The Year that Flew Faster than a Speeding Shuttle

2021 felt very short indeed for the team at Long Thread Media.

Anne Merrow Dec 27, 2021 - 8 min read

The Year that Flew Faster than a Speeding Shuttle Primary Image

Subtle and classic, Yvonne Ellsworth’s Zakka Embroidered Napkins from Little Looms Holiday 2021 might be my favorite project of the year. Photos by Matt Graves

All of us get the occasional feeling of being caught in a time warp, but when you work in publishing, it can feel like the year is over before it's even begun! Wondering where the time went, I stopped to think about what my colleagues at Long Thread Media have brought into the world in 2021, including some we hadn't even dreamed of at this time last year.

A Big Year for Little Looms

In answer to the readers who have told us you love rigid-heddle and pin-loom weaving, the year's biggest launch was the subscription option for Little Looms magazine. From its first installment as a special issue in 2016, Little Looms has developed its own weaving voice, driven by the twin engines of whimsy and weaving excellence (which are the hallmarks of its editor, Christina Garton). Readers may not be aware that for the first few years, the continuation of Little Looms was not a sure thing; a few quirks of the newsstand made it look less successful than it really was. Its success was due to the dedication and enthusiasm of its readers, contributors, and staff. Starting this year, the magazine is no longer a special issue but its own subscription, with 4 issues a year. (Four issues a year means more opportunities to publish original designs and hear from fresh voices, too. Read Barbara Goudsmit's series on designing for Handwoven and Little Looms to learn how to be part of the magazines.)

Your Smiling Faces!

It's hard for a handspinner to spend almost 2 years with her fingers crossed, but right until the first participants started arriving for the Spin Off Autumn Retreat (SOAR) 2021, that's what I did! SOAR was a beloved educational event for more than 30 years, so much that when we began Long Thread Media in 2019, it was the first thing many people asked about. Originally scheduled for 2020, we waited one more year and finally hosted dozens of spinners for classes and camaraderie in September. With a roster of renowned instructors, we offered classes on handspinning yarn as well as using it for knitting and weaving. (We've just caught our breath and will be opening registration for SOAR 2022 on January 6—watch this space for details.)


Long Thread Media contributors John Mullarkey and Devin Helmen reunite with me over the handspun, handwoven Stormy Seas Scarf from Spin Off Fall 2021. Photo by Matt Graves

SOAR was also the first opportunity many of us had to see each other in over a year! Long Thread Media is based in Colorado, but we have staff members in every time zone. It was the first time some of our staff met new colleagues in person, even though we see each other every week on Zoom.

The Best Conversations

As a staff member, the best thing about SOAR is the conversations I overhear. Some of my favorite conversations of the year have been part of Seasons 2 and 3 of the Long Thread Podcast. When we were deciding to start a podcast, Kate Larson felt strongly that she knew what it should be. "Get interesting guests," she said firmly, "and let them talk." She was absolutely right! Some of this year's guests are fiber artists and educators that my colleagues and I know well, but one of my favorite and the year's most popular episode featured weaver Amy D. McKnight. (Amy's moved on to other projects, but her videos and loom plans remain available.) The podcast intentionally covers a wide range of crafts, but every one introduces you to a really interesting voice in the fiber art world. We've started recording Season 4, and it's my favorite one so far.

Paperback Writers

Linda Ligon always has an eye for a cool new project, and this year she decided it would be fun and interesting to pull together a book filled with different approaches to natural dye. And she was right--it was fun and interesting! Nature's Colorways introduced us to surprising colors and clever people from marigolds & cosmos just down the road in Denver to traditional batiks in Kutch, India to large-scale natural dyeing in 18th-century London. My favorite part of the book was finding out all the things I knew about natural dyeing that were just... wrong. So many instances of "you must always" and "you must never" turned out to be untrue.

Natural Dye Swatches

One of our favorite parts of Nature's Colorways is this little chart of naturally dyed yarn swatches tucked in the book's back cover. Photo by Joe Coca

It's a good thing Linda and I liked the look of it, because we signed more than 250 copies for new subscribers to the Long Thread Media All Access program.

Loving the Libraries

Since we began the All Access program, Handwoven's WIF Library has been one of its most popular features. With every new issue, the project WIFs are available to use and adapt for your own weaving adventures. Being library lovers at heart, we decided to bring that collect-and-share approach to PieceWork and launched the PieceWork All Access Library. In addition to back issues of Knitting Traditions, Jane Austen Knits, and other beloved special issues, the library contains patterns, articles, and a very special treasure: a traditional Hawaiian pattern that Eileen Lee learned from her grandmother, who may have saved the art form from extinction. Libraries and PieceWork go hand in hand, and we're enjoying adding to the collection every week.

And a few goodies...

Several years ago, probably while sleying her reed, Handwoven editor Susan Horton had an idea for a tool that would be useful, lovely, and make her smile whenever she used it. The notion for a fun and functional threading and sleying hook stayed with her, and this year we decided to make them a reality and ordered a batch—to our knowledge, the only threading hook available that's guaranteed to make you smile when you use it.

When it came time for SOAR, all the spinners in the company put our heads together to design just the kind of souvenir that we'd want to have for ourselves. We came up with an apron that doubles as a lap cloth that triples as a spinner's cheat sheet, with rulers and gauges and a twist angle finder printed with a spinner's eye view on the pockets. Our art director was as excited to make our ideas real as we were to dream them up. The SOAR Spinner's Apron made its debut at SOAR, and I wear mine all the time.

Looking back over everything we did, it's no wonder I'm ready to end the year with a long winter's nap! In our world, though, 2022 is already off to a delightful start, with spring issues at the printer and fall photo shoots in process, May's podcast guests booked and SOAR registration on the horizon. The seasons continue, pulled by a strong and long thread.