I grew up in a small town East of Pittsburgh, Pa. My grandmother, Mary Belle Knappenberger, a taileress, imparted her love of sewing to me. I learned to hand sew and then at age 8 to sew on her Singer treadle machine. I made endless doll clothes until I received a Kenmore Sewing machine for my 10th birthday.
I moved on to sewing my own clothes.
I received a Bachelor Degree from Kent State University, Kent, Ohio in Fashion Merchandising and Design. After College came marriage, living in Flint, Michigan and then a move to Boulder, Colorado. Next came graduate school, starting a family buying our first home and my first loom. In Colorado I had wonderful weaving mentors: Clotilde Barret and Maxine Wendler. and creating fabric on the loom became a permanent part of my fiber art.
In the early 80's we had moved East again to beautiful Chautauqua Lake, NY. I started Chautauqua Softgoods a small retail company selling my one of a kind handwoven garments. I was a member of the Chautauqua Craft Alliance, participated in local galleries and exhibits and sold in the juried shows at Chautauqua Institution.
The kids are grown, I have retired from my career as a Clinical Social Worker and we moved to St. Michaels, Md . I now have a beautiful studio, the time and endless ideas to pursue fiber art. I have 2 mechanical floor looms, a computerized Jacquard loom, various sewing and embroidery machines and a dye space providing everything I need to create original fiber art.
Weaving cloth involves measuring the yarn for the warp, sleying and threading the loom, winding on the warp then weaving the cloth with a weft carried by a shuttle. The yarn can be fine or heavy in a wide variety of fiber: cotton, silk, wool, tencel, rayon, alpaca, synthetic and many specialty fibers. Here I am weaving on the Norwegian made TC1 jacquard loom.
The TC1, Thread Control 1 Loom is operated with a vacuum pump and air compressor. It has 1,350 heddles across 30 inches that hold that same number of threads. Weave structures are placed in the design using Adobe photoshop, represented by patterns -- black is up, white is down. Once the design is prepared the loom software reads the computer design and pushing the treadle raises the correct threads. It is an old loom and needs lots of TLC to keep it functioning but the design possibilities are endless.
This is my 48", 12 harness, Macomber loom, made in York Maine. The weaving in progress is an afghan of wool/mohair, hand dyed with both natural black walnut and red synthetic dye. Ski shuttles carry the weft through the variegated warp.
I design a garment using a computer design program, draping and/or flat pattern methods. Sewing and choosing finishes, embellishments and designing closures bring it all together. I collect fabric, beads and findings from all over the world when we travel, I also love ceramic buttons handmade by potter friends.
I use photo shop to prepare my photos and drawings for the Bernina embroidery software. The photos are interpreted into stitches deciding on color, density, type of stitch and direction....and when satisfactory the design is transferred to the embroidery machine. An example is butterfly vest was adapted from a photograph I took in our garden. The lining is hand dyed,
Dyeing both yarn and fabric creates unlimited options for original work. I use many kinds of dyes both natural and synthetic. I use various application techniques to dye the yarn, finished fabric or surface of a piece. The yarn on the left is wool yarn dyed using ikat technique for resist areas. I use this same techniques to create color and pattern on purchased white silk scarf blanks.
On the right are 2 lengths of handwoven fabric that have been dyed using Shibori techniques. The clay piece was dyed with itajima technique. The fabric is clamped with shapes which resists the dye from penetrating. The blue piece is woven shibori which means design threads are woven extra with the fabric. They are then pulled tight, the fabric is dyed and the pull threads are removed leaving a design.
Original garments may be finished with knitting, crocheting, tablet woven bands, needle felting, beading......the possibilities are endless and the result is completely original art to wear. This tunic was finished with hand crocheted lace.