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Knittyspin> Festival survival guide2006 Spin OutCoiled yarnpattern: Booze bag
Journey Wheel

...Or The Adventures of A YEAH YEAH YEAH Girl!

Wow. Seriously. WOW.

If you had told me three months ago that I'd be writing an article about a spinning event that almost didn't happen and a fundraiser that raised nearly $19,000 complete with raffle prizes from 48 vendors , I'd have told you that you were nuts. I mean, I'm crazy, but you'd be nuts! What began as a casual idea, and not even my idea (thanks, Ann), to get together some fellow spinners and spin outside, turned into the biggest event I've ever pulled together. (That's what happens when you elope.)

Back in March I was visiting a good friend who happens to double as an excellent fiber friend and while we were taking a tour of her home, I remarked that her expansive deck was perfect for spinning outside. It was a cold and rainy almost-spring day and I was dreaming of warm weather and bare feet and gentle breezes blowing fiber all over the place. I think she agreed with me. Later on that weekend she brought up the idea of spinning outside again.

"We should do it in the park!" she said. "Lots of us. With our wheels. We can spin in Central Park!"

I might have replied, "YEAH! YEAH! YEAH!"

On the last day of March, outside on my own deck spinning in the late afternoon sun, the heat on my hands and feet, I put a plan in motion. A date was picked. Calls were made to the Parks Department to secure a permit. A logo was designed for everyone to link proudly on their blogs. We were really going to do this! Spin Out was born!

For a while after that, to be honest, I stopped thinking about it. It seemed so far away -- first April, then May and almost all of June and who knew if I'd actually get the permit from the Parks Department and even if I did, would anyone really come? You know, besides Ann and me? (Which is all Ann ever intended in the first place!)

In early May, before I had even secured my permit or a location in the park, I got an email from Stephanie Martin of Spritely Goods. She said some nice things about the fiber I bought at Maryland Sheep & Wool and told me that sadly, she wasn't going to be able to attend my planned Spin Out, but would I like a batt to raffle off? Maybe to add to my Heifer International totals?

I think I said, "YEAH! YEAH! YEAH!"

I was originally introduced to Heifer International through Wendy Johnson, of She holds an annual holiday fundraiser collecting for Knitting Baskets, one of the items in Heifer's "most important gift catalog in the world." Purchase of a Knitting Basket sends four wool-producing animals to a community in need. The wool produced from these animals, as well as the sale of handcrafted items made from the wool, helps to sustain families for years and years. Perfect! An organization that helps people HELP THEMSELVES! And it tied in with my fiber obsession. I had found my charity!

I had sold some photographs and t-shirts to collect for Heifer, but this was a HUGE opportunity. I had seen lots of knitters do charitable work before and while I'm a pretty selfish knitter, I could certainly donate (and collect) money! I started to investigate Stephanie's idea and found out that Heifer encouraged people to open a registry in order to facilitate giving. I never had a gift registry when I got married, because, you know, I eloped, but I've got one now!

As soon as the Parks Department came through with the permit for Central Park, I started everything in motion! It was great fun picking items from Heifer's Gift Catalog: sheep (of course!), llamas, goats, rabbits, knitting baskets. Pigs for Ann. Chicks for Jen. Bees for the vegans.

Things were moving along. I had a location, a t-shirt (super important for any successful event) and the donations -- money and gifts -- were starting to pour in. I had set the registry up like a raffle: for every $10 entered, the participant had the chance to win fabulous prizes. We had books and yarn and fiber and craftspeople were coming out of the woodwork to offers their wares. Friends told friends and things were exploding.

Then one day I was talking to my friend Tina Newton, fiber artist extraordinaire, owner of Blue Moon Fiber Arts and creator of the tantalizing Socks That Rock, and she said to me:

"I've been thinking. You know what you need to give away? You need a wheel. How can you have a Spin Out without giving away a spinning wheel?"


Tina contacted her business partner, Toni Neil, owner of The Fold. Toni runs a one stop shop for all things fiber, located on a farm outside of Chicago. She was THRILLED with Tina's idea. [Her contribution is at left - a Suzie Pro by Majacraft.]

Giving away a spinning wheel brought this thing to a whole other level. I became brazen in my fundraising efforts -- contacting large companies like WEBS and knitting fashion mavens like Lexie Barnes asking for gift donations. One of my long standing philosophies in life is that it never hurts to ask and if someone says no, well, then, you're no worse off than you were before you asked! AND EVERYONE SAID YES!

As the actual event approached, my days were spent organizing spreadsheets of registry donations and gift donations, finding the best swag possible, making lists of things I absolutely could not forget.

I was so busy, I hardly had time to watch the weather.

I live right outside New York City; I can see it from my apartment building. I love to watch the rain roll across the Meadowlands toward the City. The week before the Spin Out, it was very hot and humid and every day they were calling for thunderstorms and rain. And every day it stayed hot and humid and NEVER rained. Okay, sure, maybe a shower here and there in the middle of the night, but nothing to relieve the pressure -- in the atmosphere or in my heart. By Thursday night, with exceedingly awful weather being forecast for the weekend, I was freaking out. Freaking. OUT.

