Common Ground 811 – Fiber Arts Tour
Common Ground 811 – Fiber Arts Tour

♪ Lakeland Public Television
presents Common Ground. Brought to you by the Minnesota Arts
and Cultural Heritage Fund and the citizens of
Minnesota. ♪ ♪ [talking] ♪ [pounding] ♪ [tapping] ♪ [motor running] ♪ ♪ [horse walking] ♪ ♪ ♪ Welcome to Common Ground. I’m
your host Scott Knudson. In
this episode we make a few stops along the
2016 Pine To Prairie Fiber Arts
Tour. ♪ ♪ Director, Scott Knudson: In
this episode, we take a look at
the 2016 Pine To Prairie Fiber Arts
Studio Tour in Northern Minnesota. Local fiber artists showcase
their talents in beautiful works of art by
welcoming strangers into their creative spaces.
Some give us a tour in their place of
business. While others demonstrate their skills in the
comfort of their own homes and studios. [clanking] We begin the tour in Fosston,
Minnesota at the Northern Woolen Mills. It’s owned and
operated by Stephanie Anderson. Stephanie: So come on in.
Scott: While she guides the
tour of her facility, we learn about
the numerous steps and machinery needed to
operate a woolen mill. Stephanie: Everything in the
gunny sacks that you see come
from within 75 miles of the mill.
And we only do USA fibers here. What you’re
seeing is mostly sheep. We do have some Bison. As we go
through you’re going to see
some Elk. And then something that we do
that’s a little bit different is people can come into our
warehouse and pick out the sheep or the color or
whatever they want. And we’ll
custom spin it for you. So we open
over here some of the different colors
that we have. So we have some grays and some
blacks and some whites. Before if there’s any
black hairs in sheep, it was
considered of no value. But here I can’t keep the grays and the blacks
in stock. So we really like
those black sheep that you see out there because it has a
lot of interest. They dye really well. They’re really
fun to work with. So we’re opposite of what the
sheep industry says should be. And I still get
farmers that bring stuff in
that say I’ve had this colored stuff
sitting in the barn because the sheers won’t take it or the
wool pulls won’t take it. And we love it. We can’t keep
it in. We’ve done ox. We’ve done
qiviut. We do camel hair. We do a lot of
rabbit. And if there’s any left
over I get it. [laughing] woman’s voice: So when people
come to pick out the wool that
they want do they pay by the pound, by
the ounce or how…? Stephanie: They do pay by the
pound. And they pay by the
pound on a finished weight. And the finished weight for wool is $23 a pound. So each fiber that comes through
here gets opened by hand. You see these little locks.
Each lock has to be hand opened. So these tables are
screened tables. And we do it over the
screen table and that way the
dirt falls through to the floor. And then from,
when it’s all picked and all opened it gets put into
a laundry bag. The waters 180 degrees. So
it will sit in that water for half and hour. And that’ll
melt the lanolin off. We push water through it.
We use PVC pipe. So we push it into the
water and that’ll bring the
lanolin and the dirt up and down. So that’s how we
clean it. We use an environmentally
friendly soap. And that soap
will eat the lanolin within 72 hours. And then it
just goes down into the sewer system. So
everything is environmentally friendly. We do not do a
chemical burn to take off the vegetable matter. What doesn’t
fall through in this point, will eventually come
through in some of the
machines. You’ll notice sometimes when you knit
with our stuff you’ll have a
little piece of straw or something. And that’s
because we don’t do a chemical
burn here. One of the reasons I
don’t chemical burn is it’s a the EPA approval is outrageous. So what it, that tells me that
it’s hurting our environment
and I don’t want to do that. Woman’s voice: How
many employees do you have?
Stephanie: We have anywhere between 8 and
10, depending on how the orders
are coming in. And those are all full
time. And I’m included in that.
