Sandra Hutton, weaver, mentor and friendDecember 02, 2023

Sandra Hutton, weaver, mentor and friend

photo above:  Sandra Hutton. Sandy hated having her photo taken--this is the only photo I have of her.  She would have loved that it's pixelated! LOL!  See photos of her weavings in gallery below.

The world lost a gifted weaver and I lost a friend on October 27, 2023.  Sandra Hutton, "Sandy" to her friends--which was just about everyone she met--passed away peacefully in her sleep.

Others will write of Sandy's many contributions to the fiber arts world--boards she served on, awards she received and awards she sponsored, the juried show "Complexity" that she helped create, her vision for the first Colorado Weaver's Day, to name a few.  I will speak of my personal experience and friendship with Sandy.

I first got to know Sandy in 2009 after Betsy Blumenthal invited me to join Handweavers Guild of Boulder (HGB) study group "complex weavers."  Sandy traveled 100 miles each way from her home in Colorado Springs to be part of this group.  We studied many weave structures.  There wasn't a single one that Sandy didn't have experience weaving. Sandy was so organized she always knew where her notes were, her woven samples, and her woven piece (if she hadn't given it away).

Sandy was always generous with her knowledge and I learned so many things from her.  Including the difference between "tabby" and "plain weave."  And "shafts" on a loom vs "harnesses." 

After we became the new Treenway Silks owners in August 2011, Sandy helped me so much by designing and weaving projects using Treenway Silks.

ICE CRYSTALS 3 skeins = 2 scarves
The first was in Spring 2012.  I'd decided, rather last minute, to be a vendor at Convergence.  It occurred to me that I only had ONE item woven with Treenway Silks yarns.  Yikes!  I created the "2 skeins = 2 scarves" and enlisted weavers from Rocky Mountain Weavers Guild (RMWG) to weave some for me.  Sandy was happy to weave "Ice Crystals" and even photographed it for me! (see photo below)

I'd selected the "Ice Crystals" draft from "A Weaver's Book of 8 shaft Handwoven Patterns" edited by Carol Strickler.  The draft is a block crackle, designed by Susan Wilson, and I've always wanted to weave it.  But I didn't know anything about crackle. Sandy asked "how do you want it woven" and I said "what do you mean?"  She answered "like traditional crackle, like overshot, twill, what?"  So I answered "whatever you think is best" because I had no idea! She might have done a few eye rolls at my ignorance (LOL!), but she was always a willing teacher.

Sandy wove it "in the manner of overshot" and the result is stunning.  And, of course Sandy sampled the sett, making certain the final scarf would drape beautifully.  Always being willing to "do a bit extra", Sandy opted to rethread the loom for the second scarf so her scarf would be different than mine.

I deliberately selected Gekko, our 60/2x2 silk (rather than the more popular Taiyo, 30/2 silk) as I felt the cabled yarn construction would work well for warp and tabby weft.  This was Sandy's first time using Gekko, and it became her favorite silk yarn.

A most generous scarf width and the tabby shots uses more silk, making this our only "3 skeins = 2 scarves" draft.  It's one of our free downloadable drafts on the website.

When Handwoven magazine decided to have silk be the featured fiber in their January/February 2014 issue, Sandy was one of several people I asked to help me out (again).  Sandy was the weaver for the collaborative shawl that's on pages 38-40.  What started out as one shawl, woven in Turned Taquete (now called "Jin"), quickly became two shawls, with the second woven as double weave.  Sandy was always willing to go the extra mile. (see photo below)

Because Sandy is so detailed and ALWAYS sampled options (color, sett, etc.), I always asked her to weave with yarns we hadn't used before.

Handwoven January/February 2015 issue was focused on cotton.  But they were willing to accept a silk/cotton blend, which is one of Treenway Silks' blends.  Sandy and I met to discuss what would be a good project.  Sandy fingered our Silken Cloud (silk/cotton blend yarn) and she suggested it would make a good blouse--Sandy was an exceptional seamstress.  And Sandy said should include some lace weave structure. Gosh, was she ever spot on!!

