Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The land of Garrison Keillor... crankers and all

I've spent the last four days in Minnesota which I affectionately think of as "the land of Garrison Keillor". I haven't seen much of the city except for the airport terminal, the Textile Center, Pizza Luce, and Bobbin House Studio. But I feel that was enough for this go-around.

I met a dog named Huey. He came with a marvelous introduction to both an Aino Kajaniemi tapestry and an Erlbacher knitting sock machine. I'd take all three home if I could. Unfortunately I took no photos of the tapestry, the dog, or the knitting machine.

My trip started with a very very close call on I-25. I was within a breath of being rear ended badly and the quick thinking of the school teacher in the car behind me (I pulled left, she pulled right) saved me that. She was rear-ended by a big truck and her day went much worse than mine did I am sure. (Little reminder that life can change in an instant... be grateful for every moment.)

I made it to Minneapolis, gave my Sand in my Shoes lecture, and met some fantastic fiber people. There was a three-day Color Gradation Techniques for Tapestry workshop to follow and some lovely time in the best little vacation rental I've ever seen. Bobbin House Studio comes highly recommended by me and everyone else who signed the guest book.

The Textile Center completely blew me away. I've never seen such a marvelous resource just for fiber. They have a couple galleries, a big space rented by the Weaver's Guild of Minneapolis (for whom I was teaching), meeting space, classrooms, and an amazing dye lab. All of that was incredible, but it was the library that really impressed me. They have a huge collection of fiber books--bigger than I've ever seen. In case you don't believe me, here is a photo for evidence. All of those books are about fiber. All of them! And it is a circulating library. If I lived there I could have taken some of these treasures home with me to read at my leisure.
The Textile Center library, Minneapolis
Here are a few more photos of my Minneapolis tapestry adventure.
Textile Center of Minneapolis
I bring as much yarn in as many colors as I can fit in two huge suitcases. This is especially important for classes like this where we are working on value and gradation.

We had Mirrix looms, a Glimakra, a Schacht tapestry loom, a Schacht Baby Wolf, some copper pipe looms, a picture frame loom, and a Louet table loom that made me change my mind about my "all table looms are bad for tapestry except that great one I saw in Michigan" stance. The Louet Kombo definitely holds its own in the tapestry loom department. (FYI, the Michigan loom was a Kessenich.)

Some of my samples including warp size samples, simultaneous contrast sample, vertical gradation samples, and a new thing I'm working on with four selvedge and shaped pick and pick.

Kaz and Carol concentrating on their weaving
The Glimakra loom. Despite the small beams, this loom works great.

Kristin's beautiful hachure piece. Isn't the blending of the orange and salmon colors lovely? Value people, value.
Just some of the colors I brought.
You can find many more photos of the workshop on Robbie LaFleur's blog. Thanks for this wonderful post Robbie!

I stayed at the most wonderful place, Bobbin House Studio. I loved this place. It was so comfortable and my hosts Tom and Steve taught me so much about fiber and art in Minneapolis!

Bobbin House, sculpture by Tom Skogstrom
One of the most fascinating things I learned about from Steve Pauling was knitting machines for socks (there are a few photos on his website). One of Steve's many fiber pursuits involves repairing sewing machines. He is the best of the best at this. He also repairs sock knitting machines and is a sock machine knitting aficionado. He has an Erlbacher that he uses himself and he let me crank it. It was marvelous. What a beautiful piece of machinery. I would love to have one of these and I don't even like knitted socks that much. It was just so mesmerizing to see the little hooks do the wave around the canister.

I had no idea that there were whole groups of people called "crankers" who were into sock knitting on machines. They congregate in places with lots of sheep and fibery stuff going on. I'm fairly sure there must be such a group somewhere in Colorado given the high sheep numbers and the high population of fiber folk here. Crankers.  (giggle)

I managed, once again, to maneuver this luggage through a rental car return and into the airport and then back to my own car in Denver. I have to figure out how to teach classes that don't require me to bring any materials. Ah, who am I kidding. I can't imagine teaching a tapestry class where I didn't bring at least some of my own hand-dyed gradations for students to use.

My next teaching gig is at YarnFest in Loveland, Colorado. I still have a little room in all the classes. If you're going to sign up, now is the time! I'm finishing up the samples for the Simultaneous Contrast color class this week. The yarn table is going to look even better than the one pictured above if that is any temptation at all.

More info on my website here:
and in a set of blog posts linked HERE.
See you there!


  1. Envy has never been part of my nature... but this makes me ENVIOUS!
    Rebecca, do you pay extra for the luggage? It all probably weighs a ton but have you ever looked into shipping ahead as an option? It might be worth the difference.
    Business Tax deductible??

    1. I fly the friendly skies. Southwest allows two bags under 50#s to fly for free. My bags often come in at 49#s on the way there, much less on the way home. I do occasionally ship stuff if I am going to a conference where I am teaching multiple classes and need more materials. Yarn isn't too expensive to ship and yes, it is definitely tax deductible... but still an expense not usually reimbursed by people asking me to teach. So I continue to struggle with the luggage as I think all traveling fiber teachers do. (knitting teachers. Bet they don't have this much stuff to haul around.)

  2. James used to sell off the remaining skeins of his hand-dyed yarns at the end of each road trip workshop so he didn't have to lug it all back home. Of course, he then had to dye more yarn for next time, so there are pro's and cons to that approach.

    1. I do sell them... that is why the suitcases are lighter on the way home! Still have to bring the cases and everything else home though. :-)

  3. Glad you enjoyed your time. I enjoyed the talk on Thurs evening.

    I always want to stay at Bobbin House and I just live 15min from the Textile Center. Not to crush the dream but you would have to join the Textile Center or one of the guilds to borrow from the library. (Unless they make an exception for visiting artists?? I've never been one of those!) The resource is wonderful. We are blessed with great book collections, visionary leaders and talent members.

    It was fun to read the list of looms. Off to read Robbie's post and wallow in "I wish I could have taken the class..."

  4. Hi Rebecca,
    I think that the Textile Center was a place suggested that we might check out, when we were there for the Helena Hernmarck workshop. I did not take advantage of it at that time, either. Looks fabulous! I am so glad you had a great time in Minneapolis, again!

  5. Hello again,
    Here's more...I have a sock machine and am happy to know about other places to get info and help with it. I am not very good on it, but there are not many crankers near me. Crank-Ins are few and far between and when I had one set up, I got sick and couldn't go. I need to get busy on it again, haven't since I moved. Anyway thanks for the info!!!

    1. Sure Lynda! I was fascinated by that sock machine. I still kind of want one but just can't see the point except for how cool it is to crank it and watch those little hooks go around!


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