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When I was in Norway on the Textiles tour, I was feeling way out of my comfort zone. The first couple of museums we went to had almost no embroidery or handwork displayed. I remember taking a picture of a cushion in one of the hotel lobbies thinking "finally!". If I was on a textiles tour, where were they? Most of the people on the tour were knitters, spinners, and/or weavers. They were really excited at the exhibits of beautiful mittens and woven items. Having planned on taking thousands of pictures, I had purchased several SD drives for my camera. By the second museum I had only taken a couple hundred pictures. Perhaps I had a different understanding of what I should be looking for. So...

What exactly is a textile? According to Wikipedia, "A textile is a flexible woven material consisting of a network of natural or artificial fibers often referred to as thread or yarn. Yarn is produced by spinning raw fibers of wool, flax, cotton, or other material to produce long strands. Textiles are formed by weaving, knitting, crocheting, knotting, or felting."

Once I saw the definition, I could shift my focus and suddenly textiles appeared everywhere. Even the fishing nets and knotted glass bobber things were now textiles. While I was still disappointed at not finding more handwork like I was used to, I began to appreciate the things we were seeing. While I may remain knitting challenged for life (or at least until Ryan teaches me the Continental way) I knew a lot of time and talent went into the extraordinary mittens and sweaters we were seeing. The weavers were excited about the belts, bands, and blankets.

On May 21st we drove to Samuelsberg, Norway, the home of Manndalen Husflidslag, an association dedicated to teaching, creating, and selling fine handcraft in the Coastal Sami tradition. We were able to take a mini class during our stop. The original list of classes were band weaving, warp-weighted loom weaving, spinning, and knitting. I really wanted to take the band weaving class as it is done with a small rigid heddle so you don't need a large loom. However, they added a couple more classes: felting and mica embroidery, and I changed my mind. Having been a rock hound in my youth (don't ask my dad about how many tons of rocks I hauled home on vacations) I knew that mica was a flat shiny rock. How on earth did you embroider on it? Anticipation built as we learned on the bus ride (like 4 hours!) what class we got. Finally, I was going to be able to do a project I understood. We were warmly welcomed by a half-dozen talented women. We were lucky as our instructor spoke pretty good English.

We sat around a table with pieces of felt, floss, other fibers, and small pieces of mica. Hmmm....the mica pieces weren't more than a half inch in width so I was skeptical on how this was going to work. Our instructor explained that this was a technique used for many years to decorate the gakti (Sami traditional outfit) of this region. She had her son's gakti and showed us the collar and a belt example.

She also had a couple of examples that people did just as art.

The glittery pieces of the design were the small mica chips. I had never seen anything like this before, so I was intrigued.

Let me introduce you to mica which is a rock-forming silicate. The earth's crust is made up of 90% silicate. Mica is found around the world, but two of the top producers are Russia and Finland, so that might explain why it was used in this area. The mineral flakes off in very thin sheets. The sheets are acid-free and heat resistant. The Sami have a nickname for mica: krakesolv, which translates to Crow's silver, which is kind of like our fool's gold versus real gold. When I got home I found a source for mica chips on line, USA Art Quest. The small size is perfect.

The other supplies needed for the embroidery is felt, an iron-on stabilizer, leather punch, a non-transparent tape, needles, floss, pearl cotton, and other fibers.

While there is some embroidery involved, the piece is put together with applique techniques. Here is how the process works. You decide on your design and draw it on the top piece. For the very top piece, you want to iron on the stabilizer to the back of the felt which will help protect the mica and will make the punched hole cleaner. Do your embroidery before you cut out this piece. She didn't tell us that before we started working, so I wasn't happy with my piece. Using the leather punch, decide on the size hole you want and punch the holes out. Now you can cut your piece out. Choose pieces of mica just a little larger than the holes. On the back of that top felt, position your mica and tape it in place with a tape like masking or finishing tape. From what I understood, you want a tape that is white or light color to help make the mica shinier. If it was clear tape, then the colored felt would come through and darken the mica.

Once your mica is taped in place, you are ready to applique it to the next layer. A lot of the designs used traditional blanket stitches, spaced anywhere from really close together, to very open. She had a book with other examples and some looked like they used a satin stitch or even had a cord that was couched down around the edges in place of the blanket stitch. Some examples had embroidery on the second layer of felt which you would do before you cut it out. Every outfit example had at least 3 layers, so you would want to stitch your piece to one more color of felt. The choice is yours on what stitch(es) to use. This was fun to do and our instructor was amazed at how well some of our class stitched and the designs we thought up. I wasn't happy with my piece but I loved the process.

The felt used for the traditional dress and embroidery is not the cheap (and flimsy) craft felt you get at Wal-Mart. This is a heavier felt and I was able to find something comparable sold off the bolt at places like JoAnn's. Felt manufacturing is quite a process. Here is a very good article if you want more information. Norman Kennedy was in Fargo recently and held a waulking event. This was an old practice where many women would get together bringing their woven wool items and spend the day fulling (felting) them. It was hard work so to keep the pace up there would be a person who would sing waulking songs.

