Packing again…

…unexpectedly this time, because there is a GENUINE SPINNING TEACHER EMERGENCY. And I’m totally the spinning teacher on call, so, you know. Gotta go.

But not before quickly taking a moment to blog that it just slays me that I get to say “There is an emergency that requires a spinning teacher.” I have images of, you know, carrying the spinning teacher pager or something. Having a red phone people call over spinning emergencies. Sitting in a spinning teacher command center that dispatches spinning teachers to handle emergencies.

Or the less glamorous vision: being a spinning substitute teacher. Then it’s like being called to sub for high school chemistry class or something. Nah, I much prefer the sort of Cuban Missile Crisis “Spindles of October” image with a spinning NORAD on the watch while people anxiously worry about whether or not this spinning emergency will come to a head or not. It makes what I do sound much more exciting.

So I figure I’ll leave you guys with this, and when I reach my destination tonight, check back and see who’s got the best story about what sort of emergency could require a spinning teacher to hit the road on the spot. Be inventive. Come up with good ones!


I’m back from an absolutely amazing trip to Colorado! While the purpose of the trip was to handle all the step-by-step photography for my upcoming book Respect the Spindle: Spin Infinite Yarns With One Amazing Tool, there’s a long list of “I’ll do that without fail if I’m in the area” things I also managed to do. Which I have to do again, of course, so they’re all still on the list.

First things first: photography!

My photo shoot was handled by my editor, Anne Merrow (on the right), and illustrator/photographer Ann Sabin Swanson (on the left). These photo shoots for step by step photography are sometimes referred to as “being locked in the Interweave basement with the Ann(e)s.” Technically, this description is inaccurate, as the door was never actually locked.

But from time to time, other folks stopped by to say hello and see how the shoot was going. Anne Merrow is not fond of being photographed — an irony which did not escape me. Thankfully, Spin-Off editor Amy Clarke Moore, on the right, is not so shy.

And neither are spindles and related accessories.

We used lots of spindles. Dozens. Scores, even. I used a different spindle for every sequence we shot: big ones, little ones, medium ones, funky ones, old ones, new ones, fancy ones, rustic ones, pretty much every kind of spindle that we could lay hands on given months of lead time and the resources of spindle addicts and the Interweave folks. That’s a lot of spindles.

We also used lots of fiber. Fancy fiber, problem fiber, weird fiber, luxury fiber, pretty fiber, fiber that was the right colour for the job, fiber from my stash, fiber from other people’s stashes, fiber I’d set aside just for this purpose, fiber I thought of at the last minute that got flown in from elsewhere… fiber, fiber, fiber.

It was total spindle and fiber carnage. By the time we were done three days later, spindles and fiber were everywhere, in every state imaginable.

The whole process was amazing. Leading up to the photo shoot, I tried to mentally address — but not panic about — the fact that the photos are make or break for this book, and that I know from lots of personal experiene how hard it is to get good photos of a lot of spindle techniques. But the Ann(e)s have this down to a science and were just amazing. I hope Anne Merrow will ultimately forgive me for the sass and backtalk (“What? No, I can’t stop it right there! If I try, the spindle will backspin and then it will fall. Dude! There’s the laws of physics to consider!”) and that poor Ann Swanson has not been dreaming ever since about jabbing my eyes out with a pointy stick (good for spinning with) in retribution for all the contortions, climbing up on something, and insistence that we needed both extreme close up and super wide angle views of whichever technique of earth-shattering importance we were shooting at the time.

This is Ann, holding the first two Forrester Dervish spindles, reunited for the first time since SOAR 2007, where Tom Forrester sent them to participate in a contest to choose their name. I was the lucky winner, and so I got to keep one of those spindles. The other lives at Interweave.

Ann also very kindly drove me to Fort Collins Tuesday night, where the inimitable Deb Robson and her daughter Becca took me for dinner and delightful conversation. Deb is one of the giants of the world of fiber publishing. It’s hard to know where to begin, talking about what she means to the world of people who care about the lore of textiles. I stand completely in awe of her work as a fiber artist, writer, editor, and publisher. Her devotion to what we do, and to getting the word out about what it means and how to do it, is well-known to anybody who’s been in the fiber scene for any meaningful length of time. I am such a huge Deb Robson fan… and I also really like her. It was also great to meet Becca, a totally remarkable young woman with equally fascinating interests.

