As The Calendar Turns

There’s only a month left for me to finish a nalbinding hat for Bill’s birthday in March. It’s hard to keep this kind of gift a secret when I keep asking him to try it on.  But he bought into my family’s tradition of “gift amnesia” years ago and applies selective memory as needed.

Two-color nalbinding hat is a gift work-in-progress.

He might be a little surprised, though, after all the upheaval of recent weeks, if I actually get it done in time. But it’ll be tough for him to pretend he didn’t know: I have to use his head to block it on when I full the finished hat.

February kind of snuck up on me and I just got the calendar flipped today. But there’s a lot of great stuff on this page. For one thing, February is when registration opens for Sievers classes.

Continue reading As The Calendar Turns

Looking Ahead To Summer 2014

With the thermometer stuck near the zero mark today, it’s nice to look ahead to next summer. My class dates are now confirmed for Sievers School of Fiber Arts on Washington Island, which is in Lake Michigan a short ferry ride from Wisconsin’s Door County peninsula.

Natural dye scarves in the Local Color class at Sievers.
Students’ scarves from 2013 Local Color class at Sievers School of Fiber Arts.

In 2014, I’ll be there July 26-30 teaching Local Color To Wear. This class combines elements of the Local Color class I’ve taught the past few years and my Natural Dye class. It will be a mix of field trips and studio work, with a focus on wearables and jewelry. We’ll capture the island’s local color by eco-printing with natural materials on silk scarves and wool fabric. You’ll also capture images of the island with your digital camera, smart phone or tablet, then convert those images into elements for pins and cuffs and Thermofax screen printing for garments. I’ll include an introduction to digital imaging techniques using free apps and photo editors — nothing as complete as the Digital Fabric class I teach using Gimp software, but enough to learn to resize, crop and make some basic imagery collages.

Sievers registration opens online at midnight on February 1 at

In the meantime, registration is open and I believe there are still some spaces left in the classes I’ll be teaching at Wisconsin Weave Away March 20-22 at New Auburn.

Registration is not yet open for my new Freeform & Textural Looping online class. I’ll keep you posted on when you can sign up, which should be just after New Year’s, and share a bit more information about the class in the next few weeks. I’m also planning to begin the New Age Looping Loop-Along just after the first of the year.  More on that next time.

For now, I hope you’re keeping warm, and planning something fun to do in the year ahead.

A Love Affair With Learning

Last week, six other instructors and I taught at the Michigan League of Handweavers 2012 Summer Workshops event at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. And what did the teachers talk about outside of class? What good students we all had! When a guild consistently gets 25 percent of its members into its 3-day workshops, you know it’s a group that places a high value on learning.

In my Digital Fabric class, there was hardly a minute to spare for taking pictures of the class, bud I did catch a couple of my students (and volunteer event organizers) on the way to lunch one day. And I got some shots of the buildings behind them to use in a class demo.

During a quick tour of the studios on Saturday night, I managed to take a few more photos.

Wynne Mattila taught a Finnish rag rug workshop. I became a fan of Wynne’s last year, when I was on the awards committee at Midwest Weavers Conference. Her Aurora won the prestigious Handwoven magazine “Weaving For The Home” award.

Her very cool alternating 3-shuttle technique had me thinking of ideas for looping, and her students’ color choices had me thinking of palettes for digital fabric design.

Juliane Anderson taught Becoming A Confident Weaver. This kind of personalized skill-building class is a great addition to a conference schedule, and Juliane seems to project an aura of gracious calm and resourcefulness perfect for this type of class.

The gorgeous freeform knitting she showed during the Friday night “meet the teachers” program had me anything but calm! I love freeform looping but haven’t spent any time on freeform knitting. That’s a workshop I’d love to take with Juliane.

Rebecca Mezoff was visiting other classrooms when I popped into hers that night, so no picture of her. But her students’ work with color gradations in tapestry was amazing, and I really enjoyed her Friday night presentation about her own work and her work with James Koehler.

I have a feeling the wool she dyes is a pretty accurate reflection of Rebecca: You know it’s lovely with just a glance, and a closer look reveals even greater depth and complexity, which certainly shows in her work. Since none of my pictures do any kind of justice, do go to her gallery page and see for yourself.

At the end of the conference I had hoped to get back to Jennifer Moore’s Doubleweave classroom to see her students’ work off the looms, but didn’t make it. I Gimped this too-dark photo a bit and hope you can get a sense of how very exciting it was to see her class’s works in progress. Hang on — it gets even better:

Here are the doubleweave samples Jennifer brought to class. And that photo shows only one side of the collection, so it’s twice as exciting in person.