Woman’s voice: Is this something you did as a
hobby and then it’s grown into
this? Or is this something that you
had been involved in previously? Stephanie: No. My
background is corporate hotels. I have a friend who had
one of the yarn companies. And she was
buying wool in the United States, taking it
to Canada because that’s the
only place she can get it spun. And then
she was bringing it back to the
US again. Well that was twice
through customs. So that twice through customs
doubled her price and she
couldn’t compete anymore. So she asked me to go to
Bemidji Woolen Mills. Which I did and I
met with Bill at Bemidji Woolen Mills. And he showed me some of
his stuff. But an interesting comment he made as we’re
looking at some of his stuff
was, “People call him everyday and
ask him to reopen for spinning.” And they haven’t
spun yard since the 60’s. So I said, “Well, if you’re… why
isn’t somebody doing it if that’s the
case?” He said, “The textile industry really left.” That
part of the textile industry left in the 1960’s. So, that’s
why I decided to do it. I didn’t even hand spin
before I started. Woman’s voice: So where’d you
get the sheep? Did you just put
an ad out that you’re looking for…
Stephanie: I didn’t even have
to. They were just bringing in like crazy. I did contact
one sheerer which is Byron Johnson. And he’s from
the Bemidji area. And he really helped bring in
my first… And then word got out that I was here. People
just brought in on their own. He told me when I first
started that it would be hard
to get good wool in Minnesota. It has not been.
It’s been great. The quality of wool
we’re finding is really nice. This machine is a dehair
machine. So what this does it takes the
long guard hairs of the bison and
separates it from the downy undercoat. So you’re left with
the downy undercoat and the long hairs through this
machine. And this machine works on centrifugal force so the long hairs are thrown to
the outside and the short downy hairs are passed along on the
inside. This is a cotton gin. This
cotton gin came from South Carolina. And there’s a board
in the back with nails sticking out. And this machine goes
around in a circle. And it’ll
take that wool that we we’re looking
at and makes it into… It opens it up further and makes it into even
pieces. And then there’s a vacuum on
the other side of this that
will suck this out and drop it evenly into the
next machine. You can see how this drops down
into the sheet and then it goes into the card machine. And the
card machine is a bunch of
wheels that have combs on them but they
pretty much feel like razor blades. And those razor blades
will get everything going the
same direction. So this machine will
do 100 pounds in an hour. So that quilt batting type of material that comes out
like this. We put it through.. That’s
called the trumpet. It comes out of the trumpet. And it’s
very open and airy. ♪ This machine has combs
in the top. They look like hair
combs. And there’s 75 in the top and
75 in the bottom. So it stretches and pulls and
stretches and pulls and makes this a tighter, denser roving. So it goes in here…
comes out a quarter of the size
on the other side. So then we go to a spinning
machine. This spinning machine was made in
the United States. So this
machine will do very fine, very tiny threads. You
can see it goes up and over. There’s a stretch here. And
then it comes out a thread down here. This machine is finer. We
can adjust the gage from here. So how fat the roving
comes out will help adjust. So that the size will
start here. So that next machine down is from Spain. And that is
the only company still in business. All this equipment
came of course with no training manuals, no
operating manuals, nothing. So we started there contacting that company. But
they’re in Spain and they didn’t speak english
and I don’t speak spanish. So we finally got with the lady
on the phone and…youtube, youtube. So we figured that
there was youtube video for that machine. And so we went on
youtube. The video’s in spanish but we
watched it over and over … and that’s how we
learned to operate that machine. So this is a plying machine and
this will put together those strands that you saw that were
spinning down there. Like this
is the same stuff. So we can put 2 or 3 or
4 or 10 or however many together
to get the fatness that they want. This
machine’s obviously one of our newest
machines. It actually has
electric eyes in it. So this machine puts
everything on cones. Professional companies
who make socks or who are weavers or whatever
like things on cones because
they can just feed off of the cone.
The machine next to it is one of our oldest machines.
That one’s from 1935. And that machine is a skein
winder so it wraps it around into a
circle and makes it into the skeins like you buy in
the store. From the skein winder we put it
in a tube sock. And then we put it into
the washing machine. Give it
one last rinse and then we’ll hang
it up on the wracks here. Peggy Webster: Do you
ship worldwide? Stephanie: Since we only do US fibers, I usually
only get asked for a US product. But yeah, we do
ship worldwide. Scott: With Stephanie
Anderson’s tour complete we hit
the road to Debs Minnesota to visit the
home of Marilyn Lee. There we see a
house dedicated from the ceiling to
the floor. And everything in
between to the fiber arts. Marilyn: Hello, my name’s Marilyn Lee. I live in Debs,
Minnesota. This is my home and I’m showing
a lot of my work and my quilts and old vintage sewing
machines that I do a lot of my
work with. We don’t really have a
conventional home. Everything goes around with the fiber art
and sewing machine. And we create a lot of
things from scraps or
recyclables. And I like to decorate my home
with fabric. As you can see by the ceiling,
I’ve got squares and embroidery
and almost like a quilt on the ceiling. I
love to create fiber art.
