THE COTTON SPINNER
Joan has been teaching spinning for almost 30 years. As a graduate from Springfield College, she taught in the Tucson public schools before going to New Zealand in 1971. In New Zealand were there are 3 million people and 30 million sheep, she learned to spin from Ruth Reid. Returning home to the U.S. a year later, she brought with her two fleeces, a Pipy wheel and a flick carder.
The family moved to Florida and Joan continued to spin and began teaching anyone who would listen to her. Settling in Tallahassee, Florida was good for Joan as she became active in the local spinning and weaving guilds. Many weekends were spent at the Pioneer Settlement demonstrating and promoting spinning.
Joan began taking classes and workshops but the one workshop that really changed her direction was Persis Grayson’s. Persis knew how to instill a love of spinning and she exposed her students to all kinds of fibers. Cotton was the fiber Joan fell in love with and she never faltered after. It was important for her to learn all she could about this wonderful soft, short staple fiber. So she went directly to Harry and Olive Linder who were the known experts in cotton spinning. After several years and many hours with the Linders, Joan felt comfortable to begin sharing her knowledge of cotton with other fiber artists. And thus she began giving lectures and spinning workshops around the country. Her highlight was to go back to New Zealand and share the skills of cotton spinning with those who first made spinning a big part of Joan’s life.
While in Florida, Joan and her partner, Judy Kates, opened a warehouse shop which they called Spin & Dye. Joan imported wheels and fleeces from New Zealand. The shop offered supplies for the local spinners and dyers. In 1980 the Ruane family moved back to Tucson and there Joan opened a store called Spin & Weave, which she operated for 12 years.
Wanting a quieter life, Joan and her husband Bob moved to Bisbee, Arizona where she began Southwest Corner. First a mail order business to supply cotton fiber and equipment to spinners around the world. Second, she established fiber retreats; bringing in instructors from all over the United States. As Joan began traveling more and giving workshops, she had less time for the mail order business. With the growing interest in cotton, other shops were beginning to carry cotton supplies so Joan closed that phase of her business.
Today Joan concentrates on teaching workshops, writing and promoting cotton wherever she can. Her latest endeavor to promote cotton spinning is through the film media. In 2006 Joan’s first video/DVD was made titled "Spinning Cotton Made Easy". This DVD gives spinners a good solid basic foundation for learning how to spin this short staple fiber on their wheel.
In 2010 "Cotton Spinning With The Takli" was released. This film connects spinners with an ancient tradition that was speared on by Mohandas Gandhi while trying to save his country of India. Once learning to use this wonderful little spindle, stress can be spun away and a wonderful relaxing aura can surround the spinner. These films are a great way for people to learn to spin as they can be viewed over and over again with stops and starts and to concentrate on specific sections of the DVD.
Anyone who has taken a class with Joan can vouch for two things: she really loves cotton and knows how to teach!
INTRODUCING JILL HOLBROOK
Jill Holbrook is a teacher who works with Joan to expand the understanding and possibilities that cotton spinning, knitting and weaving has to offer students.
Jill loves lace knitting, cotton spinning and designing knits and yarns. Her love of these arts has created a passion to learn and perfect her techniques. Jill is known for her fine and beautiful yarns as well as her knowledgeable style of teaching.
Currently the President of the Tucson Handweavers & Spinners Guild, she has led the Cotton Fiber Study, arranged workshops and field trips and mentored new spinners. Jill is a regular teacher at such venues as the Arizona Federation of Weavers & Spinners Conferences, Southwest Regional Spinners Retreat and shops throughout Arizona.
Joan's photo courtesy of Judy Ilrig