Mennonites craft for world relief

Every year, Mennonite congregations gather at certain places in U.S. to put on a huge Relief Sale to help raise money for their compassionate efforts around the world. I am fortunate enough to have one that takes place at the fairgrounds in nearby Rocky Ford, Colorado.

The Rocky Mountain Mennonite Relief Sale takes place on the third weekend in October, right as the harvest is going full tilt. During the sale, the air is crisp, the afternoon is warm, the sky is blue and people are in a good mood. Every purchase, whether it’s fair trade coffee, kettle corn, apple butter made fresh right there, fresh-made-right-there-apple cider, homemade cheeses, meats, snacks, pie or other baked goods, craft items, crafting supplies, or fair trade items from around the world, all goes to the Mennonite Central Committee, which gives aid to people all over the world.

Oh yeah, did I mention they have a quilt auction?


All of these quilts are handmade and beautiful. Other handcrafted items, including quilts are available at the sale for great prices:


These tea towels are hand embroidered. I just had to get some for gifts.

Just like all church functions, food was abundant.


We don’t have everything pictured, but they sell homemade pie, ice cream, healthy snacks, baked goods, cheeses and fresh meat. You can buy fresh apple butter boiled down at the sale. The aroma is wonderful. This year we bought a gallon jug of apple cider that they make every year and it was outstanding. That first sip tasted like I was taking a bite out of several kinds of apples all at once.

Every year, one family restores a vintage tractor and donates it to the auction.


Fabric and other craft supplies are also available for sale.


There are also fair trade items available. The items for sale here come from Crossroads Village in La Junta. Other places might have items associated with Ten Thousand Villages.


Who knows? You might even run into a fellow fiber fanatic like I did.


Karen runs Phoenix Fiber Mill and was at Salida and Taos. She introduced me to this sale years ago when we both worked at the local newspaper.

John Wesley once said, “There is no holiness without social holiness” and the Mennonites have taken this seriously. They use the gifts they have to do what they can. It’s great to have a small part.

Photos: Mike Steeves

What I am reading …

I read a lot. Not quite as much as I used to when I was in my master’s program (one 500 page book in a weekend is a bit too fast for me), and not half as much as my husband, but for me books and articles are a great way to learn.


One of my favorite reads is historical fiction. Since my last post in August, 2015 on this subject, I have read “The Winds of War” by Herman Wouk.


This book will take you all over World War II from its beginnings in Europe, to Pearl Harbor. And now I am reading the sequel, “War and Remembrance”.


It really is a stunning series. Wouk is a masterful writer. He took years to research and write these two huge volumes. A word of unsolicited advice: If you don’t want to read that much and decide you’ll watch the mini-series of the same name starring Robert Mitchum …. don’t. While Mitchum, Haim Topol and Peter Graves play their parts well, the rest of the cast, especially in the first series depicting “The Winds of War,” is seriously lacking. Cast changes for “War and Remembrance,” including Jane Seymour as Natalie, make the second mini-series  much better. In this case I would definitely recommend the books over the films.



After my weaving class in Taos, my hubby purchased a rigid heddle loom for me! To learn how to use it, I bought “Weaving Made Easy” by Liz Gipson.. If you remember, Gipson was the instructor of my class. How lucky is that? There will be more posts on this in the near future to let you know how it goes.

This book just came in the mail yesterday and if I can rip my eyes away from the beautiful photography, I may learn something.


“Spin to Weave,” by Sara Lamb is what the front cover says, “the weaver’s guide to making yarn.” I can’t wait to get to the point where I can make yarn for both crocheting and weaving! What fun that will be.


And last, but not least, both hubby and I are reading a daily newsletter by Fr. Richard Rohr for our spiritual reading.

“Richard Rohr offers daily meditations to awaken us to God’s loving presence in all things. Drawing from the Christian scriptures and tradition as well as non-dual teachers from other religions, Fr. Richard reframes neglected or misunderstood teachings to reveal our True Self in God. From this awareness, we are called to act in ways of compassion and healing for the world.

