2019 Teacher Biographies

Melissa Bohrtz
Melissa is one half of the fiber arts duo that runs Hello Purl. She has been carding and creating textured art yarns since she began spinning. She also loves to knit and weave with the chunky art yarns that she creates. She loves to use colors and textures in her fiber work including her embroidery art. In addition to her fiber arts business Hello Purl Melissa enjoys spending time on her little homestead with her husband, two boys, chickens and four cats.


Katherine Buenger
Katherine Buenger has a degree in studio art from Macalester College. She has been a member of the Weavers Guild since 2001 and enjoys many fiber related arts. Katherine always likes finding something different and fun to do with her work. Spinning the yellow pages, coffee filters, computer tape, and other non-traditional things and finding ways to weave, knit, and ply-split with them has been a fun challenge. She is not afraid to break the rules and try something new, and encourages others to do the same.


Leslie Granbeck
Leslie Granbeck is a feltmaker and instructor from Minneapolis. Leslie loves sharing her knowledge of fibers and their magical transformation into felt. She teaches traditional wet felting, nuno felting, and her favorite ‚three-dimensional seamless felting. Her classes are full of color, creativity and adventure. They also include a free workout as feltmaking is a ‚”physical art”. When not teaching, you’ll find Leslie in her home studio working on new fiber projects.


Mary Jo Harris
Mary Jo Harris lives in the knitting mecca of Madison, WI. She has been a teacher all of her adult life and has formally taught knitting for the last 10 years at various Sheep and Wool Festivals, Fiber Festivals, Knit-In’s, and teaches locally for Madison College, Olbrich Gardens, and the Wisconsin Craft Market. In the last several years, she has added Chair Caning classes to her teaching repertoire. Mary Jo designs knitting patterns and under her designer name of Jo Harris, has written a book entitled ‘Double Knitting – Inside Out’ which is available through Amazon or Ravelry. As an active member of the Madison (WI) Knitters‚Äô Guild she has an almost constant opportunity to discuss anything and everything knitting-related.


Maggie Howe
Maggie Howe has been running an herb shop for 20 years, and playing with plants and fibers for 14 years. She loves making messes and figuring out new and different ways to color fleece, yarn, paper and fabric using plants.


Stefania Isaacson
Stefania has been a life-long knitter, and started spinning and dying to supply herself with “the best yarns in the world!” She got her Certificate of Excellence in Handspinning from the Handweaver’s Guild of America in 1997. Since then she has opened her own business called Handspun by Stefania and taught numerous workshops dealing in natural dyes, spinning, knitting, and basket making. She has spoken about the fiber arts to numerous groups, and has appeared on Home & Garden TV as a guest on the Carol Duvall Show. She sells handspun, natural hand dyed yarns, original knitting kits using her own yarns and patterns, hand dyed roving dyed with natural dyes, and handmade baskets. She was previously a high school English teacher, and now enjoys teaching spinning, dyeing, and knitting to fiber enthusiasts. Most recently, Stefania has authored a book on natural dyeing, titled In Search of the Perfect Green, And Orange, Too!


Linda Johnson-Morke
Linda has been a fiber enthusiast for the majority of her life. Knitting started at 5 years old and twisting her hair at an even younger age. Knitting led to spinning (something more that her hair) which led to sheep and rabbits. Felting led to different sheep, trips to Norway and Mongolia and a passion for understanding why wools felt differently. Being an engineer by training and curious by nature resulted in many years of fiber experimentation as an outlet for her creativity. A 10 year hiatus from the corporate world led to a line of fulled wool products sold both wholesale and retail. A shepherd for more than 30 years, Linda has shepherded Navajo Churro, Border Leicester, Cheviot, Hampshire, Karakul, Finnish Landrace, Icelandic, Texel, Blue Faced Leicester (BFL) and Tunis sheep. Her current flock consists of Karakul & Icelandic BFL crosses. Linda currently lives on a farm in Isanti, MN and enjoys sharing what she has learned through classes and lectures.


Connie LaTendresse
Connie LaTendresse has been an assistant and teacher for Katherine Buenger’s Sami art classes for the past year. A weaver, Connie loves to work with a variety of fibers and looms. She teaches rigid heddle weaving at the Weavers Guild and other Twin Cities’ locations. An avid fiber lover, nothing makes her happier than to help others find their creativity.


