Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

When Great Spirits Soar: In Memory of Edward Tabachek

I met Edward Tabachek decades ago when a package with an unfamiliar name and return address arrived at my house.  Inside, was a small wooden bowl and a brief, very polite note from the sender who was beginning to make spinning equipment.  Would I please test this bowl for him and let him know if it worked for supported spinning?  It was a lovely bowl. I wrote the maker a return post thanking him for the gift and asking him to let me know if he had more fibre equipment to test and/or sell.

Some time after that, I was at a spinning conference in Alberta when a container of toy wheel spindles at one of the vendor booths caught my eye.  "Chatterworks" spindles were pretty and selling at the remarkable price of $10 each.  I bought one.  (One! Only one!)  I asked the vendor to tell me more about the spindle maker, but she was reluctant to do so.
She preferred to keep her supply source to herself-fair enough. For a long time, this spindle was my "go-to" portable spinning tool.  I sometimes wondered about the maker, but added him or her to the list of mystery spindle makers who did fine work, but remained anonymous.

A few years after that, at another Alberta conference, a different vendor had some lovely spindles for sale. The whorls were ebonized oak; the shafts were short, so that each spindle could fit into a pencil case, perfect for travelling. Once I tested that spindle, it stuck to my hand, so I bought one.  (One! Only one!)  This time, the spindle had a tag listing the name of the maker, Edward Tabachek, the same person who had sent me the spindle bowl several years back.

So began what turned out to be, for me, a significant, if mostly long distance, friendship. For many years, Edward and I communicated via snail mail, sending letters and packages back and forth, with brief notes about tools and function and spinning.  He would sometimes send me bowls at no charge and would never accept payment. Instead, he said that I could pay him in cookies, but since I didn't bake, I never did fill that request and opted to send him fibre for his own spinning.  I began collecting Edward's spindles at conferences or from Edward himself.  Although all of them were similar in style, every one of them was a thing of beauty. His wife, Jo-Anne, a Master Spinner, tested all his spindles for him, so that every spindle sold was a work of functional perfection.

We met in person at Olds Fibre Week when Jo-Anne was studying for her Master Spinners' Certificate. Edward would accompany her and they would pack spinning equipment in the back of their vehicle.  If you were lucky, Edward would invite you out to his vehicle or back to his townhouse for an opportunity to buy some spindles. Some years, I would forgo classes at Olds in favour of bringing my tapestry loom and hanging out in the Land Sciences Cafeteria, with Edward and several others who spun and chatted while their family members slaved over their levels.  Edward would spin and fix tools and assess the tools I used for my weaving.  He repaired one of my tiny finishing combs and commented that, "Next time, buy a better comb." He was passionate about making and using fine tools and never understood why women expressed guilt about the money they spent on fibres and equipment.  "You women are always worrying about what you spend on tools," he said to me one day. "I don't get that. You are professionals, doing what you love. You deserve the best fibres and the best equipment you can afford. Stop feeling guilty."  I took his words to heart and realized that money spent on good equipment, Edward's spinning equipment, was always money well spent. Edward was quietly confident in his work; when people compared his spindles to those made by others, his response was simply, "I'm not worried." Over the years, I've collected quite a few spindles, plain and fancy, by various excellent makers, but Edward's pieces are the ones I treasure and use the most.

A few years back, I heard that Edward had been diagnosed with cancer.  I sent him an email expressing my concern and we began a new chapter of our friendship, chatting back and forth about cancer, treatments and moving through the process of healing. We wrote about using yoga, meditation and spinning in healing and music, too.  Edward loved the cello, loved to play it and returned to it as he recovered his strength from surgery, chemo and radiation. He began making spindles again.

I phoned him a few weeks ago and Jo-Anne answered; Edward was out cruising Lee Valley Tools.  When he called me back, we talked about his plans for the summer and about one of his new Tibetan spindles which I had purchased at a retreat-would he make a matching bowl?  Of course, he would and, along with that, he would make some Tibetan spindles with shorter shafts for travelling. Soon after that, he sent an email telling me that his chemo was over. The doctors were optimistic and he was looking forward to getting back to his workshop, so I was happy to see his name pop up in my email this morning.  The message wasn't from Edward. It was from Jo-Anne, telling me that "her best friend and soulmate" had taken a turn for the worse.

Edward Tabachek died early yesterday morning. There will be no more bowls, no more spindles, no more cello playing, except in memory.  For Edward, there will be no more pain. I will miss him something fierce. My thoughts and best wishes go out to Jo-Anne in her sorrow.

I hope your Spirit soars high, Edward, where spindles are forever balanced and cellos sing in harmony. Thank you for your generosity, your encouragement and your talent.  Safe journey, my friend.  I hold you and Jo-Anne close to my heart.  I'll eat a cookie in your honour. Safe journey.

The first bowl and the last spindle

Edward modelling his and Jo-Anne's fibre work at Fibre Week 2013. Edward spun the wool; Jo-Anne knit the hat and Edward knit the scarf.

If you'd like to read more about Edward's spindles, click the link here for a previous post.



  1. Dear Deborah, I was referred to your blog through the Online Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers when the recent death of the much lamented Edward Tabachek came up in discussion. I am a volunteer editor for the Journal of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers and we are publishing a short tribute to him by one of our members. I would like to link to your great blog posts about him and his output, but also wonder if we might be able to use one of your beautiful images of his work. Do you think you could contact me? You can do it through my wordpress blog. Many thanks, Isabella

  2. Of course, Isabella, and thank you. I will contact you privately.