Most pieces that are photographed for the magazine arrive in the usual manner. An author proposes an article, we accept it, and the author sends in the material we need. Every once in a while, the story behind the photos is more remarkable—magical even.
I was sitting at my computer in our Loveland, Colorado, office editing an article, when an e-mail popped up from Madelyn van der Hoogt, editor of Handwoven. Madelyn’s friend, Judy Lynn, had recently opened a chest that had been forgotten for twenty years and found some exquisite handspun swatches made by Dorothy Reade. Madelyn was wondering if I knew of Dorothy Reade and would I be interested in the samples or know anyone who’d be interested.
My heart rate increased, my palms grew sweaty, and the hair on the back of my neck stood on end. I was, in fact, at that very moment, working on an article for Spin-Off about Dorothy Reade written by Donna Druchunas who is writing a book about Dorothy! I could barely contain my excitement to respond coherently.
Madelyn went on to explain that the swatches explored a variety of unusual fibers and were labeled nicely, as they had been in a display. She also told me that Judy had met Dorothy Reade in the 1970s, and that through her Judy had learned of the Oomingmak Cooperative in Alaska and of a beautiful qiviut wedding dress made of lace scarves that had been pieced together. At the time, Judy was engaged to be married and asked the Oomingmak Cooperative if she could borrow the wedding dress for her wedding, and they said yes! Judy said she felt like the most beautiful bride in the qiviut dress.
Judy has a collection that Dorothy Reade gave her—copies of correspondence from the Oomingmak, Dorothy’s draft knitting symbols, her knitting books, and lots of articles about musk ox. Through a series of events that seem too strange to be coincidental, Judy has now shared what she knows about Dorothy with Donna—who has plans to give the compiled information to Dorothy’s daughter with the hopes that Dorothy’s legacy can be given to a textile museum.
Then the swatches arrived in our office, and I got to touch a bit of spinning history—it is a moment I’m not likely to forget for a long while. I wish that you could feel them, too—but the best I could do was photograph them for the article about Dorothy Reade in the Spring 2009 issue of Spin-Off.