Dec 23, 2008

Christine's Doll

For those checking in to catch a glimpse of each other's dolls from the Duluth Art Institute adventure here's a peek at Christine's finished piece. I LOVE those creative, hand made snowshoes!!

At our last get-together it was kind of sad for me to think about possibly never getting to see the finished dolls. Thank you so much Christine for sharing! (I've been wondering about how Hank was coming along ever since that last gathering when you brought the great pictures of your spouse posing for his own woolen caricature.) Hank is fantastic!

by Christine

Dec 17, 2008

Class Has Ended / Winter Has Not Yet Begun

Firstly, may I say I owe a debt of gratitude to the individuals who signed up for the needle felted doll class at the DAI. Wow! I hope that you had half as much fun as I did. The creativity, playful spirit and individual talents and tales of this group made the experience a real joy for me.

As is always the case, whenever textile enthusiasts, craft persons and/or artists get together everyone is bound enjoy learning something new and fascinating. It is also always nice to reaffirm that this fiber addiction I suffer under is not a rare affliction. Certainly a fiber addict can recognize other fiber addicts... and I did.

P.S. I failed to add Alden Amos to the list of resources. I got that wonderful turkish drop spindle from his shop a few years back. He also wrote, The Big Book of Handspinning. I love this book! (And, there are people who aren't a bit interested in spinning who love this book for the way it is written.) Best foot notes ever! Look for the Turkish (Macedonian) spindle and, if you get the chance, have a perusal of that book of his.

Bitter Cold Weather and a Great Web Find!
It is still Autumn here in the northwoods. Ha, ha. I have already survived the lactic acid burn of the first few snow shoveling adventures and recovered (sort of). I'm ready for the next big drop of white but, wouldn't mind a few more days respite. The pickler for me are those sub-zero temps. I'm talking farenheight here: 17 below zero. With only 5 more days of Autumn I have the feeling this winter is just going to fly by. Again, ha, ha.

Here's a web site that will warm you:
Beautiful paintings, beautiful gardens, and LOVELY, LOVELY Icelandic sheep. Certainly, from my perspective as a fiber fiend, there is much that can be said for a breed that produces two coats at once each with completely different attributes and oh, the natural colors!

I had the good fortune of meeting this multi-talented artist and hand spinner recently. I tell you, there are fascinating people in this part of the country. I'd probably meet more of them if I wasn't in my woolen fortress of solitude playing with fibers every free moment of my life. But, that's probably not going to change any time soon. The bitter-cold winds howling outside only make a studio full of bags and bags and bags of wool a more inviting cocoon. No, this is not just the addiction talking. Wouldn't it be fun to have a transportable fiber studio that was also a yurt (house of wool)?

Oct 24, 2008

Fall Class Schedule Duluth Art Institute

If you live in or near NW Wisconsin or Duluth, MN and you enjoy playing with wool (spinning, felting, etc.) here are a few events coming up that may be of interest:

Holiday Fiber Show and Sale ~ Sat., Dec. 6th from 10 am to 2 pm
The Great Hall, The Depot in Duluth, 506 W. Michigan, Duluth, MN
You don't need a spinning wheel to make your own yarn. I'll be showing folks how to spin wool using a drop spindle made from a cd disc and a stick. HEY, I first learned to make yarn using a potato and a pencil but, then became mesmerized by the meditative qualities of spinning fibers. (Everything snowballed from there for I now have more than a few spinning wheels.)
This free event provides other learning experiences as well. There will be opportunities for hands-on paper making, weaving and more! Bring the kids and the spouses. (Even disinterested spouses can enjoy the event for its holiday treats and hot drinks.) The Great Hall is a roomy, elegant place to wander around and play with fiber for a few hours. Hand-made holiday items will be for sale as well.

The Duluth Art Institute has invited me to lead a 3 session Needle Felting Class.
So let's make a woolen doll. Dates and times:
Tues., Dec. 9th from 6-9 pm:This class will be dedicated to creating the head of your doll character. We'll use sharp, barbed felting needles and various colors of wool to make everything from eyelids to ears. You get a couple of days off to continue the detail work at home before we next meet where...

