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!



Posted by: bschutzgruber | March 28, 2019

Best laid plans……

No matter how much pre-planning I do
sometimes projects just have life of their own!

Back in February I put a warp onto the loom to weave yardage to make a garment for the Ann Arbor Fiberarts Guild‘s annual Fiber Feast: Fashion Show, Luncheon, and Sale.

My loom’s weaving width is only 24in/61cm so I would need to weave ‘double-width’ cloth. This involves weaving two layers of cloth at the same time that are connected/jointed along one side. I wanted the colors in the warp to shift across the fabric rather than stripes so advance planning was a must as I would need to know the proper color order for the top and bottom layers.

The woodland ferns which grow throughout the 10 acres at RiverBend, my property on the Tittabawassee River, were the inspiration for the warp colors. [see RiverBend posts Nov 2013Dec 2013 Pt 1, Pt 2, Pt 3, Pt 4]

Using an excel spreadsheet I mapped out my colors for the warp

and wound the top and bottom layers at the same time. The warp is rayon boucle shifting through 4 colors for the top/right side when opened up, a solid darker green for the bottom/left side when opened up and I used a solid color tencel for the weft.

Side view when weaving:

Things were moving along at a slow but steady pace UNTIL I started having tension issues with the bottom layer of my warp causing a lot of adjustments to be made.

Then with only 24″ left to weave on my 4 yard warp, I was knocked off my feet by ‘the bronchitis from hell’ which took 3 weeks to get past. Now it’s March and the jury date for the runway garments was fast approaching!

I finished my last 24″, cut the yardage off the loom and opened the fabric to find weaving errors/floats on the bottom side. This is not uncommon as I cannot easily see the bottom layer when weaving.

These floats can be fixed fairly easily using a needle and warp yarn to weave by hand the correct the pattern.
The biggest problem was a gap created by the issues with my warp tension.

Luckily I was able to gently manipulate the warp and weft yarns to close the gap fairly well. All of this took multiple days to correct before I was able to wash and dry the fabric. By adjusting the placement of the pattern pieces for my garment I was able to work around the much smaller ‘gap’ problem area and it was ready by the jury session = whew!!

Woodland Ferns Tunic
will strut the catwalk at Fiber Feast!

Posted by: bschutzgruber | January 31, 2019

Yup…. another UFO sighting!

UFOUn-Finished Object.

Yup… we all have them.
Sitting on the desk…
Hanging in the closet or on the door…
Buried under a pile of other projects….
All those things that got moved to the back of the line!

For the past few years UFOs (Un-Finished Objects) have been the January program topic for the AGWSD OnLine Guild plus they were part of the discussions for the Ann Arbor Fiberarts Guild‘s January 2019 meeting. With this ‘double whammy’ of online and in person reminders plus a new opportunity to continue a project I pulled out ‘stuff I’ve been meaning to get to’ and started whittling down the pile!

Project 1 – Unravel a knitted coat/duster
About 20 years ago I bought a lovely knit coat/duster made from hand spun and hand dyed merino wool yarn. It’s been over 10 years since I wore it last and the style is not something I’m likely to wear at this point. It’s been needling me every time I look in that drawer = Don’t leave me here…..DO SOMETHING WITH ME!!!  This month I pulled it out, separated the seams and began unraveling it!

The crimp in the yarn as I unraveled it was really cool so I’ve kept the smaller lengths to use as embellishment for future felting projects. I wound the bulk of the yarn into a skein, got it wet and weighted it to relax the fiber. I now have over 700 yards that I can use for a future weaving project.

Project 2 – Greek Myth Procne and Philomela
A couple of years ago I had been asked to be part of a mythology slam event. The stories had to come from mythology and fit a ‘Halloween’ (gruesome/horror/monster/etc) theme. The event was cancelled due to scheduling conflicts so I never finished developing the story for performance. Because Philomela weaves a tapestry to tell the story of her imprisonment thus bringing about her rescue, this story though gruesome, has continued to simmer on a back burner until this month. The time had come to get it off the UFO list and get it ready for performance as I will be telling it as part of a Fringe show at the Northlands Storytelling Network Confabulation! 2019 in April. 