It was also my good fortune to sneak out of the basement for lunch with Marilyn Murphy, Interweave’s fiberarts president and publisher, among other things. Marilyn is simply inspirational. Her large-picture view of the fiber and craft world is amazing, and she’s a vibrant and exciting person who it’s obvious can just accomplish anything she decides to. You can’t spend time with Marilyn, and not walk away feeling charged up and excited about all the work there is to do, and confident that it’s all possible. Marilyn, a past president of TNNA as well, will shortly be stepping back from some of her Interweave workload, to focus on the editorial director parts and I can’t wait to see what she does with that opportunity.

And then there was a delightful lunch with Interweave founder Linda Ligon. Folks, being a textile educator and writer getting to hang out with Linda Ligon is sort of like if you were, I dunno, a rocket scientist getting to hang out with Werner von Braun while he’s at the top of his game with carte blanche to work on the stuff he really feels is important to work on. I don’t know, that doesn’t even quite do it. The thing is, before Linda set out on her personal textile publishing journey in 1975, the whole world of textile lore was different. The resources that we have today, the communities that exist, the folks who’ve ended up pillars of the fiber community over the past 30+ years… you can trace practically all of that back to Linda at some point or another. And then, you want to be overawed by her, but you sit down and start talking to her, and she just doesn’t give you the chance; she’s so down-to-earth and grounded, while still envisioning great new things and ideas that for anybody else would be pie-in-the-sky, but just seem to actually come together and happen when Linda decides they should.

Returning from lunch, I looked at the Interweave building from across the street for a moment. “I absolutely love that it’s an old bank,” I told Linda. “I mean, it’s like… First National Bank of Textile Lore, or something.” Linda chuckled — I’m sure she’s heard that 8 billion times before. But it’s true; walking through the Interweave offices, the shelves are filled with books I remember from my childhood. And okay, granted, the bookshelves of my childhood were perhaps disproportionately full of textile lore, but there they all are, this astounding legacy of pivotal works, ranging from the most basic of pamphlet-type publications up to full-colour, glossy books… and, really, I get to be part of that? Me? Wow.

“We have a few minutes,” Linda said, “Come with me, I want to show you something, if I can find it.” I followed her through the part of the basement where the photo studio isn’t, back through stacks and storerooms and archives, to a dusty corner where Linda pushed aside some boxes and a folded-up loom and handed me a chair to put aside, and then emerged with a spinning wheel.

It’s in the back, on the right, and I didn’t take any close-up photos, and I won’t say too much about it because Linda says she’s going to blog about it. But it’s her first wheel — one she came by almost by accident, the wheel on which she learned to spin, in an era when there weren’t any books and there was no Internet and it was staggeringly hard to find anybody who was even interested in the idea, let alone anybody who knew how it was done. It was such a different world then… and so much of how it’s changed into what it is now is because of Linda. But she’s not a person who’d tell you that, or expect you to be impressed with her about any of it. All she’ll say is something like “You think people might get a kick out of reading about what it was like back then?”

Yes. Yes, I do.

But that’s not all! I also got to enjoy a delightful lunch with the Spin-Off staff, in the middle of what has to have been one of their most hectic weeks ever what with the launch of the new Spin-Off web site. I love the Spin-Off folks. I just love them all: Amy Clarke Moore, Stefanie Berganini, Karen Brock… wonderful, delightful people with whom I feel privileged to have gotten to work on a number of occasions over the past couple of years. And hopefully that’ll continue — even if our waitress did express that she was entirely grossed out by small bags of fiber on the table. Apparently, my batts look just like some sort of intestines or kidneys and are totally ewwwwwwww. Now we all know. Thank goodness.

Thursday night, Anne Merrow made me work more. What a slave driver. She brutally, cruelly, cracking a whip, forced me to start my technical editor pass through the page proofs for Amy King‘s upcoming book Spin Control. Sheer torture, I tell you. TORTURE.

