Madrona 2010

Madrona; let me explain.
There is too much; let me sum up….
(with apologies to William Goldman.)

Madrona is a vibrant jewel of a fiber event.  It’s held every year in Tacoma.  It’s not a large event (which adds to its charm) and yet draws some of the most amazing instructors in from around the world.

And they let me in the door, too.

I’ve been to Madrona several times over the years, and this was the best one yet.  Each year, the students get smarter and more talented, the vendors bring in more irresistible fiber tools and supplies, the talks get better, heck, even just hanging out on the atrium and chatting with folks gets better.  I don’t know how Suzanne does it.  It’s simply magic.

The first day of Madrona, I taught an all-day class on beginning rigid-heddle weaving.  I love this class: people come in knowing nothing about weaving, and then their eyes light up when they pull that first scarf off the loom—completed in a single day.  This class got warped up a whole hour ahead of schedule, and I practically had to beat them away from the looms to go to lunch.

In this class, I have students warp with a skein of painted warp, and then weave it off with a solid-colored weft to avoid streaking and plaids.  But I also love it when people ignore my advice and get great results.  Here, the short color repeats in the yarn kept the design from being streaky.

Plaid scarf

Note also, that the warp yarn coordinates with what the weaver is wearing.  That happens all the time in weaving classes.  It happened to a spooky degree in this one.  It was as if I’d dyed the yarn to match the student’s wardrobes.

A bunch of happy new weavers!

New weavers


Another fun thing about this class is that I paint the warp yarns in pairs, so when students pick different weft yarns (and we make choosing the weft a color-exploration exercise) you can see how the interplay of colors between warp and weft has a dramatic effect on the finished cloth.  It’s part of the magic of weaving.

Same warp

That night was the instructor’s dinner.  I ended up sitting at a table with Stephanie Bryant (of Handknit Heroes), Nicolette (the owner of StitchCraft), Anita Luvera Mayer (who turned our table into the lemon-creme-brulee table—always sit with Anita if you have the option), Charlene Schurch (who wrote the epic reference, Sensational Knitted Socks ), and another woman who’s name I am totally blanking on (I am about to turn 40, can I start claiming “middle-aged moments”?)

I’d never met Stephanie or Nicolette before, and usually that’s a recipe for awkward (I’m shy with new people), but they were both so interesting and lively, that we got on like a house on fire and managed to hang out a bit at the rest of the convention despite our various busy schedules.

There was also a substantially pregnant Jacey Boggs, who was extremely photogenic, but I didn’t get a picture of because I was too much in awe of her fabulousness that I forgot I had a camera.  (I also resisted the urge to rub her belly and talk in a high-sing-song voice to the wee one inside.  I’m pretty darn proud of my restraint.)

The second day was woven shibori using a the rigid-heddle loom.  In this class, you weave in a supplemental weft, use it to cinch up the fabric, dye the fabric, and then open it up to reveal lovely areas of resist.  Shibori is a rather nerve-wracking class to teach, as

  1. The dye pot gods have a sense of humor, and you never know what you’ll get.  There is always the chance that students will spend all day meticulously weaving in patterns, and hurting their hands pulling knots tight only to end up with…a solid black scarf.  (I had visions of being pilloried and pelted with balls of yarn in the atrium by outraged students.)
  2. Suzanne (the event coordinator) was a bit concerned (and rightly so) when I told her that I’d be dying with supersaturated black in the hotel’s conference room: the newly renovated, brand-new paint and carpeting, conference room.  Since dyeing outside wasn’t possible, I did my best to approximate clean-room procedures using plastic drop cloths, 5-gallon buckets, and paper towels.

Happily, all my paranoia (and much plastic) paid off and the dye remained contained.  (Despite the fact that one of the buckets had a crack in the bottom.  We will not speak of the paper towels that gave their lives so that Madrona might return to the Murano hotel once again.)

And the results were stunning, totally worth all the paranoia and plastic.

Ideally, you should wait until the shibori is completely dry before cutting out the supplemental weft.  It’s gentler on the yarn.  Most students, like Lauri, couldn’t wait (I wouldn’t have been able to, either.)