Project 3 – Re-felt a jacket
Back in 2000 I made felt yardage using Bluefaced Leicester wool to sew into jacket.

I’ve liked the over all look but as I was new to felting when I made it, the fabric was not as well felted as it should have been. Because it is loose-fitting I’ve been meaning felt it further and interested to see how the stitched jacket will shrink. I removed the lining, cuffs and collar, soaked it then started rolling. 

Boy did it shrink down!!I I now have an unlined fitted bolero jacket that looks great with jeans and a turtle neck and certainly came in handy to wear this week as temperatures here in Michigan plummeted to -34F due to the polar vortex.

Project 4 – Deconstruct a pair of wrap trousers
Another item in the closet that’s been nagging at me is a pair of silk wrap trousers.


The fabric is a lovely Thai silk in a gorgeous ombré however the pant length is too short for me unless I am barefoot. The good news is that there is a lot of fabric with only 1 seam to remove. I now have enough to make a tunic! 



Project 5 – Felt Vessel
Back in December I gave a wet felting demonstration for the AAFG’s annual Holiday Sale. I used a 16″ diameter resist and 3 layers of wool. This worked well as the repeated steps allowed for regular explanations as people came and went but there was not enough time to actually finish the project. The nice thing about felting is that you can pause in the middle of the process, let the piece dry and at a later date rewet and continue. I got the final diameter down to 10″ and then played with shaping. Using 3 layers (vs 2 layers in previous demos)certainly makes this vessel stiffer and less likely to collapse.

There are still more UFOs circling but at least I can check these five off the list!


Posted by: bschutzgruber | December 30, 2018

2018 – Looking Back

As another year draws to an end it’s time for a look back.
2018 was a year of further exploration of the fiber arts
as I meet artists while traveling, shared ideas and learned new techniques.

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May 2019 be filled with joy, inspiration and creativity!!

Posted by: bschutzgruber | November 18, 2018

November 18 (1918-2018)

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In honor of my mother, Dorothy Anne Marie Hanlon Schutz,
on what would have been her 100th birthday.

Born in the wake of WWI
And the great Influenza Pandemic
The oldest of seven – her identity and job was to be ‘the oldest’
To keep track of her brothers and sisters
To be the first and forge the trail

A Bachelor’s Degree in 1939 at age 20
A driver of convoys cross country in WWII
The first woman to head her government department
10 years in the work force

Charmed by a precocious ‘youngest child’ and married
She gave birth to 5 children in 7 years
She experienced the loss of miscarriage

She buried a son who was only 20
And stood next to her first born, a daughter

When she buried a son who was only 2

She organized people and stockrooms
She chaired committees
She drove us to all our activities
She raised us alone every summer for 6 years
So Dad could get a Masters Degree

She was never a ‘Martha Stewart’ type
She was not a ‘warm & fuzzy’ mom
She was all business and analytical
She was no nonsense

She rarely yelled – she didn’t have to
A quiet, calm, icy voice was far more potent
Each word articulated with deadly precision
Oh, we knew we when we were in trouble

She never talked behind anyone’s back
You always knew where you stood…for better or worse

The things that made me crazy growing up I now see in myself
I look in the mirror and see her eyes looking back
I hear her words coming out of my mouth
I can organize people and stockrooms

She gave what she was able to give
She made choices and moved forward
Never looking back asking ‘what if….?’

Happy 100th Birthday, Mom!

Dorothy Anne Marie Hanlon Schutz
November 18, 1918 – October 17, 2005

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Posted by: bschutzgruber | October 31, 2018

Jean Gauger Workshop

One of great perks of being a member of the Ann Arbor Fiberarts Guild is that the guild organizes workshops several times a year. The workshop offered this fall was with Jean Gauger, who creates unique art-to-wear nuno felt pieces.

We would be learning to make a nuno collage cowl neck poncho.

With eleven people signed up and each of us needing table space of 8ft x 5ft/4.5m x 1.5m, AAFG member Helen Welford generously offered to host the workshop in the upper level ballroom of her barn.


