Picot Bead Edging Video

Mosaic Bead Looping will be an online workshop, probably by the end of 2014. But in the meantime, I promised the students in my in-person workshop at Wisconsin Spin-In a short video of the picot bead edging used to finish the project.

Picot edging used on mosaic bead looping pouch by Donna Kallner

This versatile edging can be used on jewelry, bags, garments and other projects. But this video focuses on its application in bead looping.

Bead Picot Edging for New Age Looping Projects from Donna Kallner on Vimeo.

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The Rule Of 500

A comment, an observation, a word of encouragement, an offer of resources: It’s amazing how much impact a chance conversation can have.

Mosaic bead looping work in progress.

The morning and afternoon workshop sessions at Wisconsin Spin-In were separated by a four-hour gap, giving me plenty of time to linger over lunch, shop the vendors and visit with some friends. Finally, though, I found the corner of a table where I could work on a small bead looping project. When the mold jumped out of my hands and flew at two women seated nearby, they took the interruption gracefully and folded me into their company. Before long, we had found common interests in adult education, MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), Moodle (the Learning Management System I use for my online courses), and more.

On the drive home, a story from years ago came to mind. Back when my husband and I still had our whitewater canoe and kayak school, we had a student who was the director of a camp program in northern Minnesota. He’s the one who told us about the Rule of 500.

You can make a profound and positive impact on another life at least once in every 500 contacts — and you never know when you’re at 499.

I’m still mulling ideas sparked during that conversation at Spin In. Where those ideas may lead, I’m not yet sure. But I do know I feel like someone’s #500, and grateful for the wonderful, generous people you meet at fiber events.

Has a chance encounter had a profound and positive impact on your life? I’d love to hear about it in the Comments.


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Alternating Stitch Cord Video

Why it never occurred to me before, I can’t say. But last weekend at Wisconsin Weave Away, someone asked about a handout for the alternating stitch neck cord I teach at the end of the Burundi Looping class.

Burundi looping with Donna Kallner workshop students at Wisconsin Weave Away.

It’s a simple technique based on a structure that’s already familiar to students by the time I show it. And yet, students at conferences and retreats are usually getting tired by the time they see this. So I told them I would post a short video refresher. And here it is.

This will live on the page with other video resources I’ve posted for students. If you can’t find this page again to use that link, look at the menu bar at the top of this site. There’s a pull-down menu under “Students”. It’s at the bottom of that menu.

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Connecting The Dots

What kind of activity helps you when you need to connect the dots in your master plan? For me, preparing materials for upcoming workshops can do that. Sometimes. When I don’t have to count, or measure, or figure out some ingenious way to make an impossible amount fit into the space and weight allowed for checked luggage.

Materials prep for upcoming workshop.

When the tasks are simple and repetitive, I can let my mind wander. And with all the things floating around up there, it’s good to have some quiet time to connect some of the dots.

So while the class prep to-do list gets shorter, the master plan to-do list gets longer. And longer. But it’s exciting to contemplate those dots. Two more online courses to get going on. More e-books to do. Maybe even (do I dare?) a New Age Looping app for mobile devices.

In the meantime, I sipped tea and stuffed pincushions yesterday, and everything fell into place in my head. This morning, everything fell back out of place while I fought with a fussy browser. But those dots are all still there, just waiting to be re-connected.

And maybe soon we’ll have enough snow melted that I can work out some of these questions while walking the dogs. In the meantime, I might stuff some more pincushions I don’t really need.


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What Have You Improvised Lately?

I’m not as good as I should be about showing all the day-to-day missteps and recoveries in my work. Now that I’m on Instagram, I promise to try to do a better job, even when it looks like a bad version of the Chicken Dance. Because I’m not trying to hide anything. It’s just that I get wrapped up in figuring out how to get out of whatever corner I’ve painted myself into.

Freeform looping bag by Donna Kallner

That’s what happened last winter when I made this bag as a demonstration project for the Freeform Looping eCourse. I used cross-knit looping as an edging to cover the side seams in this bag. Since the strap wasn’t part of the lesson, I decided to see if I could transition from cross-knit looping to knit I-cord — while watching a DVD. It should come as no surprise that the strap started out too narrow, so I increased to the point where, well, let’s just say it was ugly. But the movie was good, so I kept going and figured out I could fix it or frog it.

Cross-knit looping added to knit I-cord.

