Incoming 2023-2024 Program Co-Chairs
Get to know our incoming Program Co-chairs, Willa Cather and Theresa Kotanchek. Welcome to both of you!
Willa will be familiar with longtime Guild members, as she has held various key positions over the years. She discovered the North Coast Knitters around 2005 through her Laguna Beach Guild, the High Tide Purlers. There were several members of her local guild who would drive down from Orange County to Encinitas for the wonderful programs being held at the Quail Gardens when Colleen Davis was President. She became hooked, joined our Guild and has been making the monthly trek south from Laguna Beach ever since.
In 2010 Colleen talked her into becoming an officer. She first served as Vice President with Mar Gee Farr for two years. In those days, the VPs put together the Programs for our meetings. She has also taught Members Teaching Members, chaired the Fashion Show a few times, and chaired and co-chaired the Holiday Luncheon. She is currently the 2023-2024 Program Co-Chairs.
She was even a featured speaker at a monthly meeting about Lace. During her presentation, she passed around many hand-knit lace samples items she had personally made. When an attendee remarked they must have been done on a machine rather than hand knit, she took that as a compliment, having never used a knitting machine.
Willa learned to knit when she was eight years old. The night her father died unexpectedly her mother, understandably at loose ends, focused on her child and taught her how to knit. That was over sixty years ago. Willa loves lace, beads and skinny yarn. Over 15 years ago she started the TKGA Master Knitting Program to improve her skills. She got bogged down in the second year, so she is now working on the Professional Knitters Certification. It is demanding, but she loves perfecting her skills.
Outside of knitting, Willa was an insurance broker for many years, a profession she fell into out of necessity when she became a single mother of five school age children. As her situation changed, she gravitated to a job she loved, working for fourteen years at her local yarn store, Strands & Stitches.
Willa is modeling one of her favorite projects, the Aeolian Shawl. It is knit in lace weight yarn and uses size #8 beads. There are lots of nupps, which she finds rhythmic and doesn’t mind doing.
Theresa is new to our Guild. During the recent COVID lockdown, she and Willa happened to attend the same Andrea de Castro’s virtual “Lace Traditions Around Europe” Stitches Expo at Home class. (Andrea is our August 2023 speaker). Prior to the session, Willa introduced herself, stating she was surprised she hadn’t met Theresa at any of the Guild events. Her response was, “What Guild?” She had moved to Rancho Santa Fe in August 2020 and was unaware of our existence. Delighted, she immediately joined us, signed up for the next series of workshops and has been loving it ever since. So much so, that she and Willa became co Program Chairs for the 2023 – 2024 term.
Like Willa, Theresa’s knitting journey also began when she was eight years old when her dear cousin taught her. She stopped knitting when she went to college and really didn’t pick up needles again until December 2012 when her then six-year old daughter asked her to make her a scarf. While her daughter selected the sparkliest pink yarn she could find, Theresa set off to purchase the appropriate needles. Before she knew it, the Michigan “A Piece of Ewe” store owner, Susan Glenwallis, who became a dear friend and SDNCKG member and the LYS’ Saturday knitting crew convinced her to join their Monday evening Einstein Coat class. The yarn fumes took over, and she ended up walking out with her first of many giant bags of yarn. She has continued her pursuit of the craft through LYS classes, and numerous Stitches and Vogue in person and virtual classes.
Theresa enjoys knitting garments, sweaters, jackets, cardigans, and tunics. She loves creating textures, color stories and lace. Her preferred yarns are cashmere, alpaca, fine merino, linen and silk blends.
Theresa’s life away from the Guild is also remarkable. After receiving a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering, she has devoted her professional life to the creation of new materials from fiber optics for missiles systems to electronics, food packaging, medical and hygiene products, and transportation, water and energy systems. Currently, she is the Chief Executive Officer of Evolved Analytics LLC, a data science, predictive analytics, augmented intelligence software and consulting company. Her personal focus is supporting the understanding of the mechanisms, as well as discovery, development and optimization of cell and gene therapies. She is a member of the National Academy of Engineers and chairs the National Materials and Manufacturing Board of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.
In her spare time, she collects yarn, gardens, hikes, and explores the world. She is pictured here modeling an heirloom garment she made for her niece Jordan using Rowan Angora Haze. It’s the Wild Swan wedding shawl.
— Tania Marshall, Guild President, News Coordinator and Guild Photographer