Let me just say, Amy’s worked her butt off on this book, and the yarns in it are amazing. There they are, in that gigantic tub that’s more than knee high and at least 3 feet long. The book is good. I scribbled all over my copy, and texted Amy to let her know I was doing so. She and I have been friends and colleagues for a while, and she’d totally kill me if I didn’t do my dead level best to nitpick every little nitpickable thing in there. I did so conscientiously, and did not even once write “This yarn makes your butt look big,” like a real friend would.

(Her butt does not look big. Just sayin’.)

So yeah, you’d think that by now I was getting punchy or something. And you wouldn’t be too far off; I mean, just look what an action-packed week it had been! But it wasn’t over. On Friday, my long-suffering editor (who still hasn’t killed me, nor I her, so this is probably going to work out fine) dropped me off at Schacht Spindle Company, a serious fiber institution and another industry icon densely populated by giants of our field like Barry Schacht, Jane Patrick, Cindy Lair, sheesh, everybody there is a superstar. And they totally invited me over to hang out and have a tour!

No, seriously, a TOUR. And Cindy even let me take pictures.

Looms! Just look!

CNC machining! Look! Treadles! See? This is where they come from!

Bobbin ends in progress! Whoah. This was really wild for me, because it was sort of like someone who has been spinning a while but never seen a sheep, and then visits a farm, must feel. “Omigod! This is what it looks like on the animal!” except… about the equipment.

Look at the Schacht-Reeves wheels going together. Look at the flyers all in a row. Look at the insanely orderly workshop space. And did you know, every single wheel, flyer, everything, is all tested and signed off on before it’s allowed out the door? Cindy forced me to test a brand-spanking-new Ladybug. Never touched before. Someone out there’ll get one I approved. I promise I took this seriously.

See, if you know what Schacht wheels look like, just look what all you can identify in this picture. Look at the neat, orderly row of Matchless bodies, just waiting… wow.

The attention to detail in the manufacturing workflow is amazing. I could have followed Cindy around asking questions for days, being amazed by how they do stuff and by her prototypes… oh yes, her prototypes. Man, do they do some neat stuff.

I was so entirely captivated by the whole thing that I completely missed my cell phone going off, so Stephanie calling to ask me if I had ever heard that fiber could go in a drum carder sideways totally went to voice mail. And we’ll be coming back to that on this blog another time, by the way.

It was my privilege to try out Schacht’s prototype bulky/jumbo flyer setup, which works very nicely and features a few snazzy elements I think will be enticing. Let’s just say I’m definitely going to be ordering some new flyers for my Schacht collection. I’m also going to pick up their new, very light weight collapsible niddy noddy. And the morning there ended all too soon, but when I got into Jane’s Prius with her and looked in the back to see a Wolf, well, I may just have been heard to say “I could totally fit that in the back of a Trans Am.” So, you know. There just may be more shopping in my future.

And speaking of shops… Jane took me over to Shuttles Spindles and Skeins, where we met up with Stephanie Flynn-Sokolov and Maggie Casey, and went to lunch at the conveniently located brewpub next door.

Okay, seriously? That shop, with a brewpub next door? Somebody saw me coming. And there’s lots more to say about that, but that’s going to have to wait a bit. For now, let’s just say… go to Shuttles. Go. Omigod. Wow. I was late getting out of there.

Late? Late where? Why, up to Estes Park to see Chris Switzer and her paco-vicuñas. And again, there’s a whole post there that I’m saving up, because there’s no way I can cram that in here, and besides, I have the formerly-unbloggable-seekrit-project partly written up and stuff, and… you’ll just have to wait. And there’s so much more to say about my wonderful visit with the folks at Schacht, and I’m trying to see if I can’t swing making it to Jane’s upcoming class at The Spinning Loft.

Which, sadly, is what I’ll also have to do in order to spend more time with all the great folks in Colorado. I am so going back.

Dear Ed

Happy Birthday, pop. You would have been 64 today, and I gotta tell you — I would still need you, I would still feed you. I would still be sending you a valentine, Birthday greetings, bottle of wine. I miss you all the time, and double on your birthday.

