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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.

29 thoughts on “Colorado!

  1. such a fantastic trip 🙂 I’m jealous

  2. Good heavens, that looks like pure, unadulterated bottleable awesome.

  3. What a feast, Abby! What an absolutely delicious post! I am so glad you had such a great time.

  4. THEY CNC EVERYTHING?? My god, the equipment for that must have cost a bloody fortune… sooo much more expensive to CNC than do it direct.

    Course, you can’t cast wood, so maybe CNC is the only way? I’d seriously love to know, since most of my machine shop knowledge is aimed at cars and airplanes.

    (and yeah, that is what a working machine shop *should* look like. unspeakably tidy shop tends to mean they’re just as tidy minded about measuring, testing, and materials… much love :D)

    I wonder if I can take a train to that part of CO…

  5. Wow.

    ::otherwise speechless::

    I wanna be cool like you! (started to type, “when I grow up”, but that’s inappropriate in a number of ways).

  6. Hey Emily,

    You should drop them a line and ask! From what I understood, and I’m gonna pass this along to Cindy Lair so she can correct me if I get anything wrong, they’re *moving* to CNC for everything that’s an interchangeable part and that requires absolute consistency. Consider the difference between turning by hand and being able to machine a part; consider how much less waste there is in slightly-off pieces; consider the speed advantages. Consider, too, that some other wheel makers may need to outsource the production of certain pieces to deal with those efficiencies, where as Schacht can bring them in house.

    Every single part isn’t CNC, but there’s a whole heckuva lot of astounding production machining going on there, and it is pretty amazing. They’re a high-end production facility. It’s quite awesome, and very much worth a tour if you can schedule one.

  7. Wow. That just looks so much fun – and I am waiting eagerly for your book 😀

  8. Damn. I want a tour of a wheel and loom production facility.

  9. Well, Abby, we just got the conversations started, as you know. So you have to come back. Although I think our paths might be crossing in August at the Sock Summit?

    Looking forward to your book. Photography is great fun, if intense. Glad you got to play with the Ann(e)s.

  10. Oh what a wonderful time you had. I’m glad you got to go to the brewpub as well. I loved that place. And Shuttles, Spindles and Skeins is so dog friendly! I felt so at home there, especially in their book section 🙂

    I’ll be looking forward to your post about Switzerland’s Paco-Vicunas.

  11. I had the great fortune (or was it foresight?) to take a vacation week in October in Estes Park. We dropped into Boulder during Spinning/Weaving Week, and were able to take a public tour of the Schacht factory. So fun! I found out that according to the serial number on my Matchless, Jane Patrick was in town when it was assembled, and therefore tested it herself. WOW.

    And can I just say, nice to have you blogging regularly again, dude.

  12. I am SO kicking myself that we did not go to the Schacht factory when we stopped in Fort Collins summer before last! We did stop to say hi to Maggie Casey, though! What a great experience this week must have been for you…can’t wait for The Book!

  13. Yay, yay, YAY! I love your book title and I can’t wait!!!!

    So glad you had such a lovely time and shared it all with us!

  14. What a trip! Woh. I would have loved to have been there for the spindle carnage! What fun that must have been. I guess I’ll just have to buy the book, huh?

    Hee! I see you have a Forrester sheepy in there. :

  15. You forgot “not a mean bitch.”

    (I can’t kill you. You’re the talent.)

  16. Why, why, WHY was I not a spinner when I LIVED in Colorado?!?!! What a fantastic trip! thank you for sharing.

  17. That looks like it was an awesome trip. Hope there wasn’t travel trouble. I have always wanted to go see Chris Paco-Vacunas.

  18. Wow. My HEAD is spinning, and I wasn’t even the one doing all of the traveling and touring and posing and spinning. I can’t wait to see the book, and I can see that even though I think I have lots of spindles I don’t have enough (I have a tri-wing and a round two-decker but not a Dervish, for starters.) Thank you for the glimpse into a wonderful world filled with supremely talented and dedicated people, yourself included, natch!

  19. Thank you for sharing your trip with us! Behind the scene photos are always the best.

  20. And when is YOUR book being released? Pre-orders? I couldn’t find it on the Interweave site. I pre-ordered Amy’s a few months back.

  21. I am fortunate to live in such a wonderful state and to have Shuttles in my backyard. Learning to spin from Maggie is a blessing, I’m glad you got to spend some time with her. I haven’t been to Schact or Interweave, I would love to check them out. You definitely had a fiber lover’s dream trip. Please come back to our lovely state anytime.

  22. What a trip! I didn’t do a tenth so much in 5 months in Colorado.

  23. I’m looking forward to your post on sidewise feeding of fiber into a drum carder. There have been some interesting posts on the TechSpin list but I have been waiting to hear from you and Sande on your take on that method. One question that comes up is does this just work on Judith’s own drum carders or can you do this on any carder?

  24. Oh Man. Jealous. That would be my ultimate idea of a holiday. No beaches or mojitos for me.Not that I’m saying it was a holiday – sounds like you worked your butt off doing all the things I’d give my eyes for, if I didn’t need them to spin 🙂

  25. Sounds like you had a chance to strick the right balance of work and fun 🙂 Now, if you’ll excuse me I have to go back and try to identify all the spindles in that bag!

  26. Sounds like a great trip! It’s so wonderful to meet some of the minds behind the scenes!

  27. I started reading b/c somehow I thought I ought to. And then I was captivated. And now I’m excited. And I cannot WAIT for your book, and I want to go to Colorado RIGHT NOW! and I’m wondering why we need sofas in this room when there could be wheels and looms and tall chairs for spindling and….


    I’m going back to knitting my sock now. Sigh…

  28. Abby I am so glad that you had a wonderful time in my home state.
    It’s wonderful to see such childlike amazement.
    One of these days, when that four letter word (work) isn’t getting in the way, I’ll hafta go up to FoCo, with the excuse to see my daughter (she works at the Wallyworld across the street from Lambspun)and pop in somewhere.

    I’m getting all excited just reading your post. Giddy is more the word I’m looking for.
    Just reading your post makes it almost like I was there or something. You definitely have a gift of painting pictures with words.


  29. What an incredible adventure!!! I had no idea that you had a book coming out and this makes me squeal with delight. Thanks for sharing all the stories and pix and I can’t wait to see the published work. I know it’s going be THE BOMB!

    Hopefully, you’ll be in the Bay Area for a signing… or perhaps I’ll see you at Sock Summit. 😉

    In any case, CONGRATULATIONS!

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