The world lost one of its best on Dec 10, 2015. Deb, one of my dearest friends lost her battle with cancer this week. This wasn't her first run in with the horrible disease. She had fought breast cancer a few years earlier and wow did she amaze me with her strength and positive attitude. I am feeling a ton of emotions but I wanted to share some of my fond memories about Deb and what a dramatic difference she made in my life.
I met Deb in 2007 when I wandered into Golden Willow and started my stumble down the rabbit hole. I took several spinning classes taught by her and I couldn't get enough. She was incredibly knowledgeable and I looked up to her so much and I have never encountered anyone who taught like she did. She always came to class with an abundance of fibres, books, magazines, tools etc and handed them out to whoever wanted them. She wanted you to try as many things as you could so you could see how different fibres spun, how they worked with other fibres, different techniques you could use to spin certain ways, or to make certain objects, secret hacks you could do to your wheel to make spinning a specific fibre or weight of yarn easier. She let us try out her wheels and her stash, and I am forever grateful. She wanted you to follow the rules - then break them. She told us that we were spinning (or knitting or whatever), we didn't have to go by the book. We were creating, and making yarn and that's all that matters. There are right and wrong ways to do things but that doesn't mean they were the best methods for the projects we had in mind. No wonder she always had waiting lists for her classes.
This is the first skein I spun in her class. When I took it off the wheel I was so happy because believe it or not, it hung balanced. I thought "yay, I made a perfectly balanced skein", but as you can see, its is SO underplied. I ended up having to re-ply this skein on my first spindle and I learned my lesson - which is of course exactly what she wanted. From that day on, I practiced how much twist to put in my singles and how much to add in my plying. I now always slightly overply my skeins to get the results I want. I took this yarn and knit a sample and made a spindle case for my beloved first spindle - a Tabachek, which came highly recommended by Deb as her favourite spindles.
She gave me confidence and never made me feel like the mistakes I made in my work were a big deal, more of a lesson. "You tried it, you saw what happened and now you know". I took every class she taught at Golden Willow just because she was teaching them. I had to be around Deb and I wanted to learn as much as I could from her. She is my mentor and everything I know about spinning I learned from her. She is the reason I have so many spindles in my collection. She first taught me spinning on spindles and I have always had a love and connection to them. I would see her spindle spinning on so many occasions, no matter where we were and loved their portability and her ability to get so much done on such an amazing little tool. We would discuss and compare spindles, trade them, enable eachother and I have continued to cherish them because of her inspiration.
She loved doing experiments, whether it be with natural dyes, energized singles, drafting techniques or which fibres were really the best for making bags just to name a few. Sometimes she was surprised by the outcome and sometimes she did them to prove certain people wrong. I highly recommend you read about some of her projects on her blog - Heart Like a Wheel. She wrote with purpose and right from the heart. Spend time reading her blog, you will gain a lot of insight.
She was often published in magazines like Spin-Off and Ply and her work can be found all around the web. Not only was she an accomplished spinner, one of her other loves was tapestry weaving. She taught classes for the guild and was the Artist in Residence at the Neil Balkwill for many years. People would drive up from the states in the middle of winter to learn about fibre from Deb.
Yoga was another huge part of her life. She held Yoga for Fibre Artist workshops and even my husband came to one because he had heard such great things about these sessions (and he doesn't spin or knit). She often said yoga was her religion and she found it to be very helpful and soothing in her everyday life.
She also talked so much about Olds Fibre Week and told me I HAD to go. Since the first year I attended, I haven't missed a year yet! I remember talking to an upper level master spinner in my first year there and they were all excited because they were going to be learning about blending fibres for spinning and I thought to myself "Wow, Deb taught us that stuff years ago!" and I felt how lucky we were in Regina to have someone like her in our fibre community. Deb taught a couple levels of Master Spinner and I have to say, the students she taught are so incredibly lucky to have learned what they did from Deb. She was an outsider because she was the first (I believe) Master Spinner instructor who hadn't taken the program. She's THAT good :) She was working her way through the levels on her own and I enjoyed seeing her homework and reading about her efforts and mistakes along the way.
