North House Folk School at 20

In the classroom my leather tote bag class was held at North House Folk School is a splendid wall installation, with small samples showing the variety of craft at North House. From the information sheet:

In celebration of twenty years of hands-on learning at North House, all instructors, current and emeritus, intern alumni and staff were invited to contribute to [a] group project to reflect the broad range of skills, interest and materials that are part of North House Folk School. The project is comprised of individual pieces displayed as one work – a mosaic of craft. North House is unique in the ever-evolving array of traditional northern crafts that are part of the school and community. The finished piece is intended to convey the individual personalities and interests of the many members of our community as well as a larger sense of connection to North House, the folk school tradition and the northern landscape.

Enjoy the gallery below of some of my favorite selections. Click on any of the images to enlarge, and/or play it as a slideshow.


SAORI One progress

So, I’ve been beading and weaving lately. Here’s how I’m doing with the weaving part. I like this section.

This is what happens when you wind the yarn too close to the end of the bobbin. It tangles in the shuttle.

I’ve moved the loom to a different room; carpet underneath instead of wood. I like this section too.

Green zigzag. Also, I have installed daylight LED lights above me. At night, I can take photos with really great color. Daylight will still wash out photos.

I saw a picture of a way to get multiple colors into a section, using just the bobbins. This was unenjoyable. I want weaving to be enjoyable. I ended up having to rewind two bobbins, and actually cut out a snarl in one of them.

I don’t think it actually looks that good either. I could do a neater job, and I initially thought to do this for several more rows, but I just wanted to be done. So I was.

Inlaying a second color above the weft to get blocks of a different color (at top of photo)? I LIKE this. This was fun. This is definitely a success.

There is still more of this warp. I have three more weaving projects planned already, and I was hoping to start the next one this month. It could happen, maybe? And I have a couple of active beading projects.

French pumpkin herringbone necklace complete

This makes me very happy. This is a project I’ve been beading on and off since last May, mostly as a traveling project as herringbone ropes are great for that. The necklace is 26″ long; the inner rope is four-around herringbone with stripes, the center rope is six-around herringbone with diagonal stripes, and the outer rope is eight-around herringbone with squares of other colors. I’m generally pleased with my clasp solution. I’m not generally pleased with my photography, but that’s okay. It’s done! I did not use my original rope with the wide stripes of all these colors. It’s now my traveling project to complete as a bracelet.

Chiaki O’Brien on Minnesota Original

Minnesota Original is a fantastic Minnesota Public Television show. It’s a weekly arts series “celebrating Minnesota’s creative community, across all disciplines and all cultures.” I believe last weekend was the original airing of episode #805, which features four artists. Two of the segments are right up my alley. One is Sally Power, a paper marbling artist demonstrating at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, something I tried at MCBA for the first time last month. The other artist I was delighted to watch was Chiaki O’Brien. I took my SAORI loom class from Chiaki, and also bought my loom from her. Watch her six minute segment, excerpted from the entire episode, and learn more about Chiaki and her work.

Beads at the 2017 American Craft Council show in Baltimore

The wholesale portion of the American Craft Council show in Baltimore opens tomorrow, February 22. On the 24th, the show is open to retail buyers; some artists do one show, some do both. I did a quick look through the show artists, and look at the bead artists I found:

Some of these artists use more seed beads than others, but if I were there, I’d stop to see them all! The links will show their booth numbers. Enjoy!

A Common Thread at the Textile Center, 2017

A Common Thread is an annual exhibition of Textile Center members’ work. I visited today, and here are a few of my favorite things. Click on any of the images to see them full-sized. This is Holocaust Remembrance Day, and author and Holocaust survivor Fred Amran’s yellow star made a strong impact on me.

North House Folk School, the leather tote bag edition

Three years ago, I took a sweet grass basketry class at North House Folk School in Grand Marais, Minnesota. Grand Marais is on the North Shore of Lake Superior, nearly to Ontario, and a draw for its natural beauty and outdoor recreation as well as its arts. Not as much is open in the winter, but the lake is always a draw.

This time, I made a hand-sewn leather tote bag with Candace LaCosse. Candace has a shop and studio in Duluth, Minnesota, which is about two hours south on the southern tip of Lake Superior. Candace makes and sells shoes and bags, baskets and wallets, and much more through her shop and other venues. We walked into the classroom to piles of vegetable tanned cow hides, which are big and heavy and stiff.

Using a template, we cut out the bag and handles.

You cut a groove into the leather, mostly to guide where you place the prong chisel. This stitch groover tool takes some practice.

Making the holes for the stitches.

The thread is linen, and needs to be heavily waxed. Pro tip: look for beeswax candles on sale!

Beginning to stitch.

Using a piece of leather to cushion the table from the chisel. It gets plenty of use.

The entire first day was to sew the handles, two pieces sewn together for each handle. No one finished; we all took homework back to our hotels to finish stitching. I returned in the morning with the completed handles.

I decided I wanted an interior pocket, an extra…

And, I decided to personalize it.

Sewing the handle on the bag. This was challenging, trying to line up the inner and outer handle ends, sandwiched around the bag.

Here’s all the pieces assembled – the handles are sewn on and riveted, and the pocket is attached by rivets only. I also decided to add a flap closure, which is sewn on.

At this point, I’m running out of time. I have yet to sew up the sides of the bag, and sew the triangles that will give the tote its flat bottom. Basically, there was enough time for one bag extra, but not two. Candace suggested that I start sewing the sides of the tote from the bottom, enough to punch the holes for the stitching of the corners. This, I do. Then it’s time for the long drive home.

On Monday, I sew up the sides of the tote at the shop while waiting for my car to be serviced, and go directly to work. Arriving early, I sew. I finish both of the sides except for THE LAST HOLE. I hadn’t gotten it fully punched.

Later at home, I find a nail and punch the last hole, then sew the triangle corners. Here’s the bag inside out.

This was not easy to turn right side out. Candace was telling us about a style of shoe that you make inside out, and how difficult it was to turn – I bet! I finally grasped the sides of the bag and literally used my foot to make it turn. And, the final product!

The leather will soften and patina with age.

I can picture making something out of leather again. You don’t need to have a lot – the stitch groover and the prong chisel and a needle (and an awl – how can I not have an awl?!) are the only tools you need. Add leather and linen twine and beeswax, and creative options abound.