There’s so many different things that you can
do with fabric and thread. I like to create the
surroundings around me and nature. It’s a therapy for
me too. It’s just a very relaxing
therapy and I like to do it with vintage machines.
I get a lot better feel for the work. This is a 1964 Singer. I do a lot of chenille work
with that. I use knitting
machine yarn. This machine is a 1929 embroidery machine and I do a lot of embroidery such as
this coat with that. Then over here…This is
a treadle sewing machine and I do
a lot of embroidery and lace making and
different things on that
machine. I’ve been sewing since probably
before I could walk almost
[laughing]… many, many years. I learned on a treadle sewing
machine but then I didn’t use
one until just a couple years ago
when I started actually using my treadles again. I’ve used the
embroidery machines for many years now. This Singer is an embroidery machine. There
is kind of like a hand crank underneath of it that makes the
needle move. It’s kind of like driving
a car. So I can step on a peddle and I turn the little crank
under here. And I can draw. I can write my name with it. It takes quite a while to
get used to how to work it. It, it’s a little bit of
skill involved. It’s almost like driving a car pulling a
trailer. Only backing up with it. You can do a lot of really
intricate work with it. This is my button mosaic. I collected
buttons for years and years. I didn’t think that I
would probably ever use all the
buttons on any clothes or anything. So
I decided to do mosaic with them. So this is
my button buck. It’s made out of
buttons although it’s not a button buck in actuality.
It’s about 8 by 6 1/2 ft. It’s one of those projects that
I start that I wish I hadn’t of. Because it takes so
much time to do. But it turned out really,
really well. I, I really like
it a lot. So… This is Jane Carlstrom and
she’s here joining us today in the Fiber Arts
Trail. She’s doing some wool felting right now.
And she’s making Lake Superior dryer rock right
now. They help keep the static out of your clothes when you
dry your clothes. This is a very first scrap
quilt that I made. It was rather a challenge
for me because I usually like to work with some sort of a
idea or pattern in mind. But I had so many leftover
scraps from other quilts that
I’d made. Because there’s fusible webbing
on all the scraps. So I just
started ironing it on and it just kind of developed.
And it was really freeing for
me. It surprised me so now I’m doing a lot more
fabric. Scrap quilts with just scraps. All of
this was just came out as scraps and I
just put it together and it was really exciting to
make. ♪ And the floor in our home is
firewood floor. We actually
made it from our firewood pile. It’s all cut
in small slices. We glued them all
to the floor in a pattern. Then we put morter on
it, in between all the circles
and then we put floor poly on it. And it just adds so much to the
home I think. ♪ This is just more sewing and
stuff and these girls are creating a scrap quilt right
now. They’ve never done this before so I’ve got them busy
learning how to do that. We’re going to see what
develops. Every person that
comes through on the Fiber Art Trail
gets to put a piece on and we’re waiting to see what
develops from it. [chuckles]
You see these are all the scraps from
previous quilts. This is probably the
only modern machine that I have in
the house or one of the only ones. This is my 6
needle embroidery machine. I do a lot of work
with that. And I also digitize a lot of my own artwork. This
is a blue jay that I digitize. I have two programs
that I do my own artwork and digitize it. And my fabric stash…You can
see I have quite a bit of fabric. A lot you can’t see
because it’s hidden here and
there. But, and this is the Obama quilt
that I made. All the quilting was done on
vintage machines. All the
embroidery is done on the vintage
machines. I started that quilt January 20th,
Inauguration Day, 2008. And I thought that it was
an incredible piece of history. So
that was why the quilt was made…for history. Scott:
Once again we’re off to our next destination. The
home of Carrie Jessen. Inspired by colonial times,
Carrie demonstrates weaving a wool
blanket on a loom. Carrie: My name is Carrie
Jessen. I live here in Solway, Minnesota. And
I am weaving a wool blanket on my 4 shaft loom. I am
participating this weekend in our Pine To Prairie Fiber
Arts Trail. And here I’m demonstrating the
weaving of a wool blanket. And my
blankets tend to be those that were woven
like they were in the colonial period. I enjoy
weaving those patterns using those materials… primarily wool, some linen. I’ve been doing
this weaving for about 22 years. I first got interested in
weaving when I joined my husband. I and my children
joined him, with historical reenacting the french fur trade era. One
of the items that we use in historical reenacting is our wool blankets that were produced in Europe and then traded in
this area. And being part of that I
wanted to participate. And one way I
could participate was weaving. I actually started
out with finger weaving and then went to weaving on the
loom. Weaving blankets for checkers
and reenactors. And things grow and progress from there. Um, I think I’ll be doing this for
a long time.[laughing] I
really, I love it. I do reference historical books for what
worked in that time period. What they
used. But again, it doesn’t take a lot of looking to realize that they were so
gifted in their patterns and their
colors that they chose. [rattling] This is the first time I’ve
done anything like this. I found that people are
real interested to come in and see what I’ve
done. See what the loom looks like
and how it’s operated. I love explaining to
them a little bit how the loom is dressed and worked.
