Meet Nosey

I took a dimensional needle felting class at the public library, taught by Marlene, a teacher from the Textile Center. Here’s the progression, first body-head-nose:

Front legs and shoulders.

Out of time at the class, now working later at home to assemble most of the rest:

Next to a more realistic panda, I see that this one has quite the nose. Much needle felting of the nose commences, to try to bring it more into line. Now, ears!



Still on the nosey side!

Tin Thread necklace

I took a class today at the Weavers Guild of Minnesota with Katherine Buenger. It was one of their Try It! classes, which are mostly one session. I love Sami bracelets – I purchased one several years ago at an American Craft Council show, and enjoy wearing it – and Katherine designed this necklace using the same techniques. The tin thread is pewter wire, containing 4% silver, wrapped around a cotton core. The leather and antler closure are reindeer. Below is my completed necklace. It is flexible enough to drape nicely, and I like the closure visible on the side in the front.

A closeup of the clasp.

A closeup of the braid.

Now, I did the braid correctly, but I didn’t fully follow directions on which hand held a particular pair of threads at a point in the braiding process – at least that’s what we determined, because below is how the braid should look. In my defense, I have long hair that I wear braided. I am practiced at braiding flat.

Mine is flat, and looks the same on both sides. Hers is cupped, with a different side profile than mine. My finished necklace is done with the gauge of thread of the center sample, and 28″ long.

If you want to make a necklace like mine (but with the right profile!), or a bracelet, check out Katherine’s classes at Bead & Button.

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.


Pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue…

I had a lovely, relaxing afternoon of paper marbling at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. The pictures below are first the design floating in the water, then the print on paper. 

And again:

And again:

And one more, just of the finished product:

Honestly, I didn’t think that I was going to be able to do anything that looked this nice. If you ever have the opportunity, this was a lot of fun. 

Six years of updating

That’s a rather grand title, but true: I have added two to three pieces per year of beadwork to my gallery, and changed its format. The new format is easier to view, and will be easier to maintain. It’s interesting to try to determine themes and trends. Blue is one theme! I also use less peyote now than I used to. Here’s a screenshot of about half the gallery:

It’s in reverse chronological order, and pulls out some of the pieces that are significant, or just simply attractive in their execution. Click on a piece for a brief description, and/or click on an item and then through the images as a slideshow.

I updated my “About” page as well, and tweaked the sidebar. My SAORI loom arrives in about two weeks. I’ll be documenting my learning process with the loom, and perhaps that will mean some more changes – a beadwork gallery and a weaving gallery? One can only hope.

Hmong textiles

The Hmong are an ethnic group that began coming to Minnesota in 1975 as refugees from the Vietnam War that decimated their homelands in Laos. The United States recruited Hmong men to assist in the war as a secret operation, with a total of 30,000 – 40,000 Hmong soldiers killed in combat, an estimated 1/4 of all Hmong men and boys fighting for the U.S. After the war, many Hmong escaped or evacuated to Thailand as the Lao monarchy was overthrown by Communist leadership, and the Communists launched a campaign to capture or kill the Hmong involved. From the refugee camps, many Hmong came to Minnesota starting in 1975, with the largest wave arriving in 1980, and the last arriving in 2004. Please note the length of time that some people were in the camps; I went to a talk given by a man who was a child in the camps.

Today, there are more than 66,000 Hmong in Minnesota, and the Twin Cities metro is home to the largest concentration of Hmong in America. Last year, the Minnesota History Center mounted an exhibition celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Hmong in Minnesota, “We are Hmong Minnesota” This is translated from “Peb Mog Hmoob” in White Hmong, one of the three main dialects. All signage was in White Hmong and English. It was a sobering, colorful, interesting, beautiful exhibit, and I’m grateful that I was able to visit.

I have lived in Minnesota since 1980, and I have seen Hmong handwork since moving here, always appreciating and admiring it. This is the first piece of Hmong handwork I have the pleasure of owning, a gift from a friend.

This bag is 7×6″, so you can see the piecework is very tiny.


This pillow was purchased at a school’s garage sale fundraiser, is 9″ square, and lives on the couch in my living room. The cut work is all hand reverse-appliquéd, and the triangles are satin-stitch embroidery. The spiral is a common motif called a snail, and the outer shape is a star motif.


Finally, recently, I was at a thrift store and horrified/delighted to find two pieces of Hmong embroidery for almost nothing. The person who priced them didn’t know how spectacular these pieces are. I saw a corner of the binding peeking out from some embroidered hankies, and immediately recognized the Hmong style of binding. This first piece is cross stitch, and 27 x 28″.


A detail:Hmong-cross-stitch-detail

And this, a truly spectacular piece that I am very grateful to be able to own. It is 34 x 32″, hand-embroidered with silk.


I work with someone who is Hmong, and I brought these to work to see if she could tell me anything about them. I was wondering if this piece depicted a fable, and she told me it is the animals of the forest. Click to see a larger picture.

Some of these embroidered pieces are called “story cloths” (paj ndau), and tell the story of current or pre-war life, or more poignantly, the war and escape. The Minnesota History Center has a huge story cloth that was on display during the exhibit. Here is a picture of it (65 x 95″). If you would like to see more, there are images in the MHS digital collections.

My workroom with my beads has no available wall space (bookcases, windows, and doors are in the way). I’m hoping that within a couple years, I will be able to repurpose a room into a sewing room, where I will hang these on the wall. I am pleased to be their next caretaker, and I will treat them well.

Almost a new year, almost a new blog?

I would like to begin again writing regularly for this blog. To that end: I fixed the automatic backup, I updated plugins, and chose a new theme. Not tons different, but a bit cleaner and more modern. I got rid of duplication between categories (such as jewelry) and tags (stitch used). The header image is gone, but I think that’s okay. All the content is here.

I did some beading for holiday gifts, but nothing I’ve photographed. I have an idea for an earring design intended for a Christmas gift, but it will become a New Year’s gift. I have a pretty start of a herringbone rope that I want to continue (French seed beads, beautiful things), and combine with several other herringbone ropes of the same beads. Other things need updating, but let’s start with these!