overdyed garage sale yarns.

These are some yarns I picked up at the garage sale at The Gathering in 2012 and and overdyed to give them the tonal quality I like in most projects.

Creative challenge from leftover fabric.

This beast is from one of my favorite creativity challenges — creating a 3-dimensional object from the odd shapes of fabric left over from cutting a garment.

Kool-Aid dye on wool.

On Saturday I’ll demonstrate fiber reactive dyes on cotton. For wool and silk leftovers I’ll show what I consider “gateway dyes” for getting people hooked on dyeing — tea and Kool-Aid.

Lime Kool-Aid on recycled wool.

That’s lemon-lime Kool-Aid on the leg of a pair of formerly white wool trousers my mom gave me, and a small lavender sachet made from the fabric.

Table mat woven on a potholder loom using overdyed recycled wool yarn.

At The Gathering, I always try to include things that people can see themselves doing with kids. Or kids with years of experience. Or anyone who enjoys quick, easy hacks that transform odds and ends of yarns and fabrics into materials they will enjoy using.

Sievers 2012 Gathering fiber art garage sale.

They might even use them to give new life to some of their Sievers garage sale treasures. This year, proceeds from the Sievers garage sale will be shared with the Friends of Plum and Pilot Islands and the Washington Island Art and Nature Center. You can always feel good about buying at this garage sale!

My car is packed with demo supplies, and my own donations for the garage sale. By making a bit of room on my bookshelves, I can justify buying the books others donate, right?

Hope to see you at The Gathering!

Local Color Workshop Reflections

Twenty years ago, I went to Sievers for the first time as a student, and it truly changed my life. Friendships formed there are still so important to me. I always hope a little of that magic rubs off in the classes I teach. And I think it might have in the Local Color class last week. Every member of the class was a delight, and it was a lovely, collaborative group. Every time I turned around, I saw a different combination of people discussing ideas, helping, and encouraging each other.

Sievers Local Color 2014 class photo by Carolyn Foss.

The class worked hard to cover a lot of material — from sunprinting with transparent fabric paints…

Sunprinting with transparent fabric paints.

to natural dye contact prints…

Gathering natural dye materials.

to digital imaging and thermofax screen printing.

Thermofax screens printed from photo taken by student.

We managed to fit in some other local color, as well, including the ice cream stand at Jackson Harbor…

Ice cream break.

and a Washington Island fish boil.

Fish boil at KK.

One of my favorite parts of the class is the photo scavenger hunt students do on the Sievers campus.

Photo scavenger hunt in the Local Color class at Sievers.

Each student gets a slip of paper with two prompts — things like “a wavy line” and “a rough texture”.

Photo scavenger hunt at Sievers Local Color class.

They fan out across the campus and start to see things they’ve maybe overlooked before.

Seeing from different perspectives.

Altogether, the class is designed as an exercise in observation and seeing from different perspectives.

Queen Anne's lace.

It was a special treat to share my sister-in-law’s first Sievers class experience, and first trip to Washington Island.

Ferry ride to Washington Island.

It’s always good to get home after a trip like this and mull over ideas and inspirations. I had some stitching to finish for an exhibition, so had plenty of time for rumination. And what I kept coming back to was how strong and long-lasting the energy is from a class like this.

Stone fence on Washington Island.

That’s truly something to build on.

Sievers Local Color Day 5

Before my Local Color class began on Friday, I drove over to The Ridges, a nature preserve at Jackson Harbor.

The Ridges at Jackson Harbor on Washington Island.

It looked like it was going to be a lovely morning, and The Ridges is one of my favorite places to start the day.

Tea at The Ridges on Washington Island.

After a walk, some photos, and a cup of tea, I headed back to Sievers for the last day of the class.

Natural dye scarves in the Local Color class at Sievers.We had another lovely day in the studio…

Local Color class at Sievers.

wrapping up project…

Finishing touches on Local Color project at Sievers.

and adding finishing touches.

Local Color class at Sievers.

Our last photo field trip was to the stump dump. We left with more photos, and a few sticks that were just right for hanging class projects.

Something magic happens at Sievers when you combine wonderful people, beautiful facilities, amazing scenery, and time for it all to come together. It’s exciting to see students leave a class so eager to continue their explorations at home. I can’t wait to see what they do next!

As for me, I’m heading back to my own studio. And Sievers is always with me, wherever I am.

Sievers Local Color Day 4

Day 4 began with a quick photo scavenger hunt. Here are the elements I drew:


a soft texture

wavy line

a wavy line

straight line

a straight line


a round shape

redand something red. No trouble finding that color this week!