Day 1

Michigan weather in October can be a ‘rollercoaster’ experience. The morning found us wearing layers, coats, hats, and gloves as the barn is unheated.

Jean talked about her method and helped us decide which of 3 patterns each of us would like to make.

In the afternoon we made samples to check shrinkage rates and test color combinations. I had variegated wool roving that I thought might work well with my hand-dyed silk, plus black wool roving so a test was definitely in order.

I  liked the multi colored wool (R side) better than the black (L side). 

Using the body dimensions of one pattern with the cowl from another my pattern nearly covered the full table.


Day 2 

We laid out the silk fabric for the front and back of the ‘inside’ of the poncho

and the layer of wool fibers.

I really liked how the colors were blending!

As the day went on the weather warmed up. We were all in shirtsleeves by the end of the day! So different from Day 1.

Day 3

Over 3 days the temperatures had gone from cold, to warm and humid, to just right.

Now we add silk fabric for the front and back of the outer layer.

I was very pleased with how the colors were blending on this side too and did not add any embellishments.

Late afternoon into evening was spent rolling and shrinking the poncho 40% to the desired size. By 9pm I was ready to try on my rather damp poncho.

Several of us brought them to the October guild meeting for ‘Show & Tell’.

I love the variety. Each one is unique and true to the personality of the one who made it!

This poncho is so versatile!! It is reversible from inside to out, front to back, side to side – each presenting a new perspective.


I have enjoyed wearing mine, especially when I performed the end of October at the Scary Story Festival in the haunted Howell Opera House. Built in 1881 the theater was closed in 1924 by the local fire marshal and has remained untouched for over 90 years. The space is unheated so on this cold rainy night my poncho was the perfect garment to wear as I told the frightening tale of a wandering musician who wears a pied cloak of rags.

Posted by: bschutzgruber | September 18, 2018

Into the Woods

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One of the venues the Ann Arbor Fiberarts Guild exhibits members work is in the lobby of the Village Theater at Cherry Hill in Canton Michigan. This year I was inspired to create a felt wall hanging based on one of my stories.

Once upon a time….

There was a girl, who lived at the edge of a vast forest. At night, after the days’ work, the adults sat together to tell their stories. The sound of muffled voices and laughter drifted through the air to the dark room where the girl slept, enticing her to quietly leave her bed and crouch unseen in the shadows to listen.

Her favorite stories were about the forest and the ones who entered in the light of day or the ones who were reckless and daring enough to brave the dark of night. As she listened, she was puzzled, for she heard no stories of the ones who entered the forest at the twilight hours for that was the time the forest called to her.

When she asked why this was so, the ones who went in the light of day quickly answered, “It is not safe. Twilight is the time when those of the fairy realm walk the forest paths, moving in and out of shadows, speaking in whispered voices and they are not to be trusted. They lure gullible dreamers into their realm; and then turn on them. All who have gone into the forest at the twilight hours, the time when day meets night at dawn or dusk, the dream-time, none have ever returned.”

Now the ones who were reckless and daring enough to brave the dark of night took her aside and said, “The shadowy figures are NOT to be trusted but it is possible to gain safe passage during the twilight hours IF you possessed something they want or you are able to prove that you are stronger.”

As she grew older, the girl began to slip away at the twilight hours to secretly sit at the forest’s edge. There she saw figures moving in and out of the shadows and she heard whispered voices.

–an excerpt from The Forest – an original fairy tale
(c)1999 Barbara G. Schutzgruber
Ladies’ Night Out CD
Online ordering & payment is available in the Storytelling section
on the Store page under “Media”

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Into the Woods
31.5 in x 35 in / 80cm x 89cm
Felted wool, stitched yarn with Embroidery embellishment

Into the Woods will be on display the month on September at the Village Theater.
Here is a sample of the nearly 50 works of art that make up the Ann Arbor Fiberarts Guild exhibit.

