words and photos by Lisa Mitchell
In February 2020, we had no idea that The Fiber Salad Gathering would be one of our last meetings. As a newbie to spinning and the Whidbey Weavers’ and Spinners’ Guild, I had been relishing the weekly gathering of spinners. That summer, when I first joined, I had never seen so many wonderful spinners in one place. Every Thursday this close-knit community of women gathered to spin together for 4 hours. With great food and extensive knowledge, they greeted me with open arms. When I won the Grand Champion ribbon for my handspun skein of guanaco laceweight yarn at Black Sheep Gathering, many of them were there with tears in their eyes. When I came back from my son’s wedding in California, they wanted a full report. I felt so fortunate to have found a circle of women who loved fiber and friends as much as I.
I’d been hearing about a tradition the group had done for years. They called it The Fiber Salad Gathering. I wanted to experience this event and asked if we could schedule it. On February 20, 2020, over 20 of us joined together to make Fiber Salad. At the time, we didn’t know this was going to be our second-to-last meeting before the pandemic shut everything down. At the time, I didn’t know how much I would treasure spinning and knitting the Fiber Salad I took home that day.
Making the fiber salad Each spinner brought leftover fiber or old braids to contribute to the Fiber Salad. The only criteria we set was that the fiber had to be clean and all natural. That made every color and every stray bit fair game. We weighed our contributions and then proceeded to separate the fibers into small, bite-size pieces. We made a circle and stood over a bedsheet that covered the floor. There, we shredded and separated all of our fiber and made a huge mountain of fiber.
Once in a while we would toss the mountain to mix in the newly shredded pieces.
It was beautiful and I couldn’t resist. I lay down in the mountain to feel the full experience of all that fiber at once. Peg poured more over me. The room was full of laughter and glee.
After we tossed the mountain of fiber thoroughly, we each gathered the weight of mixed salad that matched the weight of our initial contribution. Some of us ran our fiber salad through the picker.
Some of us ran it through the drum carder.
It was a fine day. It was an important day. It was a day that we all love remembering.
Spinning the fiber salad
At home, I couldn’t wait to start to spin my fiber salad. I had run my 2 ounces through the picker at the meeting, so I decided to spin handfuls straight from these random and chunky clouds.
It was not a smooth or easy spin as many of the fibers were different in length and texture. But it was exciting. As the pandemic locked the world down around me, I focused on enjoying the spin. I loved it when I came to some of the magenta roving that Ann had contributed. I thought of her and her sweet face. Then came some Gotland locks from Joanne which reminded me of her and her flock. And the beautiful blue/turquoise Merino that Cheryl had contributed popped against Janis’s white alpaca. I spun the salad into a random, artsy single. Then I plied the colorful with some beautiful rose grey alpaca.
A gauge-forgiving pair of ribbed fingerless gloves were the perfect accessory to make with my new yarn.
We haven’t met as a full group in over a year. I miss those women. I miss our gatherings. But I’m comforted by my Fiber Salad fingerless gloves and the memory of our Fiber Salad Gathering.
Lisa Mitchell raises guanacos and other luxury fiber animals on Whidbey Island in Washington. She spins, knits and writes essays about the connections between fiber, life and love on her blog at www.afiberlife.com.
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