I believe I travelled to the Mecca of the fibre world last week. It might never have crossed your mind, but much of the spinning, weaving, knitting and fibre world is headquartered in Colorado. Schacht Spindle makes my most favourite spinning wheels and looms in Boulder. Interweave, which publishes Interweave Knits, Spin Off, Handwoven, and a zillion other special fibre magazines, is located in Loveland. Fancy Tiger, a very smart and modern craft shop is in Denver. Shuttles, Spindles and Skeins, is another amazing destination spinning, weaving and knitting shop in Boulder. And two (of several) very special yarn shops, My Sister Knits and the Loopy Ewe, are located in Fort Collins. And now joining them, Craftsy.com, an online video-based education company is also in Denver.
Last week, I flew to Denver to film a class that I’ll be teaching on the Craftsy.com network. It’s called “Spinning Dyed Fibers” and it’s all about the different techniques you can use to bring out the best in your handpainted or hand-dyed spinning fibre. It covers everything from colour theory and optical mixing to navajo plying and combination drafting. I hope it’s going to be fun for you to watch, because it was honestly so much fun to make. (I even got to spin on a brand new Schacht Matchless… the one with the new scotch tension setup… awesome).
I was blessed to have the help of Liz Gipson throughout the entire process… I liken her to my fairy godmother, in my mind. Liz worked with me on the kernel of the idea, then in developing the lesson plan, and she was there during the entire filming process to help prompt my brain when I blanked out. And we also had a wonderful crew — Jarrod (director of photography), Nicole (the switcher), and Tiffany (makeup & hair). Everyone was so professional and talented, it made me feel like I was in really good hands, even though I was suuuuper nervous to start.
We shot all day Wednesday, Thursday, and half of Friday. That’s nine lessons, two bonus mini-lessons, and a little promo piece, plus an interview and some still shots. It’s a lot to fit into just a couple of days. There are tons of lights on set and two cameras set up. Jarrod and Liz each operated a camera, and Nicole was on the computer “live switching” between the two perspectives to get a “rough cut”. It’s pretty intimidating at first, but a lot of my nervousness disappeared when I got down to talking about colour and spinning. It’s a lot more difficult to talk about yourself, I tell you.
The evenings were relaxed and I got to meet up with Tabetha Hedrick (we have some exciting new things happening with her!!), Druscilla Pettibone of Petit Bones (she’s teaching spindling on Craftsy), and Carol Feller of Stolen Stitches (she’s teaching cable knitting on Craftsy). All such smart and talented women, doing what they love to do.
Friday evening was a treat as we visited Fancy Tiger to see Carol’s booksigning. If you ever find yourself in Denver, you must get yourself to this destination craft store. They have a modern/quirky/clever take on all things craft. You can find everything from knitting yarn and spinning fibre to needle felting, embroidery, sewing, quilting and weaving. They even have a couple massive classrooms in the back where they house a collection of sewing machines.
On Saturday, Liz was my indefatigable Colorado tour guide and our first stop was the Schacht Spindle factory. It’s freaking amazing. I find manufacturing companies so fascinating, and Jane Patrick and Barry Schacht came in on a Saturday to show me around their production facilities. I got to see how the different parts of the spinning wheels and looms are made, how they are assembled and finished… like how multiple sheets of wood are laminated together with a radio-sensitive glue, or how boat shuttles are carved out of a hunk of wood. While a lot of the manufacturing is done by machine, there are still so many points where someone is meticulously sanding bobbin ends or stick shuttle grooves by hand. There’s a lot of attention put into each piece. I don’t think I’ll ever look at my bobbins the same way again… and I’ll be more careful not to let them roll off tables and onto the floor.
We made our way to Shuttles, Spindles and Skeins, the destination fibre shop in Boulder run by Maggie Casey and Judy. What a haven for fibre people. First off, it’s 8,000 square feet. That’s 8,000! One room is full of yarn and fibre, then another room houses several massive floor looms, including the Schacht Cranbrook (which is a 500-lb loom), as well as all the rigid heddle looms on the market… then in the back there’s a huge space for dyeing as well as a gaggle of spinning wheels. And then, if you go through another door, there’s another massive room filled with 4-shaft table looms for teaching. I think the entire fibre arts room at Place des Arts is as big as their cash wrap in the retail area. I think the word for this place is awe-inspiring. Coloradoan’s are pretty lucky to have these resources.
In the afternoon, we drove through Loveland (waving at the Interweave offices) and arrived in Fort Collins to visit My Sister Knits. Julie has carried our yarns since last year and I am so happy I finally got to see her shop. It’s tucked in a carriage house and you need to walk down a little garden path and past the chicken coop to get to the shop. Inside, it’s two-stories, floor-to-ceiling covered in beautiful yarn.
And in the evening, Julie, together with Sheri of the Loopy Ewe, co-hosted a reception for me in Fort Collins. I got to meet Amy Palmer from Knitscene and her blog, Threadpanda, Sarah Read from Interweave Crochet, and so many other knitters. Sheri at the Loopy Ewe started carrying our yarns at the very beginning, in 2006, and it was wonderful to finally meet her, her daughter and her “elves”. It was so lovely to meet all these really nice people, I hope I get to see them all again.
What a brilliant trip. I thank Liz for organizing all the details and making it all happen! And I thank Irene Weisner for reminding me to breathe and talk slowly. Now, I’m back in Vancouver, having (semi) caught up on email and getting a crate of booth materials ready to ship to TNNA, I’m going to finish dyeing the June club tomorrow (I dyed half before I left for Denver). No rest for the wicked.