by Cheryl Reed
Lois: “My draft mule is neurotic. My riding mule wants to squash anything that comes into her pasture. The sheep are paranoid. The only sane critter on the ranch is our Australian shepherd.” Me: “Sounds like you need a pet psychiatrist at your place.” Lois laughed, her shoulders bouncing up and down at the absurdity. That was in the late 1980’s. We met for the first time at a Chapter One meeting of DFA. [Chapter One was a branch of DFA that met in the Lower Yakima Valley.]
Lois and Dick moved to Hermiston from California in 1985. Lois was interested in spinning and weaving. She heard of the Desert Fiber Arts Guild, but chose to attend our “Chapter One” group in the Lower Yakima Valley. I think she liked the fewer people at those meetings and enjoyed meeting at different farms in the Lower Valley. In the early 1990’s, Lois began a correspondence course in weaving. Weaving with Robert & Roberta by Robert and Roberta Ayotte arrived chapter by chapter each month. She ordered the yarns the Ayottes offered for each project. She followed their tips on selling your products. She filled a small booth each holiday season in Hermiston selling her scarves, table linens and ruanas. She did commission work on saddle blankets, men’s vests, and blankets in the official Harley Davidson tartan. The variety of her projects was impressive. In the early 2000’s Lois encouraged some DFA friends to take the same course to learn to weave. That was the beginning of our 4-shaft Weaving Study Group, that has grown into our 4+More Weaving Study Group.
Dianna Chesley: Lois UNDERSTOOD weaving. The Ayotte program honed her skill where she could understand weave structure and how to figure appropriate yarn needs. She was always free to give some help… many times she came here to help me with all kinds of weaving needs. And she was perfectionistic enough to take her weaving out if she found an error… remember that blanket she wove where the two sections needed to match perfectly… she unwove 13 inches because she found an error…
Sharon Ofsthun: As a new weaver I would call her for help reading drafts or confusing instructions. She would always help me either by phone or she would mail me pictures and solutions to my problem, even if they were stupid questions.
Lois loved routines. Each night in front of the TV news, she would spin on her gorgeous Jensen spinning wheel. Her fibers were harvested from her fiber critters. As we cleaned for the sale this month, Dick showed us one of her handcrafted dulcimers. There was a mother-of-pearl inlay of her llama, her sheep, her angora goat and her angora rabbit. Some of her sheep came from my flock. When a wether produced a lovely fleece, I’d put a plea in the DFA newsletter for someone to save him from the freezer. They lived long pampered lives on her farm.
Lois was an RN. Her attention to detail carried into her dyeing. She used carefully measured amounts so she could replicate a color. Her studio had notebooks and samples with her formulas. Lois fed and neutered several feral cats in her barn. She loved critters. Nothing made her more angry than neglected beasts. That’s why it was suggested that to honor her memory, you donate to the animal rescue organization of your choice.
She was a firm believer in Murphy’s Laws. “The one time a weaver decides NOT to sample, is the one time she weaver SHOULD have sampled.” “Yardage shrinks in proportion to the beauty of the cloth…about 75% on lovely fabric, and less than 1% on fabric that looks and feels like burlap. Corollary: There never seems to be enough fabric for the whole pattern.”
Lois succumbed to dementia, but even as her brain failed, she warped up her workshop loom with simple mug rugs to weave from her stash of sock yarns. Playing with fibers was her joy for as long as she could weave or spin. Lois willed thousands of dollars worth of equipment, yarns and fiber to DFA. Through those gifts, she will continue to encourage DFA members into the future.