Big News at Spirit Trail Fiberworks

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I had planned to send this out as a newsletter today but, ah, somehow I managed to delete my entire subscriber list (yeah, big, giant ::headdesk:: moment there). If you’d like to keep in touch via my newsletter, please go resubscribe, with my apologies.

Who would have thought, when I took that dye workshop with a friend at Stony Mountain Fibers in Charlottesville, VA way back in 2002 that, 18 years later, I’d still be dyeing yarn? When I came home from that workshop and announced I was going to start a business dyeing yarn, my family thought I was more than a little bit wacky. Yarn? Really? Who’s gonna buy yarn from you? It was pre-Etsy, pre-Ravelry, pre-Instagram. It was even pre-Facebook. Hard to believe.

It was one of those weird experiences in life: I just knew I was going to do it. I had such a strong image in my mind, it’s no surprise it happened pretty much the way I saw it. The picture in my mind was that strong and vivid. It was a “lightbulb moment.”

I never really thought about how long I’d be doing it. I wanted a business where I could work from home, so I could be with my kids and have a flexible schedule. Toddlers at the time, their whole lives up until this point have been Mom dyeing yarn in the laundry room (or, starting in 2016, my studio), and stinking up the house with that wet sheep smell (I kind of love that perfume; the rest of my family, not so much).

It’s been a great ride, and was a helpful second income for our family. This business did just what I needed it to do: it allowed me to stay home with my kids but still work. It gave me a job that was creative and flexible. It permitted me to bring color and a little bit of beauty into my life as well as yours, and gave me the great honor of creating something which, in turn, sparked your creativity and inspiration to make beautiful things.

I can honestly say that every moment of dyeing yarn has been a joy, and that’s remarkable. It’s been the best experience – creating colorways, playing spontaneously with the lucky pot colors, having the great fortune to meet customers in real life at the festivals, retreats and other events I’ve done over the years – and having many of you become friends in real and cyber life. Traveling to shows with some of my best and closest friends – who I met because of this business. It’s given me so many gifts, and I’ve treasured each moment, each friendship, each meeting, each email and each message.

Moving my studio out to New Mexico was a giant, expensive, and delayed, undertaking. Over the last 6 to 8 weeks, my stay in New Mexico has come into question and, until a few days ago, I planned to move from my brother’s ranch in mid-August. At this point, I’m not sure whether I’ll be staying here or moving elsewhere – back East, or someplace else. It’s all very up in the air.

What I have come to realize, though, is that I cannot move this business again. Trying to find a place to live, with my dog, and run a studio like this is more than I can contemplate. And I simply don’t have the financial means to pay for a separate, commercial studio space, as much as I may wish it were so.

It’s with truly mixed feelings that I’ve decided to close Spirit Trail Fiberworks in mid-August. While I never imagined I’d be a dyer for 18 years, I also never imagined what it would feel like to no longer have Spirit Trail Fiberworks as part of my life. It’s really kind of heart-wrenching. But in order to move forward, sometimes we have to leave some things behind, no matter how dear they are to us. This business, and you, are very dear and have meant the world to me.

I’m working on one final, big shop update for mid to late July, and I’ll post here when it’s live (since I no longer have a newsletter list. Ugh).

The Shop by Color listings will be open for a while, so if there’s a yarn and a colorway you’ve been wanting, you can still order it. I’m not sure how long I’ll leave the Shop by Color listings open, as I need to make sure I have enough time to get everything dyed and shipped before I close up shop. But, for now, they’re all open and available!

I’m not sure what my next phase will be. It’s funny (in a way): as I thought through all of this, I realized I spent 18 years working in commercial real estate, and I’ve now spent 18 years working as a dyer. I’m not sure what the next 18 years will bring, but I’m excited (and also, frankly, more than a little bit scared!) to find out. I hope it’s good!

I know I’ll be focusing more on my painting, as I haven’t had the time to paint as much as I’d like to, so if you’d like to keep in touch you can follow my painting accounts on Instagram and Facebook. I also have an art newsletter if you’d like to sign up to hear about new releases, shows and other art events.

I thought I’d be keeping my Spirit Trail newsletter going for publishing designs, but … ah … in cleaning out my list I somehow managed to delete the entire thing! If you ‘d like to keep in touch and hear about new designs I may publish, and other news, well – go on over and resubscribe. I’ll still be knitting, and I’m sure some of those knits will turn into new designs.