The meditations explore different topics in 1-2 week segments, following a year-long theme. Every Saturday Fr. Richard suggests a contemplative practice to help us bring the week’s teaching deeper than comprehension alone. “Gateway to Silence” prayers or mantras open our hearts to wordless wisdom.

Fr. Richard’s meditations this year invite us to discover, experience, and participate in the foundation of our existence—Love.”   From the Center for Action and Contemplation web site.

These daily readings are very challenging and thought-provoking.  I’ve enjoyed them immensely and can’t wait to see what topic the new year brings.

What are you reading? Have you read anything I’ve mentioned? What did you think?

A beautiful fall

We’re having a beautiful fall here in Colorado. Here are some pictures we took on the way to and from Taos. Here is what we saw along U.S. Highway 160. The first picture is the Twin Spanish Peaks.

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Here is the mountain above Questa, N.M.



And here is some of what we saw on the trip back along U.S. Highway 64. This is a beautiful route. I encourage you to take it if you can.

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God does it best!

The fruit of kindness in crafting …

Andreas F. Borchert*

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Galatians 5: 22, 23

Today’s fruit is “kindness,” as it relates to crafting. I must admit that my first thought was “duh;” that this is self-evident. Crafting and using gifts of artistry for others is a kind thing to do. Giving someone a newly crocheted hat to keep his or her head warm is kind. Knitting a blanket for a homeless person or a grieving person is kind. Surprising a friend with a fresh loaf of homemade bread or something handmade is kind.

That’s pretty basic kindness stuff. Scripture, however, offers a deeper view.

George Lyons, in the New Beacon Bible Commentary*, defines “kindness” as “grace expressed in human relations, by being helpful when anger might be the expected, natural response.” Kindness, Lyons writes, is the opposite of  the”fits of rage” or “selfish ambition” described in Galatians 5: 20. This is why God’s love is often expressed as kindness. God loves us despite the wrong we’ve done. If we come to God, willing to be changed and sorry for what we’ve done, God responds to us with kindness rather than anger. Christ-followers call the willingness to change and sorrow for wrongdoing repentance. We also refer to God’s kindness as grace.

Another thing that Lyons mentioned in his commentary on Galatians 5:22 and 23, is that Paul (who we credit with writing the letter of Galatians) was encouraged in his ministry by acts of kindness. Living in the Roman Empire could be very tough for anyone who who did not go along with the status quo. Because he was a Christian, Paul didn’t and he faced many hardships as a result (2 Corinthians 6: 3 – 10). No one would have blamed him for deciding to quit, but acts of kindness kept him going.

How can we express kindness to people with our God-given talents? I’ve already mentioned a couple of ways, but one that I think is very important is encouragement, or what has been called a kind word. We face many negatives in our lives. As crafters and artists, we often hear that we can’t do things for different reasons, or that we’re obsessed. Sometimes when we do things for people we may hear nothing at all. There are times when I prefer it that way (see Mt. 6:3). However, as I look back on my life, there were definitely times when a compliment or a deeply felt thank you would have helped me immensely. Unless a person has a healthy sense of worth (and most people do not), too many negatives or too many silences can dull, or even quench, creativity. You could say that kindness is like the oil in a car engine, that keeps everything running smoothly.

As the Wycliffe version of the Bible says, “Kind words be like a honeycomb; sweet to the soul, and health for the bones.”

As a crafter or artist it means a lot to me when someone that I consider talented says that I am good at something – that I somehow make a difference. As one of my friends has said, “We all need to be validated.” This does not mean that we tell people little white lies to make them feel good. It means that we give recognition of their worth by offering a kind word about what they have done. Comments like “you put a lot of work into this,” or “what lovely colors you chose. Questions like, “How did you do this?” all validate a person’s effort. They are kind words.

