Thursday, May 19, 2011


Detail from Winding Roads--French knot seed heads with tendrils

Singularity Flowers with Beaded Centers
Last weekend was the pilot class for Winding Roads.  Since part of this blog is to inform people about what goes on behind the scenes with the teachers, I am going to be honest with myself and you readers.  It could have gone better.

Bead Leaves
It was not the students by any means, or the location, the Masonic Lodge in Los Alamos, it was me.  I usually have very smooth pilots that have few errors to dig out.  This one was different.  For some reason, my teaching notes did not jive 100% with the student text.  I changed the order of the student text at the last minute and I thought I had changed the teaching notes to go along with it.  No, I did not--at least not all of the notes.  That was a big glitch--confusing for the students and bewildering for me.  I gave myself a talking to, later in the day.  “Let not the Student Text differ from the Teaching Notes.”

Another error was that I hadn’t thought through wholly how the student doodle cloths and the ribbons for the doodle clothes would work out.  This was a little less egregious error.  Thank goodness for the piloteers--we talked about the doodle cloths and the ribbons and now I have a good plan for the Florida class.  “Let not the Ribbons and the Doodle Cloths be ignored, lest ye err.”

There were a few more things--the minor things that a good pilot class (which this certainly was) points out to a teacher.  These were things like needing more yellow beads for flower centers, needing more neutral background fabrics (I thought I had enough, but obviously I was mistaken), and like the class needing more time to stitch in the beginning of the class.  I can fix all that. Not a problem.  “Let ‘Not a Problem’ not become a problem later on.”

Neenah Winchell, a long-time friend from Sandia Mountains, and I drove to Los Alamos the Friday before the Saturday/Sunday class.  Neenah likes to take the scenic route and so we did.  We missed I-25 and 599 (the relief route from Los Alamos around Santa Fe) both directions.  Instead we wound through Albuquerque and Rio Rancho up 528 to 550 to San Ysidro and up the Jemez Valley, past the red cliffs, past the soda dam, and past the Valle Caldera, past the scorching of the Cerro Grande Forest Fire 11 years ago, and on into Los Alamos from the west.  It was a beautiful day.  Neenah was good company. Both driving and keeping us entertained.

The first night we ate at the Blue Window Bistro in greater downtown Los Alamos.  (Okay, I am putting you on--there is no greater downtown Los Alamos.  It is two streets wide and about five streets long.)  Then we went back to the hotel room (the newest hotel in Los Alamos), let our hair down, and just chilled out.  Neenah is also a good roommate.  She doesn’t make fun of my occasional snort in my sleep and she thinks I am tidy. 

It is good that neither of us eat breakfast.  We went to the breakfast room the next morning, I with my tea, and Neenah with her coffee.  There was a convention of the League of Women Voters staying there.  We didn’t stick out, except we were the two not talking about anything too serious.  Then off we went to the Masonic Lodge, arriving in plenty of time to set up the room.  Carole Rinard who made all the arrangements for the pilot was there before us.

The first lunch was Salad by Committee and Sunday’s lunch was leftover Salad by Committee and Carole’s Blue Ribbon, Grand Prize, and Best of Show Stockholm sandwiches.  I am not going to tell you what they were made of--that is Carole’s secret, but just let me mention sour cream and lignonberries.

Saturday night we went to the Hill Diner, my favorite place to eat, bar none, in all of Los Alamos County.  And Sunday morning we once more comingled with the League of WV, had tea, and coffee.  Neenah had a sweet roll.  And we were off to the second day.

It is always a delight to teach a class for Pajarito Chapter in Los Alamos.  I am a member of Pajarito and have been since 1992, although I rarely get to go up to a meeting.  I met three new faces and greeted three old (what else do I say in this context?) ones.  The members of the class were:  Marilyn Foster a delightful woman with a good eye for color and design; Nancy Cope, one of my friends, who takes her job as a piloteer seriously and helps me out immensely; Sherri Huffman, another new face, who finished a piece by the end of the second day!; Evelyn Petschek, the third new face (actually I have seen Evelyn around once or twice) who contributed her fine wit and tried to keep my models straight; Neenah Winchell, roommate extraordinaire, with her fine sense of color and design,; and Carole Rinard, my buddy, mentor, traveling companion, co-author, and good friend for over twenty-five years.  You all made the class a fun thing to do and made me a student as well as a teacher.  Thanks very much.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Painted Doves