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Posted by: bschutzgruber | August 30, 2018

Big Looms….little looms…and a bit of color

The Michigan Fiber Festival held at the Allegan County Fairgrounds in Allegan, Michigan the third week of August.
I’ve been attending on and off for the past 20 years
[See blog post August 2016 City Mouse…. Country Mouse…. part 2]
and it is a feast of creativity and inspiration.


This year I took 3 one-day workshops: Hand Painting Yarn pt1 and pt2 with Ellen Minard (Norwich, VT), Building a Warp Weighted Loom with Gail Hollinger (Wayland, MI) and Weaving on a Inkle Loom with Joan Sheridan (Lake Orian, MI).

Day 1
I don’t work with dyes very often so signing up for both Part 1 – Intro to Hand Painting Yarn (morning) and Part 2 – Fun with Hand Painting Yarn (afternoon) was a wonder chance to spend a day learning and playing.

The morning was a review of safe working practices,

an introduction to basic dyeing principles,

and then working with 5 different techniques.

In the afternoon I had the opportunity to dye several skeins of un-dyed wool yarn I had in my stash.

Day 2Building a Warp Weighted Loom
I saw one for the first time at the 2001 AGWSD Summer School held in Bangor Wales and have been fascinated ever since. This style of loom has been used for thousands of years. My instructor Michael Crompton had been asked to build one for an exhibit near York, England and partnered with a woodworker who used only the tools available in the 7th Century: axe, adze, draw knives, saw, chisels, and mallet.

We were not going for a historical recreation so we used 21st Century power tools!

We had been sent instructions for bringing our lumber already cut to length and spent the morning drilling

and assembling our frames. Mine is 6 1/2 ft tall so it can fit in my small car.

One of our class members built hers 8ft tall!

The afternoon was spent winding out a warp,

attaching it to the header beam

and hanging the weights – 2lb bags filled with pea gravel that we made in advance.

We hand crocheted cord to act as a reed keeping the warp at the proper width

and attached heddles to pull the back warp forward when weaving.

This was as far as most of us got by the official end of the workshop at 4pm. I decided to stay longer so I could do some actual weaving.

When the mosquitoes came out at dusk, it was time to dismantled the frame, wind the cloth and warp around the header beam, and pack everything into my car. This was a LOOOONG day but one filled with accomplishments!!

Day 3 – Weaving on a Inkle Loom
Inkle looms have also been around for thousands of years and are used to weave bands and belts. I have woven bands using a backstrap loom [See blog post September 2015 On the Road and Across the Sea] but have never worked with an Inkle loom.

I had been given one awhile back but had not yet learned to use it so this class was a perfect opportunity to have an introduction.  When I arrived at class it was apparent that my little loom (7″ W x 14″ L x 8″ H) might well be homemade as it did not look like any of the other looms there and our instructor Joan Sheridan had never seen one like it!

In the class we learned how to make string heddles the proper length for our individual looms

and Joan devised the best way to warp my little loom.

The rest of the morning was spent weaving straight and tubular bands.

In the afternoon we wound out a second warp and continued with some other patterns.

Of course there was shopping too and a walk through the livestock barns to check out the sheep, goats, rabbits, llamas, and alpacas. The weather was humid and hot – it is Michigan in August! I was glad I did not camp this year because sleeping on a real bed in air conditioning was very nice… especially at the end of Day 2.

The big warp weighted loom is very roughly made so I will be redoing parts now that I know how it all goes together.

The little Inkle loom will be nice to take when traveling.

And my colorful skeins will find their way into some future project.

Posted by: bschutzgruber | July 25, 2018

The Land of Enchantment

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Recently I had the opportunity to spend 2 weeks in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Being a gal from SE Michigan = the Land of Great Lakes, gray skies, humidity, 840ft/260m elevation and flat…. this was an adventure in opposites = high desert, sunshine all day every day, no humidity, 5300ft/1600m elevation, the Sandia Mountain Range (10680ft/3255m) within walking distance, WIDE open spaces, cacti, rattle snake, and prairie dogs.

