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Catching up with Karen Simpson from the Southwest Art Yarn (SWAY) Guild

by The SpinArtiste on March 13, 2014


Beautiful Debra Lambert of Picasso’s Moon Yarn Shop in a spectacular hat made by Heather Lightbody aka Girl with a Hook

Spin Artiste (SA):   Tell us about what it was like starting the guild a few years ago…Why?  How?

Karen Simpson (KS):  As a spinner and weaver of many years (like over 28), I was “talked into” an art yarn workshop at Picasso’s Moon Yarn Shop , local to me.  WELL, I now can call myself a reformed traditional spinner.  A new world opened up, with spinners of all ages and all interests.  SWAY Guild  was started by Debra Lamebert (Picasso’s Moon) and Kim Perkins (Batts in the Bellfry) about 6 months before I joined.  They wanted a place for all spinners AND other interested fiber people to come together, enjoy each other’s company, and fiber away to our heart’s content.  They also wanted to create an exciting event…..an art yarn festival to attract all sorts of spinners to explore something old and new again. We hope the SWAY Guild Art Yarn Festival will become a destination event as we grow.
SWAY meets every other month, currently at Picasso’s Moon.  We spin, knit, weave, lunch and visit.  It is a low key friendly group, who just enjoy sharing.  Each spring, SWAY hosts the Art Yarn Festival, with this April 25-27, being our 3rd!!
2013lexiSA:  What are your duties as president?  What are the joys and challenges?
KS:  The SWAY president spot is one I have had for a while now.  Because we are a purposely uncomplicated group, my responsibilities are to keep the emails and info going out to members and help Kim and Debra  plan our big event.  They are really phenomenal women; you know the saying….if you want something done, ask a woman!  I especially enjoy seeing new people come into the fold and then the excitement and fun for the festival attendees.  Because we draw from all over Florida and other states, our main communication is via email…lucky me, I get to “talk” with many members!
SA:   Your guild is based in a rather warm climate.  How does that play into making things with wool and other fibers that are typically associated with cooler climates? 
2013and theyreoffKS:  It’s amazing how in love we are with wool down here.  How many places do you spin in shorts and flip-flops?  We have spinners, felters, weavers, knitters and crocheters who wear an amazing assortment of garments in the air conditioning.  We also have happy friends and families on the receiving end of hand loved gifts.  You know, fiber people are fiber people…just turn down the A/C!
SA:  A few years ago, the guild started one of the first “art yarn” festivals.  How did that come about?  What is the focus of the festival?  What can people expect if they make the trip?  What makes this festival special and different?
KS:  This April 26-27 is our 3rd annual Art Yarn Festival.  It was launched as a way to introduce lots of spinners to  new techniques, ideas, fiber combinations, to make new friends, contacts, to support each other in creativity.  You know, that is the biggest result of any conference like this……it ignites creativity!
AYFbattThis year we are absolutely thrilled to have Suzy Brown, the Wool wench, on her first US tour!! We have a lovely huge space where we can spread out, vendors, demos on the saori and triangle looms, and lots of wheels to try.  Suzy will be teaching on Saturday and Sunday.  She has promised us new structures, combinations and techniques, and she will be there to assist when we get twisted up.  This year’s theme is “What to do with your art yarn?”.  So, lots of ideas and samples will be available.  On Friday, Debra Lambert will be teaching a workshop on using leather with handspun trim for a pouch/handbag.  In the afternoon, Heather Lightbody, Girl With A Hook, will be teaching a class on how she uses her art yarn to create her fantastic crocheted head bands.  Both of these classes will be a springboard for students to use their yarn in their own projects.
Friday night is a special event for participants of the Journey to the Golden Fleece. Hosted by Arlene Thayer, Spin Artiste, (oh yeah, you) and Suzy Brown.  We are excited to see what they have in store for us!!
2013prettyThis festival is such fun because of the participants.  It is relaxed, friendly, yet you come away with so much knowledge.  The  attendees are such fun people!  The Friday workshops, Golden Fleece event, and the Festival are all located in close proximity, so they will be easy to navigate for attendees.  Lunch will be made available at the festival venue each day.  We will have vendors for fiber, jewelry, saori and other specialties. There will be a variety of lovely items to enjoy. Sarasota is a lovely getaway, white sand beaches close by, lots of restaurants and cute shops. It’s a perfect way to meet new friends and enjoy everyone.
SA:  The Friday night event with the Golden Fleece folks is going to be a lot of fun.  We are going to do a large weaving together!!  We can’t wait…So, is there still space?  Where do folks go for more info?  Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?
KS: There is still space available for the Festival and for the Friday workshops.  www.swayguild.com is the SWAY website where you can easily look under “events” to find the registration and payment info for Friday workshops, and the Saturday/Sunday festival.  I will say that this is the BEST priced event like this you will ever find.  We want everyone to be able to enjoy the fun, fiber, and friends of this Festival.
We hope your readers will look at the SWAY site AND at woolwench.com to get an idea of what’s in store…..then come and enjoy the fun with us!  As a special treat, SWAY would like to offer one of your readers their choice of Debra Lambert’s Utterly Beautiful Leather Pouch class or a Batts in the Bellfry  Silk&Softness  batt (mounds of lovely silk) to be enjoyed when they attend the SWAY Art Yarn Festival!
Cathy Snyder, SWAY guild member with one of her gorgeous creations

Cathy Snyder, SWAY guild member with one of her gorgeous creations

SA:  DANG!!!!  See, this is the only thing I don’t like about writing this blog…I can’t enter the giveaways.  So, dear readers, if you are going, please leave a comment on this post letting me know to expect seeing you in person at the festival and I will draw a winner at random for the giveaway.  Entries are due by Sunday, March 23rd, 5 PM EST.  I hope to see you there – this is a great event, made extra special by having the opportunity to learn from Suzy Brown aka Wool Wench and spending time in a beautiful part of the country. 

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