Customer Spotlight: Kathleen McConnell
It's no secret that we love our customers! It really brings us a lot of joy and fulfillment to see our fibers going into the wild and being used, loved and coming to new life with your creativity. We are super excited today to give you inside look into our Created by Elsie B community and learn more about one of our much-loved customers, Kathleen McConnell, shown here exploring a stunning park in Maine last September. Kathleen has been an active participant in our Elsie B Facebook group for some time, and she is so encouraging, wise and creative! We have thoroughly enjoyed learning more about Kathleen's spinning journey, and we hope you find it as inspiring and interesting as we have.
(If you would like to submit your own customer spotlight profile, you can do that here. We'd love for you to be our next featured customer!)
How long have you been a fiber artist? How did you get started?
At a Colonial Festival in the 1970’s in Setauket, NY, I saw children using a drop spindle. I thought, maybe I could learn that! I met spinners there who invited me to a natural dye workshop, where I was enthralled with all the fiber processing steps. I eventually became the president of that group, the Long Island Spinners Study Guild, and over time taught spinning both on Long Island and in the Hudson Valley.
What inspires you?
Every morning I open two gifts: my eyes. I search for texture and color in the garden and woods out my window, and the creeks and mountain ridges nearby to inspire my fiber design.
What is your favorite part of the craft?
Spinning is very centering. When I spin, I can feel my breathing in sync with my double foot treadles and my attention focused on the specific nature of the fiber or color way unfolding.
Do you have other hobbies/interests?
I have created a fern garden amidst my perennials, and I coordinate a raised bed community garden in our retirement community. Gardening is my second passion after spinning. It also feeds the artist in my soul.
Do you have a favorite fiber type to work with and why?
After trying cotton, flax, soy silk, rose fiber, bamboo, milkweed, Angelina, silk, Angora rabbit, cashmere, alpaca, qiviut, brush tail possum, Samoyed dog hair, mohair and various wool breeds, I feel most at home with finer wools or wool-silk blends, which seem easiest to draft.
Tell us about a project that stands out to you and made you particularly proud. Was it your first project, a new technique that you nailed or a colorway that just sung for you?
I raised sweet angora rabbits for a number of years. I wanted to take a fiber project from start (breeding) to finish (a knitted item). I finally mastered how to spin the angora into a fine single and to ply it with tussah silk. Oh my. Those yarns are just delicious! I paired agouti angora with honey tussah, and white angora with a creamy tussah in hat and scarf designs.
What is your favorite Elsie B fiber of all time?
Your Polwarth spins like butter!
What do you wish you would have known when you were a beginner to fiber crafting?
I wish I had realized the importance of keeping an organized sample notebook for my attempts. I had no idea four decades ago that spinning would be such a life long passion for me.
We interspersed Kathleen's photos throughout this blog. From top to bottom, the specs on each are as follows:
Photos 1-3 “Heal”, 22 micron Polwarth: Split braid lengthwise in half, then each half lengthwise in thirds. Kept same color way sequence for each ply. Spun two-ply on my Pioneer Majacraft wheel.
Photos 4-5 “Selkie Dreams”, 25 micron Kid Mohair: Split braid in half lengthwise, then each half lengthwise in quarters. Kept same color way sequence for each ply. Spun two-ply on my Pioneer Majacraft wheel.
We'd love to hear about your spinning journey as well! Check out our application form found here, and we look forward to learning more about you!