Following one lead after another, which I do, I was introduced to Melanie Falick, the author of Making a Life. During a phone conversation in early June, she described a friend of hers who lives near Wilkes Barre, PA, who has the most extensive felted wool collection she’d ever seen.
“Sounds like a field trip to me,” I suggested lightly, hoping she’d bite. Melanie contacted her colleague and friend, Therese Inverso, a yarn, knitting, quilting and lots of other categories expert, and got back to me with a date to visit six weeks in the future: yesterday.
I was lucky to arrange a sleepover at a good friend’s in New Hamburg, NY, and offered a ride to Beacon the next morning where Melanie lives. Prudy and I had breakfast at the very cool gluten-free bakery, Kitchen and Coffee, and arrived at Melanie’s for an 8:30am departure. The only transportation back to NYC from Wilkes Barre would be a 6:05pm bus. I feared I’d be too much, that the day would be too long, and that we would tire of each other. NOT A CHANCE!!
From the moment we entered Therese’s chock-full home in Kingston, PA, the conversation was non-stop. It took nearly an hour to move from her downstairs library to the craft room upstairs. Once there, I was greeted by shelves and shelves of bags filled with wool that Therese had felted herself–not in her washer and dryer at home, but at the local laundromat. “That was a lot of quarters,” Melanie observed eyeing the volume of product on the shelves.
As Therese opened one bag after another, my jaw kept dropping at the enormity of the collection. Much of it was quite thick. Depending on what is being felted – wool that has been wet-washed and dried shrinks mightily as anyone who has mistakenly put a sweater through those cycles knows. She had blankets, sweaters, coats and other items mixed together. I was instructed to help myself to anything that caught my eye. Melanie assisted in the selection, encouraging me to make a broad sweep first, then edit the selection.
We talked about moths and the potential damage they could cause. I received Therese’s highly educated answers about carpet beetles, larvae and keeping the wools in cotton bags rather than moth balls and plastic (my method). This amazing woman actually harvested carpet beetles to observe their behavior in a woolen environment. I was in awe of her grasp of the world of wool. She held up a copy of National Geographic – May 1988 – with a cover story on the history of wool, one source of her bountiful knowledge.
By 4pm I had amassed an enormous pile of wool in every shade, texture and thickness. Therese found a box in her basement, and Melanie packed up the haul, sealed it with tape, and we headed to UPS. It weighed 22 pounds!
As the hours flew by, the conversation included a mutual friend, Chris Timmons, who edited Threads Magazine many years ago and is a friend of mine. The four of us FaceTimed amidst the continuing unbagging and bagging of the wools, laughing, pointing, holding up the quilt Therese designed for Chris.
I can’t remember a more fulfilling day: connection, good food (Melanie made a vegetable salad and fettucine concoction that was extraordinary), home-brewed kombucha, a tour of Therese’s garden and non-stop talk about craft, life, choices, beauty, family, relationships, and dogs!
They brought me into town to catch the bus back to the city. I had a care package of leftovers from lunch, a loaf of buckwheat bread and another made from einkorn flour both provided by Therese. We hugged, vowed to make this at least an annual ritual and said goodbye.
I felt so filled up, satisfied and enriched by these women and the day we had. I took my seat on the right side of the bus, only to realize that there were huge letters covering the windows on that side. At the first depot, I moved my belongings to the opposite side where the view would be better. As I was gathering my things to get off the bus three hours later, I noticed that the small red pouch where I keep my earbuds and USB cord was missing. Small sacrifice to replace those, I thought, as I searched under both seats I’d occupied. Not a big deal.
I was the last one off the bus at Port Authority. The driver stood by the door making sure we all departed safely. I could see a flash of red in his right hand. “That’s mine!” I practically yelled, when I recognized the small satchel he was holding. The passenger who replaced me in that seat must’ve turned it in. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day. (Oh, yeah, I also got to the A train with 3 minutes to spare and got uptown in record time.)
I needn’t have worried about the length of the day. When women get together with similar passions, time evaporates and warm relationships emerge.