In order to do this, we must rid ourselves of selfishness and anger. There can’t be any place for jealousy or comparison, if we want to be kind. We have to let it sink in that God loves us just as we are and that God loves the other person too. It helps to recognize that we are all in different places in our walk and in our artistic expression. It is a kindness to encourage others in the place that they are.

The good thing about this is that God will help us.Maybe this prayer will help:

Lord, thank you for helping me be the person I am. Please rid me of anger, jealousy and selfishness so that I can offer genuine kindness to others in the ways that would be best for them. Continue to make me into the person that you intended me to be and help me to know your love so that I may offer it freely to others. Amen.

*The New Beacon Bible Commentary on Galatians, page 351. Dr. Lyons was one of my professors in the master’s program on spiritual formation at Northwest Nazarene University. Considering the fact that he retired shortly after I graduated, I feel privileged to have had a chance to be one of his students (or maybe he retired because I was one of his students!). Under him, I studied in depth the book of John. His course was very challenging and he expected a lot. A lot of sweat and brainpower went into that class. I am grateful for his insights and teaching style. Excellent job on the commentary, Dr. Lyons. Just in case you see this, “The Translation of Sarx” helped me immensely. Thank you.

**Fruit of the Holy Spirit, Stained glass window at Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin, depicting the Fruit of the Holy Spirit along with role models representing them, i.e. the Good Shepherd representing love, an angel holding a scroll ofGloria in excelsis Deo representing joy and Jesus Christ,Job representing longsuffering, Jonathan faith, Ruth gentleness and goodness, Moses meekness, and John the Baptist temperance. Executed byHardman & Co. in the 1870s.[1]


More results from Spinzilla are in

30 miles. That’s how many yards of yarn were spun by the Spinzilla participants on the Paradise Fiber team. That’s 158,400 feet – six miles longer than the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway in Louisiana, which is 126,122 feet. In other words, if our yarn string was a bridge it would be very, very long. 20140722_122045_20227

The winning team, Team Louet, spun 296,849 yards, which is roughly the equivalent of 5,566 football fields spread across end to end. That’s about 142 miles. Wow!

Each of the participants on Team Louet won a $25 gift certificate and they have claim to the Golden Niddy Noddy. I didn’t know there was such a thing, but here it is:


I’ll be darned. Anyway, Team Louet won the Golden Niddy Noddy last year as well. Those who spun a Monster Mile were entered into a drawing for a $25 gift certificate. Then, as luck would have it, random participants were also entered into a drawing for a $25 gift certificate. And guess who won one?

That’s right! Me! My gift certificate was for Treenway Silks. Notice the word “was” because it’s already gone! I don’t waste much time with fiber.

The total number of yards spun during Spinzilla was a whopping

5,507,622 yards!

That is a lot of yarn, folks. I mean we’re talking 3,129 miles! That’s roughly the distance from New York City to Scotland.

So onto another year of spinning practice. Next year, I am going for that Monster Mile or more! You should join us.


What’s new at the Pen and Hook?

What’s new at the Pen and Hook? Christmas stockings! These hand crocheted stockings are great for the crocheter in your life. They contain seven skeins of seasonal Lion Brand Bon Bon yarn, two crochet hooks (H and I), a set of six yarn needles and a gift tag for gifting. Hang one on the tree this Christmas as a fun gift for your favorite crocheter!


Great fiber fun at Taos Wool Festival

As I said yesterday, Mike and I had a great time at the Taos Wool Festival. Here are some of the pictures he took as I looked around.

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Pictures are not the same as experiencing the festival. I wish you could hear the sounds and see the colors and experience the activities.  Most importantly, I wish you could touch everything for it is truly a tactile experience. Talking to the vendors is great too. Most of them will talk openly about how they make things. If you ask, they will tell you the best ways to work with their fiber. It’s also easy to strike up conversations with fellow fiber enthusiasts. I ooohed and aaahed with quite a few people that I had never met.

What a fun, inspiring day.