Thank you for the honor of dyeing yarn for you, and for the trust you’ve put in me over these many years! It’s been the most amazing experience! And stay tuned for that big shop update, coming later this month – there will be some of everything, and a few new bases, too!

Jennifer

I am in my weeklong break from social media this week, so while I’m sharing this post on Facebook via WordPress, I won’t be there to respond to comments. You can leave a comment here on my blog, if you’d like, and of course, I’m available via email at info@spirit-trail.net. 🧡

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Finally, My Move News!

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Waaaay back in February or March, my brother, Tommy, called to say that he and his wife (also named Jennifer), were purchasing a ranch in New Mexico, about an hour north of Silver City, smack in the Gila National Forest near Lake Roberts.

They plan to rent the ranch house out for weekly or monthly vacation rentals on AirBnB for several years, and would I consider moving there to be the caretaker? There is a 1,200 square foot workshop building which can house my yarn / painting studio, and a small living space when the house is rented (and eventually a yoga studio). They knew I would be divorced by the end of the year, and wanted to give me an option, and an opportunity to shake up my life (yeah, he’s a really good brother, and SIL 😀 ).

My first response was ARE YOU INSANE?! How could I possibly move that far away from my kids, my family, my friends, from the forest and the mountains, from my hometown of Washington, DC, from everything familiar?! … How could I move that far from MY KIDS! Nope. No way. Nuh-uh. But, hey, thanks for thinking of me.

one the way to the ranch, and views from the many porches at the ranch

My brother, being the more rational one of the two of us, told me to just take some time to think about it. From their view, it was the perfect opportunity for all of us – I’d have a place to go that was new and different, where I could regroup and figure out my life and future. They’d have someone they totally trust to watch over the place. So, I said, fine, I’ll think about it (all the while thinking to myself there was no way I could every consider doing something so crazy).

But he sent me the real estate link to the property, and links to the area. And I sat on it, and thought about it, and agonized and obsessed and pretty much drove myself crazy. And then I talked to a couple of friends and one of them, who knows me so well, said, in her infinite wisdom, “JEN. This is not a decision for the rest of your life. Just go do it for a year. You can do anything for a year, and it might be just what you need.”

exterior of the ranch house, built to look like an old adobe dwelling

And then I didn’t feel quite so crazed about it all. Took a deep breath, and started to envision whether I could actually do it. And I made plans to visit in April, when Tommy and Jen were headed out for the house inspection.

more exterior shots (don’t you want to come stay? It will be for rent! stay tuned for more information on that!)

And … OMG. It’s enchanting. All of it. The ranch house, the workshop building, the Gila, Silver City, and everything in between (yeah, they don’t call New Mexico the Land of Enchantment for nothing!). I walked out on one of the balconies at the house, looked at the view, heard the wind through the pine trees (which I think might be my favorite sound of all), and I fell in love with the idea of making such a move (because, really, if not now, WHEN?), living somewhere so different, having time and space to figure my own self out.

Ranch house interiors. Yeah, it’s really cool!

Still. Moving that far away from my kids, my parents, my friends … that’s really, really hard to envision. In the end, I talked to my kids and my daughter was all over the idea, telling me to go for it and it would all be fine. My son was much more cautious, but in the end he’s at least mostly supportive of it. I seriously couldn’t even contemplate doing something like this without their support.

I’ve never been much of a risk-taker. I feel like I’ve tended to take the safer, more secure route when making decisions. Maybe I’m older and wiser, but I realized something during this process: We only regret the chances we don’t take (okay, I guess there may be some chances we could regret taking, but on the whole I think that’s true).

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view from the road between Silver City and the ranch (it all makes Rappahannock County, VA and the Shenandoah look downright suburban)

I asked myself two questions: “If I don’t do this, will I always wonder ‘What If?'” And, “If I don’t do this, will I regret it?” The answer to the first question was absolutely yes; the answer to the second question was most likely yes. And in honestly answering those questions and listening to my intuition and my soul, I had my answer to the question of whether or not I could move so far away. Yes. Yes, I could. As frightening and fraught a decision as it was, yes.

a little bit of Silver City – artsy, funky, quaint, friendly town about a hour from the ranch

Also? Thank goodness for technology – if I couldn’t keep in touch with my kids so easily through FaceTime, text, Find My Friends, and old-fashioned calling, I doubt my answer would have been yes.

