Posted by: bschutzgruber | February 28, 2020

Abstract Landscapes – pt 2

The Abstract Landscape class at the Ann Arbor Art Center is an 8-week class so February has brought new assignments and wonderful experimentation.

Week 5 – Texture
The painters in the class used salt and paper to give their paintings some 3-D accents, which was really interesting to see. Because I would be adding heavier materials to add texture, I decided to use a piece of wool pre-felt as my foundation vs. the silk chiffon I had used for weeks 1-2-3-4. I continued using dyed wool roving for my background and added pieces of silk fabric, fleece locks, and wool nepps (tiny balls of tangled fibers) on top. I was especially interested to see how the nepps would look when placed under pieces of fabric.

12″ x 12″

The actual felting process took longer and needed more effort because I was working on a pre-felt base compared to the silk chiffon base and the silk fabric strips.

7″ x 7″

When it was felted down textured image reminded me of the US Southwest. I liked the lumpy texture the nepps gave to the silk fabric I placed over them. I used needle felting to add the outline of a building to go with the plants/garden in the foreground.


Week 6 – Texture continued
I went back to using a base of silk chiffon since felting is much quicker and easier vs. using a wool pre-felt. Grey locks, white silk chiffon fabric strips, colored silk and multi-dyed locks were layered on top of the wool roving background.

12″ x 12″

Because the locks were from 2 different breeds of sheep, the grey locks were much fuzzier after felting than the locks I used at the bottom, which had a silkier appearance. Again I played with needle felting to add some lines on the dark blue area

final 7″ x 7″

Week 7 – Final Project
This would be a larger piece that incorporates elements from the previous weeks with a tree in the foreground. I also wanted to create a pocket by folding a section of the silk base fabric to the back and using a resist to keep the opening clear so I can slide in a hanging rod. I finished the basic dry layout by the end of class.

18″ x 18″ – dry layout

Week 8 – Final Project continued
Having a week to think about my design and bounce ideas off several others I made some changes and started felting.
The technique for creating a pocket for a hanging rod worked OK.

back pocket for hanging rod

I’m pleased with how the tree came out and will continue to play with the layering I used to give the texture of the bark.

Final 12″ x 12″

This was a GREAT class!!! I learned a lot and my confidence has certainly gotten a boost. So much so I immediately started work on a much larger piece at home – 44″ x 60″ start size.

Final layout – dry

Wet felting in progress

I’ll continue adding bits to it and hopefully it will be ready to submit for the Ann Arbor Fiberarts Guild annual show in the lobby of the Power Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Michigan come April.

Posted by: bschutzgruber | January 30, 2020

Abstract Landscapes – pt 1

I don’t know how to draw pictures.

The Kindergarten to 8th grade school I attended back-in-the-day had no art teacher. ‘Art’ class, when we might have it, consisted on a photo from a magazine being taped to the chalk board and we were simply told to “draw it” with no instructions for how to go about doing that. Our drawings were given 2 letter grades – one for content and one for neatness. The high school I attended had a fairly good art program but was only for those who already had basic drawing skills. I was in college taking a required Art for the Elementary School Teacher course before I heard the words “It’s OK to play when creating art.” That simple sentence opened a window for me as I now play with yarns and colors when I weave. But I still do not know how to draw pictures.

I’ve tried over the years to re-create some of photos I’ve taken using wet felting as my medium but I struggle. Because I don’t know how to draw pictures I can’t make the picture look the way I want it to look. Only once have I even come close, and that was with a lot of help.

When the winter catalog came for classes at the Ann Arbor Art Center, the Abstract Landscape class caught my eye:

“Using the landscape as a point of reference this class will explore compositions that venture into abstraction. This class is best suited for those with some previous painting or drawing experience who are excited to investigate the subject mater of landscape in a new way! Students are encouraged to work in their preferred medium for this class, choosing one medium for the duration of the class. Acrylics, oil paint, and watercolor are great options. Class meets once a week for 8 weeks.”

This sounded interesting. Abstract shapes could work very well for wet felting and I won’t have to draw a picture. I signed up for the class and let the instructor know that I will be wet felting with wool fibers. The instructor replied that she knows nothing about felting but is willing to let me have a go. I am the only fiber artist in the class; everyone else is working with acrylic or water color paints. All have been interested to see how the process of felting works and I’ve been fascinated to see what the others are doing.

