Roving Reporter: Fiber Festivals and Spinning Therapy

I recently spent a great weekend teaching at a fiber festival not far from home. For many people in my classes, this is their one fiber-filled weekend of the year complete with time to meet other spinners and shop for new fiber treats. Festivals give spinners of every vintage the opportunity to engage in their community. Not only can you buy an ounce of Chinese cashmere or discuss a Shetland fleece with the shepherd, but you can also connect with local mentors.

fiber festival

One-on-one time with other spinners can move your knowledge forward.

The last Roving Reporter talked about connecting with spinning mentors far and wide, but it can also be helpful to find someone local to help in your spinning journey. My friend Betty Barry, of The Little Shop of Spinning in Fort Wayne, Indiana, is a tremendous resource for spinners in her area. She shares important advice on spinning wheels, handspun yarns, and natural dyeing, and helps to build the culture of encouragement we all need in our spinning communities.

I stopped by Betty’s booth at the Jay County Fiber Festival, an annual event in Northern Indiana:

Betty Barry (left) discusses travel wheels with Mary, an intermediate spinner who wants to take her spinning on the road.

Betty Barry (left) discusses travel wheels with Mary, an intermediate spinner who wants to take her spinning on the road.

Q: When did you begin spinning, Betty? Did you have a mentor?

A: I began spinning in the mid-1980s when my husband Ted and I bought a farm in Southern Michigan and began raising sheep. I got acquainted with a neighbor who was a spinner and belonged to a spinning guild in Ann Arbor. Ted and I commuted from the farm to Fort Wayne, where we were social workers in private practice doing family, individual, and marital counseling. I then discovered a local guild and became an active member of Fort Wayne Flax and Fleecers, which has been an important part of my life ever since.

Betty has worked with natural-dyeing techniques since the 1980s, and enjoys teaching workshops for Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation.

Betty has worked with natural-dyeing techniques since the 1980s, and enjoys teaching workshops for Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation.

Q: You help to grow your fiber community in so many ways: through your shop, classes, and the guild. Do you enjoy working with beginners?

A: It has been a blessing and an honor to teach beginning spinning classes. I have discovered that the joy in helping someone realize they can create yarn from locks of fiber is as satisfying as helping someone trek through a breakthrough on their emotional journey in psychotherapy. That “ah-ha” moment is thrilling to share with a new spinner. Life learning happens in many ways, and I have been privileged to walk that path with clients and students.

—Kate


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One Comment

  1. Cynthia D at 8:16 pm March 29, 2017

    So great to see Betty featured here. Her talent with fiber is in her beautiful soul. So blessed to have her in my life. I only wish I lived closer so I could be her student ❤️

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