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Fabrics and Fun at Fiber Fest:

A show about textiles and fiber arts may not sound like the most thrilling event for many Santa Monicans, but the Fabulous Fiber Fest, held at the Santa Monica Civic last weekend, was the source of a few surprises, from the wares sold at booths and quilts on display to classes in fiber arts.

Judith MacKenzie McCuin (Mother MacKenzie) taught classes in the venerable art of spinning. Each student sat with her wheel made from wood. Some wheels had the traditional spokes, others had a much simpler modern style. McCuin asked the students to pick four strands of colored, combed-out wool and cashmere yarn, from which they would spin thread.

“Consistency in spinning is half the wheel and half you,” McCuin explained. She demonstrated how the spinner holds the yarn and moves it back and forth as the wheel draws a fine thread from the sheath of fiber.

Nearby, at the booth for Carolina Homespun (fiber goods for spinning and knitting), one could buy spinning wheels such as the Lennox from Winsome Timbers of Grand Rapids, Michigan, a beautiful wooden wheel that costs $1075-$1125 and comes with a Spinner’s Blessing.

At Gosh Yarn It, another booth that sold yarn and fibers for knitting and crocheting, Jennifer Tan demonstrated the art of Tunisian crochet. “It’s a cross between knitting and crocheting – it’s like a double crochet but the loops stay on the hook. It’s easy if you know how to crochet.” (This reporter tried, but found it a bit tricky).

Glenna Kipp’s booth displayed Temari balls. This ancient Japanese art literally means “hand-wrapped ball” and that’s what they are – in this case, Styrofoam balls wrapped in fabric and decorated with beadwork or embroidery. Kipp explained that Temari were invented as toys but soon became a pastime for ladies of the Imperial Court.

At Quilts on the Wall, the popular art of quilting had crossed over into fabric-based art. Some of these creations were as inventive and beautiful as any painting in a museum. Julie Schlueter’s “Reverie” featured orange circles on an eye-dazzling blue and green yarn background; Stacy Hurt’s “Dancing Pagodas” used batik, sequins, beads, tulle and ribbons to decorate a purple background; and “Peace in Bloom” by Cindy Cooksey used hand appliqué to create peace symbol designs.

That wall quilt would have harmonized with the “Woodstock” wrap-around skirt, made from Eastern-style fabrics, displayed during a fashion show held at Park Bench Patterns.

And then there were the living contributors to fabric-making (none of whom were harmed during the Fiber Fest) – the animals. Mike Smith brought three alpacas, small camels whose soft hair, either straight or curly, can be used for a variety of cloth goods. Christopher Acosta held a large rabbit in his lap while he spun thread from the rabbit’s shed hair. Rabbit hair, he explained, can be from either a baby or adult rabbit but the adult hair has more tensile strength for certain clothing items.

Sericulturist Michael Cook of wormspit.com led a workshop in silk-making. Silkworm cocoons are made from one very long thin string – sometimes over half a mile long – which can be wound off in a process called reeling. While some people learned how this is done, others looked at a plate full of live silkworms who were gobbling mulberry leaf mulch and were amiable enough to sit on the fingers of curious and bold onlookers.

And at Dawn Sklar Ribbon, leftover bits of fabric were available for just three dollars – to use in quilts, to make doll clothes, whatever. This writer left with a glittery gold silk remnant and will soon be wearing it in some way or another.

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