Wednesday, August 14, 2013

I am Bette

Teaching a class of 16 students for 5 days can be fairly intense. Teaching such a class at a place like Harrisville Designs where the studio is open 24 hours a day and the students are weaving as many as 14 of those hours, increases the stakes. Add in a wide range of tapestry experience, and you can understand that I had a week where I didn't sit down at all. But it was fun. And seeing the student work come off the looms on Friday was wonderful.

Friday afternoon I was trying to get straight in my head which of the three Lindas and two Susans in the class were which. I knew their first names, but I wasn't going to be able to attach the first names to their last names when I looked at the class roster and I wanted to be able to do that when I got home. I knew I was tired when I asked one student (and it should be known that I got her name right all week long) which of the Susans she was. She looked at me and said, "I'm not Susan. I'm Bette." I hate it when that happens.

This class was challenging to say the least. Harrisville was a wonderful experience, but these ladies put me through my paces. They were gracious and excited and they worked very very hard. I have taught many classes with beginners and intermediate students at the same time. This was the first time I had so many though. I think the first thing I learned was that I need to make sure that if I'm trying to teach more advanced concepts, the students take a beginning tapestry techniques class (or two) first. Of course it often is helpful for the people who have been weaving tapestry longer to see the techniques I use which aren't necessarily the ones they are using. The more tools in your toolbox the better.

The studio is a great place to work. It is spacious and they have every sort of tool you could want... including a few I had never used before! (See previous blog post Why I love teaching tapestry so much...)
Over the course of this Color Gradation class I was teaching, I always notice that people start to collect little bits of yarn in colorways. This is always a sign they are starting to understand something about moving color.

As the samplers came off the looms on Friday it was wonderful to watch the magic as people turned them over and saw what they had done over the week.
Bette's sampler ended with a great transparency exercise which was extremely successful. She played with which color combinations she needed to use to create the illusion of one rectangle being on top of the next. It took a little re-weaving to find the right colors, but I think she nailed it.
Here are a few other selections from the samplers.
I especially loved the pick and pick on Deborah's.
And look what else you can do with pick and pick if you're Anji!
To give you an idea of the range of students that were in my class, this is Betsy Wing's work. Betsy and I met in the first class I ever took from James Koehler in 2005. I love this piece. To be clear, she didn't weave it in this class. Harrisville asked the students to bring examples of their work, and Betsy brought this.
Susan Middleton has done some amazing work with natural dyeing. I was absolutely in awe of her samples and the photos she brought of this work. Please visit her website here:

The yarn table was decimated. I completely ran out of the grayscale and I had brought an extra 4 ounces of black. Next time I teach this many students in a setting where they can work 24 hours a day, remind me to bring extras of the popular colors. Of course if I do that, I'll run out of something else!

My aunt Mary Lou has taken classes at Harrisville. Before I went she said, "They have yarn there. You're in trouble." I assured her that I knew they had yarn, but that I ordered their yarn for my tapestries and that I wouldn't be buying any while I was there. Apparently she knows me well because I did buy yarn. How could I resist trying Nick Colony's new Watershed? I have a hat by Steven West in mind already.
On the last morning I was in Harrisville I walked to the cemetery. I had previously kayaked by it but I wanted to see who was buried there. I did find the guy who founded Harrisville, Bethuel Harris.
And here is a photo that was taken by Linda Whiting late at night of the old mill, now the weaving studio and Harrisville store, reflected in the canal. Please visit Linda's website at She also does amazing work with fiber.
photo: Linda Whiting
Thanks Harrisville. It was lovely.


  1. Great posting of a wonderful rewarding experience. Thanks! Fran

  2. Hi Rebecca
    What type of looms are those you're teaching on. I'm in awe of the beautiful samples your students wove. Any more news on the online class?

    1. Angela, the looms are made by Harrisville Designs. They are small jack looms, 4 or 8 harness. They are lovely looms and are very well designed, but they don't work the best for tapestry. They are light and the high tension pulls the jacks up at some point and you can't increase the tension as much as I would like.

      As for the online class, I am working hard on the video, but it is going to be a 6 week class and there are a LOT of videos to make. I apologize for not being ready yet, but it is going to be a while longer.

    2. Thanks Rebecca. I have noticed that you always seem to use an upright loom and was intrigued to see these looms in the class, but I guess you have to teach on what's available. They still did wonderful work! Thanks for the update on he course and sorry to nag! Just can't help getting excited at the prospect of being able to learn from you.

  3. I hope you will let us all know about the on line class and its progress when the time comes.

    1. I will have an update on the online class soon on my blog. It is coming along and is going to be really good. I am something of a perfectionist so the number of videos I want to include is extensive... and this takes so much time. I completely underestimated how long it would take me to get it out there. I'll let you know when it is coming up!


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