Joe Manthei
In 2011 after a life-changing vacation to Iceland, Fiskur Leather was born and Icelandic fish leather started being imported. Although simple bookmarks were the first items Joe created, he moved on to quilt-block artwork and cell phone cases. Wallets were a struggle before he developed a simple pattern for using all of one side of a salmon. His minimalist fish-leather wallet fits easily in a front or back pocket. His line of Fiskuroo (fish + kangaroo) bifold & trifold wallets “like iron”. In 2018 he increased his project creativity and skills set and started building Market Tote Bags (large & small), Bucket bags, Messenger & Laptop bags and just finished his first briefcase. A small “weekender” bag and two sizes of a men’s toiletry bag (Dopp kit) have been created in early 2019.  His career path started as a chiropractor during which time his clinical nutrition specialty resulted in teaching many post-graduate seminars throughout the USA. Later Doctor Joe became Nurse Joe with an RN degree (BSN) and worked in the IT specialty of electronic medical records in a rural community hospital. He built the medical software as well as taught the doctors, nurses, pharmacist, lab technicians, etc. how to use the software. Joe and his wife, Pam, live in Mora Minnesota. They have four grown sons, three daughters in marriage and four grandchildren. Although retired from nursing in 2015, he currently works in the Mora school district as a substitute teacher/substitute school nurse when not creating with fish leather.


Chiaki or Dan O’Brien
Chiaki O’Brien is a SAORI Leaders Committee Certificate recipient. She worked as an instructor for the SAORI head office in Japan before moving to Minnesota in 2004. She teaches both SAORI and Bengala Dye at variety places to all ages and all abilities such as schools, fiber festivals, libraries and assisted livings. She is happy to bring joy to people through weaving and dyeing. She is a distributor for both SAORI and Bengala Mud Dye.


Bex Oliger
Bex Oliger grew up in her mother’s (Carol Leigh Brack-Kaiser) Hillcreek Fiber Studio. She started learning weaving and natural dyeing at a young age and has traveled the country for 35 years with the family business vending and teaching at Fiber, Weaving and Knitting Shows. She helped design and weave several projects and assisted with many workshops highlighted in Carol Leigh‚Äôs books,  The Continuous Strand Weaving Method and Nature Provides: Dyes for Rainbows. Bex is now a knitwear designer; knitting, weaving, and natural dyeing instructor and consultant; and owns Hillcreek Yarn Shoppe in Columbia, MO.


Kim Specht
Kim lives on a farm near Prairieburg, Iowa. Kim recently retired from teaching but still can’t find enough time in the day for the knitting, spinning, and felting she loves to do. And weaving is ‘looming’ in the not-too-distant future!   Kim’s Romney and Border Leicester fleeces have won awards at festivals in six states. At these festivals, she regularly attends classes taught by nationally known artists. Kim loves combining her love of teaching and the fiber arts.


Margaret Stump
Margaret Stump is a weaver, a teacher and the author of three books on pin loom weaving: Pin Loom Weaving, Pin Loom Weaving To Go and Adorable Beasts; 30 pin loom animals plus four playscapes. This third book, focused on small, easy to make woven animals, will be released in September. Many of the animals and other items from this new book will be on display at her demo booth in Building A. Margaret is from Mankato, she has been working with pin looms for over 40 years, creating a variety of items from Amish style blankets to tiny purses and headbands. She is excited to be sharing a form of weaving that is as fun and portable as knitting or crochet.


Becky Utecht
Becky Utecht raises sheep and makes art in rural Ogilvie, Minnesota. Formerly a painter, she turned to fiber as a medium after acquiring sheep in 2001. She is passionate about wool and has studied with many talented fiber artists over the years. Her artwork has won awards and been included in fine art shows, wool festivals, and publications. She enjoys teaching and sharing the magic of felting and fiber arts with students locally and nationally.


Carole Wurst
Carole Wurst is a fiber artist, knitwear designer and instructor based at Rocking Horse Farm in Saint Cloud, Minnesota. She is a nationally known lecturer and seminar teacher. Carole has written for several knitting publications and is the author of several knitting pattern books, garment construction books, and fiber instruction books. Her passion for knit textiles is shown by her enthusiastic promotion of the wonderful world of knitting and fiber arts.


J. Wurst
J. Wurst is the editor of MACHINE KNITTING INSPIRATION, a quarterly publication with patterns and knitting machine instruction. He was kept awake during his childhood by his mother’s knitting machine, and has gone on to design and demonstrate knitting machines on a national level. His published patterns have appeared in Machine Knitters Source and other publications. He organizes an annual design contest for machine knitters and coordinates classes at September Seminar for Machine Knitters and Fiber Artists.