Sat., Dec. 13th from 10 am-4 pm: We'll proceed from our work of the 9th and create the wire armature for the unique dolls we've begun. (Everyone will be pursuing their own individual character.) Learn to build a solid wire "skeleton" to suit your doll and then build the entire body of the piece using wool and felting needles. This is an interesting class as the process creates a piece that is hefty in your hand, sturdy, strong AND can be posed! Again, you'll have a couple of days off to continue building the body of your piece at home before our final class where...

Tues., Dec 16th from 6 pm-9pm: We'll meet one more time to really have fun. Learn to needle felt clothing, completely of wool, for your doll. A variety of embellishment techniques will be explored. (There's no dress code.) "Dressing" a doll is the perfect opportunity to incorporate your other talents. Enjoy beadwork? Like to knit, sew, crochet, tat, weave, wet felt? Why not add a touch of your own free-form work into the costume!

Making a solidly constructed doll of wool is a time-consuming endeavor. Each character is an adventure in itself. You can put many hours into a well-constructed piece but, when you're done you just might feel as though you've finished reading a good book, a little sad that the adventure is over. I say to counter that bittersweet feeling simply immediately start creating a new doll.
(Before you know what has happened you'll be as addicted to it all as I am.)
This site will give you the registration info:

May 13, 2008

Two Wild Weekends in a Row!

What constitutes a "wild weekend" for The Treadler? Mass quantities of fiber, lots of people, and experimentation going on everywhere.

On May 3rd I was invited to host a station at the Duluth Art Institute's Family Day. I'm guessing there were 100 kids and parents there. Those in attendance got to throw their own pots on a potter's wheel, meet a local children's book illustrator, paint, sculpt and (at my station) needle felt for the first time.

Dry felting involves a very sharp, barbed and brittle needle that is over 4 inches long. The mother in me was extremely nervous, "Please watch your fingers while you're stabbing...Stop a minute, You have the needle upside-down..." I must have said those two statements about 1000 times. But, the child in me was enthralled with the creativity that went on relentlessly for over 3 hours. I saw everything from rainbows to rat necklaces created before my very eyes. No one was hurt, the adventure was fascinating and fun and, my nervous twitch has completely subsided.

This last weekend I went to the Shepherd's Harvest Sheep and Wool Festival. I'm guessing there were about 5,000 people there. This adventure is near the Twin Cities in Minnesota, about 2 hours drive from my own stomping grounds, a great chance to get aquainted with fiber addicts I haven't met before.

As a hand spinner I participated in the "Fiber Sandwich" fund raiser to benefit Heifer International. A fiber sandwich is a pot luck layering of all kinds of wool and fibers layered "hoagie-style" on a very large table. All the fibers were donated by various shepherd's and vendors at the festival. Each hand spinner was given 4 oz. of the sandwich to spin into yarn that was then sold in a silent auction format with the proceeds to buy farm animals for people in developing countries. It was a success on many different levels. And, the hosting guild invited me to their weekend retreat next January where I'll share a fringing technique with them and get to participate in their other class offerings.

I also met a doll maker, Oddest Goddess, with an unusual and fascinating style. She had a nice body of work at the Festival and I enjoyed talking with her and viewing her wonderful dolls. I've added her link to my list if you'd like to take a peek.

On the dark side, I couldn't find a blending hackle anywhere. The search goes on for that. Also, I increased my fiber stash (something I vowed not to do) leaving my husband to mutter, "What fresh hell is this?" as I unpacked from my travels. He'll soon come to appreciate my new vast array of silky, colorful bamboo fibers. Did you know that commercially dyed bamboo spinning fibers cannot go through the commercial drying process? They catch on fire. Processors have discontinued dying them because they require an additional step of air drying. I have the last of some most beautiful "rovings" in absolutely stunning colors for my future doll work. Bamboo spins a lot like silk. It looks much like silk. It feels a bit like corn starch as you spin it. I think it's fantastic.

I'll soon be posting a picture of my "Insect Whisperer", (a little gnome-like man riding a grasshopper). These needle felted dolls were awarded 1st prize at the festival. I'm going to bask in the glow of that for a little while before selling "Claude & Hopper" on ebay.

