Certificate of excellence, part 3

Part 1 is here and part 2 is here.

The Project, including The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook and Handspinning Rare Wools

In 2007, I got caught up in The Project, which was supposed to be a comparatively concise effort, completed by August 2008, and has so far grown to require almost four years and has resulted in the upcoming publication of The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook, co-written with Carol Ekarius. I hope and believe the book will delight and inform other members of the textile community as much as the research, fiber processing, spinning, and writing required to bring it into being have supplied me with insight and increased knowledge.




And then there is the set of DVDs for Interweave, Handspinning Rare Wools. Plus teaching a few workshops on general breed-specific and rare-breed wools.

What next?

Well, I could undertake a certificate program (see part 1 of this sequence of posts). That would mean choosing not to write the next book I have in mind; perhaps not teaching workshops on wools, rare and otherwise; and likely not editing and producing publications that present other people’s discoveries and support the creative growth of the textile community as a whole.

It would mean I’d need to at least temporarily abandon the exploration of sheep and of wool and of other fibers that truly fascinate me (to complete the initial parts of the certification process). Yes, some of what I know already and want to learn might feed into the in-depth study portion of a certificate program, but I would need to jump through a lot of hoops before I got to that point.

I’m not willing to do that.

When I have read through the requirements of the COE program in its past iterations (the specifications have been revised a number of times over the years, and I don’t have a current set), I can already check off the majority of the experiences, although I would undoubtedly have to do them again in order to submit materials for evaluation. I would also need to pay more attention to my spinning in order to produce skeins of the consistency required for evaluation, something I’m loathe to do because it would require me to give up the adventures that have, for example, allowed me to produce the yarn samples for The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook, some of which (even though they were all produced in a rush) hint at the possibility that I might have the concentration and skill necessary to complete a COE in handspinning. (Or would I get a COE in weaving? Or do a certificate program in spinning through an organization other than HGA? Or complete a TKGA Master Knitter sequence? Is there a certificate in other types of fiber manipulation, one that would let me further explore nalbinding, luceting, bobbin lace, braiding, and tatting?)

Most especially, there at least one book that I want to be researching and writing next.

A digression about something I’ve learned from yoga

I’ve been spinning for more than thirty-five years. I’ve been doing yoga almost as long. I take yoga classes now and again, and at one point, when I was studying with an excellent local instructor, I realized that I had “given” my practice to her. I was no longer doing it at home for my own pleasure. I was waiting for her to tell me what to do, and for her to correct me.

Because my personal, daily practice is vitally important to me, I quit attending the classes and reclaimed responsibility for my own yoga. Without question, I learned a great deal from that teacher and have incorporated valued elements of what she taught into what I do on my own. I also do continue to support my practice by taking occasional weekend workshops—if I’m lucky and if time, money, and location all coincide, as often as once a year—from people I particularly want to study with.

Despite all these years of yoga, I have never had more than a passing interest in teaching it myself, any more than I have been compelled to earn a Certificate of Excellence. The thought comes; the thought goes. I want to keep these aspects of my life for myself, not give them away, as I do with so much else.

End of the yoga digression

Because I am so curious about fibers, particularly wools and most especially about all aspects of the sheep who grow rare wools, my own spinning will likely never reach the levels of proficiency and consistency that I have admired in the work of others. (It’s also a bit daunting to have been in regular contact for many years with yarns by folks like Stephenie Gaustad, Charles Black, Sara Lamb, Rita Buchanan, and Kaye Collins.)

I love spinning, and I love working with the yarns I make. I don’t care if they are totally consistent. I can count twists and measure angles, and that type of information makes it easier for everyone to communicate details about spinning through media such as print and the internet. In my personal life, I choose not to count and measure very much. The yarns I produce make me happy. The process of spinning delights me. That’s enough.

If I’m going to give in many and deep ways to the textile community, as it seems I am wired to do pretty much regardless of personal cost, I’d rather do so in a way that is both unique to me and, in my opinion, most effective and meaningful. My way seems to be through writing, researching, and supporting overall creativity in others. Not by earning a Certificate of Excellence in anything, as enjoyable and personally satisfying as that might be.

In my opinion, the sheep and their wools need a dedicated advocate more than I need a Certificate of Excellence, even if my concentration in earning such a credential did happen to focus on rare fibers.

So no, I won’t be going there.

Stay tuned here for more information on where I will be going. Some of it I can talk about in the very near future. Other parts need to stay tucked away for a while. I do always aim to achieve excellence, although I’m going to need to forego the certificate part.



My editing, coaching, and publishing work is not all about textiles

P.S. As part of earning a living, I also edit books on non-textile subjects. As with the books mentioned in part 2, some of the works highlighted below were staff projects, although most have been done on a freelance basis. My roles have varied widely. Sometimes I’ve just gotten the writer past a stuck spot; a few involved simple manuscript processing and copyediting; and on others I’ve guided the process from initial idea to completed book.