I was surrounded by the varied textures in the landscape, learned the history of the people, and witnessed some of the most spectacular sunsets at the Valley of Fires, White Sands National Monument, Three Rivers Petroglyph Site, the Coronado Historic Site  and the Jemez Historic Site, the Gilman Tunnels, Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, and Santa Fe.

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At the Jemez Historic Site I met Cindy Fragua of the Jemez Pueblo.  Cindy creates traditional Jemez pottery, storyteller and other figures, miniatures and ornaments.

It is always fun to talk with other artists – especially ones who work in different mediums than I do. Cindy was generous, shared ideas, and willing to trade art for art so she and I have exchanged work.
I have 2 of her Corn Maiden figures

and she has 2 of my purses.


This trip certainly brought inspiration and new perspective!

New Mexico truly is a Land of Enchantment

Posted by: bschutzgruber | June 28, 2018

Making a One-of-a-Kind Jacket that Fits

Each new workshop stands on the foundations
laid by the ones that have come before it!

Part 1 – May

One of great things about the Ann Arbor Fiberarts Guild is the depth of knowledge, creativity and skill of our members! This past May member Helen Welford presented a 3 day workshop ‘Jackets that Fit’. Helen has a wealth of knowledge and experience in garment construction, especially historical garments. Her focus was to offer us tools that we will be able to use again and again, and for us to get a good start on a well fitted garment.

We began by making a sloper. A sloper is basic pattern that is the exact size of the body – a second skin so to speak. It can then be used to develop patterns for garments or can be stuffed to make a dress form or manikin that is exactly the same size as the human involved. With no access to a human size 3-D scanner we worked ‘old school’ by taking measurements…..lots and lots and lots of measurements – 31 different measurements to be exact.

Using our own bodies as the form we draped muslin – folding, pinning, cutting, and marking to create a 3-dimensional likeness.


From here we lay the muslin flat and then traced it onto heavy paper for a more sturdy pattern.


At this point we had a choice – continue on and make a complete bodice that could be stuffed and made into a personalized dress form or adapt a commercial pattern using our measurements and the sloper sections for a better individual fit. I choose to practice making alterations to a commercial pattern for future use and made several muslin prototypes.

Helen is a great instructor! With 12 people in the workshop of all shapes and sizes I gained further insight as to why clothing does not always fit and what to do to tailor items to achieve that ‘perfect’ fit!

Part 2 – June

The Michigan League of Handweavers Summer Workshops were held at the beginning of June.  I took the ‘One-of-a-Kind Jacket’ class with Mary Sue Fenner (Wisconsin). Mary Sue has a keen eye for combining fabrics and has presented several times at MLH. I have always been impressed with the items that are created in her workshops.  This would be the perfect follow-up to Helen’s workshop.

Mary Sue comes with a huge suitcase packed with jackets in a wide range of styles for us to try on as we discussed the fabrics we each brought and possible patterns we’d like to use.


Because I did not have any of my own handwoven yardage ready, I brought fabrics I had collected but had no idea what I wanted to make with them: 2 pieces of handwoven wool I bought in Scotland, 4 yards of vintage Tai Silk from Hong Kong that was given to me, and 1 meter of silk I purchased at the Whitchurch Silk Mill during last year’s AGWSD Summer School. After some discussion I decided to use the Scottish handwoven to make a Marci Tilton jacket Vogue 8709.

Laying out the pattern took some planning as I only had 2 meters for the body of the jacket and 1 meter for the back which would be cut on the bias.


I needed another fabric to use for the front panel and collar so a walk to the local Field’s Fabrics was in order. I found a grey wool plus a lovely silk noil fabric to compliment the Tai silk in a future project.


By the end of the second day all the pieces were cut out and edges serged to keep from fraying.

By the end of the third day the jacket was nearly assembled and I would finish it at home. The jacket itself is not lined but I wanted to line the sleeves so it will be easier to take the jacket on and off.


The grey wool would work but it was a heavier weight than my Scottish wool so a trip to Haberman Fabrics once home was in order. There I found a lovely dark purple wool knit that was a much better match to use for collar and front panels.


Two workshops later I am very pleased with the final result!



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