Thursday, May 30, 2024

About Art, Craft and Commerce;

About Art, Craft and Commerce
A few thoughts about ending Nice Threads and growing willow instead. 
I only ever wanted to be an artist. When I was in high school and college, I was always drawing something. I managed to get into RISD for a year but couldn’t find out who I was then, or how to express it. 

I did find graphic design though and spent 25 years doing art-adjacent work for good pay, and long hours. Yes, typography and layout can be art,  and I did some good work. But usually I hired illustrators and photographers to do the art part, while I designed the setting. After awhile, the graphic artist learns that art in the name of commerce is often not art, but manipulation. And it was never really my expression anyway, but some marketing screed made pretty.  

I gravitated to craft markets when corporate communications became as easy as buying an application and giving it to a low-wage employee. I much preferred the straightforward commerce of inventory for sale than design-to-order, so art fairs and craft shows were my sales environment. It felt closer to  making art. Clothing was a vehicle I longed to create in and wool felting was a freeform technique that appealed to me - so hands-on, it was almost sculptural. 

But Art to Wear is a terribly difficult niche to make money because not every person wants to wear unique clothing, clothing that makes you stand out from the crowd. I get  it - I am not my own best client either. Felt was also a challenge, because there’s barely any tradition of felting in the US, unlike Europe. Felt clothing doesn’t act like woven or knit clothing, and it takes some adjustment to get the right fit. Most folks also don’t want to think too much about their clothes. I get this too - I hate to buy special care clothing. But felt was the medium I loved to work in. 

There was also the issue that I tried to do unique techniques and designs, and didn’t want to stick to proven silhouettes. Red carpets aside, people with money are most often conservative.   The sad truth is, my best market was other artists, folks who, like me,  who usually couldn’t afford my work.  

So no surprise that being a fiber artisan is not a viable career; I needed  additional support from my ex. But I love making things, at it most basic, I am compelled to make things. It’s a hard realization that making and selling art to wear  in this country is so difficult, and cheap imported clothes have so dominated the market that handmade goods can’t compete. It’s a realization backed up in history though; the same result informed both the Mission movement and the Bauhaus, both attempts to bring artisan made, quality goods to the masses - only the wealthy can afford fine art, craft and artisan made goods. Only once you expand into larger markets at lower prices can your goods compete, and then you loose control. Capitalism is a harsh master.  If you see your work as an art form, you are absolutely going to starve if it’s your only income. 

So what is it about willow that I think will be different. For one thing, I will not be the artist in that medium, but the supplier of the raw material. I likely will make a basket or seven but won’t sell that work for a living, nor will I make them for myself or family. I already have over a hundred baskets, having inherited about half of them from my mom, who also collected them. I am an admirer of basketmakers, and will not spend my time trying to perfect my skills, but to perfect the growing, somewhat amazing, crop of willow. 

I am in love with willow, the same way I am in love with wool.  Growing things is creation, art, at its most basic level.  It’s just a continuation of a journey, where I start to realize the perfection of the world around us, that gifts us with these renewable resources, so productive and useful. Going to the heart of why handcraft is so important, in a way, for everyone to do. It connect us to the earth, history, our heritage. 

Handcrafts were originally just what everyone did to supply your family with what you needed. Selling craft as art is only a necessity when industry supplies that need and no one makes things anymore. Why carve a wooden spoon or forge a kitchen knife when you can go to Ikea?  Why spend $20 on that hand carved spoon when you can buy a plastic one for $3. All we craftspeople and artisans can do is keep the knowledge alive, by making, teaching, and showing goods made in  these ancient techniques.  

But you know what I see happening? A movement back to the land, back to making for yourself, gardens, foods, buildings, bee-keeping, and yes, all the fiber crafts. Making do with less, but making more from found and repurposed materials. I love the basketry of wild, found fibers. I love the British stick-work traditions like thatching, hurdles and hedge-laying that are from my own heritage and not borrowed. I love the re-making of new items from old. I love the use of the easily regenerated materials that serve so many purposes, like wool and willow. 

Anyway, it seems like a natural, logical transition to me. Farming has already proved itself to be hard but rewarding work. It feels like the next leg on my journey. 

If you are interested in the farm's progress, see the blog site at

If you are interested in the felt art-to wear sale, see the shop site at

You can still follow me on my Instagram account for the foreseeable future:  @NiceThreadsFiber

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Nice Threads website closing and inventory on sale!

The Nice Threads website,, will be closing in a few weeks. 

While it only functioned as a portfolio of my work for the years I was active, closing it marks the closing of that business enterprise and the beginning of another. I'm also closing the Facebook page though that hasn't been active for awhile. 

