When I learned to spin 16 years ago, I learned alone, from a book. I lived in a remote community where there were no opportunities to learn to spin. There was no YouTube, no local guild, no kindly mentor. I was adrift with my new passion, with no guidance. Then I found Spin-Off Magazine. Spin-Off showed me new techniques that improved my spinning. Spin-Off introduced me to new fibers that I had never heard of. Spin-Off inspired me to use my yarns in ways I had not considered before. But most of all, Spin-Off showed me that there were others out there who shared my passion for an ancient craft. I was not alone.
I sought out mentors, first finding workshops with those names from the pages of Spin-Off, then traveling to learn from others. I learned, and I wanted to share what I had learned. Soon, I was a spinning mentor myself. I was a member of a community. A far-flung, generous, giving community of spinners who shared their wisdom, their discoveries, and their love of the craft. Geography didn't matter in this community, we were all connected. And the gateway into this community was Spin-Off Magazine.
I knew that Spin-Off held an annual Autumn Retreat, and I decided that I had to attend. But, with 3 children, there was always a reason not to. I sighed and passed up on the excitement of registration day year after year. Then a friend drew my attention to the SOAR Scholarship. I felt that applying for that scholarship was one of the bravest things I had ever done. I held my breath in the weeks after the application was sent, dreading the inevitable rejection. After all, who was I to ask to attend SOAR for free?
In April of 2010, I received an email from Amy Clarke-Moore. I screwed up all my courage and opened it, to discover that I had, indeed, been awarded a full SOAR Scholarship. Once I stopped screaming, I actually had to ask my husband to reread the email to confirm that I was not hallucinating. I was going to SOAR!
And go to SOAR I did. I traveled to Lake Delavan, Wisconsin and I attended workshops and retreats.
I spun and knit energized singles with Kathryn Alexander.
I dyed with Deb Menz and Sara Lamb.
I was awed by the versatility of cochineal, thanks to Demetrio Lazo.
I spun silk and merino on a Takli, against all reason, with Stephenie Gaustad.
I sat in on a fascinating chat between Judith MacKenzie and Margaret Stove about body mechanics during an Open Studio session and learned Jacey Boggs's special wrist flip for thick and thin yarns.
I witnessed the miracle of Margaret Stove's method for washing Merino…
…and I spun super fine yarn from Merino locks under Margaret's gentle guidance. (Yes, her hands are ablur–she's that vigorous!)
I met and mingled with my community…
…including my fellow SOAR Scholarship winner Sarah Wilson and the lovely Linda Ligon.
I laughed, I learned, and I shared.
Then it was over.
I left SOAR inspired to make wondrous things from the beautiful fibers I had purchased from the vendors. I left with great plans for a shawl of energized singles, for a multi-colored sweater dyed only with cochineal, for a gossamer lace shawl.
I went from SOAR to a teaching assignment for the Olds Master Spinner Program, and I itched to get home and spin all those marvelous visions dancing in my head into reality. Then a month went by, and another, and suddenly, it was today. As I sat down to blog about SOAR, I struggled. I had no marvelous finished projects based upon the techniques I had learned to show off. I had no great opus to display.
Oh, I had the Helix scarf I was inspired to make by Stephenie Gaustad that was published to Spinning Daily.
I had my lovely lace shawl, spun and knit from fiber purchased at SOAR.
i had photos and memories galore, but I had no proof of what I had learned.
And then I realized what I had done instead of churning out project after project, I had passed along the knowledge I had gained at SOAR to others. I had taught non-spinners the wonders of cochineal in local dye workshops here in Fort McMurray.
I had shared Margaret Stove's washing method with Master Spinner students in both the US and Canada.
I have used the new perspectives on twist that I gained from Kathryn Alexander to encourage student spinners to try new techniques.
Instead of hoarding my newfound wisdom and inspiration, I had given it back to the community. I shared, as the mentors at SOAR had shared with me. Spin-Off, it's contributors, and the mentors who come to SOAR were the first introductions I had to the spinning community, and now I could pass the knowledge along as it had been passed to me. And now, with this blog, I have the opportunity to share the experience of SOAR with Spinning Daily members.
I have been fortunate enough to be invited back to SOAR this year, this time as a mentor myself. It will be my very great pleasure to meet the new Scholarship recipients, to welcome them to our community, and to share all that Spin-Off and SOAR have given me with them, and with everyone else who spins.
See you at SOAR!