The room was set up with three tables that had been tied together underneath. The cloth we were going to work on was woven by Bruce. It was a wedding blanket design with 7 stripes along one edge. The pieces were stitched together end to end so they made a loop. There were about 20 people seated around the table. As Norman sang the traditional songs we would grab the fabric and slam it on the table in a clockwise direction. Going counter-clockwise will bring bad luck to the person receiving the blanket. The piece of wool was 40" across and Bruce wanted to shrink it to 36". Each song seemed like 20 minutes long, but was probably 5-10 minutes. At the end of each song the fabric was measured and it shrank an inch a song. Not only did this shrink the wool, but it made it softer. Once, we had shrank it to 36" it was laid out on the table and a piece of wood was brought out. This was the predecessor to our bolts of fabric of today. There are songs to sing when you roll up the fabric also. As the fabric is rolled, it is also slapped to smooth it down. Once the fabric is rolled, the bolt is spun three times clockwise to also bring good luck. Here are a couple pictures from that event. Norman is the gentleman in the yellow shirt.

During our trip, we stopped at Juhl's Silver Gallery, and one of their areas reminded me of the mica embroidery. The influence was Middle Eastern and there were a lot of examples of shisha embroidery which uses small mirrors embroidered on the fabric.

This is the ceiling in this section and one of the textiles.

It was fun to experiment with this technique and it definitely pushed me a bit out of my comfort zone. I hope this gives you some new insights and possibilities for your stitching.

People Making a Difference

Today I want to honor a special person. Harold Feyh is my husband's grandfather. He turned 100 years old on July 3! This man is incredible. He still lives on the farm, had eye surgery last year, and got his driver's license renewed this Spring. Mabel, David's grandmother passed away a couple years ago. What a life they have had. I can't even imagine the changes he has seen in his lifetime. Harold has five children, 20 grandchildren, 35 great-grandchildren, and three great-great grandchildren (two of them are our granddaughters). The family got together and had a parade in the Wamego, Kansas, parade. Grandpa drove the 1930 John Deere tractor that pulled the float. Here he is with David and his daughter, Katelyn.

In honor of his birthday, the family did several charity things showing what 100 looks like. Several people stitched 100 dresses for Africa, 100 items were collected for the food pantry, 100 pounds of candy was thrown to the crowd during the parade, and $100 was donated to a local charity. Over the weekend, I know we had at least 100 people come to various meals and get-togethers as Harold's siblings and their extended families helped celebrate also.


White Wedding Cake Cupcakes

David created a cupcake stand with the 100the birthday theme. One of his sisters, Lori, baked all the cupcakes to fill the shelves in the back. This recipe was really great and it started with a box mix!

Baked by Lori Mannoni

  • 1 (18.25 ounce) box white cake mix
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated white sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/3 cups water
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 4 large egg whites
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Place 36 cupcake liners in cupcake pans.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together cake mix, flour, sugar and salt. Add remaining ingredients and beat with hand mixer for 2 minutes, or until well blended.
  3. Use ice cream scoop to fill prepared cupcake tins- fill about 3/4 full. Bake about 18 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Lori used chocolate or strawberry buttercream frosting on top. I didn't know you could make chocolate buttercream icing, so of course, I have to share that recipe!

  • 6 Tablespoons softened butter
  • 2 2/3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugar and cocoa, mixing well. Stir in the milk a little each time, mixing well. Add the vanilla and mix. Spread on the cooled cupcakes!

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Christmas in July: Week 2 starts tomorrow!

It was a super fun time in Kansas but as with the rest of the year, it went by so fast. I didn't get to see everyone I wanted to see nor spend as much time as I wanted to with family. I wasn't able to meet up with Mary Corbett as our schedules took us in opposite points in Kansas. Darn! David and I had fun with our daughter and granddaughter's at the Topeka Zoo. There was a very interesting textile on display in the Primate building called a dung cloth. It is a hand-woven, hand-spun, and hand-painted wall hanging dyed with animal dung mixed with fermented mud. This was created in the 1970's by the Senuto people on the Ivory Coast of Africa.

After the zoo we went to Chuck E Cheese and had a fabulous time. Here is Skye (5) and Ana (10). They are growing up so fast.

Flying time seems to be the closing theme. It is so hard to believe the year is already half gone. This weekend I have to stay home and do some cleaning. My in-laws are coming to Fargo for the first time. My brother-in-law, Casey, is in high school and he is wrestling in the National's. I believe he is ranked second in Kansas in his weight class. I am so excited to be able to see him wrestle. Also, Katelyn got engaged and now the planning for an October 2016 wedding has begun. So, July will fly by and it will be Christmas before I am even remotely ready. I guess I better decide on what ornaments I am making this year and get started! If only I could stitch in my sleep....

Have a super week. Hope you find some time to do a little stitching!


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