I decided to fix it. I worked cross-knit over the ugly part of the I-cord where you start a new row after sliding the last row to the other end of the double point needles. That took a couple of episodes of Mad Men on DVD. Then I added some cross-knit looping that covered the joints between the original cross-knit edging and the I-cord. My guiding philosophy is, If you can’t fix it (or choose not to), feature it.

I finally remembered to show this because I’ve been listening to Mark Frauenfelder’s book Made By Hand: Searching For Meaning In A Throwaway WorldHe makes a great case for the value of mistakes in learning, whether it’s raising backyard chickens or making cigar box guitars or finding a way to meet your child’s learning style needs.

It reminded me of this great article from years ago by Malcolm Gladwell on Physical Genius.

Yo-Yo Ma says that only once, early in his career, did he try for a technically perfect performance. “I was seventeen,” he told me. “I spent a year working on it. I was playing a Brahms sonata at the 92nd Street Y. I remember working really hard at it, and in the middle of the performance I thought, I’m bored. It would have been nothing for me to get up from the stage and walk away. That’s when I decided I would always opt for expression over perfection.” It isn’t that Ma doesn’t achieve perfection; it’s that he finds striving for perfection to be banal. He says that he sometimes welcomes it when he breaks a string, because that is precisely the kind of thing (like illness or an injury to a teammate) that you cannot prepare for—that you haven’t chunked and, like some robot, stored neatly in long-term memory. The most successful performers improvise.

Doesn’t that want to make you want to cue up some Yo Yo Ma (Appalachia Waltz would be my choice) and paint yourself into a corner so you can chicken dance your way out?

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Springing Forward

There’s still a deep blanket of snow all around us. But it’s warmed up enough for me to turn the heat back on in my studio. In anticipation of flooding from the snowmelt, I’ve moved the sewing machine pedal up, unplugged everything, and finished one job that requires the big work table before I start stacking other things on it.

Irish waxed linen hand-painted by Donna Kallner.

For workshops coming up later this month, I needed more painted waxed linen. Years ago, Bill built me this lovely reel, which screws onto the table. The video below shows how I do this in smaller quantities.


In the meantime, I’m making good progress on adapting my print book New Age Looping to make it compatible with e-readers. But how to picture the process of editing an e-book in a visually compelling way? I haven’t figured that out. Yet.


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Slow Progress Is Still Progress

In some ways, the job of converting my print book New Age Looping for e-readers has felt like remodeling an old farmhouse: You sort of know what you want to do, but every time you started something there turns out to be six things you need to learn first. Then you realize you’ve done two of them totally wrong, and have to re-do them. And along the way you learn something you could do that would make the whole project soooo much better, so you have to back up four steps to incorporate it.

New Age Looping Skipped Stitch Patterns ebook by Donna Kallner
It’s been slow progress this week. But I’m proud to say I now have one small, modest e-book that should work on most e-reader platforms.

E-book on Galaxy tablet.

It’s a far cry from having the whole book converted, but it’s progress. New Age Looping: Skipped Stitch Patterns is adapted from a chapter in the print book. Last spring, when I was trying to figure out e-book formatting on my own, I excerpted it to Smashwords. The auto-vetter identified a number of problems that I kept meaning to fix but didn’t know how (insert remodeling analogy of your choice here). With the help of the online class I’m taking, I’ve been able to resolve most of those problems and tackle the big one.

Getting illustrations to work across e-reader platforms -- sucess at last.

The big one is getting instructional illustrations to work across so many e-reader platforms (Kindle, Nook, tablets, phones, PDFs, and who knows what else will be in common use the day after tomorrow). It might be easier to follow my sister’s advice and switch to writing bodice rippers, except I know more about bodice construction than plot pacing and character development. With text-only books, the copy flows from beginning to end with a chapter break here and there. But for books someone is going to use to learn from text plus illustrations? Well, the formatting is pretty important.

So now I’m in the process of reformatting every single illustration from my print book. This is as much fun as tearing out old polystyrene bead insulation. And I’m breaking the book into at least two segments to keep them within recommended file size limits. This one really hurts, because I wrote the book to present a progression of techniques that build on each other. So that one feels like kind of like this:

Burning down our old farmhouse as a fire department training exercise.

That picture is from 2002, when the local fire departments burned our old farmhouse as a training exercise after our new house was built. After the burn, we planted willow beds on that site and they thrive there.Hopefully, when I get all the formatting and tweaking and fussing done on these e-book editions, no one but me will even care that once upon a time this was here and that was there. It will all just work.
And then? The instructor says that in the last class we’re going to learn about building apps. I’m intrigued. What do you think?

