Friday, June 27, 2014

Fair Winds...

It started with a driveband and the want of a lighter.

July 2011, I was at a fiber meetup at a local yarn store. And the poly drive band on my then-wheel decided to snap. Of course, as a non-smoker, I didn't have a lighter and neither did anyone in the group.

As my disappointment at a spinning-day cut short became evident, a voice from my left piped up with "I can totally fix that."

And this bubbly stranger with beautifully salted hair scooted over, tied cotton string on my wheel for a drive band and then mentally thought through other tactics when the cotton string didn't quite solve the problem.

There was a look on her face that I would grow to know well over the years; the "I'm too stubborn to let this win" face. ((I have my own version which she can easily identify.))

We didn't solve the drive-band issue that day, but we did end up pissing off the owner of the LYS due to a spilled coffee tumbler (a whole different story!)  and as I packed up the car, Erin bravely asked me to join her and a mutual friend on a road trip to a Fiber Festival.  My first fiber festival? Heck yeah!  So plans were made.

Somewhere between that invite and our road trip, Erin ordered a loom and taught herself to weave. I remember her telling us this at the Fiber Festival. She showed us the scarf she bought as an inspiration piece; and I rolled my eyes so hard my brain hurt.

You taught yourself to what? You bought a what???

But damned if she didn't do it. No doubt, she devoured every single book, web article and online video she could.  And she managed to produce some of her most beautiful wovens to-date on that loom.

In May of 2012, a friend asked me to demo spinning and fiber prep at a local teeny tiny Ren Faire.

When I asked Erin, her reply was "I don't do Ren Faires."

But with a little pushiness on my part, her tune changed and our Ren Faire tradition was born.

Pictured above with her rigid heddle loom, weaving the scarf that EVERYONE still drools over. I'm spinning some Cotswold on Erin's Nees wheel, and our friend Stephanie on her Kromski. 

It was one utterly gorgeous orange, red and yellow tartan scarf that made my brain finally scream "I want to do that!" (while simultaneously trying to figure out a way to Bogart the scarf.)

So I started scouring the internet for cheap rigid heddle looms. My budget was beyond tight and somehow I managed to buy not just one, not just two, but three rigid heddle looms which were completely and utterly useless when assembled.  I finally scored a deal; an older loom which was a twin of Erin's, but in dire need of some TLC.

And that's how my weaving journey began. My first project? A pair of mostly-cotton placemats for some friends of mine.  With random cotton yarns from Tuesday morning and some donated silk remnants from our friend Stephanie, my hodge-podge of weaving took shape.

I still remember the "What the hell is wrong with you?" Look Erin gave me when I told her I wanted to do plaid and no, I didn't find multiple colors to be intimidating for my first project.

I got used to that look. ;-) 

And since I always think things are less challenging than they really are, what was my next project which also garnered the "What the hell is wrong with you?" look?

A twelve yard warp.  Yep. You got it. 12 yards.

It was, as Erin says, a challenge.

Lesson 1. We ran out of packing paper. That crap is important. The amount of tension related issues due to this one oversight - I cannot even tell you.

Dec 16, 2012. I MADE FABRIC!
Lesson 2. Twelve yards of warp is a pain in the ass to beam. Period.

Lesson 3. Your 2nd real weaving project should probably not be "Teach yourself and your teacher how to do overshot." Although, to be fair, I kinda did rock at that. 

Lesson 4: (And this one is a repeat-occurrence that neither one of us has yet to master) Count your friggin heddles.  I am now the self-proclaimed master at string heddles. This one project, my second project, is why, folks. Because I'm stupid and didn't count my damned heddles. I think I tied 100 on one shaft alone. No joke.

Between the two of us, we learned overshot. And Erin provided encouragement and support when I got burned out and decided to change my threading half-way through the project and weave waffle-weave towels.

She honed her teaching chops on me that month. And only she will understand the agony and delight that was The Twelve Yard Warp.

We were invited by a mutual friend to sell our fibery wares at the Hermitage Museum's Holiday event. So we set up a little booth. I packed my wheel, Erin her loom, lots of fiber and finished goods, and photos were snapped and published. It was Erin's sunny smile from behind her loom which prompted a donation of looms to the Hermitage and the birth of the Weaving program and our very own "fiber studio."

