History of the Peterborough Weavers and Spinners Guild
The Peterborough Handweavers and Spinners Guild (PHSG) was founded in the mid-1950s by a group of area women, many of whom had learned to weave on handlooms through an Ontario government Recreation Branch program. They wanted to found a guild which would provide learning opportunities and enjoyment for themselves and for the general public. As well as its original focus on handweaving, the Guild has expanded to encompass the related skills of spinning, dyeing, basketry and felting.
In March, 2018, a new logo was chosen for the Guild. As a result, the Guild also adopted a new name, the Peterborough Weavers and Spinners Guild, as it was a shorter version of the Guild title, which would fit in the space for the logo.
Over the years, the Guild has been an active organization in the Peterborough area. For 25 years, we held an annual sale at “Autumn Treasures”. Before that, we held a biennial “Tea, Sale and Fashion Show” for many years. Through our membership in the Ontario Handweavers and Spinners, we have organized and held several province-wide conferences and regional seminars. In 2010, we initiated “Fibre Fest”, a coming-together of many fibre disciplines in the Peterborough area and have hosted it every spring since (except for 2020 and 2021.) It is now called the Peterborough Fibre Arts Festival.
In 1980, we received a Wintario grant to enable a group from the Guild to analyze and reproduce historical fabrics from the Peterborough Museum. They worked on this over the next three years. Many copies of a book with woven samples were produced. Some went to the museum and others were purchased by weavers in various locations.
Many of our members have been volunteer demonstrators at Lang Pioneer Village, where we have shown members of the public how to weave, spin wool and dye wool and fleece. Several old looms have been carefully restored by Lang with help from those in our Guild. Since 2006, a team from our Guild has been involved in the ongoing restoration of Lang’s unique Jacquard loom which produces highly patterned fabric by means of punched cards, a mechanism used in the forerunners of modern computers.
Our presence on Peterborough and area schools, when requested, has given many students an introduction to our crafts from an historical perspective. We have demonstrated weaving and spinning at the Peterborough Exhibition, Hutchison House, Peterborough Museum and Archives, Buckhorn Heritage Festival and many other venues.
For our own members and for others who are interested, we hold workshops and classes. Well-known members of the fibre community from Canada, and other parts of the world, have been our teachers as well as those from our Guild who have skills to share. PWSG
is fortunate to have volunteer and professional spinning and weaving teachers within our ranks who give classes for beginning and intermediate enthusiasts.
We hold monthly meetings at which there is a program presented to further our knowledge of fibre-related topics. Monthly board meetings are also held. We have strict quality control guidelines for the items we offer to the public through our sales.
Since 1955, our Guild has rented many different facilities in which to hold our meetings and classes and store our equipment. Some of these facilities are Dixon House, Activity Haven at the Lawn Bowling Club, Queen Alexandra Community Centre (two different parts of the building), Central Public School and the Kawartha Artists Group and Studio (KAGS). In 2012, PWSG joined with the Kawartha Gourders, the Kawartha Woodturners Guild and the Kawartha Potters Guild to form the Artisans Centre Peterborough, in response to the groups’ difficulties in finding a sufficiently large space to hold the four guilds’ equipment needs. It was felt that it would be possible to share space, giving lessons to members and the general public, along with grants, to finance rental of the Centre. The first location was on Talwood Drive and the second in Peterborough Square. The potters’ guild chose to stay at the Talwood location. The guild has successfully integrated the space in the Square to accommodate three guilds with, of course, some restrictions.
PWSG owns eight table looms, three small floor looms, one large floor loom, five spinning wheels, and many smaller pieces of equipment, almost all of which are rented out to members when they need them, or are used for classes. In the past, we have owned other floor looms (one was 100 inches wide) but lack of space has led to decisions to sell them. We also have library composed of over 450 books, several hundred magazines, and 30 sample binders. As well, donated yarns in our storage area, are available to be sold to our members.
The Guild has a constitution which was drawn up in the mid-1970’s and revised slightly since then. The governing structure has a six-member executive with six standing committees and three special committees. The executive and the standing committees serve for two years and the special committees for one year. In the 1970s and 80s, our membership was close to 100. There was a decline during the 1990s, with the last few years membership remaining at around 30. Some are weavers, some spinners and dyers, some felters and some are all four.
