How does one start to answer the question, “Who are you?” I am a mother, wife, friend, teacher, retired military reserve officer, yarn shop owner, weaver, knitter, writer, graphic and knitwear designer, and so much more. I’ve lived. I’ve been fortunate to travel with the military, with my family, and with work. Today I try very hard to focus on the fiber arts, especially teaching.
Teaching stretches the brain in so many directions. How to reach the student? How to convey an idea? What words or illustrations can be used to make the subject simple to understand? People learn in different ways. Seeing, hearing, touching and doing. I am fortunate in that I can see and learn. I enjoy sorting it out and developing curriculum that will fit the other learning criteria and cause my students to succeed.
Mentors are so important in life. My dad began teaching auto mechanics when he was still in his 20s, started teaching high school when I was in high school and then got his college degree at age 40. Now as he prepares to enter his 8th decade, he can still occasionally be found in the classroom teaching kids about flying. Mom, on the other hand, taught us to knit and sew. Actually, I don’t remember learning to sew. It is just something we did from a very, very early age. It was a right of passage to run the sewing machine needle straight through your finger. The trick was not getting it stuck on the needle! Now mom has made more quilts than she can count (I am sure). Each child, grandchild and great grand has their own quilt. Most of the quilts she makes now are donated to the church as prayer quilts and to “Moms and Tots.” We lived with inspiration, leadership, creativity, and faith every day.
I opened Heritage Spinning & Weaving in 2000, to pass on my love for the fiber arts. I believe deeply that these arts are best taught and shared person to person and we have an obligation to humankind to perpetuate them. Whether you are a woodcarver, knitter, metal worker, or glassblower, these arts and skills and nuances and talents are made to be shared. For, if we do not share them, they die.
In my spare time, I volunteer one day a week at the Henry Ford Museum in the Textile Conservation Lab. I love, love, love my museum time. Working with the treasures in the Collections of the Henry Ford is such a gift. I have learned about conservation and repair and even when to do which or both. Holding history in my hands as I make repairs is such an honor! I collected my first textile — a block printed Persian pillow cover when I was 12. I remember how excited I was bringing it home — along with a locally crafted chest that I dubbed my “hope chest.” I still have and treasure both of these things.
One of the best and worst parts of collecting vintage and antique textiles is that there is often no real story — or as they say on the Antiques Road Show, no “provenance.” That is sad, but it is still possible to determine approximate dates, often areas/regions/countries, and to use construction techniques and materials to add further clues. I can imagine the rest — a sock knit for a future husband, a woven sheet for the home, one more mile of yarn spun, a lock of hair pushed back from the forehead in the hot prairie afternoon. When I hold an old textile or textile tool, sometimes I get shivers just imagining the life it lived and what it could say if it could speak.