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Niagara Falls
Friday, December 1, 2023
Arts: Spinners and weavers celebrate fibre arts with fall sale
Hilda Ellard feeds a shuttle through strands of yarn in a demonstration of how to weave fabric on a loom. EVAN LOREE

Jo-Ann Fraser
Special to The Lake Report

The last time you wore your favourite jeans, you probably didn’t contemplate the indigo dye that imparts denim’s deep blue colour.

You likely didn’t ponder the fabric of your T-shirt either. Linen? Cotton? The warp and weft threads that create woven textiles may not have held your attention.

However, for weaver Hilda Ellard, these elements flow through her thoughts, much like the steady rhythm of waves on the shores of Lake Ontario on a calm, summer day.

“It’s my passion,” says Ellard, a Niagara on-the-Lake resident who has woven since the late 1970s.

“A neighbour loaned me a small table loom and, with no prior knowledge or experience, I began cutting threads, dressing the loom, and crafting a couple of scarves. I was instantly hooked,” she says.

Since then, Ellard has played with the colour and texture of the fabrics she produces. In 2018, she joined the Niagara Handweavers and Spinners Guild and is now dedicated to igniting the joy of creation in others.

In collaboration with other guild members, Ellard plays a pivotal role in co-ordinating the Niagara Handweavers and Spinners’ 2023 Holiday Show and Sale on Nov. 18 and 19.

This teaching guild, in its 75th year, consists of 55 members and serves as a hub for artists and crafters across Niagara Region who are fervent about fibre arts.

At the heart of the sale, there will be an array of handwoven treasures, from vibrant cotton tea towels to placemats, scarves and clothing.

“Each piece reflects the skill, creativity and passion of the guild’s members and juried vendors,” says Ellard.

“The sale offers a unique chance for visitors to engage with the talented artisans who will be on hand to discuss their techniques, inspirations and answer any questions.’

In addition to fundraising, the show’s goal is to spotlight Niagara’s fibre artists.

So, alongside guild members, eight non-member vendors will participate, including those crafting pine needle baskets and needle felted cards.

“We’re excited to share the stage with these artists,” says Ellard.

Rather than merely a sale, visitors will also experience hands-on demonstrations by guild members.

“Visitors can try their hand at a mini weaving project, observe the ancient art of carding as wool fibres are readied for spinning, or witness the precision of spinners as they transform carded fibres into strands of wool, known as ‘singles,’ which will later be plied using both traditional and modern spinning wheels,” says Ellard.

A raffle will also be held, with the winner receiving a throw woven by a guild member.

With the holiday season on the horizon, the fall sale presents the ideal opportunity to discover unique, handmade gifts or secure a spot at one of the upcoming weaving workshops.

In the tapestry of human history, the art of weaving threads together has created narratives spanning millennia.

From ancient civilizations to the modern era, the craft of handweaving has united cultures and woven textiles that tell stories of their own.

As a result, the significance of a handweaver extends beyond creating textiles; it encompasses the preservation of a rich tradition that connects us to our ancestors and the heritage of fabric itself.

In line with this mission, the guild has played an essential role in the area’s artistic community, nurturing creativity and sharing the rich heritage of handweaving.

The fall sale celebrates this commitment and provides everyone with the opportunity to explore the artistry of handwoven textiles.

The sale, which promises two days filled with creative inspiration, is Saturday, Nov. 18, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 19, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Trillium United Church, 415 Linwell Rd., St. Catharines. Ample free parking is available.

For more details about the guild and its sale, visit the group’s website at nhws.ca.

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