It was a treat to teach with fellow Sievers instructors Mary Sue Fenner and Chad Alice Hagen, but of course we never got a picture of us together. Mary Sue let me try on a vest from the sample collection she brought for her One-of-a-Kind Fiber Arts Jacket class, and I almost didn’t take it off.

She’s making a vest with some of my Spoonflower fabrics for The Gathering at Sievers the last weekend in September, and we hatched a plan for a steampunk ensemble for later. She’ll do the corset and bubble skirt with my fabric, I’ll make the bowler and goggles, and unless I become taller and thinner I’m counting on her to model the ensemble.

Chad Hagen and I were teaching practically next door, but I only got into her classroom twice — once to steal a marker I never returned and late the last day, when I stole in to take this shot of an Airey Fairey Scarf WIP. But as always it was great fun to see her and hear tales of her adventures. Chad is a gifted storyteller, and she had the audience in stitches on Friday night talking about her felting. Then she starts talking about what she’s been learning. Papermaking. A natural dye workshop with Michel Garcia. You can practically see sparks flying off the wheels turning, and I suck that up like an energy vampire.

And that’s just the instructors at this event. Every time I sat down at a meal and talked with someone new I found more love of learning, more excitement, more inspiration.

The drive back north to Mackinaw and across the Upper Peninsula gave me time to reflect on some of that and plot my fall and winter. More on that soon. In the meantime, it’s great to be home!

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May And June Workshops

How can spring-like weather arrive so early and it still feels like May snuck up on us? If you’ve been meaning to register for a class and realize it’s just around the corner (that usually happens for me when I flip the calendar from one month to the next) never fear — you can probably still get into these upcoming workshops.)

May 19 Burundi Looping Workshop for Flambeau Area Fiber Artists, Ladysmith, Wisconsin

But preparing to teach a class is not something I can let sneak up on me. So I’ve been cutting fabric swatches, winding skeins, prepping image transfers, painting waxed linen, and working on handouts for upcoming workshops. My studio is in the state of chaos that precedes teaching travel. It’s not pretty.

Neither are my hands. A little weeding and my hands are rough enough to snag the silk in the Mother’s Day gift I’m stitching. I should be better about wearing gloves, but there are times when you just want to get your hands dirty.

Let’s see: I need to have that Mother’s Day gift in the mail by when?

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Night Shifts

My late mother-in-law sometimes used to say she was tired because she had “worked the night shift.” On her restless nights she put in long hours of dreamtime serving food, pouring drinks and cleaning up after a full house.

Night Shift by Donna Kallner

This piece incorporates a picture of her behind the counter back in the days when her night shifts were worked awake instead of dreaming. Night Shift is part of the Night Vision collection showing through June 29 at the Ed Gray Gallery in Calumet, Michigan.

Night Shift detail by Donna Kallner

I work the dreamy kind of night shift sometimes, too. My fingers may feel stiff from holding an imaginary needle, but I usually have a clearer image of how to stitch the story I’ve been working over in my unconscious mind.

That seems to be what happened Saturday morning. After a week in Minneapolis at the Surface Design conference, I was surprised to wake up rested and raring to go at 4:30 a.m. I think my mind had finally finished tidying up a few loose ends.

My post-conference workshop with Lanny Bergner gave me a lot to think about. Going into the workshop, my intention was to learn to integrate wire mesh with the fabrics I use already, thinking the wire would provide greater support for larger mixed media constructed vessels and possibly also to support freeform looping.

On the first day of the three-day workshop, I made the piece below from the brass mesh pictured above.

Despite differences in “seaming” wire mesh versus layers of fabric, the construction concepts were comfortably familiar.

On Day 2 I made two more small vessels.

This one is stainless steel mesh patterned with a propane torch.

This one is brass mesh with a contrasting insert of anodized aluminum mesh.

At the end of Day 2, I asked Lanny for some advice on where to go next. Left to my own devices, I might have veered off to testing seaming alternatives or surface textures I could very well play with on my own. He suggested that on Day 3 I work on a larger vessel. That was a good plan. I also wanted to keep playing with ways to curve the seam lines. That’s where I ran into trouble.

I made one choice after another that kept drawing the form in more and more. Creating curved lines in the metal mesh is a great challenge, but doing so shifted my focus away from the form itself.

After I get back from teaching in Michigan, I want to model more of these vessels, working more simply and larger and with my focus on producing pieces that work from 360 degrees. I need to resist the seduction of the mesh’s transparency until I’ve done that. I suspect I’ll find more clarity in the making. I usually do.

This class was just what I needed when I needed it. Lanny was great to work with, as was everyone in the room. I have tons of ideas to mull.

