Independent Sewing Projects: Just Added for Winter Session II!

Hi all! We’ve just added a five week Independent Sewing Projects class to the Winter Session II schedule which starts next week:

You’ve got the sewing basics down; take the next step to complete one-of-a-kind sewing projects. You will discuss serger instruction, sewing machine feet attachments, buttonhole stitches and additional topics as they relate to individual student projects. Material fee covers thread and notion use in class and open studio. Prerequisite: First-Time Sewing. Open to students 14 years and up.

Register now!


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Tote Obsessed!

Hi everyone,

My name is D (Diane) and I recently moved back to the city from Michigan (after 38 yrs) wanting to meet people and learn in an artistic environment. I feel so fortunate to have found Lillstreet Art Center.  I first enrolled last spring in ‘First-Time Screen Printing on Fabric’ with Allison Rose. I enjoyed and learned so much from her that I took the class three times to continue practicing and building my skills with her help. I just loved being in the studio. It oozed with creativity (just what I needed at the time) and everyone was so helpful and friendly….creating a wonderful learning environment. I began to explode with design ideas…waking in the middle of the night to draw. Feeling happier and more creative than I had in years.

I’d like to share my most recent project. While preparing for a trip to meet up with very close friends, I decided to give them each a sampling of my creations. I had purchased a few totes in class and printed some of my designs on them a couple months ago and thought they’d be the perfect gifts. To give them a little more structure and personality, I added more fabric, pockets, and closures and had a blast creating my own tote design by combining my sewing skills, printing, and designs. Here are a few pictures of my first endeavors:


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Teaching Artist Spotlight: Jordan Lentz

Jordan Lentz is an illustrator, teaching artist and the Director of the Drawing & Painting Department at Lillstreet Art Center. Jordan is one of the newest additions to the Lillstreet team of directors. A graduate of SAIC in 2014, she joined Lillstreet last summer and brings positive vibes, creative enthusiasm and hardworking spirit to the leadership team.

Q. Congratulations on your solo exhibition, Natura. Are you taking a break, or working on what’s next?

Thank you! It’s hard for me to be the center of attention and take compliments, but this exhibition has been a really good experience. Actually, the solo show really inspired me to get back to work. I’ve started working on several large scale pencil drawings. My goal for 2017 is to finish those and get my work shown in galleries in Chicago.


Q. Your artwork gives the impression that you’ve been at this for some time. Did you always know you wanted to be an illustrator?

Yes, I’ve been drawing since I was a kid. My mom said when I was four, she knew I would be an artist the day I drew a potbelly pig in 3D.

Today I would consider myself a technical artist. I prefer scientific illustration and very detailed, realistic work with subject matters that interest me.


Q. Your work is astounding and so real. Do you really think it’s possible to teach that type of skill, or is it innate?

I do think it’s possible to teach drawing at that level. I’ve seen a few of my own students who have never drawn a day in their lives turn into some pretty impressive illustrators.


Q. What is the best piece of advice you’ve received from an instructor or mentor?

I tend to get stuck in my work at a certain point and just call it quits – either out of frustration or boredom. I had an instructor who forced me to keep going back into the same piece over and over again, and I think my work has improved immensely. It was a small piece of advice, but it made a big impact on my work.


Q. What are your favorite classes to teach at Lillstreet?

I love to teach fashion illustration and Cabinet of Curiosities, which is a lot of fun because we draw from a collection of oddities – bones, skulls, taxidermy, bugs.

I love being surrounded by so many creative people with such diverse work. I am constantly being inspired by this wonderful artistic community.

Q. It’s clear that bugs are a reoccurring theme in your work…why?

I collect bugs – I’m so fascinated by them. People tend to immediately dismiss them as scary or creepy, but if you really take time to look at them…their colors, wings, body styles – they’re actually incredibly beautiful. I draw them because I enjoy ‘over glamorizing’ things that people tend to think are ugly.


Q. What artist(s) or movements have had an impact on your work?

Lucian Freud, Ivan Albright, tattoo art inspires a lot of my work.


Q. Tattoo art! Your work seems like it would translate well into that. Would you ever consider being a tattoo artist?

Yes! I actually have had two apprenticeships in tattoo shops here in the city. It’s one of the hardest mediums to master, but I love it. I would love to have my own, private shop some day in the future. It’s definitely an ultimate goal of mine.


Q. We look forward to your success in 2017 and beyond, and tattoos by you in the future! Let’s sign off with two truths and a lie?


  1. I was spit on by a llama at the Wisconsin State Fair.
  2. I love pickles.
  3. I had a terrifying cat dissection experience in middle school, and I’ve been a vegetarian ever since.


(We’ll leave the guessing up to you). In the mean time, check out Jordan’s current and upcoming Lillstreet classes here.





Fabric Painting Experiments

One of the great perks of my residency here at Lillstreet has been the space and time to get messy and play with various surface design techniques, like dyeing, screen printing, and relief printing.  I am very attracted to the idea of transforming found fabric and making it my own via the aforementioned methods.

To that end, last week, I got out a variety of paint brushes and small objects, like children’s building blocks, and experimented with creating various marks and repeat patterns with metallic gold fabric paint applied to black quilting cotton.  I challenged myself to churn out as many variations as I could:  squiggles, circles, checkerboards, brush strokes, stripes, smudges, and more.

Gold fabric paint on black cotton fabric

Yesterday and today I spent some time cutting up the bits of fabric I painted, and started parsing through some piecing possibilities.  One option is below, pieced together in a combination of improvisational and precision patchwork methods.  I am excited to see where this piece goes.  Will keep you all updated.

Strip pieced cross block


Speaking of improvisational patchwork, the second session of my Improvisational Quilting class starts Thursday, February 16.  Sign up here!

You can earn more about improvisational patchwork and the class via my previous post, here.

-Tricia Royal


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

(LJ 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. LJ 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.)

(CORRECTION 1/25/17: This post has been edited to reflect LJ Robert’s correct name.)

-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.