In honor of my friend, Deborah Pulliam


Later today, I’m going to take a few minutes for a cup of tea and a bit of knitting in honor of my
friend, Deborah Pulliam. Knitter and writer Carol Rhoades came up with
the idea by e-mail and I decided to join her in spirit, if not in person. If you read this today, or some other day, and feel so inclined, you might like to gather with us in an appreciation of Deborah’s life and work that may stretch across distance and time.

Beginning this post is a card Deb P. sent me from one of her trips to Scotland. I’ll translate the back, because Deb’s handwriting was sometimes challenging. It says, “What more could you want? (Except maybe the wheel.) Just talked to a shepherd about black Ryeland fleece—hurray. Friend of a friend also has llamas, Jacobs & Highland cattle! Deb.”


Last week, I was in Maine visiting Deborah because I’d gotten an emergency call. This morning, another sad call came in.

Deborah Pulliam died peacefully at 8:30 a.m. today at her home in Maine. She was resting, and there were good people nearby. I have lost both a long-time friend and a staunch, sometimes fierce, ally in the quest for historically accurate information on a wide variety of topics, including textiles and books. She would have been 55 in early June.

One of the many projects she had been working on was a book that I would have published some day—a historically accurate group of patterns for caps from the folk tradition. She’d chosen the specific caps, outlined the book, and begun some of the chapters.

We do have a great, if scattered, legacy in Deborah’s work that others can build on. Deborah wrote for
Spin-Off, Interweave Knits, and PieceWork magazines and was active in the Textile Society of America and
the Costume Society of America.

When I edited Spin-Off, I never knew whether she would next approach me with something like information about luceting or a pattern for a charming knitted pig (Spin-Off, Winter 2001). She appreciated Edward Gorey along with Beatrix Potter. She loved rare breed sheep and was a proponent of the much-overlooked down-breed wools,
especially for socks and everyday sweaters. We both dreamed of visiting Saint Kilda, off in the Atlantic west of Scotland and home to Soay sheep.

Deborah wrote articles like the “Knitted Artifact” column for the most recent issue of Interweave Knits (Summer 2007, page 9), the “Fiber Basics: North Ronaldsay” article in Spin-Off (Summer 2006), and “Gunnister Man’s Knitted Possessions” and “Knit a Wool Miser’s Purse” in Piecework (September/October 2002 and January/February 2007, respectively). She was also involved as a scholar in collecting and recording information that others will depend on for their future quests; a small sample is represented by the bibliography that she prepared of Janet Arnold’s work.

In a second post to follow not long after this one, I will add a list of Deborah Pulliam’s publications in just one of the magazines to which she contributed, Spin-Off, which I edited from 1988 to 2000. The list gives a glimpse into her curiosity and intellectual rigor. As I am compiling it, I find myself compelled to pull out a few quotes from her book reviews. I’m selecting them to give a sense of who my friend has been and the kinds of things we have talked about over many years, quite often late into the night on Saturdays, with phone headsets in place and knitting in our hands, separated by thousands of miles and brought together by many kinds of fiber. Fibers are such small things to create such strong bonds that last so long.

All who would like to do so are invited to join me, then, in a cup of good tea and at least a few moments with our favorite textile explorations—or whatever you are passionate about—in appreciation of the way that Deborah Pulliam has always been rigorous and generous and down-to-earth in her pursuit of knowledge and understanding and connection without compromise.Teacupweb_2

Deb-in-Maine: I miss you. Deb-in-Colorado


11 thoughts on “In honor of my friend, Deborah Pulliam”

  1. Thank you for sharing this with us. You’ve both been a part of my fiber life for a very long time, and I’ll always be grateful.

    My deepest condolences to Deb’s family and friends, and to you. I’ll be knitting with indigo yarn and raising my cup.

  2. What a shock to hear about Deb’s passing! Deb and I corresponded a bit via e-mail years ago and I always enjoyed hearing what she had to say. I am just sorry I never got to meet her in person.

    What a loss for the fiber world. Thanks for your posts.

  3. Oh no, how shocking and tragic! I never met Deb in person, and only traded emails with her a few times, but she made a huge impression on me from just those few exchanges, not to mention, of course, her impressive body of work. She will be greatly missed, even IMHO by people who don’t know it yet.

  4. I am so sorry to hear this. I am just beginning to know her work, so thank you for your review in your other post. Most certainly a cup of tea and a few moments of craft in her honor are called for.

  5. What a loss! I was saddened to hear of her death. I know that she leaves behind a great legacy for us fiber enthusiasts.

  6. Deb,
    I followed you at Deb’s house and was there Thursday through Sunday along with her dear friend Brenda from Colonial Williamsburg. On Friday we sat in her living room and had tea and scones and Brenda told Deb about Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Wmsbrg and Deb had questions and took notes and was thrilled to hear about it. I will not be able to go to the memorial service but at 1 on Thursday will take a minute to think about her. Deb was a friend since grade school and was truly one of a kind. Would like to hear from you my email is

  7. I am sad at this loss and wish condolences for her family. I knew her from SpinOff. I think the article I loved most was that sweater from the Hampshire sheep. I wish I’d had a chance to meet her.

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