It’s almost bedtime again, and before I lay my head on the pillow I have just one more thing to clarify for myself: Unless I follow through on the work that began in the the workshop, it was just three pleasant days where I played with different materials. It’s up to me, now, to work out if or how these ideas fit into my own work. And while some of that gets worked out on the night shift, most of it gets worked out in the studio.

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Winter Studio Classes

Thanks for your patience, those of you who have been waiting for me to set the schedule for winter studio classes. I just posted them on the Workshops Page, which you can find on the right end of the tabs under the Two Red Threads header.

I love going other places to teach, but teaching in my own studio is a special treat. Within arm’s reach I have my entire fiber stash, samples galore, and extra tools and materials I may not want to schlep in and out of another venue. Best of all, these are really small classes. With a maximum of four students per session and all those materials at hand, it’s easy to say, “Good idea: Let’s sample that now.”

My studio is located near the village of White Lake in northeastern Wisconsin. Driving time is just over an hour from Green Bay, and about the same from Wausau. It’s a beautiful area in any season.

Here a list of classes I’ve scheduled for the new year. For complete descriptions go here.

There are two full-day classes scheduled for Martin Luther King Day weekend.
Medium At Large — Saturday, January 15, 2011 — 9 am to 5 pm
ABCs of Fabric Printing — Sunday, January 16, 2011 — 9 am to 5 pm

Transfer Dye-o-rama — Saturday, January 29, 2011 — 9 am to 5 pm*
Sticky Fingers Design — Sunday, January 30, 2011 — 9 am to 1 pm

New Age Looping — Saturday-Sunday, February 12-13, 2011 — 9am to 5 pm Saturday, 9 am to 1 pm Sunday

There are two full-day classes scheduled for Presidents’ Day weekend.
Constructed Vessels — Saturday, February 19, 2011 — 9 am to 5 pm
Fiber Mojo — Sunday, February 20, 2011 —  9 am to 5 pm

Intro To Inkodye — Saturday, April 9, 2011 — 9 am to 5 pm
Solar Printing With Fabric Paint — Sunday, April 10, 2011 — 9 am to 1 pm

I’m also booking dates for private groups in my studio, and dates for groups that have me travel to their location instead of the other way around. To discuss possibilities or to book your slot in the scheduled studio classes, email me at donnastitches [at] gmail [dot] com.

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On The Road To Oz

With so many ideas sprouting in my head these days, I wouldn’t be surprised to wake up and find tendrils trailing from my ears. I should have known it would be dangerous to offer Blooming Image Transfers at Bead & Button.

You see, it’s early May in northern Wisconsin. Except for a few narcissus, the only things blooming at my house right now are dandelions. And while I love the soft green of new leaves and the white of the trilliums popping out in the woods, I am craving color.

In the midst of this craving, I’m preparing materials for classes and the Meet The Teachers event at the biggest blooming bead event around. Each colorful element I prepare I like even better than the one before. I use my own digital photographs and my stock of scanned leaves and flowers to create transfers that will become jewelry. Some are realistic, some not so much. Even the Bootleg collage exercise I showed you last month is going to make a fun bracelet.

I know I should thin out the selection to make it easier for people to pick. But the riot of color on my computer and on my work table is sure putting a smile on my face. If only these flowers had fragrance.

What’s so dangerous about this, you wonder? Well, my pretties, just you remember Dorothy and the poppies on the way to Oz. I get so caught up in this field of flat flowers that I keep losing track of time. And with the hours of daylight growing longer, my sense of time is all out of whack. Supper may be late again tonight.

What kind of work makes you lose track of time?

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Behind The Scenes

March has been a month of catching up and looking ahead, planning, plotting and prioritizing things that can come off the back burner now. It scares Bill when he sees my to-do list. It’s not realistic, but that’s not because I’m too tight on time between events. It’s because I have so many ideas to explore, and I want to tackle them all right now. Picture me rubbing my hands together in glee.

Before I head out again on the teaching circuit, I do have prep work to complete so students can show up and have a great experience. And there’s a lot more that goes on behind the scenes that I can’t take credit for. The folks who manage the venues where I teach do a great job of organizing resources so people like me can just show up and teach, and students can just show up and learn.

Last week, Bead & Button added another section of the class Moving Pictures on Wednesday, June 9. The June 11 section of that class is full, so I’m glad to have another opportunity to present this fun bracelet project, which uses image transfers of ingenues from the era of silent films.

Bead & Button is a huge event. I picture their scheduling process as someting like Cirque du Soleil performers juggling beads instead of balls. They make scheduling look like performance art. Encore!

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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.

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