I shared a townhouse with Deb in 2014 when we were at Fibre Week together and we drove up to Olds for a few years. During the long car rides and in the evenings and mornings we talked a lot. She always told me about her kids; Matt and Alicia and man, was she ever proud of them. Matt is an AMAZING musician and she was always promoting his shows and travelling across provinces to see him perform. We went to see him play this year in a Battle of the Bands contest, and as our jaws were on the floor over his talent, Deb's face just had a look like *I told you so*. She was just beaming. Her daughter Alicia has a huge heart and soul. Deb often told me about how she was always helping those in need and how she is a HUGE animal lover taking care of feral cats and doing everything she could whenever and however. She told me how happy she was that Alicia was her own person and how she was doing right in this world. She smiled so much when she talked of her family. I confided in Deb a lot too, as I looked up to her so much and felt a motherly sense coming out of her as she gave me advice and listened to me when I needed an ear. She always had time and never made me feel like she wasn't interested. She was also a big supporter of my accomplishments and that always meant so much to me. She even came to the Etsy sale I organized in Sept even though she wasn't feeling well.
Her and I often went out and did our Random Acts of Knitting (RAK) as she called it, and we placed our handknits around the city for people to find and hopefully bring a smile or some comfort to those who did. She wouldn't admit to her being one of the people doing this but she was so humble. She would wrap up a project knit from handspun (cashmere, silk, angora, wool) along with a encouraging note and a granola bar in packages, she was so, so generous. I would even joke and tell my husband to follow close by so he could snatch us these bundle so I could keep them ;P
She has shared several of her patterns on Ravelry, and I am casting on the Prairie Sunset Shawl with some spindle spun yarn.
Last year I had told her I wanted to grow a lemon tree from seeds and how I read that organic lemon seeds have the best luck. She started saving me seeds from the lemons she would add to her water and gave me a bag of them the next time she saw me. I planted those seeds a few months ago when I had heard she was sick again in hopes that as the seeds grew and became healthy, she would as well. My seeds sprouted slowly but surely and now I have 6 seeds growing and can't wait to see what fruit they bear all thanks to Deb.
I could really continue this blog post forever and ever, it doesn't even scratch the surface of how Deb has touched my life. She is the reason I am where I am with Knit Natural and she is the reason I fell so hard for fibre. She did so much for the fibre community and inspired everyone, everywhere she went and those who have been lucky enough to know her are nodding in agreement. I wish I could put into words how much she means to me, I am SO proud of her and will miss her terribly. As I sit in my studio, I look around and see all the fibre, spindles, books, magazines, bags and yarn that she has gifted me and I feel comforted that I am still surrounded by Deb.
12/12/2015 03:31:27 pm
With tears in my eyes, I poured over your loving memories of Deb. She was so generous and kind to welcome us into the realm of fiber with everything she could offer. I feel so fortunate to have known her. She gave me a passion for fiber arts too, and it's being rekindled as I think about her and what she has taught me, which is that it's ok to spin for sake of spinning. I remember she said that spinning is like music for the soul.
12/12/2015 04:35:04 pm
I'm so sad to hear about Deb passing! She taught me my first spinning class as well. I will always think of her with gratitude in my heart whenever I spin! Lovely post, Suzie.
12/12/2015 08:19:29 pm
Thank you for sharing these beautiful thoughts and memories. Deb was amazing!
12/13/2015 12:33:29 pm
If the Prairie Sunset Shawl pattern is available somewhere, I'd love to do a knit along in her memory. I never met her in person, but loved her posts on the Tapestry Weaving forum on Ravelry. Her Tapestry weavings were beautiful.
Todd L. Miki
12/14/2015 03:18:57 pm
I knew Debbie when she lived next door to me while growing up. I haven't seen her since then but was very sad to hear of her passing. Condolences to her loved ones.
12/15/2015 11:54:15 am
You have said everything in my heart. She was such a positive kind person.
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