Cutting the ties

Nancy, the weaver below, was in my Beginning Weaving class on Thursday and asked what she should warp the loom with for the Shibori class.  I recommended handpainted sock yarn in bright colors, so we could have a contrast to the more traditional dark-light patterning.  Didn’t it turn out stunning?  When she showed the final result to me, I was literally speechless for a few seconds.

Orange Shibori and Tina Newton
(Note: When Tina Newton of Blue Moon Fiber Arts stops to admire your work, you know you’ve done well.)


Benita (below) is a surgeon, and as such had no problem tying the weaver’s knots (aka: surgeon’s knots) to cinch up the shibori.  The diamond patterning was free-form pickup and is just lovely.  Below that are variations on the basic checkerboard patterning.

Surgeon's knots?  No problem!


That evening, I ran away from the dye pot long enough to set up my samples for the instructor’s gallery.  This is the first year I actually remembered to bring stuff for the gallery, hence the huge smile on my face.  (Yes, my hair and clothes look like I’d been hovering over a hot dye-pot for hours, because, well, I had.)

Instructor's Gallery

From left to right: dishtowel fabrics; shibori samples; the blue/purple is an 8-shaft advancing twill woven by Madrona attendees at last year’s demo, the purple/green is a fabric designed by Bonnie Inouye, I wove 5-1/2 yards of it for shirt fabric; the maroon on the far right is a silk boucle I wove at Laura Fry’s studio last summer.


Other highlights: Emma wove Jana Trent’s Triangle or Rectangle shawl. I don’t often see WeaveZine projects “in the wild” so it was a thrill.  And the shawl was so soft and luscious that I started mentally rummaging through my stash for Silky Wool and pondering  where my frame loom might be…


(Note the judicious use of plastic protecting the dyepot in the background…)


All day Saturday I ran a weaving demo in the atrium.  I set things up so people could weave 4-shaft twill coasters and then take them home to hem.  There were so many people who sat down, wove their coaster and then declared: “OMG!  I want—need to get a loom!”  It was a huge contrast to last year when I had to beg people to try out weaving.  This year there was a constant waiting list for the loom.

Weaving Demo

I ran the demo non-stop from 9:30am-5:00pm at which point my brain had melted, so I went…shopping!

The Madrona vendor hall is a dangerous place.  A truly smart person will give their credit cards to their friends to hold before venturing inside.

I entered, fully intending not to purchase anything, but a few things did call out to me.

This is a tussah-cashmere blend in my new favorite color.  This purchase isn’t my fault.  I was tempted into this by Lauri.  She bought it, and began spinning it at my table during the demo.  My favorite spinning fiber, in my new favorite color…right there…taunting me.  She even offered to watch my loom while I shopped…  I was a goner.



Lazy kate This is a lazy Kate that I just fell in love with.  I love that it folds up, has tensioning and best of all… the rods that hold the bobbins screw into place so they don’t fall out during plying!  It’s also cedar and smells great.  But the real reason I had to have it?  The gorgeous burling in the lower right corner.  I’m a sucker for pretty wood.
Goodies from Harmony Skin Care!  Lew, the chemist/owner is the grandson of the guy who invented Vitalis Hair Creme, and is a heckuva a fun guy to hang out with.  His hand lotion soaks right in, so it doesn’t get on your yarn while knitting or weaving, and his lip balms are the best I’ve found (my Irish skin cracks if you look at it funny.)

My very first Madrona I bought his lotion in the Plumeria scent, and every time I smell that scent, it takes my right back there in my memory, and that’s a very happy thing.  Good guy, good products.

Harmony Skin Care products
Thai reeled silk Habu got me.  They sell exquisite yarns (like the reeled Thai silk below) in teensy packages (so you can afford it.)  I have no idea what kind of project this yarn will be used in, but it told me to take it home and find out.
Highlighter tape.  Much stickier and better than post-it notes for marking your place when threading or treadling a loom. Highlighter tape



And there you have it, a summary view of a wild and wonderful weekend of weaving!

There was more, so much more to tell! (Like the fact that the Today Show was wandering around filming.)  But this post has already become epic long.  A fun, fun time.

Please share your thoughts: I enjoy your comments and feedback!