The Artisans Centre is governed by a board composed of two members from each group plus a president. The ACP board meets monthly. The PWSG representatives report to the Guild at executive and general meetings. From time to time, the Guild holds fund-raising activities for ACP and contributes financially through revenue from classes.
Jan. 15, 2022
Our roots date back to 1949 (then called the Hand Weavers guild) when an organizing meeting was held at Dixon House in Peterborough. The annual membership fee was one dollar! Meetings were held on an irregular basis and the guild disbanded in May 1952. It was revived in February 1954 with Ethel Smedmor as President.
In 1969 the name was changed to the Peterborough Handweavers and Spinners guild. Membership has grown and waned since those early beginnings.
Our steadily increasing membership currently consists of 45 individuals, who either spin, weave, felt or enjoy working on more than one of these skills. Meetings are held on the 3rd Monday of the month (September to June) at our new location: ARTISAN CENTER PETERBOROUGH, 360 GEORGE STREET NORTH, Unit 3 PETERBOROUGH SQUARE, Peterborough, ON K9H 7E7. Phone: (705) 775-1797
Doors open at 5:30 pm, (for the Spinning group; weaving group at 6:00 pm) allowing for social time before the 7:00 pm meeting start. Each meeting offers a talk, a demonstration or hands-on activity on a selected topic of interest. Meetings include a show-and-share time and cover business items, usually ending by 9:00 pm.
Visitors are always welcome at our meetings!
Members have access to an extensive lending library of books on weaving, spinning, felting and dyeing. We also have current and back issues of magazines including Handwoven, Spin-Off, and Fibre Focus.
We have weaving and spinning equipment available for Members to rent.
Workshops are occasionally held on a particular skill in weaving, spinning, dyeing or felting.
Spinners meet informally once a month to share ideas and spin together. At the present time the Spinners are meeting from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., before the general meeting.
The Weaving Study Group also meets monthly to exchange ideas and enjoy solving problems. The Weavers are currently meeting at 6:00 p.m. before the general meeting.
The guild participates in several community and area activities to demonstrate spinning, weaving and felting. We put on an annual display at the Peterborough Public Library. The guild sponsors a Fibre Arts Festival each year for the public to enjoy.
Jacquard Loom Project
Over the last few years some of our guild members have contributed many hours to the Jacquard loom project at Lang Pioneer Village Museum. The Village is in the process of bringing two Jacquard weaving mechanisms, called heads, back to life. The heads were donated to the Village in 1972 by well-known Peterborough weaver and former guild member Dini Moes. A decade ago, Master Weaver Didier Schwartz began restoration of both heads along with the large wooden loom frame that came with one head, and the construction of a duplicate loom frame to support the second Jacquard head. During this process, several additional members of our guild and other volunteers from nearby guilds have given their time to help set up the two looms, one for display, and the other for weaving Jacquard cloth.
From the top of the working loom Faye Jacobs tied 136 waxed cords which continue down through the head and are responsible for the correct warp threads to be raised. Other project volunteers tied hundreds of lingoes (heddle-weights) required to set up both looms. This was no small feat, as there are 1044 lingoes per loom. An elevated viewing platform has been built around the working loom so that visitors will be able to view the card-reading mechanism in action as it controls the weaving pattern. While the display loom is still in progress, the working loom has all its cords in place and has been dressed with a multi-coloured warp. There is still work to be done – loom adjustments, trial weaving and on-going problem solving. With continued team work and co-operation, Lang Pioneer Village will have two very special weaving mechanisms restored to life.
Read the article about the Jacquard Loom project, by Faye Jacobs, published in the 2015 Spring Issue of Fibre Focus and reproduced with permission, copyright Ontario Handweavers & Spinners.
The Peterborough Weavers and Spinners Guild is a founding member of the Peterborough Artisans Centre. Our goal is to establish and operate a permanent facility to:
- Provide readily available facilities for the Education, Training and Use of the participating guild and association members
- Maintain and advance the state of the respective artisan disciplines
- Provide a central location within the Peterborough community for artisan crafts
- Learn new perspectives through association with other artisan guilds
- Provide a platform for sharing and promoting artisan skills through educational programs for all ages in the community
- Display and sell artisan products through a gallery/store for the purposes of educating and advancing the public’s understanding and appreciation of the artisans’ art.