Mar 5, 2008

Wet Felting a Woolen Vessel

A couple of weeks ago I decided to make a woolen vessel. I wanted a hollow, rounded shape with a small hole at the top, no seams, and a nice area at the center upon which to needle felt. I remember, as a kid in school we would papier mache around balloons. While the concept was perfect I DO TRULY HATE balloons. Besides, no balloon would stand up to the friction and abrasion required in wet felting wool. (This is not just my phobia talking here.) I thought a styrofoam ball would work well as my form but, how to get it out once the fibers were tightly felted? (I could hack it to bits but, styrofoam likes to stick to me more than wool does.) I settled on an old, rubber bouncing ball. It can be inflated and deflated, is sturdy, reusable and I have no unnatural fear of it bursting in my face.

After scrubbing the ball clean (for this ball had enjoyed many an outdoor adventure) I slowly covered it with thin, even layers of wool. The staple length of my fiber was about 2.5 inches long. My goals was to develop many fine, even layers of coverage. As I completed each alternating layer, some vertically aligned, some horizontal, I would lightly wet the fibers down to keep them attached. This process takes longer than you might imagine! Soon the surface area of the ball was evenly covered with about 4-5 thin layers, the last 3 of which were a color blend. Using warm, sudsy water I started rubbing this wool-covered orb, with very little initial pressure. The goal is to not displace the fibers before they begin to felt. After a while I was able to apply more and more gusto as the fibers melded together. This process is like washing your hands for an hour-not the most exciting adventure in the world. About the time I was ready to abandon the project I had solid felt. "Hooray! Release the...doves".

I'd placed a toothpick in the little hole that allows you to inflate and deflate the ball and cut my opening around that area. Then I used an inflating needle to completely deflate the ball and pulled that compacted, pruney thing out through the little opening. Then I wet felted the woolen orb with the vigor of an angry scrub-woman. Alternating between very hot and very cold water, I shocked the heck out of the wool and shrunk it down a great deal. I gave it a final rinse, pressed out all the excess moisture and set it up to dry in the shape I wanted my vessel to retain- flattening the bottom a bit so it would sit nicely.

Once dry, I crocheted around the opening of my vessel with a matching yarn I'd spun from the remaining colored roving. I also needle felted a face protruding from the side of the vessel with same mentioned roving. Now all this vessel needs is a fiber bouquet. Next post: Silk Fusion.

Feb 26, 2008

By Golly I've Been TAGGED!

I haven't played a game of tag since well, before the turn of the century. While blog-tag is not as physically adventurous as the traditional, playground game it is pretty exciting to be invited by Melisa of Coppermouse Dolls. She's an absolutely fantastic creator of one-of-a-kind collector dolls! (For me it's the equivalent of being invited by one of the cool kids to come join in a game at recess, even if it is a random thing.)

Here are the rules:
1. Link to the person that tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Share six non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself.
4. Tag six random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs.
5. Let each random person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their website.

Now for the part where I get winded, my face turns a brilliant burnt sienna and I trip over my shoe laces. Actually, this shouldn't be too hard as I enjoy a myriad of non-important quirks and habits. It's the choosing...

1. My first crushes were on Speed Racer, a cartoon character, and Don West of Lost In Space fame-the reruns, not the terrible movie. To soften the blow I'd like to add that my best friend had a mad crush on Bob Denver who played Gilligan of Gilligan's Island. She would write to him and he'd write her back. (I'm proud to say, for the record, that I never wrote to Speed Racer.)

2. I'm afraid of balloons. I think it's all that popping that they do. (I'd prefer it if you did not share this information with my little nephew. He would only put it to evil use.)

3. I was a vegetarian for 5 years during which I never once craived meat but, I did have a few extremely vivid dreams about bacon.

4. I have both a banjo and a violin. I am equally terrible on both and available for your next campfire sing-along. I also terrorize the clarinet, the piano, and the guitar. As a child I used to dream about hosting a variety show in my neighbor's barn. (We lived in the city but, somehow our neighbor had a big old barn.)

