I returned last week to Northcroft, the sheep farm owned by Joanie and Dave Ellison just outside of Pelican Rapids, Minnesota. I was last there on a wintry February day to witness and help (for what it was worth) with their annual sheep shearing.
And on a beautiful, unusually warm end to September, they held their annual fall Fiber Day which drew some 40 women and a few men. All for the love of fiber.
There is an archetypal paradigm about the idea of a circle of women coming together to create. To knit, to spin, to stitch. It is powerful and comforting at the same time. I took my little piece of a half-finished potholder as my part of the day, but mostly I watched and listened.
I knew only a few of the participants – Meg and Joanie and Katy and Kate and Marguerite – and I felt a bit of an interloper for my inexperience in all matters of the craft, but I absorbed the companionship and came away refreshed and enlivened. A circle of women is a powerful thing.
Meg and Katy spinning –
The felting table –
Joanie stoking the fire –
Stirring the dye pot –
Drying the yarn –
Joanie says it best in the conclusion of her book, “From Sheep to Shawl, Stories and Patterns for Fiber Lovers” –
“On fiber days, people make new friends and renew old friendships. They share their skills with newcomers. Don’t you know how to spin? There’s always an open wheel to try out. Problems with the collar on your sweater? One of the expert knitters will have advice or a new pattern. Interested in color but unsure of how to begin dying? The dye pots are always going, with lemon lime Kool-Aid, or onion skins or one of the brilliant commercial dyes.
The fiber workers have brought me a new kind of community, one of shared interests, rather than the more common definition of community as people who share the same space. Politics aside, hometown aside, career aside, fiber people gather because they love the soft slide of wool fibers through their fingers as they spin raw wool into yarn, or the surprise when they pull an ordinary skein of yarn from the woad dye pot and it changes color from green to blue. Fiber people gather because of a shared love of fiber, because of shared experiences.
On fiber days, people walk the fields to see the flock, pick Common Mullein for dying, or willow for baskets. They share food and conversation, taking a day out of time to add another shot of weft to the fabric of their lives with a thread that connects them to other women, other fiber artists, back through time and into the future, learning and teaching, sharing and absorbing, but mostly doing.”
Thank you Joanie. “From Sheep to Shawl” was printed by the Wandering Minstrel Press. You can also find her book, “Shepardess: Notes From the Field” on Amazon Books.
Beautiful pictures, thank you.
Wonderful pics! I’m so glad women have not forgotten those old skills. Truthfully, I am at a loss as to how to perform such functions, mostly because it is the art of words that breathes air into my lungs. But thank goodness for the women who spin, weave, and do all the other fiber arts. Without them, our culture would be poorer indeed.