At the Library 1/25/24


At the Library

By LeAnn Kunz


Fiber Arts February 2024 is about to begin and we have a fun and festive one planned for you at your Washington Public Library. This annual celebration is possible with the help of those in our community and surrounding communities who have a love for fiber and textiles and are willing to share their talents and pieces. The generous financial support from our Washington Public Library Foundation and our ReBook room is also the fuel to make the engine run this year. Because of this funding, we are able to offer a variety of workshops and exhibits all free and open to the public.

We kick off the month early on Tuesday, January 30 at 2 pm with the opening of the exhibit Not My Grandma’s Quilt in the Helen Wilson Gallery and a program from the artist Erik Jon Olson. This presentation will focus on the origins of quilted plastic waste, the tie-ins with Olson’s ancestry, childhood, and career, and the conceptual and construction process. A reception for the artist will follow this program. Olson is an Iowa native but now comes to us from Plymouth, Minnesota where he had a 25-year career in the advertising industry in Minneapolis. After retiring, he began helping a friend with a business that repurposed single-use plastic waste into functional items. He embraced the challenge to use his design skills to create art from discarded remnants. Now he has moved on to craft large-scale, award-winning artworks from plastic waste that merge his creative abilities with his commitment to sustainability. You can view his pieces for the entire month of February at the Washington Public Library. 

Fiber Arts February would not exist without the loyal Sticks & Strings group that gather monthly at the library. Knitters, crocheters, quilters, etc. are invited to meet at noon on Friday, February 2 in the second level reading lounge. We will kick off the mystery knit-alongs and crochet-alongs and enjoy fellowship.

On Saturday, February 3 at 10 a.m. we are hosting a Needle-Felting Workshop with Megan Hammer. Hammer will teach participants how to create beautiful felted wool art as they learn needle-felting techniques step-by-step. Registration is required for a limit of 15 adults. Hammer is a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa, and has exhibited throughout Iowa, receiving numerous awards. She is passionate about sharing her creative process while encouraging an appreciation for nature, and has been a featured instructor for the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, Reiman Gardens, and Polk County Conservation. 

One of the things we appreciate during Fiber Arts February is our partnerships with our local art studios and galleries. This year Studio on the Square is offering two opportunities for a Multi-Media Painting Workshop with June Henderson and Nancy Albert. Register for Wednesday, February 7 at 2 pm or Sunday, February 25 at 1 pm. This workshop will enable participants to create works of art on canvas with a multi-medium approach, using acrylic paint, swatches of fabric, and embellishments. There is a limit of 8 adults per workshop.

Finger Knitting for Kids with Jenisa Harris and Erin Kaye is taking place on an early-out Friday, February 9 at 1:45 pm. 3rd-6th graders are invited to register to learn how to knit using only their fingers! Kids will have the opportunity to learn this skill and make a long ribbon that will be used the following week in Weaving on a Hoop For Kids. This second workshop will again be taught by Jenisa and Erin on Feburary 16 at 1:45 pm. Kids will fashion a small mat or rug with a simple weaving technique. Registration is required for a maximum of 15 for each workshop.

We will be presenting a Basic Embroidery Stitches Workshop with the Cedar Valley Chapter of the Embroidery Guild of America on Saturday, February 10 at 10 a.m. Ronda Smith, Martha Quint Lawrence, and Sandy Lnenicka will be teaching the basic embroidery stitches to a limit of 15. Children 12 and under must attend with an adult.

We will continue the current embroidery craze with an Embroidery Embellishments Workshop with Carol Ray. Register to join us on Saturday, February 17 at 10 am. Participants will get creative and embellish a graphic T-shirt or any fabric you would like with fun embroidery flourishes. Most supplies provided, but bring a graphic t-shirt or other fabric item to embellish. There is a limit of 12 total and children 12 and under must attend with an adult.