Week 1 – Soft & Simple
Make a horizon line and work each side with thin layers of similar colors. I’m using 12″ x 12″ silk chiffon as my base. It was fun to play and am pleased with how my piece came out. Everyone was amazed at the 40% shrinkage that happens when wet felting.

12″ x 12″ dry layout


7″ x 7″ final

I like how it looks different depending on how it’s rotated!
This class is going to be fun!!!

Week 2 – Soft & Simple continued
Work with one or more horizon lines which can be at angles. Because my piece from week 1 used 2 base colors (blues and yellows) the instructor challenged me to work from a single base color. I choose reds but only got the base laid out before the end of class.

12″ x 12″ dry layout

The TV news reports of the fires in Australia influenced my choices as I continued to work at home.

7″ x 7″ When the Land Burned

Week 3 – Colorful Contrast
We played with dark vs light as well as complimentary colors. The discussion on how to get a 3D effect from a 2D surface was such an “OOOHHHHH! THAT’S how it works!” eye opener for me! I worked with blue/orange for my color contrast and played with light and dark.

12″ x 12″ dry layout

I had time to wet down the fibers before the end of class. The light/dark contrast was quite dramatic.

12″ x 12″ wet

It was interesting to see how the piece changed in appearance yet again once it was fully felted. I still get a sense of foreground and distance but have lost some of the drama that was there when it was fist wetted down.

7″ x 7″ final

Week 4 – Colorful Contrast continued
My goal for this week was to work on a path going off into the distance. I used purple/yellow as my colors.

12″ x 12″ dry layout


12″ x 12′ wet

I decided to add a bit more to the foreground to help add to the depth.

7″ x 7″ final

January has been a month filled with new insights and I’m getting more confident.
I’m looking forward to more adventures in February!

Posted by: bschutzgruber | December 31, 2019

End of a Year – End of a Decade

As 2019 comes to an end tonight along with the decade of the ’10s
I took a look back through my notebooks and what a decade it’s been!

78 major weaving projects
38 major felt projects
2 large looms built and several small ones acquired
dozens of felt purses & ribbon scarves
weaving and felt making demos

Inspired by fellow guild members and amazing teachers
I learned techniques
to weave tapestries and narrow bands
to make fine felt for flowing garments
to create vessels from paper and plant fiber
to work with dyes and leather

Here’s a sampling of the journey…
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It has been an amazing decade of growth
and I raise a glass to the next 10 years:
Let the roaring 20s begin!

Posted by: bschutzgruber | October 22, 2019

Leather: An Interwoven 3D Network of Fibers

Belonging to the Ann Arbor Fiberarts Guild has broadened my exposure to the wide range of techniques and materials that make up the ‘Fiber Arts’ with an eclectic range of speakers and workshop presenters/instructors. This October the guild offered a workshop with Michigan artist Brenda Geiger

and I had the opportunity to work one of the oldest materials human’s have used to make clothing and straps…leather. Never having worked with leather I was was curious to see what this fibrous by-product from animals raised for meat, dairy and wool is like and how it might be incorporated into future sewing or felt projects.

In the workshop and her talk at the guild meeting, Brenda gave an introductory explanation as to the different grades/types of leather,

what is involved in the tanning process (historic and modern), the impact that vegetable, aldehyde, and chrome tanning have on the environment, and where to find ethically produced leather for projects.

For the workshop she had plenty of examples of tools and types of leather for us to see, touch and use.

In the workshop we made a simple purse with a cross-body strap.

We punched the holes for stitching 

which produced quite a bit of what we humorously came to call ‘mouse droppings’,

then we worked on our stitching skills.

Next came making the petals for the flower embellishment.

I added a glass button and ribbon for a unique pop of different textures.

Sewing each petal individually, then stitching the flower to bag gave me new appreciation for anyone who works with leather!

Rivets were used to secure the strap to the hardware and the purse.

It was amazing to see that even though we all started with the same basic pattern, we each added our own personal touch to our purses!

I enjoyed working with leather
and can see myself playing it in future projects down the road!

Posted by: bschutzgruber | September 21, 2019

To Dye or Not To Dye?

Over the years I’ve taken a variety of workshops on dyeing involving both natural and chemical dyes. They range from a couple of hours to a full day. I find these workshops interesting and informative but they’ve always been too short for me to develop a solid grasp on the processes. I don’t have the space at home to set up a dye studio to do the repetitive practice that I need. I’ve thought about taking a longer dyeing course but the ones I’ve come across cover a variety of methods so that still would not give me the practice and repetition I need. The result of all this is that what little dyeing I’ve done up until now has either been with the help of other dyers or small projects on my own using an old microwave (never be used for food again!) and very random colors made by combining primary colors.

