Lost in America

Hello Friends,

Remember the days when you would be invited to a friend’s house for a dinner party, gladly accept the invitation, and then have to “sing for your supper” by viewing their vacation slides?  Well, I’m sorry to say that there is no supper, but (lucky you) with the click of a mouse you can escape.

So, I have been fortunate enough to have gone on an inspiring trip this summer, and wanted to share some highlights, but understand completely if you have something else you need to do with your screen time, like deleting spam or reading usage agreements . . . so here goes.

I was asked to teach on Whidbey Island in Washington State, and planned to drive there for a few reasons. The first is that when I teach workshops I bring a lot of stuff, like a minivan full (lotsa yarn and lotsa samples).  The second is that my youngest child had just started college in Oregon, and it was an opportunity for me to bring him some winter clothes (and check up on him a couple of weeks after he had settled in . . . okay, spy on him little . . .) While also mitigating some of the potential empty nest symptoms (first time in 28 years that my husband and I would be without a child in the house) by abandoning the nest ourselves for a few weeks.

It was an amazing opportunity, though I did feel that it was the ultimate in “coals to Newcastle” because I would be teaching Deflected Doubleweave to Madelyn van der Hoogts home guild! More on that a little later.

So my husband and I set out to drive across the country and back with a van full of yarn, 2 rigid-heddle looms (I was in the middle of an assignment for Handwoven) and a cooler full of healthy snacks (ha!).

The trip was a revelation in many ways.  In this moment when our country is so horribly divided we wanted to leave our coastal (some might call it a bubble) and explore some of the parts of America that we didn’t know well.  We didn’t do a lot of planning, deciding instead to give ourselves some elbow room (time-wise) and research as we went.

We started by visiting the Oneida Community in upstate NY.  It was founded as a utopian community in the 19th century, but still has some  descendants living there today. And (we didn’t know this) you can actually stay in the main house as a guest. Highly recommended.

We then stopped for a short hike at the Eternal Flame State Park (a naturally-occuring flame behind a waterfall) in Orchard Park (tree roots also go in to the weaving inspiration file).

We drove up into Canada and back down to check out the Upper peninsula of Michigan. Enjoyed some seriously delicious smoked fish, and rode bikes on car-free Mackinac Island

We also spent an interesting hour at a taxidermy museum (tho’ this is kinda how I felt seeing all the poor animals)

We then headed to Eau Claire, Wisconsin where we stayed at the really great Oxbow motel (lobby upholstery was also added to the weaving inspiration folder) and I started thinking about a “state scarf” weaving challenge that would involve weaving scarves with yarn “grown” and hopefully processed in each state we passed through.

Wisconsin scarf (yarn from Woolnfeatherfarm.com) bought at Blue Boxer Arts in Eau Claire). After Eau Claire, we visited the Faribault Wool Mill in Faribault, MN. It is one of 2 of the remaining “vertical” mills in the country. A vertical mill is one in which the process goes all the way from raw fleece to finished item. That means, scouring, dyeing, spinning, weaving and finishing all in one place. We missed the tour (seat of the pants travel does have some down sides), but got a wonderful mini tour from the staff and saw their video of the process.  I was also able to buy a few balls of really wonderful fine singles wool (for $5 a ball!).  They had some massive cones on display that I begged for, but they really don’t sell yarn (imho they should!!). And we did pretty much spend all our “souvenir budget” on a couple of super wonderful blankets. I used the singles wool as weft for some of the state scarves both because I didn’t buy quite enough yarn for warp and weft, but also because I really like weaving warp-faced scarves on the RH because it highlights the warp yarns and makes for a really drape-y scarf even when using pretty hefty yarn as warp (I only brought an 8-dent reed with me🙄).

We then headed to Sioux Falls, SD where we enjoyed the Falls state park, and I was able to find a (very windy) place to dress my loom for the last of the Handwoven assignment scarves.

Here is a picture of some of the cultural highlights (must sees) that we enjoyed in South Dakota and Michigan.

We then headed to Badlands National Park and drove through in the evening listening to Aaron Copeland for a very moving experience (plus we got our first (non-taxidermied) glimpse of “wildlife” in the form of tagged mountain goats and prairie dogs.

Then on to Custer State Park and Mt. Rushmore for some hiking and gawping.

We drove into Wyoming after staying at the Rocket Motel in Custer.  We spoke to the owner who has been heroically trying to keep the chains at bay while preserving the character of his historic motel (yes, the 1950s are now historic!)

We headed to Devil’s Tower National Park for some more beautiful hiking and gawping. In this case it was gawping at the crazy dare devils who were climbing on the sheer cliffs of Devil’s Tower.

On to Bozeman, MT.  We stayed in Bozeman for 2 nights because I had some work to do, but also because it is a beautiful town with really fabulous food and Stix Yarn Co,a great yarn shop where I bought some Montana-grown yarn from Serenity Sheep Farm Stay.

A Montana state scarf in it’s embryo form.

We arrived in Missoula, MT on Labor Day and appropriately came across an active Union Hall.

We stayed in Spokane and had an interesting meal in a modern-day speakeasy in the stony basement of a 19th-century rooming house, crossed into Idaho briefly and then headed into the mind-blowing Cascades.  So very beautiful.

A photo taken by my dear husband, but which I have named “Lewis and Dork”

Through the Cascades and onto Whidbey Island.

If you have stayed with the “slide show” this far – bless you!  I will post tales of Whidbey weaving and the return trip (think the Great Salt Lake, Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon plus Kentucky Whiskey and alien visitation in West Virginia . . .) in my next post along with some weaving projects that I completed before leaving home and the cover of Handwoven’s new 4-shaft Look Book. So, come back . . . .