Our second partnership is with Art Domestique who will be hosting a Saori Weaving Workshop with Christine Williamson on Saturday, February 17 at 1 pm. Saori is a hand weaving technique that emphasizes and prioritizes creativity and expression. Participants will use many different weaving materials and colors including yarns of all types, ribbons, fabric strips, sticks, feathers, wire, beads and other bobbles. Registration is limited to 10 adults. Williamson grew up in western Pennsylvania and moved to Iowa in 2014. She is active in spinning yarns, dyeing fiber and fabric, many forms of weaving, wet and needle felting, and knitting. She holds a degree in Chemical Engineering and an MBA and has an engineering career which feeds her passion for fiber arts because it employs math, structure, fine details and problem solving.

Art Domestique will also be exhibiting the fiber art of Wendy Read and MaryKay Hymes as part of Fiber Arts February. Read was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and has influence from professional and amateur artists in her family. While she uses many fiber art techniques that she has experimented with throughout her life, there is usually extensive thread-painting in her work where the thread becomes the paint and the sewing machine her paintbrush. Hymes merges her science background with a BS in Home Economics, an MS in Human Nutrition and an Associates Degree in Fine Arts with an art focus. She is an award winning fiber artist and teacher. It is not unusual to see images of fruits or vegetables appear within her exciting and eclectic exhibition of quilted art pieces and paintings inspired by music and travel.

Although these exhibits will be available all month, a fun way to enjoy them is to take our planned Quilt Crawl on Thursday, February 22 from 4-7 pm, Friday, February 23 from 10 am-5pm, or Saturday, February 24 from 9 am-1pm. Begin your crawl at the United Presbyterian Church where we will be featuring community quilts, to Art Domestique to see the quilt work of Read and Hymes, to the Washington Public Library to view Olson’s quilted plastic waste pieces. Pick up a map and tickets (to win a donated quilt) at the WPL.

Recycled Runway has been a tradition at the WPL since I started this program as the teen librarian in 2013. Jenisa Harris continues this program with 5th through 12th graders on Friday, February 23 at 1:45 pm. There is no registration, just show up and create a piece of clothing from recycled books, magazines, and newspapers!

We are very excited to be hosting a big finale for Fiber Arts February with a Textile Design Presentation by Conni Spotts and Lily Jiang, two doctoral students at Iowa State University in the Department of Apparel, Merchandising, and Design. This will take place on Saturday, February 24 at 10 am. Both presenters will be discussing their unique approaches to the process of design. Spotts, now a doctoral candidate studying fashion history and creative design, comes with 21 years in the US Navy as an Engineering Duty Officer supervising ship maintenance and construction. Her degrees in Electrical and Mechanical Engineering have paved the way for her Apparel Engineering! Jiang has a passion for utilizing innovative technology to promote sustainable design and development in the apparel industry. She holds a masters degree in Apparel Design from Central Michigan University, bachelor’s degree in Women’s Wear from the London College of Fashion, and a bachelor’s degree in fashion design from the Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology. She has spent the last 6 six years in the United States working towards her ultimate goal to create sustainable, eco-friendly clothing that is stylish and affordable.

And that is not all! The library is pleased to be featuring three fiber arts exhibits throughout the entire month. Besides the work of Erik Jon Olson mentioned earlier, Julie Zahs is displaying Fiber Art of the Marshall Islands in the first floor front display cabinet. Zahs grew up in Kalona, Iowa and got her BS in education at Iowa State. After college she served in the Peace Corps on the Marshall Islands for 1972-1974. She was given many baskets, mats, jewelry items etc. and she also spent time making these handicrafts with the women on the isolated outer islands. Her show is a mixture of the Marshallese arts created with pandanas, coconut leaves and shells, sea shells, and wood made by her and those local folks. Zahs taught in the Peace Corps, Mid-Prairie, and preschools in Washington.  

In addition on the second level, we will unveil our whimsical exhibit made by members of Sticks & Strings. We Dreamed of a Garden in Winter will transform a cabinet into a faux garden where you will see a wide variety of plants and creatures growing and cavorting! Bring the kids to enjoy a little bit of summer in the middle of winter.

All registrations for workshops can be found on our February events calendar at or call 319-653-2726. If registrations are full, you can still put your name on the waiting list in case a spot opens. I hope you will enjoy the many opportunities to celebrate Fiber Arts February with us!