Another Ren Faire was attended. I spun. Erin wove. (Again: Duh) We camped. I froze. Erin brought her own personal sleeping-bag warmer in the form of Sarah the Vintage Dog. Sarah developed a fan club.

My favorite moment was here:
Get used to it, Collins. You're just awesome
. I have photographic evidence. :-P
This is Erin standing at her loom providing patient, kind, steady instruction to a severely autistic teen who found peace and success behind Erin's loom.

The pattern and rhythm, the structure and logic, and the instant gratification provided by weaving struck a cord with this young lady that her large family had never witnessed before.

She took instruction, she listened and was not destructive, she sat in one place for extended periods of time, she focused.

Erin, who is a self-proclaimed introvert, who says she's not so great at teaching folks, who is not always confident about her interactions with folks with disabilities... Erin changed this girl's weekend.

In Octobers, Maker Faires were attended. We brought looms, wheels, fibers, hand carders, knitting needles, crochet hooks, nalbinding, and knowledge and caffeine.  No matter how hard we prepared each year, we were utterly exhausted, sporting swollen feet, and barely able to speak due to our raw voices.  

Our most recent maker faire allowed us the opportunity to invite our weaving students to a 'field trip' where they wove at the faire in public. They answered questions and demo'd their skills and made Erin and I so unbelievably proud.

Having a full team of fiber artists was such a different feeling than our very first fiber-demo at that very first Ren Faire. It was amazing to know that we had participated in fueling our student's love of fiber-arts.

In the fall, we started a new adventure, trying to get our 8 week weaving classes down to a 2 week project. We made it work and successfully cranked through several 2-week sessions before the holidays. 

And somewhere around there, Erin dropped the bomb that her family had received an amazing opportunity to move to London for 2 years. 

Being who I am, I got angry. She was leaving me. My friend was abandoning me to go off with some stupid boy (read: her husband) to another COUNTRY!? This was massively uncool.

((Eh. To be perfectly honest, I'm still not entirely over that feeling.))

The opportunity for the Collins clan was too good to pass up and decisions and preparations had been made. This was going to happen. When I saw Erin for the first time after getting the news, I saw the "OMG" on her face and realized my role was to be as supportive as I could muster (which often times was 'not at all!').   No matter how much I tried, my friend was still leaving. LEAVING. This was still very much "Not Ok." I'm positive I didn't hide that well. And I make no apologies for that - it was the way I could show her how she'd be missed since I don't do sappy too well (this post aside.) 

We wrapped up our final joint weaving class just a few weeks ago. It was the perfect weaving class at the perfect time. Our students were all repeat customers and Erin and I were lucky enough to spend the eight week session with students we thoroughly enjoy, projects we loved, and alot of time to relax and chat- which we both sorely needed considering the big changes ahead.

Last Wednesday I had a wonderful dinner with the Collins clan, inherited some goodies from their house due to their down sizing, and got a giant hug from a teary Erin. (I didn't get misty till I was driving down her street. Shh. Don't tell.) 

So, it is with utter sincerity that I offer my deepest thanks to my drive band.

Thank you for breaking that day.

Thank you for giving that woman with the beautifully salted hair the chance to pop out of her seat, spill a coffee tumbler, and try to fix my wheel. Thank you for giving her a reason to help me load stuff in my car and poke at my introvert boundaries by inviting me, a stranger, on a road trip.

A really long friendship was birthed that day. Right there. In the parking lot of that LYS. Thanks for being brave enough to make the first step, Erin. As a strong introvert, I never would have. And it would have been my loss. 

While the Collins clan indicates that their overseas adventure may extend past their original two-year-plan, I refuse to allow that to be a possibility.

She'll be back in two years. And then it will be my turn to go on a big adventure while she holds down the weaving fort.

In the meanwhile, I'll keep the class going as long as I can. I promise to try not to punch students. I promise to try to not trade all the looms for antique wheels; it'll be hard, but I'll make the effort.

The guild is still alive and well, of course. We are just now weaving a bit further away from each other. Though I can happily wind her warps and mail them, we've yet to figure out how she will beam my warp while in the UK.

We should expect to lots of photos and blog updates over the next few weeks as Erin goes on fiber-y adventures in London. She's keeping us abreast of this part of her weaving journey and I can't wait to see what she discovers!!

So, fair winds and following seas to my dear friend(s) as they start their new journey across the pond.

Its been an honor and a pleasure and lots of giggles.

See you in two years. :)