I could stay where I am. Find another house in Virginia, stay close and comfortable and secure. But I don’t think we grow as much in the safe, secure, comfortable spaces. I’d already made a huge, scary decision in ending my marriage. And looking forward, I know I want more from life than the safe, secure, and comfortable.

Gila Cliff Dwellings, about 40 minutes from the ranch

It sort of seems like destiny. The name of my business is, after all, named after a concept in Navaho weaving called the Weaver’s Pathway, also loosely translated as the Spirit Trail. When I mentioned my plans to a few “industry friends,” a number of them said they actually thought I lived in New Mexico. The cliff dwellings and Chaco Canyon have been on my bucket list since high school. And Georgia O’Keeffe … don’t even get me started on how I wanted to be her when I grew up – so independent, so incredibly talented, so strong and opinionated and living life on her own terms. I have to wonder if it’s all been leading me to this point, and this decision.

Who knows! But, after several delays with the ranch purchase (the last of which had to do with the fact that it’s IN the Gila National Forest, and there were some boundary line issues) off I go! Well, it’s not that easy, of course. I’d by a liar if I didn’t admit I’m terrified, sometimes to the point of paralysis. But, as is often the case, I think making the decision was the hardest part. I still question whether I’m nuts to even be considering this move, or might ultimately chicken out … and I probably will up until I arrive there (who knows, maybe even after I get there, but I do hope not). You know the saying, courage is not the absence of fear, but being afraid and doing the scary thing anyway. I’ve never considered myself all that courageous, but maybe I am. A little.

Gila Hot Springs, about 30 minutes from the ranch

As I mentioned above, the house will be available for vacation rentals on AirBnB, so once the deal is done and the website is built, I’ll most certainly share the info in case any of you fancy a vacation in a really cool place, with so much beauty surrounding it, and so much to do and see (Silver City, the Gila Cliff Dwellings, the Gila Hot Springs, hiking in the Gila National Forest, fishing and boating on Lake Roberts … and the Tour of the Gila Bike Race, the Silver City Blues Festival, and so many other events in Silver City to enjoy, too). Or, hey, get a group of friends together and rent it for a fun weekend; there will be three bedrooms available (queen, double, twin), plus several additional lodging options right nearby (with advanced notice and coordination, we could potentially add a dye workshop to your weekend!).

I have lots of thoughts and ideas about potential knitting and / or dyeing retreats, and have even talked in general with some of my designer-friends about teaching. So, stay tuned for that as well! Once I get out there, get settled, and can look forward and actually plan something, there may just be some retreats and other events at the ranch.

I’ve now moved out of my studio in Sperryville, VA, so my journey has begun. Soon I’ll be moving in with a local friend for the month of January and possibly part of February, and will be sharing her studio so I’ll be able to dye yarn for some shop updates I have planned for the first part of the year. And then I’ll be packing everything up, a three day drive West, and getting settled into my new life (at least for a year … it’s just a year spent out west, at this point … I can’t think beyond that yet).

I won’t be traveling alone though: this is Saoirse (pronounced Seer-sha), my new puppy! She was born on October 18; her mom is an American Bull Terrier and we’re guessing her Dad was a German Shepherd (those ears!). Time will tell!

What this major move also means is that I will no longer be vending at either the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival or the New York Sheep & Wool Festival. I’ve been a vendor at both for 14 (or 15?) years and the latter was an especially difficult decision. I love NYSW so much; it’s hard to imagine not vending there, most especially seeing everyone who comes to my booth. You all are the best part of doing shows, and I’m really going to miss having that face to face connection with you.

But the realities and technicalities of vending from so far away are just more than I can contemplate (I know many vendors do travel extremely long distances to attend these shows; it’s just not something I can see for myself). I am happy, though, that I’ll be going to NY as a regular attendee in 2019, along with most of my booth babe cohorts, so perhaps we can have a STF get together at some point at the festival!

I look forward to sharing the coming year’s adventure with you. I’m excited to see whether this new environment will change my color sense, colorways, and dyeing!

Which brings me to one more topic: 2019 Yarn Club! I’m still working out the specifics, but this year it is called (appropriately) New Beginnings. If you’d like notice of the club openings before they’re live to the general public, make sure you’re subscribed to my newsletter. I’ll be sending a quick newsletter out sometime the first week of January (which is this coming week! Yikes!) with secret subscription pages, before they go live to everyone.

Here’s to adventure, and to living life with an exclamation point! Happy New Year, everyone!