Changes to Open Studio

Please be aware of the following changes to the Winter 2017 open studio schedule:

  • There will be no open studio in the Sewing Room on Saturday, January 21st from 2pm-5pm.
  • Open studio in the Print Room will open at 2:30pm on Wednesday, January 25th.

We apologize for any inconvenience!

Pussy Hats: Continuing the Legacy of the Pink Yarn Paradigm

knityorkcity(Instagram user @knityorkcity. Edited.)

Pussy hats are a nation-wide collaborative project started by LA artists Krista Suh and Jayna Zweiman. Their mission is to “provide the people of the Women’s March on Washington D.C. a means to make a unique collective visual statement”. Participants are invited to knit simple, pink hats that give the wearer cat ears in direct reference to then-presidential candidate Donald Trump’s deeply disturbing comments about his own history of grabbing women “by the pussy”. Conceived of as a way for those unable to make it to Washington DC to participate by proxy, the project is now so popular that stores are reporting an inability to keep pink yarn on the shelves

As these shortages sweep the nation, I think it’s important – AND COOL – to understand how the specifics of this particular project fit snugly in with the history of what craft theorist Glenn Adamson once called “the pink yarn paradigm” and also to consider the collective power behind this kind of artisanal protest.


Color is a powerful visual shorthand: effectively communicating not only general cultural concepts, but extremely specific meanings. I recently did a classroom version of this online test with my middle school students and every single one of them accurately identified Starbucks, Coke-a-Cola and McDonalds simply from a solid color on my computer screen. Even a spread of all the colors scientifically comprising the visual spectrum – y’know, a rainbow – has unequivocally come to represent gay culture, The fluency of this language has been especially handy when it comes to selling products or allying oneself with a movement, even superficially. For example, pink has corporate associations with Komen for the Cure, an organization that raises funds for breast cancer research but is not without scandal or criticism for it’s blatant over-branding. (Remember “pinkwashing? And even the pink drill bits? Problematic to say the least.) Pink is the color of ladies. It’s link to breast cancer research has literally associated it with breasts. Light or pastel pink evokes the softness of baby girls (inserts shade here). Deep pink is the color of Valentines, romance and sexuality. Pink has also come to represent queerness; see the Pink triangle of the Silence = Death AIDS era icon and the general fact that most straight men wouldn’t be caught dead wearing the color without expectation- either positive or negative. (If you’re a straight dude bristling at that, take a moment to ask yourself if you honestly don’t feel at least a bit of self-congratulatory radicalism when you don that short-sleeved light pink button up on your way to the office.) Hot pink, specifically, has become a reclamation: a way of making “cute”, “feminine” and “queer” into something fierce, powerful, eye-catching and unavoidable.

While a bit disconcerting in regards to corporate power and the potential brainwashing of our youth, the use of color shorthand is inevitable and essentially democratic. No matter what Coke wants, they can’t own a whole slice of the color wheel. 

The Center for Reproductive Rights Supreme Court decision day, photographed in Washington DC, 27 June 2016.

(The Center for Reproductive Rights Supreme Court decision day, photographed in Washington DC, 27 June 2016. Part of the 5.4 Million Stitch Project by Chi Nguyen.)

Coined by writer Besty Greer in 2003, Craftivism is a form of political speech or action that incorporates hand-making. Strongly aligned with feminism and anti-capitalism, participants in this movement strive to challenge concepts of gender conformity and systems of value by bringing traditionally domestic (ie feminine/low-value) practices into public (ie masculine/high-value) spaces in outspokenly political ways. Knitting, for example, has been a prolific and powerful agent for craftivism, with groups like Knitta, Please (Texas) and The Circle Group (UK) and individuals like Cat Mazza and Lisa Anne Auerbach at the helm. Craftivist projects can also be collaborative in nature, such as the AIDS quilt – otherwise known as the Names Project – which collected enough hand-sewn fabric squares in honor of individuals/families affected by the AIDS crisis to cover the national mall in 1987. Locally and recently, Rachel Wallis and We Charge Genicide created the Gone But Not Forgotten quilt which memorialized the names of those killed by police in the city of Chicago through hand-embroidered patches created in public sewing circles held over 2015 and 2016. (And so many more!)

Lacey Jane Roberts

(Lacy Jane Roberts)

And, as I mentioned at the very beginning of this increasingly verbose blog entry, Pussy Hats aren’t the first sighting of pink yarn in Craftivist legacy. Lacey Jane Roberts covered a barbed-wire fence in hot pink yarn almost a decade ago and Danish artists Marianne Jørgensen commissioned small squares of pink knitting to create a cozy for a tank to protest Denmark’s involvement in the Iraq war. Both of these projects aimed to literally soften a physical threat and visually ally itself with femininity and feminism.