Red/Orange/Purple silk organza 
Nuno-felted tunic $220

I'm putting my current felt inventory - high end art-to wear garments and accessories -  onto the shop site at and marked them all down considerably*. Many items are under $50 and the jackets and coats under $250. I hope if you liked my work in the past, this might be an incentive to grab a few items because there won't be any more. The shop site will stay open til everything has sold. 

I will keep this blog open for awhile, and the Instagram page too, to keep some aspects of my fiber activities alive, but I won't be doing professional crafts as an artist anymore. I  have talked in earlier posts about ending my fiber arts career so I won't reiterate those reasons. But I will always do fiber arts, and I'll always be creating things. 

"Bubbles on the lavender sea"
Nuno-felted Chine silk tunic

And that takes me to the willow farm. From smaller scale basketry up to landscaping features and building materials in large scale, willow weaving is fiber work as well. My main focus will be growing, and likely will stay on providing materials instead of crafting for awhile. 

All the proceeds of the sale of my fiber work will go to building farm infrastructure and support its growth for the next two years while I literally grow the inventory. A barn and foundation, and the grading to make it stable and accessible will be the main focus for any fundraising. If you buy anything from my Nice Threads shop site, you have donated towards that effort, with something unique and hand-made to show for that donation, Thank you. 

If you are interested in the farm's progress, see the blog site at

If you are interested in the felt art-to wear sale, see the shop site at

You can still follow me on my Instagram account for the foreseeable future:  @NiceThreadsFiber

* High prices for craft items are often needed so craft shops can get their 40-50% cut. You can't undersell your shop price, so you have to sell in person at double the cost too. My prices now are just my time and costs, and often less than my time and costs. Cash flow is king.

Sunday, November 5, 2023

Closing the doors soon, opening another

I have been doing fiber work officially since 1998, when I started the Haywood Community College Professional Crafts program in Fiber. I will officially end my time as a fiber artist soon. Of course, I started crocheting, knitting and sewing as a teen, learned weaving in my 30s, and unofficially will continue to do most of the techniques I enjoyed all these 25 years. I'm just not being too ambitious about it.  

I am closing the virtual doors to Nice Threads by January of next year. The store site and the website will be closed and the few things I have left in inventory will likely be donated or raffled or some such. I'll keep this blog site open as I sell equipment, materials and maybe some pieces, I haven't decided. 

I will actually be trying out something different in the fiber crafts world, but with a different pace. I've got land being prepared for a pocket willow farm in Old Fort. If you are interested in how that is going (slowly, I assure you) you can check out the blog I am keeping for that project, the Good Willow Farm. All the whys and wherefores can be found there. 

Please bookmark this blog if you are interested in getting some discounted fiber materials and tools - I will be selling off dyeing equipment next. 

You can also catch some last deals on my felted garments and accessories here on the store which will be open til everything sells. You can buy spinning wool and spindles on sale there too!

Monday, August 14, 2023

Booth display system - and more - for sale

 Yes, it's true. No more shows for me. It's time to pass it on. 

Update: These items have been spoken for! I'll be selling other fiber tools, materials and displays in the near future. 

 I'm selling my clothing display racks, director's chair, standing mannequin and hangars - really cheap!  

If you are about to show your clothing for sale at craft festivals, you need a display system. This system is unique, made for me by a local woodworker and is flexible, looks great and most importantly, light to carry and easy to store. 

The uprights and connectors are made of oak and the cross bars are hollow copper tubing, which looks great with the oak. The height and length of the bars are adjustable and two or more bars can be "stacked." I have 4 uprights, and a collection of copper tubes which can make 3 double racks in any 10' booth space, but can also be put in any configuration you have space for. This system is shown in the photo in a shop setting, in a zig-zag. (Note that they are anchored with barbell weights, easy to buy used)

There is a single rack with "waterfall" type arms which can also fit the uprights so the connectors can be interchangeable. 

I am throwing in the mannequin and stand, who has gotten a bit beat up over the years but after a new coat of paint, should look fine. I am also throwing in my hangars, some black plastic, black flocked and regular white plastic hangars. So many, I've not counted them. See below for more photos.

All of above I will sell for $120. 

The director's chair, a must for the booth, is in excellent condition and I'll add it for $50.

Everything for $170.00. 

Delivery available to Asheville area. Charlotte, Hickory, and Winston-Salem are also possible. No shipping or delivery outside the area. 

Email me for details. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

A quick post on color

Most first time dyers choose colors based on the array of choices on the display. Dye companies have sample sheets at the store and online for choosing, but out of the 20+ colors, which should you choose? 

