Thursday, November 19, 2015

Two weeks ago, I was here.  And it was wonderful. 

I've always loved the Spinnery.  My Mom had their books on her shelf in our guest room when I was rediscovering knitting about 10 years ago, and I would leaf through them before going to sleep.  They were full of inspiring, colorful, sheepy goodness and I yearned to learn how to make the gorgeous cables and colorwork in those pages. 

Who'd have thought then that the people behind those pages would become friends and colleagues? But I'm lucky enough to say that they have. Over the last few years, one of my favorite parts of going to yarn festivals has been visiting with Maureen and Kate and Eric at the GMS booth and stepping in to peruse the new colors and yarns and samples and squeeze everything.  I've also managed to design three patterns in their yarn - Champagne, Tanqueray, and Windward Island over the last couple of years,  but I'd never actually made it up to Putney, VT.

I'm in love with everything they do - from those old books to the Spinnery's own yarns, to Jill Draper's Empire to Julie Asselin's new Nurtured.  And Maureen's cabled cardigan design which was hanging in the shop - It's called Duncan and it 's gorgeous. (Those cables and that detail in the collar are stunning...)

It really was high time I found an excuse to get up there. So when they asked me to teach at their Knitting Weekend retreat with Ellen Mason (who I also love) I was all over it and happy to finally be going up.   It was everything I'd imagined. Wooly and homey and down to earth.  These guys are all about the yarn and the process and supporting the traditions and the farms behind their skeins. They work hard and they care so very much about what they are doing and how they are doing it.  

Ellen and I arrived early and got a personal tour from Larisa, while Kate and Maureen set things up for dinner. We began in the back shed, which is piled high with fleeces - and when I say high, I mean it.  Bags, boxes, leaf bags - you name it.  The farmers deliver their goods in whatever container seems to work, and they are all stacked here.

From there, fiber eventually goes into the mill to be washed, carded, spun, plied, and steamed.  Everything is covered in a light haze of fluff and it smells amazing. ( I was told that on some days, it's not that amazing, but hey.)  The Spinnery isn't fancy and it's not big, but bells and whistles aren't needed here.  The small shop is up front, about 8x10 feet square, with shelves going up the walls, just full of colorful skeins.  A door to the right leads to the mill in back.  Space is at a premium, and every wall is lined with more hooks and shelves full of parts, tools, packages of yarn, and boxes of even more stuff.  The story of the mill is documented with a collection of photos and newspaper clippings, located along the bathroom wall, which was really the only surface where space was available.

The photo below shows the awesome layer of fuzz on the antique machinery - and hanging from the ceiling.  Fluff, everywhere.

The off-mill hours were spent in a local barn that's been made into a bright and airy community center, where meals were served and classes were taught.  The knitters were a lively bunch and made for some really fun classes.  We had views of the mountains, yummy things to eat, and amazing hosts.  I got to meet and chat with one of the Spinnery founders - Libby Mills (wearing her original Islander's Vest!), who was seated next to me.  It was a fangirl moment for sure.  Across the room, Claire Wilson spoke a bit about her own knitting story and the history of the Spinnery.  It was really inspiring to meet those two and talk about all the changes in the knitting community over the years and the connection between the leap of faith they'd taken back then and how it's led to what we get to do today.

There was also a beer thirty spent at a local restaurant/bar and a Sunday morning coffee at the Putney General Store - both a short walk from the barn, so we didn't need to venture far to explore town.
Plus, there were Saturday AM cider donuts from the farm up the road , which arrived warm out of the oven, and were the BEST donuts I've ever had.  (Plural, because I did not eat only one.)

Don't worry. I left with a bunch of yarn in hand. One of the amazing things about doing what I do is that when I love and respect a business like I do GMS, and when I get all teary eyed next to the giant machines or yep, in the bathroom looking at photos from the 1970s, I get to support them in the best way I know how.  I bought yarn.  Lots of it.  And I'm going to publish things so you can buy some too.

Mountain Mohair in Claret, Mewesic in Mean Mr Mustard, and a few skeins of Sylvan Spirit. I may have a skein of Weekend Wool and a few others here already from previous festivals.

You can definitely expect more GMS designs from me in the coming year.  And if you want to learn more about the history and story behind the Spinnery, Ashley Yousling just interviewed original founders David, Libby, and Claire along with newcomer Kate for her Woolful podcast.  It's a great episode.


Greenmtnknitter said...

It was an amazing weekend!! I was so happy to have Thea and Ellen all to ourselves for a whole weekend and to work in a place where I'm surrounded by warm fuzzy friends!! Thank you Thea!

Suze said...

I have mountain mohair I've been hoarding for years, and a bunch of Sylvan Spirit I won in a giveaway with a pattern I would never knit. Shall I save them for a little longer to see what you come up with? Yes, I think I will!! I'd be up for test knitting again if you're looking this winter. Just saying.


(madtownmama on Rav)

Kathy said...

Cheryl and I once made a pit stop there when we were en route to pick up a wheel on the side of the road in Vermont. Great place! And great deli near there too.