//A First Time at Federation

A First Time at Federation

2016-10-10T09:40:32+00:00 October 9th, 2016|Uncategorized|

img_3036By Robbie LaFleur

The Federation 2016 retreat, with the theme of Northern Lights Nordic Bright, unfurled during peak leaf season at beautiful Mt. Carmel Camp in Alexandria last weekend. Enthusiastic fans of fiber enjoyed pink sunrises, great classes, and plenty of time to talk with old friends and make new ones.

Weavers Guild of Minnesota members were well-represented as attendees and presenters.  I was the keynote speaker on Friday evening.  The sound and projection equipment controls looked as complicated as an aircraft carrier, and the result was perfect sound and enormous images.  My favorite compliment following the talk was by someone who said, “I didn’t think I even cared about Norwegian tapestry, but I do!” Caroline Azine said she might even have to try her hand at tapestry, after seeing all the images.


Elizabeth Harrington, happily felting

Many of the workshop instructors hailed from our guild.

  • Hazel Lutz taught braiding techniques.
  • Maryann Olme taught “Weave Patterns in Plain Weave.”  Maryann’s most enthusiastic student may have been Chillon Leach, a super spinner. “Look,” she said when I poked my head into the classroom and saw her intent at a rigid heddle loom, “I’m weaving!” It was her first time.
  • Naomi Binsfeld taught “Not Just Stripes: Beginning Inkle Loom Weaving.”
  • Katherine Buenger taught a class on Sami-inspired tin thread necklaces.
  • Melba Granlund taught a class on making a toothbrush rug.
  • Chiaki O’Brien introduced seven new students to Saori weaving in her class on weaving a warp-stenciled scarf, and they modeled their day’s accomplishment in the informal style show that night.
Chillon Leach in Maryann Olme's class

Chillon Leach in Maryann Olme’s class

I taught a class on Scandinavian Fringe Embellishments, with a super set of students.  They were perfect guinea pigs for the first time I taught the techniques.

Slippers felted in class, and embellished with a technique demonstrated in my class

Slippers felted in class, and embellished with a technique demonstrated in my class

Plans are already underway for next year’s event, headlined with a blockbuster keynote talk by Catherine Friend.  People who attended the Midwest Weaving Conference last year might remember her great talk about raising sheep.  She is the author of the funny books Hit by a Farm and Sheepish.

I shared a cabin with Chiaki O’Brien and Celeste Suter from Montivideo.  It was a pleasure to meet Celeste, who weaves and spins in Montevideo.  I always enjoy spending time with Chiaki.  Over a morning cup of coffee, Chiaki told us about the first time she came to the U.S., when she was only 13.  It was on a 4-H exchange program, and she stayed for a summer with a pastor’s family near St. Peter.  She had never even heard of Minnesota. “I only knew Texas and cowboys.”

Attendees relaxed, but were almost always creating

Attendees relaxed, but were almost always creating

The Minnesota Weavers Guild is part of the informal “federation,” and the retreat is an opportunity for WG members to network with members from other Guilds around the state, and beyond, and a chance for us to take short classes from instructors far away from our metropolitan base.   Karen Boom and her mother Ellenor Kristiansen taught a slipper felting course.  The opportunity to work with their homegrown Iclandic fleece was so enticing that a second session of their class had to be added three days after registration opened.  I took that class.

The atmosphere is casual and congenial.  The grounds are perfect for hiking.  The spacious lodge dining room, overlooking fall foliage and a lake, and the nearby lounge areas, were always filled with people spinning, knitting, or weaving while they talked with friends.  In the evening snacks were put out, and suddenly wine bottles would begin to appear on some tables, brought by the people who thought ahead!  It was fun to walk around and gain inspiration from other people’s projects, or spend a few minutes catching up with friends.  “Which class did you take?” was frequently asked, and then you would learn about the classes you wished you’d taken, and maybe hope will be offered again next year.   Some people were spinning past midnight on Saturday.  Others partied in their cabins.

All the meals are included – so easy! Just show up! At each meal door prices were awarded; it was like golf tournaments where the odds are really good that you will get something you really wanted.  I came home with a beautiful felted hot pad holder made by Judith Preckshot, and a basket of thin, white, wool yarn (dukagang, perhaps?) and a stuffed pumpkin.

The retreat ends with a very short business meeting, basically to line up volunteers to organize next year’s meeting. Given the volunteers who stepped up to the plate, you should sign up for the retreat, next October 13-15, right now!  Door prizes, publicity (a Facebook page will be developed, too), evening snacks and hospitality — all the bases are covered and will be coordinated again by Katherine Buenger.  Mary Ann Olme is in charge of classes for next year, so if you are interested in teaching, let her know.

See you next year.