Terri WilliamsSOAR Scholar 2012

SOAR scholars are asked to submit a report sharing their experiences as recipients and the impact the opportunity has had on their lives. Terri Williams of Okanogan, Washington, tells us about SOAR 2012 in Lake Tahoe, California. Kate


Counting pasture grasses for grazing assessments, high in the Washington Cascade Mountains, in my job as a Conservation District employee.
A student studying Stephenie Gaustad’s reconstruction of an ancient  Southwestern bag, SOAR 2013.

One of the pages of an article I wrote for 365 Being, an arts lifestyle magazine.

Wow! Has it really been a whole year, almost, since SOAR 2012 in Lake Tahoe? One of the greatest experiences of my life, so far! I so enjoyed the opportunity to meet great people, learn from terrific and inspiring teachers, and practice my newfound craft—I wouldn't trade that experience for anything. I must say a huge "thank you!" to the scholarship committee and all who made SOAR 2012 possible—you all ROCK! I find myself thinking about the spinning circle of the drop spindle, and thrilling at the way a passion has a tendency to create interlocking circles of connection.

First, my classes at SOAR really connected me back to topics and ideas I loved to explore back when I was a child… I have Native American ancestors and always wanted to know more about how they lived, what they did, and who they were. Stephenie Gaustad's excellent three-day Spinning for Historic Reenactment or Replication class stretched my mind into the past. I'd known fiber and spinning were ancient arts, but to feel that age in my hands, to appreciate the years of developed skill, to look at fabrics hundreds and even thousands of years old and realize someone like me used their hands to make such fine stuff—wow! And right at the end of the class, she displayed a bag reconstructed from a pattern and materials used by Southwestern United States Native Americans, near where I had lived for years. One of the great reference books on Southwestern weaving traditions that Stephenie brought to the class immediately got special ordered from the local library system and devoured night after night in the months after SOAR, and I circled back into the joy of deep learning.

I received the SOAR scholarship in 2012 by writing about my dream to create a local wool producers' marketing cooperative and local fiber festival, and those dreams are still dreams. But SOAR is a serendipitous experience, and you never know what may come of attending! In my very last class at SOAR 2012, I met a woman from a town a mere 60 miles from where I farm, whose daughter runs an alpaca farm. The daughter also attended SOAR, and though I didn't get to meet her in person there, we met later at a local Cooperative Extension workshop for women farmers. We discussed our marketing strategies and agreed to work together on the local fiber festival that I hope will bring together local producers, processors, and craftspeople.

I also mentioned to a friend on Facebook that I had attended SOAR. She is an artist and lifestyle magazine writer, and she asked me to write an article for the upcoming fiber-related edition of her magazine 365 Being. I gladly wrote about some of my experiences in raising and shearing sheep, and she published the article, beautifully arranged with photos of the Spinning for Historic Reenactment or Replication class project from SOAR, as well as photos of my own farm and sheep. Suddenly the ripples in the pond spread wider, when my farm's Facebook page received "likes" from all over the country.

This year has been a rather difficult one for progress on the producer-cooperative front, as I recently relocated, so fencing for the sheep, watering and reseeding the pasture, and working long hours in the mountains counting pasture grass at work have commandeered much of my time. But I did start a tiny store on Etsy, and wool I've been marketing at a local store has brought more crafters into the circle of those folks who are willing to help make the fiber festival a reality. 

I also had the joy of finding some of the wool I marketed last fall has come full circle. A spinner from New York State is now offering yarn handspun from Okanogan Targhee in her Etsy store—roving that I had originally sold to Paradise Fibers in Spokane, under a name I created to help myself and other local producers sell in larger quantities.  

My stepmother is a large-event planner and a visit from her this summer led to more discussions of the logistics of planning a large fiber event. The plans are more solid now, and I think I'll be having a fiber festival planning meeting around County Fair time in a couple of weeks.

Through all my travels since SOAR 2012, I take my small drop spindle, add a little more wool, and spin more circles—and I know that the threads I spin will eventually bind all the loose ends together, and the fiber festival and producer cooperative will happen. I'll be thinking of all of you enviously, you lucky folks, attending SOAR 2013, enjoying the wonderful classes, learning from delightful teachers and spinning, creating circles of fiber and friendship—and I'll dream of seeing you all again in future!



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