A Seasonal Round of Fiber Arts
A 9-month (April–December) fiber program, 2 days per month, 10 am–4 pm. Full program tuition: $1,995
All wealth comes from the earth and from the hands of those who know how to transform the earth’s raw offerings. Textiles, essential to our survival, comfort, and creative expression, once held a central place in all human cultures as the treasures they truly are. Textiles are invaluable human technologies, literal materialization of the highest order of cooperation between people, plants, and animals, displaying the ingenuity and artistry of the maker and the lineage they carry. From simple string to paper and ink, and colorful woven wools and silks, textiles are a key part of our human story, representing millennia of universal and culturally specific knowledge and relationships with the natural world.
The Weaver’s Wheel Program is a survey of fiber arts techniques, materials, and forms working directly with the plants in our Green Anchors home base gardens. We’ll meet two Tuesdays per month for nine months, with one day dedicated to land tending and another to craft. Ivy Stovall, Rewild Portland’s nursery director, will lead land tending days. We’ll plant, propagate, tend, harvest, ret, cure, and redistribute our plant allies while learning about their other uses and preparing them for our craft works. Participants will have the opportunity to take plants home and start fiber gardens for themselves and their communities. Craft days will be led by rotating local teachers who are talented specialists in our monthly focus. These may include paper making, basketry, wool, silk, flax, nettle, and botanical dyeing. As we practice these ancestral skills, we revive old ways of being together, suffusing our gatherings with song, storytelling, and light ritual inspired by the wheel of the year and by the plants themselves.
Why the Wheel? In tending the land, we move in seasonal rounds. The circle has no end and it is always turning, drawing us through time. Seasons repeat, but ecologies shift each year with species succession and weather vagaries. The wheel of the year is rhythmic yet dynamic, and humans have always attuned our lifeways to these ancient Earth cycles. We are an incredibly creative species. When we turn our creative focus from the end product we envision to the wholeness and integrity of the process of creation, there is a deep shift. We see that we must plant in October what we wish to work with in May, that this month the bees need the coreopsis more than we do, that our wastewater could create a small oasis of reeds to welcome birds and bend into soft baskets, that it took a thousand flowers to make that stunning yellow, that our prunings can create whole new groves, that November’s seed (well kept) holds July’s flourishing pleasure garden, that our heavy harvest last year left less for this one, that everything we use, everything we touch, everything we wear, is incredibly precious when we consider its making. Our process becomes an inseparable piece of our artistry, connecting us to the web of life and to the turning wheel of the year. We become an ally of these cycles, helping to turn that wheel. Our art becomes regenerative rather than consumptive, and what we make is infused with great beauty and meaning.
Given the breadth of materials and techniques we’ll explore, the Weaver’s Wheel may be appropriate for many levels of experience, starting with very beginners. Participants will make paper, baskets, and silk, wool, nettle and linen fibers to dye and weave. We are, of course, collaborating with the plants, and they may at times redirect our plans. Throughout the wheel, we’ll explore the concept of a fibershed, as we work mostly with materials that come directly from this special piece of land on the Willamette River, just north of Cathedral Park and the St. Johns bridge. We’ll reach a greater understanding of the ecological impact and the embedded, embodied energy of cloth, paper and basketry, while striving to make our own workings beneficial and regenerative for the land we steward, weaving ourselves into the wheel of life.
Program Dates and Themes for 2022
Both Land-Tending and Project session run from 10am-4pm with time for a lunch in the middle. Some classes may shift due to plants or teacher availability.
4/12 land tending–flax harvest and replanting, seed rippling, beginning retting process, flax lore and song, seeding and tending dye plants–indigo, coreopsis, scabiosa, bachelor’s buttons and more.
4/26 Japanese Knotweed Paper with Jenn Woodward of Pulp and Deckle. With Jenn’s mobile paper studio, we’ll work this on-site, common invasive plant both fresh and dried into plant paper, learn paper history, terminology and tools, how to make paper at home using simple household or thriftstore items, and identify other plants that can be made into paper. Also, an introduction to silkworms and silk’s relationship to the mulberry tree.
5/10 land tending–Indigo Time! Planting out Japanese indigo persicaria seedlings in the greenhouse with attention to soil preparation for the needs of this special plant. Tending Indigofera suffruticosa seedlings and cuttings, and discussing the many indigo-bearing plants. Planting out dye flowers. Prepare flax processing tools.
5/31 Flax to Linen with Shannon and Mel of PNW FiberRevolution. We’ll hand process our retted flax fiber into raw linen using traditional wood tools, learning terminology and history of linen in Europe and the Willamette valley. We’ll make waxed linen thread with beeswax from the onsite apiary and use it to bind a knotwood paper journal. We’ll check in on the silkworms.
6/14 land tending–clearing blackberry to prepare weaving materials, coppicing some stands for optimum fruit production and easy picking, discussing the ecological roles and uses of blackberry and observing native vs invasive canes, setting up water systems for summer dye gardens.
6/28 Blackberry Visor weaving with Peter Bauer of Rewild Portland. Peter specializes in weaving with invasive plants such as blackberry, ivy and holly. While weaving we’ll talk ecology, praxis, ethics and metaphor around native, invasive and naturalized populations of both plants and people.
7/12 land tending–harvest and preservation of dye flowers, first indigo harvest, fresh indigo processing and introduction to extracting indigo pigment.
7/26 Botanical Dyes, fresh indigo ice and salt methods, dyeing silk cocoons and raw fleece in preparation for spinning, with Erin Fahey of Kindred Craft. High summer garden rainbow delight with song and celebration.
8/29 land tending–dye flower harvest, second indigo harvest, pigment extraction, indigo sig vat discussion.
8/30 Spinning Wool–Kara Daniel will lead us in spinning wool from fleece to fiber. We’ll make our own drop spindles and work with both dyed and raw fleece, learning terminology and techniques and uses for various types of yarn. Spinning yarns about yarns.
9/13 land tending–late summer garden tending, dye flower harvest, harvesting soft basketry plants and bast fibers for spinning, cordage and weaving–daylily, iris, crocosmia, reeds and rushes, nettle, yucca, and possibly hemp.
9/27 Nettle Fiber–Sharon Kallis of Earthand Gleaners Society in Vancouver, Canada will take us through processing nettle into fiber and share her immense experience and research in “slow clothing” and fibershed dynamics. How much plant matter, how much time, how much embedded learning, does it take to create a truly local handmade garment? What is sustainable fashion?
10/11 land tending–Putting the gardens to bed, last harvests, mulching and feeding, gratitude practice.
10/25 Dyeing and Botanical Prints–As the flowers die, we dye. What’s the connection? Let’s talk about it as we enliven our silk, wool, nettle, flax and other fibers with our color harvest of flowers and roots. We’ll also play with natural mordants, tannins and mineral interactio