Here are some suggestions for choosing your first colors to dye with:

The simplest choice - go with your favorite color to wear, and choose the dye color on the sheet that’s closest. Stick with one color dyeing and you will be sure to like it. 
The best thing about one-color dyeing is you have a target color and don’t have to make any other decisions and you don’t have to do any complicated mixing. 

Layered colors on fleece

But if you don't have a preset idea and want to experiment, layering color has the benefit of surprise and complexity, and is easy to do with this dye process. 

Layering the color means adding 2-3 dyes at the same time, without mixing them first.  There will be suggestions in the next post for how to apply the dyes, but first, you have to choose which colors. 
My main suggestion is to choose two and no more than three colors that all look good with each other.

The confident choice: choose two primary colors (red, blue, yellow), knowing that the color they make when they mix will also be a pure bright color. For example, a red and a blue will also have purple, a blue and a yellow will always make green. 

The stylish choice - Use a color wheel and choose adjacent colors - Choose a color and a color right next to it and the close relationship will have a nice effect together, like turquoise and blue, red and purple. 

The Goth choice: Black adds complexity to a pure color, making shades of that pure color, darker, grayer, subtler versions. Choose Black and one or two brighter colors. 

The adventurous choice: Throw all of the above out the door and use whatever colors call out to you. Remember that mixing any colors that are not primaries will reduce the color saturation, and give you grays. Mixing complementary colors will give you browns. Gorgeous grays and browns, and complex mixes in many cases, but be sure you are ready for sometimes good and sometimes disappointing results. 

If you are dyeing 4 ounces of fiber, then, you will need 250ml of dye in total (following the Tiny Bathroom dye series format) so you can break that amount in half, for two colors (125ml + 125ml), or thirds for three (about 85ml each) or any other combination that adds up to 250. 

The previous post covered mixing up powder dyes so check that out if you haven't already. The next post Dyeing Yarn in a Tiny Bathroom will be coming out within the week. 

Have fun!

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Mixing colors in a tiny bathroom

Hopefully you all have read the first installment, and you have an overview of the process, but before we let the dyeing begin, we need to mix powder dyes into liquids.  We'll be measuring dyes with teaspoons,  mixing them with tap water and storing them in plastic containers with twist lids. We'll be protecting your counter with a bin lid as well.

So, here is the video, and the details (equipment list, safety precautions) are below. 

 Please forgive the cramped space, bad lighting and oops, dingy tub you will be seeing. I leave those aspects in because this is what most of us have instead of a big, well-lit dedicated dye kitchen. But we can still make glorious color no matter what!

 See the equipment list below.  

Safety Precautions

Mixing powder dye is the only area in home dyeing where you have to make safety precautions, but they are very doable. 

1. Wear a mask and safety glasses while handling the powder. The powdered dyes are very fine and certain dyes will have pigments that can be irritating  at the least and toxic at the worst if you get them in your nose or eyes.  Isn't it lucky that we already know where to get masks these days?

2. Turn off any fans or heater/ac vents in the bathroom. Even a light breeze can launch powder into the air. If you can't control the ventilation, then measure and mix dye in a protective box (See below).

3. Put down newspaper and spritz it with water on the measuring/mixing area. If any powder falls on the bin lid while it's dry, it can get blown into the air or transferred onto your clothing or hands. Loose powder is both a safety hazard and a clean-up issue - powder dyes are VERY concentrated, and any loose powder can stain countertops and anything else it gets attached to. Wet newspaper and/or paper towels will capture the powder before it transfers elsewhere, and you can throw the damp paper away safely at the end of the session.

4. If there is no way to stop airflow, Set up a Mixing Box. A cardboard box that fits on your counter space, with or without the bin lid, is fine. See the photo & video for the setup, but basically, you will line the inside and surrounding counter with the spritzed newspaper. If you need to work on the counter outside the bin lid, you may want to put down a protective layer of plastic sheeting under the newspaper.


  • A bin lid to use as a work area, to protect the counter, covered in damp newspaper
  • A cardboard box (optional, see above)
  • A spritz bottle with water, to keep the newspaper damp
  • A set of measuring spoons
  • Plastic measuring cup, for 50ml - 500ml and/or
  • Plastic screw-top containers for storing liquid dye, one per color
  • A small plastic cup, for pasting the powder, one per color
  • Plastic spoons for mixing, one per color
  • Wash jug for used spoons and cups 
  • A large funnel, to help with cleanup

None of the above items should ever be used for food afterwards.

How much dye should I make?