Painted Dove #1
Teaching is hard enough, even locally, even to your friends.  I can’t remember that I ever taught a class “cold,” that is with no preparation.  I have classes that are ready to be taught.  I have their papers and examples stacked in boxes in my studio--maybe eight or ten of them.  But I couldn’t get a call at 7 AM to go teach at 9 AM, like substitute teachers do in the schools, never mind the question of the kits.  If I am being paid, I want the class to be the best it can be, the best I can make it for that group of people.  It is my reputation on line--something that all people drag around with them.

So the first thing is an idea.  I get an idea for a class, and I might think about it for a couple of days, or a couple of weeks, or even months before I put anything on paper or needle to fabric.  I need to know if it is practical to teach.  How many hours of teaching?  Most classes are for 1 day, 2 days, or four days.  So how complex is my idea?  If my idea is a one-day class, then what level of stitcher am I aiming for?  Basic--a student with little or no stitching experience; Beginning--a student who has limited experience, but may be acquainted only with one embroidery technique.  Let me interject right here: a person who has exclusively done cross-stitch for thirty years is still a Beginning stitcher.  Beginning-intermediate--a person who has taken a few embroidery classes in a couple of techniques.  Intermediate--a student who has taken several classes and knows her way around a needle and thread; Intermediate-advanced--a person who has taken a great many classes in several techniques and who has begun to experiment with changing colors and designs from kits and graphs to suit themselves.  Advanced--a person with a great deal of experience, who is proficient in at least one technique outside of cross-stitch, and who designs in her preferred techniques.  Master--a person who has passed one or more of EGA’s Mastercraftsman programs or the equivalent in ANG, a person who designs her own work and teaches others, a person who holds EGA or ANG advanced teaching certifications; and a teacher who teaches teachers.
This is a lot to think about.  But let’s say that I have decided to teach a one-day class in Battenberg lace of a dove.  It will be simple with just two fillings in it.  Something this simple might be Beginning or Beginning-intermediate.  So I start planning the dove and I stitch two or three of them to see how long it actually takes me to complete them.

I find it takes me three hours to do the first one, but that includes elementary designing.  The next two were about two and a half hours each.  So I calculate that it would take a Beginning-Intermediate about four hours to complete a dove.  A one-day class lasts six hours.  I am paid to teach six hours and so I will fill that whole space of time.  As I see it, I have some options--to add another filling to the piece, to have each student make two doves, or have them paint the doves after they are finished. 

Option one will push the level of student out of Beginning into exclusively Beginning-intermediate.  Option two sounds dull even to me who loves Battenberg lace.  And option three has the beauty of getting the lace away from its stark whiteness (okay, granted; some people love the stark whiteness); of getting stitchers out of the feeling that their stitching itself is sacred and should not be tampered with further; and it adds another layer of interest both to the class and to the teacher.

Taking option three, I start painting the three doves I already have.  I time how long it takes me.  I test the simplest way of painting.  This takes about an hour--close enough to the six. I estimate how much the paint will cost on top of the needle, threads, and Battenberg tapes.  I look up on the Web that Battenberg tape is $2.50 a yard plus $1 shipping (each student will need a yard).  The linen thread for the lace is $6 plus $1 shipping for a large spool--enough for the whole class.  If I use fiber-friendly acrylic paint in five colors, that is about $1.25 per color for the whole class.  I need needles--two each per student; ¼ yd. muslin for each student at $2; white paper plates to mix the paint on and to paint from, $1.50 for the whole class, and plastic or glass jars to hold water for each student (out of my stash).  A plastic table cloth (or two or three) depending on how many students, at $2 each table; 3 or 4 mil plastic to cover the muslin sandwich that has the design drawn onto it which I have in my kitchen, if not in my stash; basting thread I can take out of my stash, a set of detailed instructions with some pages in color; and finally my drawing the design onto muslin for however many students take the class.  I also have to go to Hobby Lobby for the paints, plastic table cloths, and white paper plates.  I have to go to a fabric shop to get the muslin and needles.

