It's fun to make something with your own hands, said the women gathered in the main lecture hall at the Danebod Folk School. But it's even better to share the experience with friends.
That was the main idea behind the Green Camel Gathering, a homegrown fibercrafts event that drew spinning, knitting and weaving enthusiasts of all ages to Tyler last week. Beneath the noise of conversation, the folk school building was humming faintly with the sound of spinning wheels - more than a dozen of them, arranged all around the room. No two were alike, someone remarked.
Shay Huhta of Lake Benton, at left, and Janelle Wagoner of Tyler conversed while spinning wool during the Green Camel Gathering, a fibercrafts event held in Tyler last week.
"(My spinning wheel) is made from PVC pipe and a wheelchair rim," said Montevideo resident Celeste Suter as she sat at one unusual-looking wheel. "It's a good entry-level spinning wheel because it's less expensive, and it travels well." Just a few seats down from Suter, Storden resident Connie Peterson was weaving a table runner on a small, portable loom.
"We have so much fun, just to be able to sit and talk and spin," said Jill Maisch, a Tyler resident who helped organize the Green Camel Gathering. When they weren't working on projects, the women would chat, swap ideas or project patterns, or even buy and sell wool and other supplies. Maisch said organizers also try to include opportunities to learn new crafts.
Maisch said the event started out as an informal get-together for a group of friends in the Tyler area, almost like "a slumber party." While the Gathering is still an overnight event, the number of people interested in attending has grown in the past five years, mostly through word of mouth.
The name "Green Camel Gathering" came about as a bit of an inside joke, said Maisch and Ann Vidoloff. At one of their early gatherings, Vidoloff asked about some green-dyed wool being spun.
"I said it was camel," Maisch said. "And Ann said, 'Oh, I didn't know they were green.'"
The women at this year's Gathering came from across a wide geographic area, including southwest Minnesota, the Twin Cities, South Dakota, and beyond. Vidoloff said she flew in from Arkansas, where she lives now, to visit friends at the Gathering.
Some attendees said they've been involved with fibercrafts for years - everything from crocheting blankets to raising sheep and dying their own wool for yarn. However, they might not always get the chance to spend time with people who share their passion, so regional gatherings are important.
"It's like everyone speaks the same language," Peterson said.
There were a lot of newcomers as well. Members of the Southwest Minnesota Weavers and Spinners Guild visited the Gathering and learned how to make pine needle baskets with experienced weaver Sharon Fitzsimonds. Guild member Pam Blake said the group had done some basket weaving in the past, and timing of the Green Camel Gathering "worked wonderfully" for members to join in.
Even more than learning new weaving techniques, Blake said, "The big thing is just getting together with other people."
Lynn Filipas and her daughter Emily Filipas said they traveled to Tyler from their home south of St. Paul.
"It's a mother-daughter weekend," Lynn Filipas said.
Lynn and Emily said the variety of experience and ideas they got from coming to the gathering was worth the trip.
"It's a good place to come and learn," Emily Filipas said.