You need to know first what your fiber will weigh. If you have a kitchen scale, weigh the dry fiber to start. For the purposes of the Tiny Bathroom dye series, I’ve set the maximum per batch at 4 ounces. Larger pots and larger setups will get you bigger dye batches, but a 6 quart pot or crockpot will comfortably dye 4 ounces of yarn or fiber at a time.  

If you don’t have a scale, but are using commercial fiber with a label, just find the weight on the label. If neither option is available, don’t worry. The next post will cover the on-the-spot decisions like colors and quantities. Today, just go ahead and make the 250ml of dye. 

You can always dye less fiber and use less dye and have leftover dye for future use. As well, it’s always good to make a little extra and good also to make your calculations easy. Sticking to metric measurements and rounding your measurements to easy-to-measure numbers makes this part less difficult.

You can store covered dye containers in your home refrigerator as long as you put the plastic containers on a shelf where they won’t interact with food. Best if you have a shoebox or other large lidded box to hold all the containers til you need them. 

How much dye: The short version:

For 4 ounces of fiber, you will need about 230ml of dye to achieve a 2% Depth Of Shade (DOS). That is a medium dark intensity, about a 7 out of 10. It’s a good intense color to start with. Then we’ll round up to 250ml, to make measuring simple. 

That’s the total - if you want to use a red and a blue, you’ll use  125ml each, for example. (We’ll talk more about final color choices when we dye the fiber.)

So you will need to mix 250 ml for each batch. 


250 ml of warm water and

2 teaspoons of dye powder 

The longer version (with some math):

For 4 ounces of fiber, you will need about 230ml of dye at a 2%DOS, requiring about 4.6grams of powder, or 1.84tsp, or .61T. 

Rounding up to 250ml makes it easy - 5 grams of powder or 2 teaspoons of dye = 250ml at 2%DOS

Here’s the gram to teaspoon conversion:

1 gram of dye makes 50ml of liquid dye at 2%DOS (about a 70% darkness)

2.5 grams = 1 tsp dye powder

.4tsp =1 gram of powder = 50ml liquid dye at 2%DOS

5 grams of powder or 2 teaspoons of dye = 250ml at 2%DOS

I am open to all questions and especially math corrections! Next post will be Dyeing yarn in a Tiny Bathroom. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

The absolute easiest dyeing you can do at home.

Koolaid dyeing is safe, fun, and quick. If you you find you enjoy dyeing with Koolaid,  the process is not so different than with commercial dyes, but you are safe to dye in the kitchen with kitchen equipment. The yarn for the granny square in the picture was dyed with Koolaid in this process. 

You'll need:

  • A metal, ceramic or glass bowl to soak the fibers
  • A counter to spread out the fiber for painting
  • A steamer (bamboo, or a double boiler type steamer is better than the foldable metal steamers that go inside a pot.)
  • Plastic spoons and small plastic containers for mixing up the liquid dye
  • New/clean foam brushes in 1-2" widths
  • Plastic wrap or lightweight plastic sheeting
  • 1-4 ounces of yarn, roving, loose fleece or 1 yd+/- piece of fabric 
  • Koolaid or similar brand of unsweetened drink mix, in desired colors, 4-8 packets or so
  • White vinegar, maybe 1-2 cups
Koolaid works best on protein, or animal fibers like wool, silk and alpaca. (Plant fibers can be dyed with Koolaid, but with less success. Here's a link to a thorough study, with some suggestions for best results .)

1. Fabric, yarn (skeined), roving and loose fiber can be dyed in the same way. To prepare for dyeing, soak fibers in a bowl with hot tap water and vinegar for about 20 minutes. Use about 1/2 cup vinegar to a gallon of water. New fabrics require simmering with some dish soap to get rid of stabilizers before soaking.  

2. Make a paste of the Koolaid, by adding a small amount of hot tap water and mixing til no more powder is left. This is the most intense color; by adding more water you get more dye, but lighter color. A good starting point is one package of Kool-Aid per one ounce of fiber. Add just enough hot water to make a paintable consistency. 

3. Squeeze out as much soak water as you can, and lay out wet fabric, yarn or fiber in a thin layer on a sheet of plastic wrap. Using a foam brush, apply the dye directly to the fiber. This method allows you to use as many colors as you wish. Work the dye into the fiber and flip it over to be sure it has saturated both sides. 

4. Fold the fiber up in the plastic sheeting and fold securely into a packet. Use tape to secure it if needed. Put the packet in a steamer and steam for 30-45 minutes, depending on how full the steamer is. This sets the dye on the fiber.

5. Remove packets from the steamer and let cool for a bit. Put the dyed fiber in a bowl with hot water and rinse til no more dye rinses out. Hang to dry. 

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