By Chris Watson
Before non-GMO, organic, all natural, farm to table, and sustainable became the buzz words of trendy advertising there have been people doing “all natural” in clothing; blankets, hats, socks, sweaters, scarves and a whole slew of other textiles, for decades…and they have been doing so right in our back yard.
These time honored traditional crafts and artistic expressions have crossed cultures for generations. Thanks to a group of local artisans and spinners, those who are interested in the pantheon of textile crafts, like crochet, knitting, felting, braiding, tatting, filet, and a whole host of other natural fiber arts have a place, a time, and a guild to help explore and learn in the company of those in the know.
Crafting Old School
This weekend at the Wood County Fair Grounds in Bowling Green, OH, The Black Swamp Spinners Guild will be holding their Annual Market Day and Fiber Fair this Saturday, March 24th, from 9-4. The Guild, which celebrates 41 years this June, has a simple mission: to be a platform for stimulating interest in spinning and fiber arts through member interaction, workshops, lectures, and demonstrations. Here are just a few of the things you can expect to see:
- Demonstrations with exotic fibers, yarn, fleeces, and materials
- Marketing of home spun yarns
- Spinning and weaving techniques
- Demonstrations and selling of weaving and spinning equipment and supplies,
including raw wools and fibers and natural dyes
- A wide variety of hand-crafted items and home spun/woven products to both experience and purchase.
- Local Boy Scouts will have lunch ready as a troop fund raiser
Deb Yeagle, current President of the Black Swamp Spinners Guild, started spinning as a young mother. “I had Jacob spotted sheep on our farm at the time. This gave me a supply of wool. Naturally I wanted to do something with it so I sought out some help.” She continues with a earnest smile. “Fortunately, my son was a good baby. I would take him in a carrier to guild meetings while I learned how to spin.”
Sheep’s wool isn’t your only choice when spinning natural fibers. “This craft and art form has so many levels and options,” explains Yeagle, who is also a retired art teacher. “Consider just the types of fibers to make this out of. Besides sheep’s wool there is angora, llama, alpaca, yak, buffalo, and camel. Silk is spun as well. Then there are natural, plant based fibers like flax and hemp.”
Traditional Materials, New Techniques
Besides the ubiquitous hats, socks, and blankets, fiber art has taken broad new turns. “I have learned so much about fiber arts and what to do with yarn. As a sculpture major in college I became interested in wet felting.” Wet felting is a technique that takes animal fleece, nominally sheep or alpaca fleece, and uses a layering process to build up what we know commercially as felt. “The learning process doesn’t just end with basic technique,” continues Yeagle. “Just last year we learned fractal spinning, which is a technique of putting color waves into yarn. This month we are doing silk fusion. Yes, we are a ‘spinning’ guild but a better description would be ‘fiber’ guild. There are so many options, materials, and techniques to experience and explore.”
Spinning and exploring traditional and all natural fibers and materials has no specific audience. Like beer or wine making, cheese crafting, Do It Yourself woodworkers and home canners, fiber crafts have a wide cross section of people who enjoy and get involved in spinning. “There is a wide variety of people who experience this craft, “remarks Yeagle. “Most of our members, naturally, don’t own farms or their own livestock. At our show you can buy raw fleece, processed fleece or get into the more ready to work with materials like roving, batts, and yarns. You can start about anywhere in the process and learn as you go. The goal of the Market Day is to give display to a wide variety of product that will interest the newcomer or the experienced. The goal of the guild is to support and educate anyone, from beginner to master spinner, in their journey through the world of fiber arts.”
A Place to Start and Explore
Attendance at the Market Day is about 700 and traditionally has 35-40 vendors and has a $1 entry fee. “In truth,” says Yeagle with enthusiasm, “this skill pushes every ‘natural’ button. We have vendors who sell raw wool and fleece. So, if you want to learn the art from start to finish you can do so right here in North West Ohio. Or, you can jump in at any stage of the process, including buying ready to weave, knit, or crochet yarns and threads.”
Market Day and Fiber Fair
March 24th 9-4