And to feel the difference between the
fabric on the loom is so much different than the fabric when
it becomes a finished product. So it’s
been wonderful meeting people. Having them come in and
… So I just switched colors. This is a striped pattern. I thought the pattern up and
then I kind of write out my order of
colors. And this is going to be a
striped pattern that when I’m all done
will probably measure about 9 inches in length. So this is an example of a finished blanket. And now this blanket has been fulled in the washing machine
which makes it more lofty. It’s thicker, a little
bit fuzzier. And what happens in fulling is … you
kind of think of it as controlled shrinkage in a way.
It’s going to make the blanket warmer as
well. And again this is an example of trade blankets that our fur traders may have had. Or other traders would
have had as well. ♪ Scott: We go from blankets to
quilts on the next stop of the tour at Sadie
Rae’s Quilt Shop in Wilton. The owner, Shelly
Baker introduces us to numerous
styles and patterns for quilt making. Shelly: I am
Shelly Baker. I am the owner of Sadie Rae’s Quilt Shop in
Wilton. I am 5 miles west of Bemidji. And this is my
first year of participating in the Pine To Prairie Fiber
Arts Trail. I own the quilt shop and I have
been here at the quilt shop for about 5 years now. I’ve been a quilter for about
20 years. And I enjoy working with the
pieces, putting the quilts together, buying the fabric,
making the samples that you see on the walls with us. And I just really enjoy the hobby of
quilting. I find it very peaceful. I find it very
relaxing. I truly enjoy the colors, the fabrics, how I
coordinate them and put them together, the shared time
I have with other people…my
friends, that are also into the quilting
world. It’s very rewarding to help the people
that come through the door and see what they’re doing or making for their projects.
Whether it’s for their home or
their babies. It’s rewarding to be
part of that in somebody’s life. Making a special moment through
a quilt. Today has been a wonderful day
for us to meet all the people who are out
and about enjoying what I and all the
other artists love to do. So it’s been a great day
for us. We’ve seen plenty of
smiley faces. Quilting is for all ages.
Quilting isn’t just something that your grandmother
does uh anymore. It’s something that is attractive to
all ages. Young as the 4-H girls to the new
mothers. So quilting is something that’s
great for everybody to experience and have their
own handmade treasures. Scott: After seeing
the beautiful quilt displays, it is time for our final stop
of the day on the Pine To Prairie Fiber Arts
Studio Tour. We head north of Bemidji to
Eve’s Weaves where fiber artist, Eve Sumsky, proudly
displays her works of art around her home and
demonstrates her basket weaving process. Eve: I’m Eve Sumsky
and I’m a fiber artist. And today I’m
part of the Pine To Prairie Fiber Arts
Trail. And I’m inviting people into my home
and my studio where I make baskets. I started by taking a community ed class actually.
I’ve been involved a lot with yarns and
threads…Done a lot of sewing. So I’ve always been interested
in fiber arts. And I took this community ed class and
that was it. My sewing machine starting collecting
dust. So I’ve been basket
weaving for a little over 20 years now.
