Fiber Arts Tips and Tricks

The February program featured members sharing their favorite tools and fiber tips. Who doesn’t love adding more tricks to their repertoire?

Maribeth Woolsey started us out by sharing her favorite basketry tools.

A packing tool saves wear and tear on your fingers when removing spaces in your weaving.

The spoke weight holds down the reeds and helps measure the distance from center to keep your weaving even.

Clothespins are useful when you run out of hands to hold your weaving in place.

Some of our basket makers swear by the lashing tool. It serves as a “shoehorn” when lashing the rim. Some brand names include Lash Buddy, Lash Saver, and EZ Lasher.

Mary McCusker shared her Addi knitting machine.

For making many hats in a relatively short amount of time, Mary recommends the Addi knitting machine. In around forty-five minutes, Mary can crank out a warm squishy hat. She put it to good use making over ONE HUNDRED beautiful soft hats for the Guild’s chemo hat project. The machine counts the rows automatically and comes with legs and clamps. Other sizes designed for socks and scarves are available.

Darla Cooper loves her Wooly Winder. Her spinning winds onto the bobbin evenly without having to stop and move it to the next hook. She also recommends keeping all of the tools for each of your devices in a dedicated container. Darla thinks this clear one makes finding what she need easier.

Pat Higby has the tools to take one cone of yarn and wind off smaller ones for sectional warping.

Pat found a treasure at a local thrift shop and has put it to good use. When she wants individual spools for sectional warping, she uses her Boyle electric ball winder. To ensure all spools contain the same amount of yarn, Pat also purchased a Lacis yarn counter which comes with its own clamp.

When Karen Agee gets serious about flicking locks of wool, she wears her leather apron. It protects her from sharp tools and keeps her clothing free of fuzz.

Diane Davison made a discovery when a pattern she was weaving required her to use a temple. Unlike the old traditional temples, the Leclerc Clip Temple adjusts to different looms and is gentle on the fabric being woven. Diane gives it two thumbs up! Take a look at a short video, if you are interested. Clip Temple Video

Karla shares the flexible bungees she uses for securing her loom’s lease sticks.

Karla has collected a variety of shuttles during weaving career. She looks for shuttles with a smooth surface, nice weight, and low profile. Karla keeps repair heddles on hand to fix warping errors. She also has a fringe twister in her arsenal of tools. Karla’s last suggestion is having a composition book to keep good records of all your projects.

Once again we appreciate and benefit from the experiences of our members. We can learn so much from each other. Thanks to all who contributed to this program.

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Sarah’s Shetland, Orkney, and Ireland Adventure

Sarah is with a Zwartible sheep and Inca, the world’s smallest sheepdog.

Enjoy Sarah Jane Humke’s presentation of her recent trip to Shetland Wool Week, Orkney, and Ireland. Click the link below to see her presentation on YouTube.

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Craft Camp Estonia-2019

Two of our Guild members, Pat Higby and Karen Agee, shared their Estonian Craft Camp adventure during our October meeting.

The camp provided attendees an opportunity to learn about traditional Estonian handicrafts by selecting two one-day classes, one two-day class, and a field trip. Other cultural experiences were available some mornings and evenings. All classes were either taught in English or with an English translator.

Pat chose birch bark weaving as one of her one-day classes. In this class she learned several basic birch bark weaving techniques to make a variety of traditional objects.

Karen Agee chose the Estonian natural dye class. In this workshop she learned how to dye woollen yarn with plants, how to choose and collect dye plants, how to prepare a dye bath, and how to premordant and dye yarns using the most important dye plants of Estonia.

Perhaps one of Pat’s favorite classes was making and dyeing a needle case made from bone, a material used since prehistoric times. Knives, files, drills, and sanding materials were used to shape the elk bones. Natural dyes from flowers and berries completed the project.

The earliest examples of tablet weaving in Estonia date back to the twelfth century, and Karen discovered Estonian tablet weaving is somewhat different from the method she had previously learned. In this class she made the key chain and belt shown above.

Pat’s two-day class was learning about the crepe weaving technique. This traditionally woven shawl has a checkerboard pattern and Estonian twisted fringe.

Karen’s two-day class was learning the tradition of knitting Haapsalu shawls, which dates back a few centuries. Originating from the small coastal resort town of Haapsalu, this knitting technique is an important part of Estonia’s cultural heritage.

Characteristics of this extremely fine lace knitting are its nupps, lace edging, and light weight. Since this technique is quite challenging even to the experienced knitter, participants made a sampler. You can see Karen’s beautiful work in the photo above.

Are you looking for a crafty adventure? Next year’s Craft Camp will be held July 5-11 in Viljandi, Estonia. Pat and Karen encourage anyone interested in attending to sign up as soon as the new schedule is available. They had a wonderful experience and may go again. Thanks to both Karen and Pat for sharing their wonderful experience!

