Thursday, March 10, 2011

Karen Sutherland's February

Karen working on her fabric

the blanket happened last fall during a couple of weeks

her first february project - the rainbow throw

the second one was all un-dyed neutrals except for a pale blue

the third project was a length of wool fabric

Karen Sutherland wound up weaving because she couldn't keep up with her output of handspinning by knitting and crocheting alone, and she had a huge stash she had processed and spun from local flocks that needed to be used.  She had also bought herself a loom, but had no idea what to do with it. Years ago she had dreamt of coming to the school when she lived in Kent's Corner and knew of Norman Kennedy. 

She first came to weave with us last fall and spent a week or so weaving a gorgeous blanket out of a wool-mohair blend she had washed, carded, dyed and spun herself. A lot of it was the same fiber, so it made  sense to weave it into a blanket because she had so much of it. It's quite wonderful, this blanket, very rugged, earthy and seriously warm, with a great heft and texture that commercially spun yarn doesn't really have. 

This first piece was merely an introduction to the process of weaving, so Karen made arrangements to come back and weave for the month of February in order to deepen her understanding of how to plan her own projects, build warps, dress a loom, and experiment with a few different weave structures. She had taken Kate's Local Plant Dye Workshop at Twin Pond Retreat in Brookfield in the summer of 2010 and was excited to use the yarn she had dyed there.

For the month of February, she worked diligently on three projects. The first was a rainbow stripe throw, using the natural-dyed yarns from the workshop. It's a bold piece in a herringbone twill with a natural camel-colored criah alpaca weft. The next was another throw, using a lot of un-dyed white and neutral colored yarns with a lovely pale blue as a color accent. We spent quite a bit of time working out the stripe pattern in the warp and all the direction changes on the color changes, so that she could have some further experience in designing her own work. The last project was a fine wool fabric she wove to make what she calls a "Common Thread Garment".  The fabric is subtle but beautiful, with a Gothic cross woven into the pattern. The yarn was a blend of long hair sheep's wool from Romania and lambswool from Sue Johnson in Hinesburg, VT, 
a hand-blended fiber that symbolizes for Karen the cultural exchange she has been working on with artists and musicians in a small village in Romania. 

Over the past five years, Karen has traveled three times to Romania, the first year with a group of folk musicians showcasing Vermont culture in nursing homes, schools and children's homes, and including on-stage theatre pieces involving spinning. Returning the following year with a group of high school students, she and other Vermont artists and musicians created a cross-cultural folk school. With each visit, Karen has brought back wool to combine with Vermont fibers and with the help of experienced weavers created a woven piece from the blend as a symbol of the exchange. Karen plans to use her newfound skills to weave a companion piece of "Common Thread" fabric at home and she says she has enough wool/mohair yarn remaining for at least another blanket.
Karen is a performer and teacher of voice and handwork. Her young student, 8 year-old Alya MacManaway is learning weaving, spinning, felting, sewing and singing Scottish songs and will be performing at this year's Young Traditions Showcase on May 14. Karen plans a field trip for Alya to the Marshfield School of Weaving sometime this spring.

For more information about Karen and her husband Pete's musical activities you can check out their website here

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