Hello from Vermont

Posted by Sylvia Olsen on

What a privilege, luxury, pleasure, indulgence! I’m not sure how to boil it down yet but I want to share it with you. This blog post might have to get written before I have time to line up the words just right.

In Chesterfield on the Connecticut River

On Saturday Tex and I picked up Diane (Morriss, publisher, friend) in Montreal and headed through the eastern townships of Quebec and down to Thornton, New Hampshire. That’s where Diane and I left Tex with a friend to go to a housing conference. We then hit the road to investigate interesting knitting/yarn destinations/people in New England.

A bit about the last day of our excursion first because I am still high on our Harrisville Designs experience. How’s this for an afternoon? With the help of a map (neither of us know how to use our cell phones to navigate) we found our way to a cluster of 19th century brick buildings situated over and along the beautiful bubbling Nubanusit Brook.

Nick Colony, a sharp, kind-eyed, enthusiastic, knowledgeable, curious young man met us in the retail shop. No, his father hadn’t told him that he had promised us a tour of the mill but that was okay with Nick he had as much time for us as we wanted.

He drove us down to the spinning mill where he took us step-by-step through the yarn-making process from designing colour to picking, carding, plying, steaming, skeining...shipping.

This is the place that makes Jared Flood’s wonderful Brooklyn Tweed (among other fantastic yarns). And it is no wonder. Harrisville has been producing wool since 1799. The Colony family has been in the business since 1850. This is a family company where the people have the land, the water, the community, and the production of wool in their inner beings. This is where making yarn is an art—the highest form of human endeavour.

I am encouraged. Yarn making, knitting, weaving is in good hands.

Backing up to the first day of our trip we visited Lucinda Iglesius at Mon Tricot in Sutton Quebec. We spent a wonderful afternoon with a group of keen knitters meeting around a table outside under an umbrella drinking lemonade, eating cookies and talking about yarn, stitches, history, designs, colourwork... What could be better? 

Along our way through Vermont we met up with Donna Duchanas and her family at the Shelburne Museum. There were impressive displays of quilts and hat boxes and cross-stitch samplers. I experienced a wave of empathy for my sisters of yesterday when hand-work must have made for tedious long long hours of behaving themselves. Thank you thank you Donna for generously sharing your enthusiasm (a kindred spirit) and great suggestions/advice on teaching and facilitating workshops.

The other highlight of the journey was our visit to Green Mountain Spinnery in Putney, Vermont. While it was a worker-owned cooperative it had the sense of purpose and the ambience of Custom Woolen Mills in Carstairs Alberta. It’s aim is to create quality yarns, but it’s heart is also in sustaining local sheep farming and in creating environmentally sound ways to process fibres.  Gail generously gave us a tour of their processing plant and patiently answered my million questions.

Green Mountain Spinnery

I am sure we have visited some of America’s best spots and met some of the country’s best people. Charlotte at the Ardmore Inn in Woodstock, the woman from Houston, Texas looking for a reprieve from the crazy oil business she has found herself in, the acting student working in the Harrisville General Store who promised us he would do what he could to make the world a better place, and more.

Diane enjoying a breakfast knit in Woodstock

We have seen no trace of the madness that is taking place in the US presidential election. Before this trip I ignorantly said that Americans should get the sort of president they deserve and that maybe DT was their man. I was frustrated by what I saw on the news—the imbecilic back talk of people on the streets uttering hateful, hurtful stupidness. The Americans we have met are the opposite. They are not only doing great things for the knitting industry but they are real human beings and deserve so much more than what it seems might be in store for them.

A very sad post script to a wonderful holiday:

We dropped Diane off at the airport hotel for her early morning flight and before we reached our hotel I got a call. Diane told us that her publishing office, her warehouse, her guest suite, her husband's art studio had burned to the ground. Late last night she received word that her husband, Jim, is fine. Two of her dogs and one cat are cat is still missing. Jim had time to save her computers, business files and precious art from the office. All her books are gone. All my books and many other authors' books are gone. Her rebuilding process will be long and hard and will take great strength and courage. If you know Diane send her a message, if you pray, pray for her, if you have positive energy, send some her way, if you have had a similar experience, pass along some tips. She will get through this, but we all need each other, and right now she needs us.




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