Pink Tank Cozy

(Marianne Jørgensen.)

Glenn Adamson describes the Pink Yarn Paradigm as a “craft idiom that thrives under the conditions of attention deficit disorder; a fast way to transmit the ideals of slow culture.”* The Pussy Hat project’s end goal is to create a visual punch that can’t be ignored. The visual is, in my opinion, a worthy goal but it’s not the only positive outcome of the project. The action of making the hats is, I believe, where the true power can be found.

Women are coming together and we are talking. We are sharing our experiences and learning about the experiences of others. We’re developing new skills and new ways of thinking. We’re feeling connected and I think this is what scares them (men? conservatives? the patriarchy?) the most; what drives them to mock our methods as even more pathetic than even everyday handicraft. They are terrified that we’ll band together. Sure, knitting is about meditation, repetitive action and comforting ourselves with soft and cozy garments. But it’s also about getting together and getting mad.

They can accuse us of being pith and pitiable but we are anything but flippant. We are real. We have a history behind us. We have a movement and we are – and will continue to be – a force to be reckoned with. So, ladies: let’s knit.

(*Glenn Adamson, CraftPerspective Lecture at the Museum of Contemporary Craft. March 5, 2009.)

-Nora Renick Rinehart



Want to get involved? You can download sewing, knitting and crochet patterns from the Pussy Hat Project Website! Search in your area for local meet-ups!


Keep up with all the Textiles Department events and announcements by following us here and on instagram.

Winter Open Studio

Welcome back to Lillstreet Textile Classes! Open Studio will begin on January 17. The schedule will be posted in the studio, as well. All current students are encouraged to come to open studio. If any changes are needed for one-day workshops, info will be posted in the studio and on the blog. Happy sewing! Happy printing!


First-Time Knitting

December is always a difficult month for knitting. There’s an urgency to it quite separate from the incoming whoosh of winter, though the scarf I meant to finish and the mittens that need darning definitely add to it. Nope, knitting in December is an exercise in frantic altruism, and more than once I’ve ended up wrapping a single sock along with a note that the second will come soon.


Knitting in January, though, is a different animal. It’s the kind of animal that’s all about you and that scarf, with no deadline looming except spring, so I’m incredibly excited to be teaching First-Time Knitting at Lillstreet in the Winter session! For anyone who’s never knit before and wants to learn, or who learned ages ago but hasn’t picked up their needles in forever, or even if you have a general idea of what’s up but want to know more, this class will get you comfortable and ready to branch out on your own projects. We’ll work on a scarf and a hat, covering the major stitches, styles, and jargon of knitting, including details about yarn and patterns.

A little bit about me: I’m an artist with a background in fiber and textiles, and I started knitting while working in Montreal’s garment district. You can check out my work at I hope to see you in the studio in January!

‘Til then, Kate.


Lillstreet Teaching Artist Spotlight: Darlys Ewoldt

Darlys Ewoldt grew up on a farm in Iowa, where “The isolation,” she says, “is very good for developing one’s imagination.” From a young age, she was encouraged by her parents to explore her artistic side.  “I lived in a time and place where, if you didn’t have it, you had to make it with your hands.” As a freshman in college, she walked into a metalsmithing classroom and never looked back. If you take a moment to lose yourself in the imagination and skill behind her sculptures, you might say Iowa did a great job.

In addition to managing her own artistic practice, Darlys also teaches at Columbia College and Lillstreet Art Center. Her collection of awards runs deep – including three Illinois Art Council Fellowship Grants, one finalist award, Ford Foundation Fellowship and Project Grants, Project Grants from the George Sugarman Foundation and the Ruth Chenven Foundation and a travel grant from the Embassy of the United States.

When asked what contributes to success, Darlys’ advice is timeless:

Work hard, set aside time every day to improving your skills and practicing.

And once you’ve mastered something, challenge yourself. Start all over with your material and learn something new.


Your work is truly captivating. How would you describe it?

My sculptures are hammered and constructed from sheet copper, brass, and bronze.  The pieces are colored through chemical patination processes.

Where does your inspiration come from?

I draw from objects found in nature and my environment.  I always liked to draw and make things from an early age.  My parents were proud of this and never tried to convince me to choose a more “practical” path in life.  I have many happy memories of making things with my mother. I learned the importance of hard work in achieving your goals in life from my parents.