5. Every Spring I suffer from delusions of gardening-grandieur. I become disillusioned by Summer and my spouse takes over. One year we had a tremendous, bumper crop of tomatoes so I started canning vast quantities of hot and spicey salsa until I was asked by my sweet, older neighbor to please cease and desist. Apparently her eyes became inflamed and watery as she hung her laundry outside our kitchen window.

6. We have an evil parakeet named "Madge". She is the only non-shedding animal (and to a hand spinner shedding is a treasured feature in a pet) that we support. She is quite the whistler and bell ringer and is also available for your campfire sing-along needs.

NOW, to the following folks, "Tag You're it."


The Treadler

Feb 7, 2008

New Equipment In the Studio

Well, I can't sleep. It's early a.m. and I finished the book I was reading. This seems like a good time to blog about the new washboard I bought last week! I've been wanting an old-fashioned washboard for a long, long while but, not quite enough to pay to have one shipped. (And, they aren't as easy as one might imagine to pick up while running errands about town.)

I'd hoped to find a shiny new washboard under the Christmas tree with a pretty red bow on it but, when that didn't happen I figured my husband wasn't too tickled with the possibility that people might ask what he got me for Christmas and I'd say, "a washboard", and they'd say, "That's terrible!" and glare at him which would be most unfair seeing as he does a good deal of the actual clothes washing around here and I don't even want the washboard for that purpose anyway.

A while back I was having a rather jolly good time wet felting wool and experimenting with all kinds of shapes, colors and textures. That's when I got onto this washboard kick. My hands were starting to look a lot older than the rest of me. (It's one of the telltale signs of a serious fiber affliction.) And the whole process loses something if you wear those big, rubber dish gloves. For one thing they are too drippy! I figured a washboard would modernize my entire operation.

So, last week I finally took action. I called hardware stores and craft shops and mega stores. I can't find anything at those mega stores. Although it's a story for another time I once went on this eternal odyssey searching for toothpicks at a Super Walmart. Finally, at a little family-owned hardware store I made my connection! And they only had one washboard left. I got a little overly excited about it and asked would they please hold the thing behind the counter for me if I promised to get over there right away you know, in case there was a mad dash for washboards in the next 15 minutes. (Somebody's husband might be Valentine's Day shopping, buy that last washboard and destroy my dream.)

Long story short (ha, ha, ha, ha, ha) I got my washboard. It looks just like the old fashioned kind too, except it has a web site printed on it: so I figure it's cutting edge. Exciting times ahead for The Treadler!

Jan 5, 2008

Why I Spin My Own Yarn

There are all kinds of reasons for wanting to spin your own yarn. I spin for one purpose alone. There definitely are a lot of side-effects of spinning that I greatly value but, my purpose in spinning boils down to the simple fact that there is no other reasonable way to get the yarn I want made to the specifications I need.

Probably now more than ever before you can buy some of the most fantastic mill spun yarns you'd ever hope to see. Certainly you can get by without spinning your own yarn but, unless you own a mill that caters to your every whim, or have hired a personal spinster who twists fiber to you bidding you will always be limited to only what is available. If you develop the skills to spin what you want then the creative control you have over any fiber project increases 100%!

Owning a spinning wheel, and knowing how to use it is like owning a miniature yarn mill that caters to your every whim. (And, a spinning wheel is a great deal more affordable.) True, I've invested a good sum of money in hand spinning equipment and fiber. A person can buy a lot of yarn for the price of a quality wheel alone. The investment in fiber studio equipment is somewhat like setting up and supplying yourself with a personal kitchen if you enjoy gourmet dining. It would make no sense to have a good gas stove, a refrigerator, copper pots and pans etc. if you never ever eat or if you only enjoy fast food. I have a voracious appetite for high quality yarn. (Since I think of yarn as the food of my project work I'll continue with this metaphor).

If I know I want to eat gourmet food all the rest of my days then I need to either spend a great deal of money on fine dining or learn to cook well. In the long run dining out is going to cost me much more and my choices will forever be limited to what is on the menu and the hours of operation. I'll also have little control over portion size. (Ever buy a whole skein of yarn when you only needed a yard or two of a specific color? Did you get the exact color you wanted?) What if I'm in the mood for just one of a very unique Italian egg roll at 4:00 a.m.? If I couldn't make it myself I would constantly have to settle for something other than what I really want in my work.