The link to the Craft Camp is here:

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2019 Virginia Olson Competition

Each year members are encouraged and challenged to create projects for the Virginia Olson Competition held in May. This year’s committee members were Karen Agee, Pat Higby, Linda Miller, and Renee Smith. They chose the theme “Natural Iowa.” Members were asked to exult in the colors of Iowa, seek out some fibers produced here, or give the phrase your own spin and then make something wonderful. Guild members chose their favorites in each of the seven categories by popular vote.

Kären Homan wove her scarf using colors which reminded her of autumn in Iowa. She chose a pattern which was recently featured on the cover of Handwoven magazine. Her creation received the most votes in the weaving category.

Kären with her scarf

Only skeins made from Iowa fibers could be entered into the spinning category. Lynette Risse took home the certificate and the spinning wheel traveling trophy for spinning.

Lynette with her Iowa skein and traveling trophy

How can Iowa’s natural beauty be represented through knit or crochet? Nancy Simet chose colors and patterns which reminded voters of Iowa’s green and gold waves of grass and grain.

Nancy with her knitted entry

Daisy Murfey didn’t need to go very far to find inspiration for representing the Iowa she saw in felt. It was swimming around in her fish bowl. We never know what might spark our creativity!


Daisy with her award and felted fish

A new category for this year was lace, using string and spaces of Iowa in a lace structure. Karen Agee recreated the ripples and currents of the Cedar River for her blue knitted lace scarf, which was chosen by the members to receive the award.


Karen models her lace scarf.

The basketry category for this year had a new twist. Baskets were to be made from local materials or in a uniquely Iowa style. Deanna Hanson went above and beyond with her basket. The handle and rim were made from local grapevines, and the staves were red oster she gathered last spring in Cedar Falls. The basket’s embellishments included corn husks and acorns from Iowa’s state tree, the oak.


Deanna’s basket was made mainly with materials she collected in Iowa.

Read the note describing the basket!

The dye category called for the use of Iowa’s natural materials. One thing we had plenty of this past winter was SNOW! Becky Metcalf took advantage of the plentiful resource for her snow dyed bag.


Becky with her colorfully dyed bag

Karla Stille was chosen by the Virginia Olson Committee to receive the Audrey Stevens Craftsmanship Award. This honor is given for exceptional craftsmanship in a woven item submitted to the Virginia Olson Competition. Karla found an oak leaf on a trail in Cedar Falls. She used it as the model for her tapestry, showing the size and shape of a leaf from Iowa’s state tree.

Karla received the Audrey Stevens Award for her tapestry.

Thanks to all those who entered items in the competition and shared their stories with us. Thanks also to the committee for organizing this annual event.

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Cyanotype Printing

Dee Kruger introduced us to the magic of cyanotype printing for our April program. Some of her examples are shown above. Do you recognize her bobbin lace bobbins?

You may not be familiar with the term cyanotype, but most of us can relate to a blueprint. Before scientist John Herschel discovered the chemical solution for cyanotype in 1842, architects and builders had no way to duplicate their diagrams. The use of cyanotype printing allowed them to make a copy showing the diagram in white with a cyan blue background. They soon became known as blueprints.

Herschel’s friend, Anna Atkins, was a botanist. She recognized the potential of the cyanotype process for making images of the plants she collected. Anna Atkins is now recognized as a pioneer in this early form of photography.

So how does cyanotype, sometimes referred to as solar printing, work? The chemical solution is applied to a surface and allowed to dry away from any UV light. Next, objects are placed on the treated surface and secured with a sheet of clear glass or pins. When exposed to the sun’s rays or a UV lamp, the chemicals in the exposed areas oxidize and turn blue. After fully oxidizing, the objects can be removed to see the magic! Finally a rinse with cold water or a soap containing no phosphate will wash out all remaining chemicals.

There are so many ways this printing technique can be used. In one of the examples above, Dee made a transparency of her grandparents’ photos, and printed their images on fabric. The sepia appearance was achieved by soaking the fabric in tea. A different look is achieved by printing on a colored background like the pink bag. Dee also printed on wood to make a sign.

So how does one get started making cyanotype prints? There are many books and on-line resources available. Even if you aren’t a chemist and don’t fancy mixing up your own solution of ferric ammonium citrate, potassium ferricyanide, and water, other options are available. A quick internet search for cyanotype supplies will help you find pretreated fabric and paper, bottles of the chemicals, and anything else you’ll need. Just be sure to observe all the safety precautions!

Spring and summer’s bright sunlight would be the perfect time to experiment with solar printing. What will you make?

Cyanotype printed rocks?

Thanks, Dee, for your inspiring program. You have helped us expand our knowledge of ways we can incorporate solar printing into our fiber arts.

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Spring Open House and Sale

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Intro to Weaving for Kids

This student has completed several tapestry weavings in the Weaving Class for Kids. He had a great time and learned a lot! 

Another class is being offered in May. Click over to the Classes page for the class description and registration information.

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Mad about Fiber

Karla Stille found a way to turn an ordinary headband in something with pizazz!

Karla Stille presented the March program, Mad about Fiber. Through her PowerPoint, Karla challenged us to be fearless and try new things. View her presentation below.

To see how this works in real life, Karla had us form four groups, handed out bags of materials, and asked us to create something. After lively discussions and much laughter, the results were shared.

