From left, Anna Chandler, Fran Giles, Linda Collacott, and Elaine Anderson. SUPPLIED

Niagara Handweaver and Spinners Guild features a holiday show and sale on November 19 and 20

For some, the terms “weaving” and “spinning” conjure up mental images of a high-energy fitness class, or maybe a staggering walk home from the local pub, having consumed a few too many potent potables.

But for Fonthill resident Debbie Norton, weaving and spinning are a fibre-based hobby she has embraced for over a decade, and is eager to see flourish throughout the region.

Norton is a member of the Niagara Handweavers and Spinners, one of the oldest guilds in Ontario, which continues the tradition of passing on knowledge and techniques through classes led by experienced artisans. The guild was founded in 1948 with 18 members, who began holding exhibits, taking part in craft and folk festivals, convening workshops, and connecting to other handweavers and spinners across the province.

“We have just over 60 active members at present,” said Norton, “and have rented space in the basement of Trillium United Church in St. Catharines, where all our weaving equipment is housed. We get together for a monthly meeting, and have studio time every Thursday, and at other times as well. Quite a few of our members do have looms at home as well.”

The Guild will be hosting a seasonal open house this month, to promote the activity, and also make available a selection of their own creations for sale.

“There will be a lot of craft items that can be purchased — shawls, scarves, blankets, purses, table runners, rugs, hand-crafted Christmas ornaments, greeting cards, beadwork, and jewelry — along with demonstrations of the techniques used in weaving and spinning,” said Norton. “The guild has a long tradition of participating in local festivals, such as the ones held annually at Balls Falls and Marshville. We will be spinning an alpaca fleece into yarn at the event, and then using that yarn to weave a shawl over the course of the weekend, to be raffled off. From raw product to finished product.”

The Niagara Art Association will have artwork on display at the event as well.

Guild member Elaine Anderson (who worked previously at the Pelham Library, along with fellow guilder Fran Giles) told the Voice that guilds — associations of artisans knowledgeable in a particular trade — have flourished since the Middle Ages, sharing skills with the next generation of crafters and artisans.

“What were then fibre-based trades in weaving, dyeing, and spinning, are now a hobby that connects us to our roots, and fuels our creativity,” said Anderson. “Our club includes weavers, spinners, basket makers, dyers, knitters, crocheters, rug hookers, felters, and fibre artists of all kinds, who are involved in our community outreach to schools, festivals, historical events, and artisan shows.”

Even after many years of instruction and guidance from other guild members, Norton said that she’s still got a long way to go on the fibre continuum.

“I don’t think the learning curve ever stops,” said Norton. “There’s always something new to take in. Fabric can be quite complex in its design and structure. You can start off with fairly simple fabric, creating tea towels and scarves, which are usually fairly straightforward. But then you can branch off into things like blankets, that can be very elaborate in design and colour. We have courses available that are about six weeks long, once a week for a couple of hours. Getting started isn’t too daunting. From there, the sky’s the limit.”

The Fibre Lovers Holiday Show and Sale runs Saturday, November 19, from 10 AM to 5 PM, and Sunday, November 20, from 12:30 to 5 PM. The location is Trillium United Church, at 415 Linwell Road in St. Catharines. Admission is two dollars. All are welcome. Those interested in arranging a tour of the facilities should contact Anna Chandler at [email protected]