Spinning wheels lightly whirred in the background as ladies arrived in the Evergreen Room at Lindenwood on a recent Friday afternoon in February. As they gathered, a table in the lobby was also filling up. The table contained donations of handmade mittens, blankets, hats, and other woolen items the Spinner’s created to donate to two Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ ministries: Sojourner Truth House and Nazareth Home.
The Spinners Group, a group of fiber artist from Indiana and Michigan, formed about 25 years ago, have been coming to Lindenwood for this retreat. MoonTree artist in residence Peggy Coffey of LaPorte, Indiana is one of those founding members. “Fiber people are interesting,” said long time member and retreat organizer Eran McCarty of Fishers, Indiana, as she recalled the groups’ early days. “I remember when MoonTree was merely an idea, and I have watched it evolve,” she added. Since its early days, the group has also evolved from those 8-12 participants at the Villa into more than 40 women who look forward to the mid-February event all year long.
One of those ladies is Sabine Schröder-Gravendyck of Pendleton, Indiana, a first-time Spinners retreat attendee. As she sat spinning a soft yarn combined of sheep’s wool and fur from her friend’s two Great Pyrenees dogs, she reflected on both the fellowship and the spinning process itself. “It’s a ladies time out,” she said. “If you look at it as a harvest (the dog fur), it’s totally different from having to clean something up,” she added with a thoughtful laugh.
Third year Spinners group member Nelly DeVault of Alexandria, Indiana, said she also looks forward to the annual gathering as she spun a strand of dark brown alpaca fiber together with gray wool fiber to stunning effect. Nelly raises two alpaca on her farm, and usually harvests a “sweaters worth” of wool from them each year. They’re sheered annually, but she leaves that arduous task to the professionals.
As Eran noted, fiber artists are not only interesting people, they’re spiritually grounded and connected to the Earth and its resources as well. The Spinners retreat members saw sharing the fruits of their work with the two Poor Handmaids ministries as a natural next step for the group, who’s been connected to the sisters for nearly a quarter century. When Lindenwood events coordinator May Crider-Gunn greeted the ladies, she said a group of college students who usually retreat on the same weekend annually were disappointed to have missed the Spinners by a week this year. “Where are the spinning ladies?” the students asked May.