Sumptuous Silk Clothing, the workshop last weekend with Karen Selk, was a success for the students in many ways. Karen’s depth of experience with fiber was matched by her depth of perception in helping students explore and plan positive projects. As a result of this class, some beautiful silk clothing is going to be made: a jacket, a shirt, a vest, some loose Thai pants, and even a bow tie. They may not be done next week or even in the next few months, but it was clear that each of us left with ideas and more skill to carry them out.
The class had several components. We wove samples of eight weave structures in silk, in round robin style. We learned about various types of silk and how to wash and care for silk. We mined Karen’s suitcases full of garments and patterns for ideas, made muslins, and discussed our ideas as a group.
The first session began, as such things usually do, with introductions. In introducing herself, Karen talked about a current favorite activity, “studio time” with her grandchildren. On those days, the kids rush into the house and fling down their jackets, ready to get to the studio. She stressed the importance of passing on our knowledge, or we may be the last generation with fiber skills.
Karen asked the students to elaborate a bit about their early introductions to weaving and sewing, since the class dealt with both. Karen Mallin’s early sewing experience wasn’t so positive; she hated the fact she had to sew all her clothes. Mine was a bit of the reverse. My mother would buy me few ready-made clothes, but if I wanted to sew, I could get all the fabric I wanted—very positive incentive. Sewing was in Cynthia Scott’s genes; both her mother and grandmother were home economics teachers. But it was her grandfather who taught her to weave. Madeline Shinbach and Judy Bratt got their start by sewing doll clothes. “You got to sew doll clothes?” Kala Exworthy commented. Her paternal grandmother taught her to sew by making pillowcases. Aimee Radman began weaving at eight, when she bought her first loom at K-mart. Nancy Jones also started weaving at eight, and got a two-harness table loom at nine. Anne Lindgren took a weaving class when she was ten years old. Her grandfather was a chair caner and would demonstrate at the Oliver Gibbs Farm; Anne came along with her loom. Roberta Zeug Schell learned to weave on a frame loom in high school. Barb Ung’s mother, who died just a year and a half ago, was an artist and weaver, and Barb now has her mother’s loom. Mary Rasmussen said she just learned to weave recently. “I decided to do that rather than visit the Caribbean.” This short discussion time was the perfect way to break the ice, help us learn about our fellow Guild members, and settle us in for the next hour of lecture about drafting.
I’m sure my fellow students would agree that it was a privilege to learn so much from Karen, and to benefit from her decades of research into silk production and weaving with silk. We thank her (and her able host and assistant Kala) for creating such a great atmosphere to learn and enjoy time with friends.