I have also studied and been influenced by such artists as Martin Puryear, Joseph Cornell, David Smith, and the Constructivist and Bauhaus movements.

What is the best advice you ever received from an instructor or mentor?

Alma Eikerman, an amazing woman who was a pioneer in teaching metalsmithing techniques in the U.S., was my mentor at I.U.  She instilled the importance of studying art history and practicing good design and craftsmanship.  Alma taught me to look beyond the obvious in the world around me and to look at common objects in different ways.

What are your favorite classes to teach at Lillstreet?

I love teaching the forming classes.  It’s a pleasure to see the excitement of the students when they successfully transform a piece of metal by hammering.  I also like to teach beginning metals classes.  Students feel a great sense of accomplishment from lighting a torch for the first time to making something they are proud to wear.

What do you appreciate about the Lillstreet community?

Lillstreet is a positive, supportive community.  I have seen and experienced both creative and personal connections develop with many people.  It’s wonderful to walk through the spaces at Lillstreet feel the creative energy.

At Lillstreet, I find the students are centered on growing their work into a business. And they do! I’ve seen many of my students start out at the beginning and become successful in their work. I think a strong contributor to that is the range of teachers Lillstreet offers. Learning from a variety of practicing artists is a unique opportunity to learn.

What kind of projects are you working on right now?

Last year, I started casting glass elements to include with the formed and fabricated metal forms.  I am interested in working with light and shadow by combining the two materials.  I enjoy the challenge of exploring a new, unfamiliar combination of mediums.


Find Darlys Ewoldt’s work here, and experience it in person at SOFA Chicago 2017. She will also be showing at the Smithsonian Craft Show in Washington, DC in April 2017.  She is represented by K. Allen Gallery in Sister Bay, WI and Graver’s Lane Gallery in Philadelphia, PA. 

Open Studio in Sewing Room Only – Saturday, December 17

Due to a workshop in the print room this Saturday, December 17, Open Studio will only be held in the sewing room. If you’re a currently enrolled student, you’ll have access to open studio Through Thursday, December 22, so you’ll still have plenty of time to finish your end-of-year projects!

Improvisational Quilting

An improvisational pieced quilt, in progress.

(An improvisational pieced quilt, in progress.)


Improvisational quilting? What is that?

It’s more expressive way of piecing. It is an intuitive and playful process, more like painting or making collage than traditional, block-based, precise methods of making patchwork.

The improvisational method involves cutting with scissors and/or rotary cutter, but not always with a ruler. Sometimes improvisational patchwork has a wonky or imprecise appearance; that is often part of it’s charm.

That said, rulers are not verboten; I often introduce rulers at various points in my process to make puzzling pieces together easier or to cut improvisational pieced bits of fabric into precision cut pieces, but you can also join improv pieced sections more freely.

A quilt where I did a mix of improvisational and precision piecing.

(A quilt where I did a mix of improvisational and precision piecing.)

Both methods, traditional piecing and improv piecing, can be combined to powerful effect.

Improvisational quilting can often mean starting without a plan or just having a loose plan, and seeing where the process leads you. That said, improvisational quilting is not a free-for-all! It is about making decisions as you come to them, rather than following super specific directions, or measurements. It’s really about setting parameters/rules, and working freely within those parameters.



Come play!

I am teaching two 5-Week Improvisational Patchwork classes in the Winter 2017 session, on Thursdays, 10am-2pm. The first session starts Thursday, January 12, and the second starts Thursday, February 16.

Register here:

I’ll guide you through improvisational variations of traditional blocks and shapes, like squares/rectangles, triangles, and curves, as well as improvisational strip piecing.

Hope to see you there!

-Tricia (Textiles Artist-in-Residence)

Fun with Procion MX Dyes

Hi! I’m Catherine, one of the monitors in the Lillstreet Textiles department. Lately I have been having a great time experimenting with multicolored shibori using procion dyes. You can get all sorts of layered effects from subtle to super-intense. Check out our upcoming classes and become obsessed yourself!

img_20161023_125940 20161209_114839

Lillstreet Teaching Artist Spotlight: Amy Taylor

Take a minute to meet our textiles artist, Amy Taylor, and she’ll have you at “hello.” Amy’s enthusiasm for art and science (her father is a professor of Evolutionary Biology at UCLA) is absolutely captivating. She’s grown up exploring artificial life and population genetics with her dad (traveling to all continents but one). Over the years, she’s connected her knowledge of math and science to her passion for art.  “Because,” she says, “you absolutely cannot have one without the other.”