Sandy selected the pattern that efficiently used narrower handwoven fabric. Plus she looked for a pattern that lent itself to huck lace in some areas and plain weave in other.  I'm the "Susan" in "A blouse for Susan" that's on pages 56-58.  This blouse is so comfortable to wear, once I have it on, I never want to take it off. (see photo below)

SUMMERTIME:  2 skeins = 2 scarves
Sandy sampled quite a bit before deciding on the sett and which huck lace design to use.  Sandy had put on a "scarf width" warp in natural Silken Cloud.  Once she was satisfied with the sample, Sandy surprised me with a scarf woven from the remaining sample warp.  This scarf is "Summertime", one of our 2 skeins = 2 scarves free drafts. (see photo below)

Another Handwoven January/February issue, focused on Linen.  This was the 2016 issue, and the editors were willing to consider a ramie/silk blend, a yarn we have subsequently sold out of.   Again, Sandy and I met to discuss the project.  Again, she fingered the yarn and its crispness, this time concluding "this feels like it should be table linens."  She had been studying a Finnish book of weaves and found a lace structure she adapted for the napkins.  Sandy, again, was spot on in matching the yarn to the final project. You can find this on pages 59-60.  Sandy wove an extra napkin to give to me.  I treasure it. (see photo below)

Sandy came to my rescue again.  Handwoven was creating the first of their Loom Theory e-books.  Bonnie Inouye was asked to design something, but due to an illness in her family, Bonnie couldn't commit to weave them.  I offered to find weavers to bring Bonnie's drafts to life. Bonnie designed a 4-shaft, 8-shaft and 16-shaft shaft version from the same profile draft.  Not a lot of people have a loom with at least 16 shafts, and even fewer can "weave off their current warp" in time to dress their loom with a new draft.  And have time to sample weft colors.  But Sandy was always up to the challenge and willingly accommodated our weaving needs. (see photo below)

The last scarf Sandy designed for us was published in January/February 2019 Handwoven magazine's "blends" issue.  We picked "Resilience" yarn, a silk/retted bamboo yarn.  Since the bamboo is retted (like traditional linen processing), the bamboo behaves more like linen.  Another silk blend yarn with a crisp hand.  Sandy suggested another blouse or napkins.  But we decided on a scarf, something that could be worn in warmer climates. 

Sandy and her husband Ray had just seen the Van Gogh exhibit at the Denver Art Center.  Sandy was very influenced by his use of complementary colors, and she wanted to bring that element into this project.  Sandy developed one of my favorite scarves--A Winter Confection. 

Sandy sampled sett and colors--when she put on her warp, she initially set it up as a two block color gamp and had a different sett in each block.  She paired natural with two different peach colors.  Then wove several inches in two different turquoises.  And she took the sample to Pikes Peak Weavers Guild (PPWG) to get feedback on the colors. 

Once we had decided on the colors, Sandy pulled out the rejected peach warp threads from half of the warp and replaced it with the #413 Peach Frappe, the winning choice. And then re-sleyed the reed with the final sett. All this is "gobbledygook" if you're not a weaver, but believe me, not many people will work this hard.  (see photo below)

All of these extra steps to have the project turn out "just right" was so typical of Sandy. Which is one of the many reasons why I loved working with her.

Sandy never said "no" when I asked for her help.

In addition to weaving things for Treenway Silks, Sandy carved out time to design and weave projects for herself.  When she would use Treenway Silks' yarn, she'd send me a photo. (see photos below)

In addition to all the weaving, Sandy also helped me understand how Treenway Silks should support the weaving community. 

When she was chairperson for the first Complexity (Complex Weavers' juried biennial weaving show), Sandy took me by the hand and told me that Treenway Silks should offer a "Best Use of Silk" award--and not something small, it should be "substantial".  In 2012, $75 was substantial, especially during our "lean years." 

Ten years later, it finally dawned on me that $75 was no longer "substantial" and I increased it to $250.  I felt Sandy was whispering in my ear "good job grasshopper; I've taught you well."

Sandy also suggested that Treenway Silks business insurance might cover the weavings pieces back and forth to Complexity.  So I checked with my insurance company and it did. Sandy always knew so many different things! Treenway Silks became a Complexity "corporate sponsor" for many years.

Sandy was many things--an excellent weaver and scholar, generous with her time and knowledge, and so helpful and supportive of my adventures with Treenway Silks.  But most importantly, she was a friend I could always count on.  I miss you Sandy.