A week ago I drove up through northeast Alabama to Monteagle in the mountains of Tennessee. The sky was clear, and even though twisted billboards and splintered tree trunks gave evidence of the recent deadly tornados that tore through these valleys in April, the road side meadows showe no signs of nature’s abuse. In fact, Queen-Anne’s-lace, pink bindweed, yellow daisies and purple joe-pye weed bloomed in clumps all along the way. No landscape designer could have scattered the colors more artfully.
|Cloister at Dubose Conference Center|
All this color was a great introduction to my destination, Lynne Vogel’s Hands On Color spinning workshop at the Dubose Conference Center. Beside the residence hall, the cherry tree was filled with ripe, slightly tart cherries, the rose bushes were in fragrant bloom in the little cloister garden, all presages of a weekend of rich color.
Once I arrived, I checked into my room, and settled in with nine other spinners to learn new skills and revel in Lynne’s world of rich, complex color spun into art yarn, those amazing skeins of luxurious, textured yarns that are featured in yarn stores like Tiffany jewels, and Lynne’s yarns, displayed near a sunny window, glowed like jewels with their multi-faceted textures in coils, locks, and even beads and fabrics.
Spinners always turn out to be fascinating people. Over the course of the weekend, as we got to know each other, I was amused, impressed, and touched by every person in the group.
|Art yarn by Lynne Vogel|
Some had been spinning for decades, others only for months, but each spinner had a palette of colors all her own, and by the end of the weekend, each had created breathtaking skeins of yarn.
Lynne introduced us to a wide range of techniques, from spinning thin-and-thick singles to coil wrapping and coilless wrapping, auto-wrapping and introducing diverse fibers by creating “mini-batts.”
|Lynne's art yarns|
So many techniques that I have had to go back this week and practice the ones I didn’t get a chance to master during the weekend.
My goal was to learn how to spin fatter yarns and how to introduce texture. I did learn to do both. I also had the good fortune to peek over their shoulders at nine other spinners, as well as Lynne, who was generous in demonstrating every technique on her own wheel. All the workshop skeins were stunning. Each spinner had a palette of rich hues and tones particular to her own color vision. Greens and blues like a tropical paradise contrasted with deep, mysterious reds and purples.
On the last morning of the workshop, Lynne and Jan Quarles laid out an enormous assortment of fibers on a long table. Each of us selected a “fiber salad” made up of fibers of our choice. We blended the mix on drum carders and spun up our salad batts. Amazingly enough, the random salads blended with our other skeins. Each of us was drawn to the same group of colors.
This time, my palette was earth tones of pinky, purply browns with pale blue and lilac accents. Looking at my sample skeins, I recognize a sea-change in my color sense. I have shifted away from the jewel tones I favored before. These are more complex, more reflective of the summer season fast approaching, or maybe reflecting some seismic shift inside of me.
After a good fiber workshop, I’m left with the existential question: how to I integrate all of this into my work? What kind of yarn do I want to spin? And why? And for what kind of final product?
I have lots of happy spinning ahead of me in the coming months. Techniques to master, fibers to learn about, yarns to treasure, plans to make for sweaters and scarves, hats and cowls. I’ll be back next year to see my new spinning friends and revel for two days in hands-on color.