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Learning To Format Ebooks

Last year, I ran up against something that turned out to be more complicated than it first appeared. And it didn’t get the benefit of my usual tenacity. Despite huge gaps in my skill set, dogged determination has helped me learn enough about WordPress and Moodle to build my own web site and online learning platform. Persistence pays off, even when you can’t quite see the payoff like you can with a stitch mastered or a lovely dye job.

Plant-dyed scarf by Donna Kallner.

But not when you don’t put in the effort. Last year, I had allotted one whole day (snort) to figuring out how offer a digital version of my print book New Age Looping. One day was just about enough to discover how many different e-reader platforms and formats there are. So I’ve been shuffling this task to “next month” over and over again. Until this week.

With my studio still closed up because of the extreme cold (20 below tonight, they say), I’m sadly lacking in beautiful, messy distractions. When this task cycled back to the top of my to-do list this time, I had no excuse.

So yesterday, I signed up for a 6-week online course in how to publish ebooks through the local technical college. The course content comes from Ed2Go, which produced the course I took on blogs and podcasts in 2009, right after we got off dial-up. I think I paid $60 for that course, and it was definitely a good investment.

This ebooks course actually started last week, so I spent yesterday catching up on the first three lessons.  I’ve already gotten my money’s worth. And by the end of the class, I’ll have a digital edition of my book that should work on whatever e-reader you use — and one thing off my to-do list for good.

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Studio Limbo

It’s been a month since we temporarily closed down my studio and toted all the stuff that shouldn’t freeze into the basement of the house.

Fabric surface design media.

All my fabric surface design media, art supplies, and jars of natural dye concoctions were boxed up, hauled downstairs, and piled near the table where I edit video for online classes and have my Etsy shop storage and shipping.

Studio winter of 2014.

It made good sense:  My studio is an old building that leaks heat like a sieve. With the extreme cold we’ve had this winter, the propane shortage and the price spike, we couldn’t afford to keep the heat on out there. So for the past month I’ve been running out there for a piece of felt, a bin of yarn, this book, that spool, a handful of selvedge strings… You get the idea. Now I have disorganized messes in two locations.

This week I had hoped to turn the heat back on and get started on a long list of tasks that require simmering or a sewing machine. But the forecast for Thursday night is 20 below zero again. So I’ll keep working in the house for another week before carrying stuff back out and getting it all put away. Maybe some of the ice on our porch steps will melt by then.

Icy steps to the porch.

If it warms up quickly this spring, there’s a very real chance my studio will flood. It’s been a while since that happened, but it’s kind of hard to forget. So I need to make sure I get things up off the floor — fabric on bolts, the sewing machine pedal, the old sewing machine stored in the back, boxes of natural dye materials, some other materials stored in cardboard instead of plastic bins. Not knowing when it might happen means… You guessed it: More moving, more mess, more studio limbo.

Winter drifts 2014.

So that’s enough whining from me. I actually do love winter, and this one has definitely been memorable.





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Tool Tips – Resizing Digital Pictures

The current count of cameras in this household is four 35mm SLRs (no longer used), three digital cameras (two used frequently, one occasionally), two cell phones with cameras, one Android tablet with a camera, and an old Polaroid with a film pack that may or may not still be good. Sound familiar? But what I use most is the digital cameras. And I usually shoot at a high resolution setting because it’s easier to make a high-quality image smaller than to live with a low-resolution image that needs to be larger.

Dpnna's Android tablet.

But when you want to post an image on Facebook or email it to a friend (some people are still on dial-up, you know), you may want to downsize a large image file first. There are plenty of good online utilities for resizing digital pictures. Here’s one I recommend to my students. It’s free and really simple to use, for those of you working on laptop or desktop computers.

Go to picresize.com. Then click “Browse” to choose a picture file.
Picresize.com is an online utility.

 Look for the small print below and to the left of the file name you selected. Click “Quick Resize.”

Picresize image 2.

Select “Custom Size” and type “640″ in the Width box. Make sure Pixels is chosen in the box to the right of Width. Make sure JPG is chosen in the box “Save As Format”.

Picresize image 3.
Click the yellow “I’m Done” button. You’ll see a status bar as your image is resized.
When it’s done, you’ll have 20 minutes to claim your resized image.

Picresize image 5.

On the left-hand side of the window, choose Save To Disk or Save To Web (not the big “Download” button).

picresize 6

Your web browser may handle downloads differently, but it should let you choose where you want the downloaded file to be stored on your computer.

Now you’re ready to share that picture of your work in progress, or ask for help from someone who can’t peek over your shoulder.

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