This creation took on a personality and life of its own!

Drumming up some fun!

The Baa Baa Black Sheep drum.

This creation was described as a knitting needle and scissors holder with a sarong.

To wrap up the program, several members shared projects from shawls, to dyeing, to bags and even bones, where they stepped out of their comfort zones and tried something completely different.

Karla’s program was an entertaining way to remind us that amazing things can be the result of letting our imaginations and creativity blossom.

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Bobbin Lace Part 2: The Rest of the Story

February, the month for Valentines, seemed to be a perfect time to learn all about lace and lacemaking. Our Guild has an active group of lacemakers who invited Anita Hansen of the Doris Southard Lace Guild of Cedar Rapids to be our guest speaker.

The first part of Anita’s presentation focused on bobbin lacemaker Doris Southard, who was a member of our Guild. That was covered in Bobbin Lace Part 1.

Anita concentrates on her bobbins.

Anita described lace as a type of cloth where threads outline holes. It should be noted, however, that not all textiles with holes are lace! In lace, a pattern is formed with the holes and denser fabric.

Lace has a long history. At one time it could only be worn or afforded by nobility to show their status. Lace was made in many European countries. England, France, and Italy were highly competitive. Each area had its own style of lace.

In time commoners started making lace to adorn their clothing. One could often determine where a person came from by the style of lace worn.

Anita helps us visualize the crossing and twisting techniques used in bobbin lace with help from Pat, Sue, and Dawn.

Bobbin lace is a type of weaving without a loom. Threads wound on bobbins make up the warp and weft. Regardless of the style of lace, it is all made using the same techniques. The bobbins are used in pairs to cross and twist the threads. Pins are used to anchor the weaving according to the pattern. The work is done on a special pillow which comes a various shapes depending upon the type of lace being made or personal preference.

The tools of bobbin lace: six pairs of bobbins, the pillow, the pattern showing the pricking, and pins.

The number of bobbins required varies greatly. More complex continuous patterns may use a hundred or more bobbins! Plan to use more bobbins when working with fine threads.

Take a look at some of Anita’s examples to see how many bobbins were used for each piece of lace.


Tape lace is not continuous. Its pattern meanders back and forth. This type of lace is less labor intensive and uses fewer bobbins.

Fewer bobbins are needed for tape lace. Still beautiful!

A third type of bobbin lace is made in parts or motifs that are fastened together. Motif lace also uses fewer bobbins than continuous lace.

Anita brought a work in progress for her demonstration.

Anita checked all her bobbins to see they were in the proper sequence. On the right, an enlarged image of the lace is used for reference.
This close-up shows how pins are used and the finished lace. Anita cut off several yards of completed lace before she came to our meeting.
Watch Anita demonstrate bobbin lacemaking.

Our Guild’s bobbin lace group, who refer to themselves as the Twisted Sisters, generally meet once a month at the Guild. They invite anyone interested in giving lacemaking a try to join them. They have extra tools and materials to help you get started. Email Teresa at or Dee at for more information. 

We thank Anita Hansen for sharing her love of bobbin lacemaking with us and for supporting the lacemakers in our Guild with her expertise and knowledge. 

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Bobbin Lace Part 1: Doris Southard, Lacemaker

February, the month for Valentines, seemed to be a perfect time to learn all about lace and lacemaking. Our Guild has an active group of lacemakers who invited Anita Hansen of the Doris Southard Lace Guild of Cedar Rapids to be our guest speaker.

Anita began by describing how a member of our own Guild, Doris Southard, became an internationally known lacemaker.

Doris lived on a farm near New Hartford, Iowa, and enjoyed the fiber arts including knitting, weaving, and crochet. In the 1950s an article in Woman’s Day magazine about bobbin lace caught her attention. Doris decided to teach herself how to make bobbin lace using clothes pins for bobbins and a toilet paper roll for the pillow.

There weren’t many resources available to her in the days before the internet, but Doris corresponded with the article’s author and obtained a few books. She didn’t actually meet another bobbin lace weaver in person for another ten years.

As her skills grew, Doris began teaching bobbin lace to others locally and by correspondence classes By the 1970s she had joined the national organization of bobbin lace weavers and became a well known expert teaching classes at conventions across the United States.

A piece of bobbin lace made by Doris Southard

The articles Doris had written drew the attention of the publishers at Simon and Schuster. They asked her to write an instructional book for bobbin lace. Bobbin Lacemaking was published in 1977 and is still available today. Later editions were entitled Lessons in Bobbin Lacemaking. Doris became the first American author of a bobbin lace book.

Doris was an inspiration to all those who knew her. She enjoyed sharing her expertise even after she was no longer able to manipulate the pins to make lace herself. Her lacemaking legacy lives on through her book, those she taught, her beautiful lace pieces, and the members of the Doris Southard Lace Guild of Cedar Rapids

Photo courtesy of Anita Hansen and the Doris Southard Lace Guild

To learn more about Anita Hanson’s program on bobbin lacemaking, read Bobbin Lace Part 2: The Rest of the Story.

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