I had big plans for a poignant post, which I even started writing; it’s all about old geezers and what a great old geezer you woulda been, and how much it sucks that you barely even got to be a middle-aged geezer. But as luck would have it — and perhaps there is an afterlife and in some subtle way you can affect this — it’s been a crazy busy day and I haven’t had a free minute to spend on maudlin thoughts of how it was your last birthday, when you turned 59, that was the last time you were out of the hospital, and you got to have an ice cream sundae. I guess being so busy is fitting — you would have told me there wasn’t much use in sitting around all sad even if I do still miss you. Of course I still miss you. We all do. But yeah, I guess it’s fitting to be busy, and especially busy with the sometimes peculiar work of textile evangelism.

But your birthday doesn’t get to go by unmentioned and unmarked. Let the record show that I still miss you. And man, what a year it’s been — so many things I wish you could have been here to see, like Nilda, Paulino, and Aquilina at SOAR (not to mention 3 generations of Franquemonts), or me writing a spindle book, or your grandson’s first band concert or him getting an electric guitar for his birthday, or me giving in and knitting a sock because Chad asked. And we saw that NOVA that you were on; first time I’d heard your voice since you died. I cried. I’m lucky to have that. Lucky to have all of it, and lucky to have had you for a dad.

I miss you, Ed. Don’t take any wooden nickels.


I’m finishing up one of the stranger packing-for-a-trip jobs I’ve ever done.

My suitcase is literally more than half full of spindles and fiber. Usually, I’d only take a few, but this trip is different. I’m heading to Colorado for a week working on step-by-step photography for my book, forthcoming from Interweave Press this fall.

I’ve already sent a slew of spindles off for photography, but clearly, not enough. Big spindles, little spindles, fancy spindles, rustic spindles, antique spindles, new spindles, materials for spindles… it’s sheer madness, I tell you. Looking at the whole thing, I don’t know what I was thinking.

I realized immediately I was going to need the big suitcase, the hard-sided one. This is not my favourite suitcase to travel with. I mean, it’s fine. But really, I’d rather be taking the lightweight small one that I could carry on or gate check. Except of course, I can’t go that route because I always take small sharp tools. So it’s just as well, because I really did need the space to cram full of spindles and fiber and hope I’m not forgetting anything.

I’m simultaneously nervous and excited about this trip. Nervous, because it’s an intensive photo shoot where I’m going to perform perhaps every single spindle trick I know, in a studio, on command, being photographed — and because it’s, you know, for a BOOK. Writing a book has been a totally fascinating process so far, and it’s definitely not over. It’s almost nothing like I expected, except for where it’s exactly like I thought it would be. It’s definitely consumed the vast majority of my coherent writing deal-o-trons for the past… when did I start this? Last summer. So since last summer. So I’m eager to be done and have the gumption to blog regularly again. But yeah, so I’m partly nervous — because this is another whole big step in the book-writing process, and this one, I just have no clue at all what it’ll be like. What I do have is lots of faith in the great team of folks at Interweave Press who are working on this project with me.

And yes, I’m excited — because it’s also a great trip to a major hotbed of fiber activity in Colorado. I’ll get to spend a little time with a few of my favourite folks in the fiber world, and visit some fabulous fiber places, like Shuttles, Spindles and Skeins, and Schacht. (Note to self: don’t forget good camera.)

And then too, I’m also nervous — because hey, this is a step closer to being done with this book, a step closer to it becoming a reality, and that’s both exciting and intimidating. Plus exciting! It’s going to be great to have this book, a truly spindle-focused book, out there. And I’m loving the fact that it’ll be my hands — just like in all of Interweave’s present lineups, the author’s hands are the ones doing the demonstrating. I find that so tremendously valuable as a book reader. And that’s another thing — I’m simultaneously a little hard on my hands because I use them so much, and totally overprotective of them. I’ve been being a major weenie around the house for the past few weeks actually saying things like “No, my hands have to LOOK GOOD for my photo shoot!” and cursing every ragged cuticle that crops up in winter weather. So what did I just do, packing? Bent back my index fingernail on my left hand latching my suitcase full of carefully-packed spindles and fiber and oh yeah, a few pieces of clothes (some of those are even “wardrobe”). It better not leave a bruise.

My editor has said to me several times, “Hey, you’re the one who’s always telling me how much you like seeing real, working hands!” And she’s right, I do. So I’m just going to go triplecheck my lists, make sure I’ve got everything, and get this show on the road. Wish me luck!