I guess I started and was interested because I
couldn’t make things that were
useful you know. Instead of putting
things in plastic containers I could create a basket to hold
my yarn project, my crocheting project or my sewing project. I
could put all my dogs toys into a basket and they were
beautiful things to me. So I enjoyed making them. Although I
think basketry started as more a of a utilitarian thing where
people had to make containers
because there weren’t Walmarts you know
to go out and buy containers. So over the years, I think it’s become more of an
art form and a thing that people
collect. Because they’re just fun to look at. Nice to look
at. Baskets can be woven with many types of materials. Most of my baskets I
use rattan reed. I like it first of all, because
it’s easy to get. And second of all, it really
takes color well. I like to use a lot of color in
my baskets and I can dye the reed myself with fiber
dyes, like Rit Dye and some of those. I think a lot of
the things that are the same about weaving baskets and
working with yarn is the materials and the feel
of it and the working with your
hands. The thing that’s a
little different about baskets is, is I’m
working with water. My materials have to be soaked
so they’re pliable or they’ll be too brittle and break. And
also a lot of my materials can be natural things like
birch bark, pine needles, cedar bark,
willow, even grasses. And things like cattails and sedge grass and sweetgrass can be used in
weaving. So I think it’s hard to say how different it is
where they’re very similar but
maybe the materials are slightly
different. I’ve always been
somebody whose just had to make stuff. But in the fiber
arts there’s so many types of fibers that you can work
with…yarns and fabrics and threads and getting into
weaving with natural products. I think people who are not creating with these types of
fibers maybe don’t understand kind of the fun behind it and
the creativity it presents. And the
satisfaction of making something you can use or enjoy and that you made
yourself. Well, these are some of the
baskets that I’ve made. As you
can see there’s quite a variety. I do
like to try different shapes and styles and sizes and colors. So I have some
different things here. Here’s a basket for example, with a
wooden insert and a wooden base. And here’s something you
could stick your bread or
crackers in. I received a grant from the Region Two Arts Council.
Through the History and
Heritage and Arts Fund. And I was studying
about more sculptural type pieces, more contemporary
pieces. And these are 3 of the pieces that I made
after I studied with a gal. They’re not baskets that
are necessarily very useful. But they’re still fun to look
at and fun to enjoy. So for example, a basket like this one is a container or a vessel. I could put something
in here or I could store something and could carry
something in here. So even
though this is fun and beautiful to
look at it’s also useful. So when I was learning about more
sculptural pieces… You know, something like this… Fun to look at. A lot of pattern going on.
A lot of movement going on. It creates great shadows on the wall if you have light shining
to it. But not necessarily a container or a
vessel that you would put something in or carry
something in. So when I was
learning about these I had a hard time
getting away from that. I wanted things to be useful.
And one of the things that stuck with me
from the instructor… she kept walking past and saying
that my work was too predictable. [chuckle] I needed
to just let it go and weave and so…That took a
lot of practice for me. I think I started
basketry because I liked the idea of being able to use
the baskets. Um, but these were fun. And I’m becoming more comfortable with
just letting it go and letting
it be kind of creative looking. ♪ Marilyn: The Fiber Arts Trail
is many different artists showing their work. And letting
everybody in the community know what beautiful fiber work is
being done in the area. Eve: Well from the
artist, it’s a chance for us to
show what we do, where we do it, how we do
it. And it’s something we have
a passion for so of course we
love to share it. And I’ve
enjoyed the people that have come by my place today. Shelly:
It’s great for the artists. It
builds their self confidence that
people are interested in what
they’re doing. Because lots of times some of
the artists I meet and encounter, they don’t really
think what they’re doing is
special or unique. And they really are. This is a
great way to show their appreciation in our community. Carrie: I think when people in
Bemidji and the surrounding towns have an opportunity to
come into the our homes and our studios to
see what we do… I see people being inspired to
do things themselves. I see people having appreciation or
understanding what is done or what we can do. I think it’s just good for all
of us. It also speeds the artists too. We get
inspiration from people that are visiting
us. Marilyn: I think it’s
really good for the community to get out and visit
with artists and see what is being done in
the community. And also to teach other people what can
be done and maybe instruct and inspire.
Inspiration is important. Shelly: It’s fun
to see where they work and how they
work. And how there are art is connected with their
lives. It’s just your passion. Scott: Thanks so much for
watching. Join us again next week on
Common Ground. If you have an idea for a
Common Ground piece that
pertains to North Central Minnesota,
email us. ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ Common Ground is brought to
you by the Minnesota Arts and
Cultural ♪ Heritage Fund. With money
from the vote of the people, ♪ November 4, 2008.

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