This past August my course at the AGWSD summer school was ‘Tapestry to Dye For’. [See my 3 blogs from August 2019] The first half of the course dealt with dyeing wool yarn and developing color charts using the red, blue and yellow primary colors to make other colors. Because we had the space and materials right there, I chose to continue creating colors that I plan to use in a future project as others moved on to weaving. 


After 25 dye batches over 6 days I FINALLY have gotten a handle on working with acid dyes and small skeins of animal-based (wool or silk) yarn. Our instructor, Dot Seddon, gave us the materials to take with us so we could make our own stock solutions for future use.

Once I got home I pulled out the dye kit I’d picked up several years ago. This was a kit for fiber reactive dyeing which works on plant-base fibers (cotton, linen, hemp, jute, sisal, ramie, rayon). I had 2 garments (one linen, one cotton) in my closet that I wasn’t really happy with the color, plus a number a number of un-dyed cotton skeins in my stash so I decided to see what I could do this these. 

I mixed up the powdered dye into 1% solutions like we had used for summer school and used them to create a color chart mixing each base color with black to create stepped gradation.


When I had used the black dye at summer school I could see that blue was a key element in creating black dye. Seeing how quickly yellow shifted to green and the red to purple really reinforced that understanding.

I chose one of the dark turquoise for the garments and I was pleased with how they came out.


I now moved on to working with the skeins of cotton yarn using a low-water method and adapting the formulas to match the weight of yarn in each skein.

My calculations did not come out as I had expected as there was a lot of excess dye even after 5-6 heavy rinses under running water. I decided to use my washing machine on intermittent extra slow so they could be rinsed in a large vat setting. FINALLY I got the coveted clear rinse.


What I had not taken into account when using the washing machine was that the agitation that worked so well to rinse the skeins also made each one a tangled mess as they had been loosely tied for dyeing = OOPS!!

For the next 6 days I slowly untangled each skein into a ball

then rewound into proper skeins.

To dye or not to dye… that is the question now.

What I have learned from all of this is:
I’m never going to be a serious dyer!
I’ll continue to play with small batches of yarn
using acid dyes like I did at summer school
but large batch dyeing is not for me.

Nope…dyeing is not my thing
so I will happily support the folks who love to do it!!

Posted by: bschutzgruber | August 11, 2019

AGWSD Summer School – York Part 3

Tapestry to Dye For with Dot Seddon

Day 5
Everyone in the class was now weaving….

…everyone except me. I don’t do much dyeing at home so I chose to take advantage of the dye studio setup as long as I could!  I dyed several skeins of black, a dark green, and several shades of brown.


We had several more sessions with Dot explaining different elements of design.

My final experiment in dyeing was to compare a loosely wound skein vs a very tightly twisted one. The results were interesting.

Late afternoon the Trade Fair opened.


The day ended with an informal fashion show were attendees have a chance to show what they’ve been creating over the last 2 years.

Afterwards I gave a storytelling performance.

Day 6
More weaving….

And I finished winding the rest of my ‘newly dyed this week’ skeins into balls.

The afternoon is open to the public for a walk-about to see what all the classes have been doing so time to clean up my station. Not much weaving on the loom (I DID get it warped!) but lots of wonderful colors that I’ll be using for a future tapestry.

Late afternoon it was time to pack everything up and empty the room.

A gala dinner, for which I wore some of my work, and ceilidh with music by Fiddlerswreck Ceilidh Band (and oh did we dance!) brought the week to a glorious finale.

What can I say….this has been a week of:
Renewing past and creating new friendships
Learning and becoming more confident in new skills
Being surrounded by a vast array of creativity & inspiration

It has been BRILLIANT!!


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Posted by: bschutzgruber | August 9, 2019

AGWSD Summer School – York Part 2

Tapestry to Dye For with Dot Seddon

Day 3
Wed is a 1/2 day in the courses and field trips to York in the afternoon.

We continued with dyeing in the morning = tertiary / complementary colors

Afternoon was a field trip to York with….