By the way, while I admit I'm a yarn snob I am anything but a connoisseur of good food. Like most addicts I get so lost in my substance of choice (wool) that I forget to eat altogether. When hunger does intervene I grab whatever is edible, quick and easy. Sad really, but honest.

Jan 4, 2008

When Duty Calls

Sometimes real life interferes with the ability to pursue one's obsession. Here I'm speaking of my weekend ahead and the fact that all time is accounted for elsewhere. (Any fiber-related activity will have to occur in stolen moments.) I wish I could give the whole day to a project I have brewing but, to do so this weekend would be wrong.

There are people in the world who have such a powerful single-mindedness for their specific passion that absolutely nothing else ever takes priority over it. You read about these people on occasion. They are admired greatly in their fields, considered masters of their crafts and often either live completely alone or have family who've been terribly neglected having been forced to sacrifice too much of their own dreams.

This brings us to an important rule: If you wish to avoid an uncomfortable family intervention never allow your fiber addiction to cause those who genuinely support you to become resentful. Sometimes you simply have to rip yourself away from your obsession to focus with true sincerity elsewhere. (I recommend a quick rip like you would use in pulling off a band-aid.)

Jan 3, 2008

Slippery Slope

Well, it was all downhill from there. And, like other kinds of addicts I rationalize the crazy decisions that I make around my "need" to delve deeper and deeper into this fiber Odyssey. Ex: I have good reason for keeping every one of the 5 spinning wheels I "need". Furthermore, I have my husband thoroughly convinced as well. (We do not speak of the elephant in the room.)
Allow me to digress a moment...
There are two things you must do in order to normalize and maintain your addiction:
  1. Your spouse must be convinced beyond all doubt that your behavior is actually a delightful and unique aspect of the wonderfulness of you! This is not an easy task when he's tripping over fleeces while holding his arms out straight so you can wind a skein. If he falls in love with a project you must not sell that project. If he expresses curiosity about whether or not it is possible to hand spin dryer lint or pill bottle cotton you must humor him and spin it, ply it, and knit him an egg cozy from it! Keep him intrigued or take your chances that he'll wake up, smell the coffee and realize he's been cocooned in wool.
  2. Convince yourself that nothing is wrong. The best way to do this is to make sure that most of your friends are fellow addicts. Join a fiber guild. Surround yourself with other people who use their crock pots to dye wool and their salad spinners to wring out fiber. I personally know 3 people who have a second microwave used solely for heat-setting acid dyes.

Now here's the rub. You can convince your spouse that you're normal, you can surround yourself with fellow addicts, but good luck tricking your children. They learn early on that none of their friends have drum carders vice-clamped onto the dining table. They look around in the orthodontist's office and see that no one else's mother is twirling a drop spindle. (They have no use for lint-spun egg cozies.) All you can do is lay low. Best advice here, try to be "cool" once in a while. (It can happen.) Heck, look at me I'M BLOGGING. Well, time is up. The microwave just told me the Corriedale is color set.


Hi, My name's Teresa Clayton, The Treadler, and I'm addicted to wool. It's been 3 days since I last used fiber. No, I admit I'm not being truthful here. There's a little bit of wool stuck to my shirt right now. (Well, this isn't true either, it's alpaca.) Anyway, it's been zero days since I last used fiber.

My story's one you've heard time and again. I was raised in a house where fiber abuse ran rampant and was subsequently normalized. (It was no big deal to see a myriad of knitting needles lying about.) As a youngster I thought everyone's mother drove like a fiend to sales and held their children hostage in yarn departments for hours as dye lots were compared, money exchanged, and great stashes of 3-ply accumulated. I remember these yarn-runs well because many of mum's skein haunts did not have public restroom facilities. Time stood still.

As a young adult it was obvious that I'd inherited this addictive gene. For the most part my siblings came away unscathed whereas I upped the ante and took it all a bit farther than my mother before me. No longer satisfied with mill-spun yarn I resorted to mixing my own concoctions. I enjoyed having control over the concentrated levels of alpaca, angora and whatever other fiber I could lay my hands on to stir into the woollen mix. Great batts of fiber! Pandora's box was then opened wide.