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North Peace Spinners & Weavers celebrate 45 years

Started in 1977 by a very small group of ladies, the guild remains true to its origins some 45 years later, and is looking for new members to carry on the tradition.
np spinners weavers
North Peace Spinner & Weavers Guild president Heidi Avanthay demonstrates the art of spinning during a demonstration outside the Fort St. John North Peace Museum, June 25, 2022.

The North Peace Spinners & Weavers Guild is recognizing a milestone this year.

Started in 1977 by a very small group of ladies, it remains true to its origins some 45 years later.

While president Heidi Avanthay and secretary Rene Giesbrecht aren't too sure who got the ball rolling, pardon the pun, it's safe to say the tools used and the principle has changed very little in that time.

On Saturday, June 25, Avanthay, Giesbrecht, and treasurer Jill Baccante were outside the Fort St. John North Peace Museum demonstrating their craft and showing off the tools of the trade, in hopes of attracting new interest.

“I've got some fleece here. This is wool from a sheep. I have my Ashford traditional spinning wheel and I'm really letting it do most of the work,” said Avanthay in explaining the process of spinning.

“Enjoying the weather and creating some yarn,” she joked.

“As the wheel turns the fibre, I just have to draw it out as much or as little as I want, to give it more twist or less twist.”

The trick, however, is to not pull too hard.

“Once you know what you're doing, it's very relaxing and looks like nothing, but there is a learning curve,” said Giesbrecht.

Like a musical instrument, spinning wheels can go from your very basic model to high end.

“It can be expensive but it doesn't have to be. You can start out with a drop spinner, like what Heidi has on display.”

A starter, it can probably be described as looking like and slightly smaller than a counter top paper towel dispenser.

The type of wool a spinner chooses is just as important as the equipment.

“A sheep is not a sheep,” joked Avanthay.

“The different lengths of fibre, even when there's a little more crimp in the wool. The kind that Rene is spinning is far more curly where mine is really straight.”

Determining which wool is good to use for which project is also key.

“So with wool you can knit sweaters, toques, gloves. With a heavier yarn, you can even weave a rug, bags, clothing, or jackets,” added Giesbrecht.

“The sky is the limit.”

The guild is hoping that statement also rings true when it comes to attracting new members.

“It all started for me when I came to an open house at the museum and I was hooked,” said Avanthay, in describing how her attraction to spinning and weaving all started.

Housed in the Community Arts Council building on 94th Avenue, the group can be reached between 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. Monday through Friday at (250) 787-2781, and in Giesbrecht's words, is open to “all ages and all stages.”

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