–a tour at the Jorvik Viking Centre which included additional information on the textiles and weaving artefacts in their collection – especially a sock made using a technique called Nålebinding, which predates knitting and crochet. I also saw some clay weights for a warp weighted loom like the ones Ben Rosenfield made for me. [see July 2019 blog The Gift of Friendship ]

–and a stroll through the city to see the York Minster, amazing side streets – including ones that were part of the Harry Potter films, and the summer stock of street performers!

Back to the college for an evening talk and walk at the Askham Bryan Wildlife Park.

Finally activity was the silent auction which raises money for the bursary/scholarship fund. A bidding-war ensued over a bag/purse that would go perfectly with the 1920’s golf shoes I found at Alfies Antique Market in London and I won!

Day 4

I played with some other combinations of colors as others continued to dye yarns or started weaving as Dot held short instruction sessions throughout the day.

By the end of the day colorful ‘laundry’ from other classes was beginning to appear!

The evening program was a talk by James Rebank, author of ‘The Shepherd’s Life‘.

Posted by: bschutzgruber | August 7, 2019

AGWSD Summer School – York Part 1

The 2019 summer school for the Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers is being held at Askham Bryan College just outside York. I’ve been coming to the grand biennial event filled with courses in the fiber arts since 1999 and this year 2 others from the Ann Arbor Fiberarts Guild have joined me on this adventure!

200 enthusiastic fiber folks arrived Sunday, collected our housing keys and got ourselves sorted in accommodation. The queue for evening meal was LONG….
I don’t think the staff was expecting all 200 of us to descend upon them en mass as soon as the doors opened! As the days have progressed the kitchen as adapted and we are now moving quite smoothly!

We gathered in the conference hall afterwards for the welcome and introduction to the tutors. This year there are 15 courses – spinning, weaving, dyeing, felting, knotting.

Then dismissed to our classrooms for a brief introduction and outline for our week ahead. My course this year is ‘Tapestry to Dye For’ with Dot Seddon.

Day 1
Dyeing yarns to use in our tapestries.

We are working with 1% acid dyes in the primary colors (red, blue, yellow) as well as magenta and turquoise. Dot challenged us to go with a color we don’t normally use. Since I go to the warmer colors (reds, oranges, etc) I decided to work with turquoise. My brain was not yet in gear so adding 200 ml of the leveling agent instead of 20ml at the start was an OOPS!!! Return to Go! Got myself resorted and I was off.

As it turned out the turquoise and magenta were not cooperating as nicely as the primaries! I started with the darkest batch which simmered for well over an hour and STILL had plenty of dye left! Once the my yarn had reached a nice dark color I took it out, put in another skein and got a second dark skein from the exhaust! Notes made as to amount of dye and the type of yarn used. Others in the group had the opposite problem as their yarn did not take up the dye. Notes were made by all on this! Luckily the lighter shades went MUCH quicker for me. 5 skeins by the end of the day.

Penelope Hemmingway, a textile historian, was our evening speaker: Dark Materials – 18thC & 19th C Textile-related Yorkshire Tales of Murder & Mayhem, Prisons, Workshouses, and Charity Schools. Lots of interesting (and surprising) information and stories!!

Day 2
Using the dyes we created a chart for the possible secondary colors.

Choosing one we then moved on to dyeing our next batch of skeins. Today’s ‘classroom adventure’ was repeatedly blowing the fuse to our room as we have 12 hot plates going! 

I chose to work with orange made from 2:8 red/yellow. My dye baths went to clear MUCH quicker than working with the turquoise and I am very pleased with my results!

The evening program was Textiles from Around the World presented by Cia Bosanquet complete with MARVELOUS samples which we could all see up close and touch!

Posted by: bschutzgruber | July 22, 2019

The Gift of Friendship

Last summer I made a warp weighted loom in a workshop at the Michigan Fiber Festival. [see August 2018 post Big Looms….little looms…and a bit of color ] We used bags of pea gravel to hang from the warp but I wanted to have something that would be closer to what was used in ancient times: stone, clay or lead weights. Looking at pictures of ancient drawings I liked the look of the clay ‘doughnuts’. I contacted my storytelling friend and colleague Ben Rosenfield, who is also a potter. Ben was intrigued at the challenge!!

We agreed that he would make 24 clay weights weighing 1 lb each 

in exchange for the scarf he had commissioned me to weave as a Christmas gift for his wife Laurie.

It took some planning for Ben to calculate what the starting weight should be for the finished weight to be 1 lb and to make sure they wouldn’t crack during firing.

