Kitch­ener-Water­loo guild keeps age-old craft alive,


KITCH­ENER— A group of women work deftly and with sharp fo­cus as they feed long strands of teal, blue and green yarn into a large loom to pre­pare it for weav­ing.

These ar­ti­sans use age-old tech­niques to prac­tise an an­cient tex­tile tra­di­tion that still thrives to­day. Although com­mer­cial weav­ing has de­clined over the years, hand weav­ing con­tin­ues to be pop­u­lar among fi­bre en­thu­si­asts.

“It’s a fun hobby for math­e­mat­i­cally-in­clined peo­ple as well as ar­tis­ti­cally-in­clined peo­ple,” said Su­san Neff, a mem­ber of the Kitch­ener-Water­loo Weavers’ and Spin­ners’ Guild.

The process of weav­ing cre­ates cloth by in­ter­lac­ing threads to­gether us­ing a wooden loom.

Even be­fore the loom was in­vented some­time in the 17th cen­tury, weavers made cloth with sticks and yarn.

Spin­ning and weav­ing are among the old­est tex­tile tra­di­tions and at one time were es­sen­tial skills for women to have to cre­ate fab­ric for cloth­ing.

As a mod­ern hobby, ar­ti­sans con­tinue to use the same skills, ter­mi­nol­ogy and pat­terns that have been used for cen­turies.

Most mod­ern ar­ti­sans don’t prac­tise this an­cient craft to turn a profit. They want to pre­serve it. The Kitch­ener-Water­loo guild’s goal to­day is the same as it was when it was formed 70 years ago.

“This is a great way to con­nect with his­tory. We’re try­ing to keep these skills alive,” Neff said.

The guild was founded by a group of lo­cal women who wanted to share their knowl­edge of this tra­di­tional art form.

The found­ing group would get to­gether at mem­bers’ homes to weave, share looms and learn from each other. Neff said the last sur­viv­ing found­ing mem­ber died just a few weeks ago.

Now the group runs a stu­dio in Kitch­ener in­side a former ele­men­tary school turned syn­a­gogue. The main stu­dio space is full of looms and has an ex­ten­sive lend­ing li­brary with vin­tage pat­tern books that can be quite dif­fi­cult to find.

Looms range in size from large floor looms that re­quire mul­ti­ple peo­ple to op­er­ate to smaller in­di­vid­ual looms and table­top looms.

Linda Cain sits at a small floor loom weav­ing a scarf, her foot pump­ing the trea­dle rhyth­mi­cally as she sweeps a shut­tle — a hand-held wooden tool that holds thread — across the loom to cre­ate the in­ter­lac­ing ef­fect of wo­ven fab­ric. The repet­i­tive mo­tions are sooth­ing for Cain.

“I re­ally love do­ing it. It’s a full-body thing,” she said. “I get lost in it.”

The re­lax­ing, med­i­ta­tive qual­i­ties of both spin­ning and weav­ing are a big draw.

“This is a hobby for a lot of dif­fer­ent types of peo­ple,” Neff said.

Mem­bers in the lo­cal guild range from book­keep­ers to vis­ual artists.

She watches her peers metic­u­lously thread 12 yard-long strands of yarn through a loom to pre­pare it to weave a dozen tea tow­els. Set­ting up the loom is a cum­ber­some process that can take hours.

“We don’t do this to make money,” said Judy Ginsler, a mem­ber of the guild. She stands on one side of the loom and care­fully wraps the yarn over a wooden roller. The yarn is wrapped be­tween sheets of pa­per so it doesn’t get tan­gled dur­ing the weav­ing process.

For more in­for­ma­tion about the guild, go to kwws.org.


Judy Ginsler, left, Su­san Neff, He­lene Bind­sei and Barb Dares feed yarn through a loom at the Kitch­ener-Water­loo Weavers and Spin­ners Guild.

Bind­sei and Dares hold yarn as it is fed through a loom be­fore they be­gin weav­ing.

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