What if it rained on my wedding day, er, at SPIN OUT?

I became obsessed with the weather. Would it be better on Sunday? Should we move it to Sunday? Turns out I didn't have the rain date booked at the park that I thought I had, so it was Saturday or bust. I went out and bought $100 worth of tarps. And some cute emergency ponchos. How could it rain?!

By Friday night things looked really, really bad. But I knew people were coming in from near and far and plans had been made and the show HAD TO GO ON! I sent out a plea for someone, ANY one who might know of an indoor place in the city available for a bunch of spinners and knitters and their equipment. I had a lot of good suggestions and I followed up on a bunch of them, but nothing panned out. Then I got an email at around 11: 00 PM Friday night. It was from Shana Wernow, who reads my blog AND works for the Parks Department.

"Did you find a place yet?" she asked.

"NO! NO! NO!" was my sad response.

At 11:30 Friday night, Shana emailed Kim McNeal, Director of Manhattan Recreation, requesting a bail out.

I barely slept.

At 6:30 AM the next morning I crawled out of bed, tiptoed from the bedroom so as not to wake my husband, and found my way to a window. Rain. Gray. Black. Acid like.

I had already publicly said the show must go on, so go on it did. I posted that we were doing it, but I didn't know where and I'd get back to everyone. E-mails started flying in. Cell phone numbers were given out. I called location possibilities. My husband and I debated the finer points of indoor public spaces in Manhattan. It was raining and stifling hot -- how many homeless people might be interested in spinning?

I had actually made a decision and was about to blog the location for everyone, when I got a phone call from Shana. It was around 10AM. The Spin Out had been scheduled to start at 11.

"Kim wants to know how many people?"

I guessed at a number and told Shana I was jumping in the shower. I told her my intermediate solution and that if I didn't hear back from her in a half hour, I was going with it.

My cell phone rang while I was under water. With conditioner in my hair I heard Shana say, "We've got a place! A Rec Center in Manhattan!"

Trying to hold back my tears, I shouted to her, "YEAH! YEAH! YEAH!"

I'm proud to say I only cried once that day. Right after I blogged the new location and there was no turning back -- IT WAS ALL GOING TO HAPPEN -- I broke down.

"I'm really emotional right now, so don't make a joke, okay?" I said to Ann. "It's on. Here's the location. I'll see you soon."

I hadn't packed anything up the night before (superstitious, I guess) and so it was a mad dash to remember everything. Georgie helped me throw stuff in the car and drove me into the city. I was strangely calm.

The staff at the East 54th Street Recreation Center were awaiting my arrival and couldn't have been more helpful! We had tables and chairs and...basketballs.

The location we were given was the indoor basketball court at the Rec Center, which we shared happily with local hoop enthusiasts. No one that I know of got hit with a ball, although I'm sure there were a few near misses.

People started arriving, wheels started opening, fiber started flying and we were off! The Spinning Study Group of Long Island had graciously donated quite a few CD spindle kits and Stephanie Martin cooked up a batch of gorgeous mini batts so everyone that wanted to had the means to spin! Jenny Bakriges had traveled down from Vermont and before there were ten people in the room she had set up a spindle spinning workshop. I can't tell you how my heart overflowed to see groups of students moving in and out of the chairs around Jenny. At least ten people learned to spin that day thanks to her!

Spinners came from as far away as Fairfax, VA and New England! Spinners got caught in the rain in Central Park looking for us and were intrepid in finding the new location, joining us rain soaked and smiling. Spinners who had never spun on a wheel before tried it out. Spinners who had never spun on THAT wheel before tried a new one. Spindles were admired. Fiber was petted. Buttons were worn. Candy was eaten.

We talked about wheels and fiber and knitting and the rain and Heifer and as usually happens when fiber folk gather, the sense of community was palpable. Most of us were strangers to each other but everyone had a familiar feel. I know you. You're just like me.

There was so much that was gratifying about that day: seeing a vision come to fruition. The awe-inspiring generosity of strangers. People working togethzzzer to get something DONE. I actually showed people how to spin on a wheel. Me. I only just got my wheel last January. How had this come so far?

For a complete listing of prizes and participating vendors, please visit January One

Learn more about
Heifer International

Want a t-shirt [crazy or
All proceeds go to Heifer International.

The winner of the Majacraft wheel is lucky Ellen D. of Virginia

I've heard that knitting is a gateway craft. It opens your mind to so many possibilities and options, some you might never have known existed. I'd like to end on a sappy note and say that I think the fiber arts open a gateway to peace and love and friendship.

Thank you so much to everyone who participated in the event, braved the rain, donated their hard earned money, time, and goods, made all things possible.

See you next year. In the park.

Final Tally
Money raised: $18,936

What did Spin Off 2006
buy @ Heifer International?







Knitting Basket




New Beginning Basket









Cara Davis knits, spins, lives, loves, laughs, cries, and generally goes crazy on a daily basis.  Read about it all on her blog, January One.


Editor's note: In keeping with the charitable spirit behind Spin Out 2006, Cara has asked that her Knitty honorarium for writing this article be contributed to the Heifer Project registry. We are pleased to oblige.