Spinning Together, Back in the Day

I was cleaning out some piles of stuff in my office the other day (I will say right up front, I probably win the prize for piles), and ran across an oooold copy of Spin-Off advertising our very first Spin-Off Autumn Retreat. That's what we called it then—the acronym came later. It said, "We're not planning the usual keynote speeches, seminars, and workshops. Instead, we'll have . . . excellent spinners, each with a different area of expertise, to spin along in small groups, sharing what they know . . . we'll have knitting bees, weed hikes, new fibers and equipment to try . . . and time to learn a great deal, or take your wheel and go find a quiet place in the woods if that feels better."

Deb Robson, Linda Ligon, and Dale
Pettigrew at SOAR 1987.


Kim Desko, Charlene Abrams, and
Jeannine Glaves at SOAR 2007.


We've come a long way. From those early three days of leisurely, unstructured sessions and lots of hanging-out time, we now have a full week of intense, content-packed workshops and seminars, and after-hours events that sometimes run late into the night.  Never a dull moment! This reflects the evolution of spinning as a contemporary craft, and it's all good. But what I sometimes miss are the serendipitous moments, the ones that are not in the program, that are not in the lesson plans or handouts.

I'm looking forward to SOAR this year more than ever, because we've built in some of those wonderful serendipity opportunities. What we're calling "open studio," where you can just hang out with a mentor or two of your choice with no agenda except what you want to ask them about—well, in olden times that was just hanging out, and it wasn't formal at all. It happened when it happened. This way is better, because it gives our mentors a little less structured time, too, and a chance to learn from each other.

Two rising stars (and a lode star) in the spinning world

Another thing I'm really looking forward to is some learning time with our new mentors—people who are less well-known and less published, hidden treasures. I can't wait to ask Bobbi Daniels why I had such a struggle plying two different angora fibers the other night—why the clipped and the plucked just didn't want to play together. To put it mildly. I first met Bobbi at SOAR last year, and was impressed with how much she knows and what a natural teacher she is. I also want an update from her on her cottage-industry spinning project with native women in Sitka, Alaska.

It's hard to think of Jeannine Glaves as a "new" mentor, because she's been coming to SOAR almost from the beginning and many of us have learned a lot from her over the years. But what's interesting about Jeannine is that every year, she turns up with new and unexpected surprises, and they are always so well mastered and well executed. I'll never forget the fashion show where her "fashion statement" was a length of inkle weaving, all handspun, that stretched most of the way around the room—with her little life lessons all worked out in pick-up weave. It was a stunner in every way—made you laugh, made you cry, made you marvel at the art of it all. Jeannine can spin almost anything, and she's a teacher 24/7, but very unassuming in that role. Her sessions will be a treat.

Deanna Dailey is our other first-time mentor this year, and her approach to spinning takes me right back to my own beginnings in the craft, when we would sally forth into our backyards and spin, dye, weave, and make baskets out of just about anything we could lay hands on. Daylily leaves! Cottonwood cotton! Willow twigs! Funky mushrooms! It was all fair game for creating, and I still have some of those creations. I can't wait to find out what Deanna means by her "primitive hand wrapping" technique. It's a new frontier all over again.

Or just stay home and spin!

If you're not going to SOAR this year, consider giving yourself a do-it-yourself version. Take some time that last week in October to tune out the world, try things you've never tried before, give yourself some contemplative moments with your spindle or wheel. Finish a project that's been languishing, try a challenging new fiber or technique, or just sit a while and savor the privilege of being a spinner.



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