I think that’s more than enough for now. I’ve been knitting a bit, and have some photos to share. Spinning in scraps of time, too, and need to take pictures of that. The knitting and spinning are for the delight of it, and to keep myself moderately sane.


11 thoughts on “Certificate of excellence, part 3”

  1. I can relate with your thoughts re:COE. I haven’t gone there and I think it is due to spinning being the fun part of my life. I am afraid I’d be tempted to making it “work’. Tho work is so much fun as well.

    I do enjoy your unique perspective and appreciate the time you took to thoughtfully share it.

    Lots of wonderful books to add to my list – thank you.

  2. This all makes good sense. And this seems like a good time & way to assess where you’ve been and where you’re headed next. Such a rich and satisfying journey! XO

  3. Thanks, Diana! It’s good to be able to share these things. I tend to think of them as distinct items, because each book (or magazine, or article) is all-consuming when it’s in process.

    And Cathy, you’re right: I would make the COE process into work. Let me know if there are particular books you’re curious about.

    Meg, thanks for your comment. It’s definitely time to evaluate where I have been, where I am, and what comes next.

  4. I think you, at least, deserve a honorary COE, simply on the basis of all you’ve done for the fiber community.

  5. Thanks, Lola! That would be fun!

    I think of the pile of Spin-Off and SS&D covers as my personal "COE" {grin}. For the first five years or so, when an issue of Spin-Off came from the printer I collected an extra copy of its cover from the pile of tear sheets, put it in an inexpensive black document frame, and hung it on the wall, in a line with its predecessors. As I hung it, I'd take a few seconds to feel like I'd accomplished something (I was already well underway with the next issue; the sense of stillness was fleeting). And a few weeks later, when I was planning the next cover, I'd look at the whole set and think about variety of topics, colors, and so on. 

    After a while, though, I ran out of wall space. . . . For that reason, it was especially gratifying to assemble the electronic "wall" in part 1 of this series.

  6. Thanks for this series of reflections on your journey. I can especially relate to how your yoga informs your decision.

    There is a certain flow and rhythm to life and I am well past the age where I want to build dams, retaining walls, and diversions to the natural flow and rhythm of my creativity.

    I have a professional license in my area of health care expertise. It was gratifying to achieve that milestone as a much younger woman. But also important to remember that those letters required behind my name in a professional context were there to inform (and protect) the public that they were recieving care from someone who met the licensing requirements in the state where I practice.

    In my fiber life….there is no one who needs to know (or be protected) the amount of study and research I have done. The finished yarn, fabric, garment….is there to be handled and observed. That finished product stands on its own….the letters behind the name of the maker are insignificant.

    I am gobsmacked by the breadth of your work in publishing! Especially that you’ve worked with Tracy Kidder. Love, love, love his work. And the same goes for yours!

    Be well. Enjoy the journey.

  7. Valerie, I appreciate your comments. It was fun working with Tracy, on that book in particular. The house and people were part of the area we lived in. I helped with the last couple of drafts.

    Both Tracy Kidder and Mark Kramer worked with one of the best developmental editors I've ever met, Richard Todd (http://ow.ly/4wbNm), who, along with Richard Rhodes (http://www.richardrhodes.com/ ), helped me learn what editorial work could be–in addition to what writing could be, at its most rigorous. I've just discovered that Todd has written a book called The Thing Itself, published in 2008 (while I wasn't noticing much other than The Project), that I intend to read ASAP. Thanks for making an observation that led me to speak of him, to look up a way to link to his work, and to the information about his book!

    Editing and writing are, of course, completely different activities. I've done enough of both to have the sense to consult trusted editorial folks about my own writing. I'm too close to it to see what it needs! At the same time, as the writer, once the editor has made his or her points, I need to be the one who makes all final decisions. And when I am editing, I need to recognize that same ultimate responsibility on the part of the person whose work is the focus of our mutual effort. It's an intricate dance.

  8. This had been fascinating to read! I have always felt that a spinning certificate program might take the joy of experimentation out of spinning for pleasure and relaxation (escape?) I almost embarked on a yoga teacher program this spring, but in the same light I thought it would take away the pleasure I get from my solitary yoga practice. What an exciting variety of books you have worked on!

  9. I understand how you feel with not wanting to give up your independent love of spinning, as opposed to spinning for the certificate program.

    I am embarking upon my own version of study for the many breeds that you inspired me to seek out in your dvd “Handspinning Rare Wools”.

    Thank you for deciding to continue teaching us instead of doing the certificate program. Your reasons may have been personal, but we are all grateful to keep you in the sheep arena.

  10. Susan, I suspect that a yoga teacher training program of the right type could enrich a personal practice nicely. There are two “schools” of yoga that I would consider doing this in. Not this year, though–! I’m getting my life back together after the book.

    Pandorasslave, I’m glad the DVD has inspired you to play with the rare breeds. There is so much to be learned from them. It sometimes takes patience to coax out the best of what some of those wools have to offer, but that “best” is unique and worth the coaxing. Feel free to touch back in with comments or questions as you proceed.

    I’ve got tons of future questions about fibers, especially wools, that I want to continue exploring.

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