Saturday, September 29, 2007

Welcome to the Ranch!

On Wednesday of this week I attended, for the first time, a meeting of the Tucson Handweavers & Spinners Guild (TH&SG). Now I should confess right here - as I did to all the members attending as I introduced myself as a visitor - that I neither spin nor weave. So what the heck was I doing there?

Back in August, when I was having the month that I never want to repeat, in the middle of a particularly difficult day I ran into three great people in the unlikeliest place - the waiting room for ICU & CCU at Northwest Hospital. They are women that I have met before at Kiwi and at OPK meetings and workshops, and are all a pleasure to run into anywhere, but to sit and knit and chat with the three of them that afternoon was just a big, huge ray of sunshine in my day.

Now it turns out that they are also all three members of TH&SG. So we talked a lot about TH&SG as we sat and knitted, and that was when they told me about the fiber ranch. Now, I have to be honest with you, you could assemble a congregation of insurance salesmen, and I would still show up for the meeting if it meant that I also got to see the fiber ranch. Fortunately, no hard-sell experts were to be found on the actual day, but rather a large group of the warmest and most welcoming strangers & friends that I have encountered in the longest time.

For a non-spinner, non-weaver (tho they vow to change all that, but we shall see) the appeal of such a group is several-fold. As I said, these are darned nice people. And, they are darned creative people, too, with an enormous sense of humor. Just wait til I tell you about the study groups!

As with other guild meetings of my experience, the day started with the business end of things, and since they had not had a formal meeting all summer, there was a lot to talk about. For a stranger in their midst, I got a lot of information about how the guild operates and what they had to offer. Everyone who got up to speak was very comfortable in front of the group, and had their own fantastic way of presenting their information. This was how I learned that the TH&SG has an extensive library that some hard-working souls spent their summer cataloging and organizing. With 6 (count them, six) general categories. No one who was there will forget the number of categories! I learned of the passing of two members, and the obvious deep affection in which they continue to be held by their fellow guild members. There was talk of a sale of gifts from the family of one woman, to benefit the guild, and the establishment of a scholarship based on the gifts from the other woman's family. Upcoming events such as sales and shows were discussed. And there is a great community outreach program at Ochoa Elementary School, where they are helping lucky children to explore and have fun with fibers.

And then, there are the study groups. If the study group people will give me the leeway to paraphrase their group info handout I'd like to tell you a bit about the many groups this guild supports.

I've been talking with one member, Carolyn Webb, over the last year about the Felting Study Group that TH&SG holds. I have to confess that for various reasons I have yet to make it to one of the study group's meetings, but they sound really, really interesting. Every technique from nuno felting, needle felting, wet felting, knitted fulling, as well as felting artists & resources are discussed. My idea of great fun is anything that reminds me of the creative parts of kindergarten, and to me, the idea of getting elbow deep in water, suds and fiber and making art out of the process sounds too good to be true.

The next group that sounds really interesting to me is the Basketry Study Group. They will be constructing a variety of baskets using reeds, metals, cotton, paper, and found materials. I wish I had known about them in time to join them in making Nantucket baskets this summer, but there is bound to be lots of interesting techniques to learn and baskets to make.

My husband is really interested in the Dye Study Group. He has been wanting to learn to dye yarn for some time now, and would I be crazy enough to argue with that? This group will be learning about color and the dyeing of yarns, fabric, fleece and reeds.

There is also the Porrey Cross Weaver's Study Group, which will study selected topics in weaving. Their particular topic for the upcoming year will concentrate on the use of color. The Tapestry Study Group will focus on tapestry weaving structures used for both Navajo weaving and free-form tapestry weaving. The Marketing and Sales Study Group will explore marketing tactics and discuss possible sales venues. The Surface Design Study Group will study the embellishment of fabric to enhance the visual and/or tactile impact of the piece.

Last, but not least, is the Spinning Study Group, the people responsible for the handknit/crocheted/woven ranch you have been seeing here. This was their project for the past year, and my photos here can only show you the tip of the iceberg that is this detailed ranch. I would be hard pressed to name my favorite part, each element was so creatively imagined and fashioned, from the wanted poster on the back of the knitted barn to the rooster on top of it. The clothes laying by a log that were discarded by the skinny-dipping sheriff, who is now ogling the knitting Lady Godiva (wearing beaded pasties). The outhouse! With book, knitting and a tiny toilet roll, not to mention the half-mmon on the door. The cat on top of the ramamda that was made from yarn partly spun from cat hair, as the coyotes were made with yarn partly spun from dog hair. The knitted campfire, the clothes hanging on the line, the knitted wire fence holding in the knitted pigs!

I think you get the idea by now that this is a great group of people, who enjoy exploring the creative. Even if, like me, you are a non-spinner, non-weaver, I believe that there is a lot here to offer to anyone who wants to meet some new people and learn some interesting new crafts. Their next meeting will be held on Wednesday morning, the 24th of October at 9:30 a.m. in the Kiva Room at the Junior League. The address is 2099 E. River Rd.

CORRECTION- In my last post, I gave you some misinformation regarding the Gwen Bortner workshop sponsored by OPK and Kiwi Knitting. The Ten Textures classes previously described will be held on Friday, January 18th, and the Pocket Full of Color class will be held on Saturday, January 19th at Kiwi Knitting. Both are six-hour classes and are held from 9 a.m to 4 p.m., with time allowed for lunch.


Carolyn Webb said...

Hi there Lynda! I just read your blog for the first time, and was delighted to see the Ranch! Your article and pictures are wonderful! It is an amazing piece of work.

Wanted to let you know the details of the upcoming Felt Study Group -- we meet this coming Tuesday, October 2, at 1:00 at Sally Hall's studio on the east side of town, near Wilmot and Speedway. It's our first meeting of the "season", and will be very interesting, we'll talk about our schedule for the next several months, what we'll do, workshops, bring our new works, resources, etc. I hope you can come. Sally has a very interesting studio. If you or anyone has any questions, call me, Carolyn, at 743-4901 or email, or call Sally at 296-2642, or email her a She also has a website that is fun to look through.

I like your blog! Going back to read up on guage and lace! Hope to see you soon.
Carolyn Webb

Lynn in Tucson ( said...

Lynda, that meeting was my first visit to the Guild as well, and I second everything you said. What a talented, welcoming bunch! I'm thrilled to have joined.