Sievers Local Color class.

Design inspirations were translated into other forms.

Studio work at Sievers.

We did some sampling and experiments…

Sievers Local Color class.

and worked on individual projects…

Moonlight selfies at Sievers.

and ended the day with selfies in the moonlight — a fun challenge!


Sievers Local Color Day 3

My class spent Wednesday snug and cozy in the studio while it rained off and on outside. Even so, there was plenty of fall color.

Creativity warm-up exercise to start the day.

We used leaves from the grounds at Sievers in our morning warm-up. For students who remember my “Simple Shapes” collage warm-up exercise, this is a variation done with leaves on a background of fabric painted earlier on the class. We photographed each new arrangement of the elements. Some of those images may end up printed on fabric.

Sampling is a great way to learn.

After that, all those leaves went into fabric bundles and a dyepot, which perfumed the studio as it simmered. (More on those later — I forgot to take photos.) We also did more sampling with other media.

Studio visitors at lunchtime.

At lunchtime, we had a lovely visit with a group of quilters.

Stitching time in the studio.

Then it was back to stitching. We had afternoon field trip options, but decided to spend the that time stitching in the studio where we were all quite content.

The forecast for Thursday is for sun,  and we’ll take advantage of it. But really, what could be more relaxing than a rainy afternoon spent stitching!

Sievers Local Color Day 2

On Tuesday morning, after meeting for breakfast at Findlay’s, we walked down to the lake to take picture. The wind was fresh, but it wasn’t raining yet.

The boardwalk at Findlay's.

Ann Young, Sievers’ owner, was our guide as we took the long way back to Sievers. We made several stops to take pictures along the way.

Fall color photography on Washington Island.

The rain started just as we were leaving our last stop. We spent the afternoon snug in the studio printing fabric, painting, and planning.

Student planning a piece in the Local Color class at Sievers.

Sievers Local Color Class Begins

Monday afternoon was the start of the Local Color class at Sievers School of Fiber Arts on Washington Island. This is a perfect time to be here. (Actually, any time is the perfect time to be here, but October is particularly nice.)

The view from the fire tower on Washington Island, looking out toward Lake Michigan.

Because the island is  surrounded by Lake Michigan, the seasons are always a little behind where I live inland. When I left home on Sunday, the oaks there were brilliant but our maples were done. But the island hasn’t quite hit peak color. The photo above is what I saw Sunday afternoon from the fire tower.

Students photographing heliographic printing samples.

We took advantage of the good weather today to sample heliographic printing methods.

Inkodye and SolarFast samples.

The forecast for the next couple of days is rain, so it may be late in the week before we come back to these techniques. In the meantime, we have plenty to do.

Pheasant outside studio at Sievers.

Both flora and fauna are living up to expectations. This is Monday afternoon’s visitor to the Walter Studio.

Deer browsing outside the teachers cottage at Sievers.

And this visitor was outside the teacher’s cottage when I returned after class. More adventures and surprises await us!



My Digital Fabric class at Sievers ended yesterday. I had good intentions when I said, on Thursday, I would try to get photos of some of the fabrics my students printed with Thermofax screens they made from their digital designs. Of course, between wrapping up and packing up, I never even pulled out my camera until I was on the ferry.

Mine was the only car waiting to leave the island when the ferry line launched an extra vessel. The line to get onto the island was getting backed up on the other side. I sometimes feel like the Queen of Denial, but this is my first-ever Royal Barge experience. It made me feel lucky and special — until I realized there would be no last hugs and goodbyes as the ferry passed the seawall at Northport. I didn’t have the nerve to hug the pilot.

During the crossing, I always try to take a few minutes to reflect on a class before I jump into whatever is next on my to-do list. I’m so grateful to be able to teach at Sievers. The staff makes it easy for me to do the best job I can do, and they create an atmosphere that makes it easy for students to relax and have fun with whatever class they’ve come for.

Two of my students had taken workshops with me before at Sievers. It was great to reconnect with them and to enjoy the special alchemy of fun personalities this class brought together. I can’t wait to see the work they produce as they continue their explorations of digital fabric design. And if you’re on any of their holiday gift lists — lucky you!

I must admit that during the crossing my mind wandered a bit from my grateful reflections. Before I left Sievers, I did a little shopping and picked up “Seduce”, a Berroco blend of rayon, linen, silk and nylon. I can’t wait to get started on a looping project.

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