By Ashley Lodato
The Methow Valley Spinners & Weavers Guild’s (MVSWG) annual show and sale is coming up soon, on Friday-Saturday Nov. 16-17 at 137 Old Twisp Highway.
The MVSWG, which was started in 1972, currently has about 18 active members with hundreds of collective years of spinning and weaving experience among them, including one of its charter members, Dorothy Evans, who has been spinning and weaving with the group for nearly half a century.
I assumed that most of the MVSWG members learned to spin or weave from parents or grandparents as the natural process of passing on traditional skills, but 40-year MVSWG veteran Kay Reiber says that’s not the case.
“I didn’t learn from my mother,” Reiber says. “I learned because I was afraid these were skills that would disappear.” Some of Reiber’s forebears worked in woolen mills in New England, “but that’s unrelated to hand weaving,” she says.
The MVSWG is committed to ensuring that traditional spinning and weaving skills don’t vanish with the passing of time, and to this end they meet weekly, with structured sessions that broaden and further their skills. “We learn from books and each other,” says Reiber, noting that the MVSWG is unique in its regular, focused meetings. “Other groups meet only monthly, or take the summer or winter off,” she says. “You lose momentum that way. And you don’t develop the rapport or knowledge base if you’re not consistent.”
Reiber notes that although the MVSWG membership is currently all-female, “we’re not opposed to men. We’ve had a few of them come and go over the years. We’d welcome them!”
The MVSWG’s annual sale always reminds me of Richard Hart, who left the Guild’s 2015 sale wearing another man’s shoes and did not notice it until later in the day when someone else pointed it out to him. I’ve had a sporadic shoe debacle theme over the years, mostly because I found it fascinating that someone could slip unfamiliar shoes on and not simply feel the difference. Because of all of our articles of apparel, aren’t shoes the most distinctly intimate?
Now, however, I totally get it, because I went home from a summer dinner party wearing 15-year-old former valley resident Brenna Casey’s shoes, and did not realize it until her mom called the next morning to inquire. (In my own defense, we had both worn brown flip flops to the dinner, and when I left the party the mudroom was dark, so I just slipped on the first pair of brown flip flops that I could discern. Still, I now see how easy this mistake is to make.)
But I digress! The real reason to attend the MVSWG’s annual show is not in hopes of witnessing a footwear swap, but instead to see a display of fiber creativity expertly executed by a dedicated group of local artisans. Hope to see you there.