For Amy, art and science collide particularly in her textiles and natural dye work. If you have the chance to meet her, or take one of her classes, you’ll be better for it. (Also, ladies, you may want to hold off on underwear purchases until her new line comes out.)  In the mean time, get your aesthetic fix on her Instagram feed  (with seriously dialed-in nail designs via artist Ashley Crowe aka @AstroWifey) and read more about her below.




Describe your road to Chicago.

I was born and raised in Los Angeles, though I moved around a bit before settling in Chicago. I started college at a liberal arts university in Washington, D.C. then studied abroad for a year in Madrid and Florence. I transferred to SAIC, a choice made on instinct, and got my BA in Visual and Critical Studies, focusing in textiles.


What is the best advice you ever received from an instructor or mentor?

The best advice I ever received came from one of my co-workers in Textiles, Jordana Robinson, during one of the monthly Textile Potluck Critiques. She said that when we feel like we have come full circle in a project or practice, and it seems like we are in the exact place we started, it is important to remember that we’re not on a track, but on the threads of a screw. So instead of running around in circles, we are actually spiraling, and growing upward.


What are your favorite classes to teach at Lillstreet?

My favorite classes to teach at Lillstreet are definitely the natural dye classes. I am constantly blown away by how creative my students practice in these classes- the first day there’s often some trepidation, and people (myself included) are often overwhelmed at understanding how all this stuff works. While there are definitely some technical rules that apply, one of the really exciting aspects of natural dyes is that no matter how experienced, and knowledgeable you become, no two natural dyes will ever be exactly the same! I’ve learned that so much of being a successful natural dyer is accepting the wabi sabi elegance of the practice.


What do you appreciate about the Lillstreet community?

One of the aspects I value most are the incredible humans I get to interact with every day. I get to meet the most interesting people, who are passionate, brilliant, hard working, and eloquent, in the staff, students, and friends. I feel constantly challenged and supported by the people I am surrounded with at Lillstreet.


How would you describe your work?

My work is an intersection of art, alchemy, and technique. I am very inspired by the female form, and social mores. Through my practice, I am exploring how to inspire connections and confidence within my audience.


What emotion do you hope your work evokes from viewers?

My immediate answer is that as long as an emotion is evoked, then my work is a success, the more extreme, the better. In a perfect world, I would like for my work to contribute to a viewer feeling less isolated in their life- that no matter what emotion they are experiencing, it is a universal feeling and they are somehow connected to someone else.


What/who has been an inspiration to your work?

Holy smokes, this is a big question.

Stylistically, Edward Gorey, John K., Michael Hussar, early 90’s cartoons (Ren & Stimpy, Rocko’s Modern Life, Aaahh!!! Real Monsters,). I would describe my work as Edward Gorey line work with Ren & Stimpy water colors.

Also…children’s books are an incredible influence for me. Shel Silverstein, Roald Dahl, Maurice Sendak, Stephen Gammell, George Quasha, and Impressionism. Some standout instructors, both academic and life include, Akemi Cohn, Victoria Vesna, Nora Renick-Rinehart, Elsa Sanchez Diaz (Taller Teñido a Mano,) Maud Lavin, Sarah Wagner, my high school math and art teachers (Charles Garcia, and John Park) Billy Craven, and my amazing community of friends and family.


As an artist and/or instructor, what is an accomplishment(s) you’re most proud of?

As an artist/instructor, I’m always so proud when students take what they’ve learned in my classes and apply this knowledge and technique in their free time. Natural dyes are one of my greatest passions, so watching students catch this obsession is always very rewarding.

Academically, I’m very proud of papers I’ve written and co-written. One I presented at San Diego Comic Con in 2010, Violence in Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, and another was published in Turkey Red Journal earlier this year, Art at the Edge of Chaos: Shibori and Indigo.


What kind of projects are you working on right now?

Right now I’m working on starting my business, Ms. Amy Taylor LLC, to dye and sew a line of naturally dyed underwear for women. My mission is to create a line of undergarments that contribute to women feeling beautiful, confident, and comfortable.


Last but not least?

In addition to natural dyes, I love illustrating, screenprinting, skiing, The Simpsons and avocados.


(We mean…who doesn’t?)


Portrait Photo Credit: Nora Renick-Reinhart


Early Winter Class and Open Studio Schedule

Early Winter Open Studio is now is session! Huzzah! Because the Textiles Department has such a complicated class schedule, we’ve made weekly calendars for each of the session’s four weeks. Please make sure to double check these calendars before coming in to take advantage of open studio.

See you in the studio!



(click to enlarge!)


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