We’re just back from our twenty sixth Spin-Off Autumn Retreat (SOAR)—this year it was held at Pocono Manor in the Poconos of Pennsylvania. About 275 spinners converged on this peaceful setting nestled among tree-covered hills just as the autumn colors were hitting their peak. We filled the Manor with our spinning wheels
and fluff, chatting on the many soft sofas in the lobby and taking over all the meeting rooms with happy chatter about the differences between bottom and top-whorl spindles, how to reel silk, what’s the best climate for growing cotton, why a rigid-heddle loom makes a great tapestry frame, and how a new wheel should be “baptized.”
This year’s SOAR was graced by the presence of three Andean spinners— Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez (founder of the Centro de Textiles Tradicionales
del Cusco [CTTC] and author of Weaving in the Peruvian Highlands [CTTC, 2007]), Nilda’s husband, Paulino Huarhua, and Aquilina Castro, known as the fastest spindle spinner in the Andes and renowned for her singing of traditional Andean songs. Though there were language barriers, they proved surmountable in the face of spinners from different traditions who wanted to share their craft with each other.