Shipping them from Illinois to Michigan would be too expensive so we agreed I would collect them in April on my way back to Michigan from the Northlands Storytelling Conference in Madison, Wisconsin. I was excited to see the results. We were both very pleased with how they came out! 

Sadly this visit was the last time I would see Ben.
He died unexpectedly that night after I left.


I have demonstrated weaving in the ‘Textile Tent’ at the Saline Celtic Festival in July for the past few years. [see blog posts Waulking and Art Fair and more…. oh my! and Summer Demos and Fairs ]

My little Yaris was packed to the gills with 3 looms, 2 stools, 2 dress forms, 1 table, 1 floor mat, plus yarns & the clay weights!


The festival is always a grand day
with pipe bands, dancers, musicians, and games.

The traditional opening procession carrying the Mayor of Saline on a caber.

Mens Heavy Events

And not only the men but the women too.

In the Textile Tent we had demonstrations of waulking, tatting, inkle weaving, knitting, spinning,



and in my corner – weaving using looms through the ages.

Ben’s clay weights worked perfectly!

Kids and adults alike tried their hand at weaving.

This little guy took to it immediately!

At the end of the day I raised a glass to the marvelous artists
past and present
I have had the privilege to know.

The gift of their friendship lives on!

Ben Rosenfield

















Posted by: bschutzgruber | May 7, 2019

Oh The Places They’ll Go!

Sometimes the garments we create go out into the world
and have their own adventures! Here are two stories.

At the National Storytelling Network Summit in Kansas City, MO last summer Sadika Kebbi, a wonderful storyteller from Lebanon, generously donated a beautifully embroidered dress for the fundraising auction. Five of us stepped up and pooled our funds to bring in a very respectable price. We are now ‘time-share’ owners of the Traveling Storytelling Dress.

I am the lucky curator of our Traveling Storytelling Dress. Here’s how it works:

1) The storyteller will let me know what month she wishes to use it.

2) I mail the dress with instructions on how to temporarily shorten if it is too long and how it should be cleaned prior to mailing it back to me.

3) The teller then writes a short story about the dress’s adventures while it was in her care/possession and email/send it to the group.

Because the five of us are different heights a way to temporarily shorten the dress was necessary. The dress fabric is light-weight cotton batiste with a heavily embroidered hem so devising a means to do this without damaging the fabric by leave stitch marks and be easy for someone who has limited sewing knowledge to do was a puzzle that needed to solved.

Being a member of the Ann Arbor Fiberarts Guild has its perks! I brought the dress to a meeting and after a long discussion with several members who make garments both modern and historical, we came up with a plan: by threading ribbon through the channels created by the 14 French seams the dress can shortened from the inside creating a slight ruching just above the embroidered panel.

This past March Minnesota storyteller and time-share owner Katie Knutson had the chance to wear it in performance at the Tales on the Island: The International Storytelling Festival in Sharjah, in the United Arab Emirates. Katie is the first American to perform in this festival and was honored to represent our country abroad AND be able to wear this beautiful international gift as part of the multicultural celebration of traditions through the art of storytelling.


The second story involves a felt jacket I made in 2012. The third jacket in a series inspired by fairy tales, Straw Into Gold is inspired by the story of Rumpelstiltskin.

The body of the jacket shows the straw strewn across the floor waiting to be spun.

The trim is the gold spun from the straw.

The crop length reflects Rumpelstiltskin’s small stature.

The fabric is wet felted Merino wool prefelt and roving, plus silk fibers. The trim is a wool/silk blend commercial fabric and the lining is silk habotai.

Straw Into Gold was for sale at Fiber Feast and thus went out into the world.




In March of this year (2019) my daughter called saying, “Mom, I saw one of your jackets at a thrift store! Do you want me to buy it back for you?” I said, “No. It can stay there. Someone who really wants it will see it and it can go to a new owner.”

In April to my surprise and amazement Straw Into Gold walked into AAFG’s Fiber Feast! I was headed to the dressing room to change for modeling as the fashion show was about to begin so I simply said, “I made that,” as I walked past the woman wearing it. She grabbed my arm and said, “I know!! I was hoping you would be here this year. I saw it here when it was sale years ago and loved it but I was a broke student and could not afford it. I could not believe my eyes when I saw it in the shop. I was so excited that the gals at the checkout gave me odd look. I’ve dreamed of having this jacket for years and now I have it!!”

She looks beautiful and I am so happy for her.

And they all lived happily ever after!



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