Let us say that we average the class size at ten students with two tables to cover.  The costs per kit would be: $2.50 for the tape, $1 for the thread, $0.65 for the paints, $0.50 for the two needles, $2 for the muslin, $0.50 for the plastic table cloths, Let’s say $1 (each) for the gas and time to go shopping for this stuff.  Now the most expensive stuff of all:  writing the instructions, printing of the instructions, making the kits; my teaching fee, and transportation if it is more than a twenty mile round trip.

So $2.50 + $1 + 65¢ + 50¢ + $1 = $5.65 just for the basics.

A set of instructions for a one-day class would cost around $7.50 for each student.  In a four-day class, that is bumped up to about $40 depending on how many pages and how much color.  In a perfect world, I wouldn’t have to charge for my transportation or teaching fee.  My teaching fee is normally somewhere between $200 ad $400 a day depending on the venue.  That pays for over thirty years experience in stitching including classes in many, many types of needlework; that pays for almost thirty years of professional teaching experience, and that pays for all my study and certifications.

I hold pilot classes for all region and national classes.  With those classes I am not allowed by EGA policy to charge a teaching fee.  Everything else must be paid for.  So if you get a chance to take a pilot class from any teacher, seize the opportunity--it is a good deal.

How much should the class be?  Well, I am not certain.  I have never taught my Painted Doves in Battenberg lace. 

Painted Dove #2

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Ribbon Applique

 From a practice piece, a rose in multi-colored satin ribbon

My two-day national class, Winding Roads, is finished and ready to pilot.  The pilot class takes place next Saturday and Sunday in Los Alamos, courtesy of Pajarito Chapter and Carole Rinard.

Bailadora, from a photo of a dancer at Las Golandrinas.  The photo was printed onto fabric, applied to upholstery fabric and then ribbon appliqued.

It is a long, hard road to get a class this far.  First coming up with an idea and project unique enough to catch the eye of a national selection committee.  In the case of Winding Roads, I had been working in the area of ribbon appliqué for several years before I got a clue that I should be teaching the stuff.  My first inspiration was an old spool of rayon ribbon in a light blue.  The spool looked like it was from the fifties or sixties.  The ribbon was ½” wide and was a utilitarian ribbon rather than a decorative one.

Ribbon applique in black and white with lace added and a drawn and painted paper background

I was working at that time on upholstery fabrics that I painted and embroidered making them into scrolls that could be unwound and hung on a wall.  I only made three before I started appliquéing the blue rayon ribbon onto an odd piece of upholstery fabric left over from one of the scrolls.  (By the way, I gave one scroll Espiritu away; sold one named Mi Alma; and a third I eventually cut up and used for other projects.)  Hydrangeas were the perfect flower for the rayon ribbon--right color, right texture.  And voila! Hydrangea Garden was born.  Wanda Anderson bought it much before I could show it around to too many people.

But it was in the appliquéing of Hydrangea Garden that the winding roads appliqué technique was invented.  And it was on this technique plus a few others that I based my other ribbon appliqué pieces more than seven years later.

Another experiment in ribbon applique on a painted background with some paper ribbon

Since I struggled and experimented with ribbon appliqué on my own without research into other people’s work, I reference very few sources.  In the late eighties I worked for YLI Corp. while they were still in Provo, UT and I was in Sandy UT, just north on I-15 from them.  I wrote some instructions for silk ribbon embroidery (I am not sure they were ever published), did some teaching/demoing for them, and generally tried out their threads and ribbons.  So I was influenced by that.  The ribbons I use now are much less expensive and much larger than the delicate jewel-toned silk ribbons.  So the same techniques by and large do not work as well if at all.  For instance, French knots in silk ribbon are pretty little things that one can easily sprinkle around the ground fabric.  But just try getting an inch-wide grosgrain to French knot in any meaningful way--torn ground fabric is a very real possibility.

Winding Roads, the national class to be taught at EGA National Seminar in September, 2011

I started out this entry by explaining the trials and tribulations of getting a class ready for its national debut and quickly devolved into writing something else.  Well, maybe sometime I will explain the eighteen month process of a getting national class from the grain of an idea, through the proposal process, through the writing, etc.  Maybe.  Someday.