The Threads Of Tradition

Local fibers guild celebrates ancient art of weaving


For two years now, locals have been meeting once a month to spin their favorite yarns.

The Rim Country Fibers Are Fun Guild, which was founded by Lillian Schuller of Payson and Terry Neal of Chandler, marked its two-year anniversary this month.

Schuller, who has been a weaver for 12 years and the club's president for two years, is passionate about her art.

"I love the weaving," she said, "and I dearly love creating tapestries."

But she also loves to share her passion -- finding kindred souls and hooking them in.

"I love teaching," she said. "(It's) the thing I like to do the best."

And according to one of her students -- it is something she does well.

"I have wanted to weave for as long as I can remember," guild member Regan Roberts said. She saw a notice about the guild in the paper and decided to give it a shot.

"I took to it like a duck to water," she said. "(Schuller) helps me a lot."

What Roberts has learned is the ancient trade of weaving -- intertwining yarn and thread into intricate patterns for rugs, table runners, wall hangings and clothing.

But what brings the 15 members of the guild together is a love for fibers, Schuller said.

"Through education and participation in the fiber arts, we can introduce others to the beauty and utility of fibers," she said.

Guild members use a variety of techniques, such as crocheting, knitting, sewing and weaving, to turn raw wool and other fibers into useful items.

Members bring their creations to each meeting to explain their techniques and share their artistic visions with the rest of the group.

"We make rugs, clothing, curtains, drapes, fabric for covering sofas, bedspreads -- they are all part of fiber," Schuller said.

Guild members harvest animal fiber much like it has been done for centuries.

Llamas and sheep are the most popular wool producers, but weavers also can make use of rabbit fur, goat hair and even cat and dog fur.

Schuller's favorite fiber comes from the Cashmere goat -- but since it can be hard to come by, she recently worked some sheep wool as a demonstration.

Once the wool is sheared from the animal, it's cleaned.

"We can grab a bucket and immerse it in tepid water with soap," she said. "We are very gentle with it because we do not want to felt it -- if you agitate any wool it will mat together."

Once the rinse water runs clear, it is gently spread out to dry.

"(Then) we go to carding," Schuller said.

Carding takes out the snarls, burrs and other bits of impurities that didn't come out in the wash.

"We keep carding from one comb to the other until we end up with a smooth, clean piece of wool," she said, deftly transforming a white lump of animal fur into usable wool.

"Then we go to our spinning wheels and start to spin."

The traditional wood spinning wheel begins to whir rhythmically as Schuller pumps the foot pedal.

"Miraculously we are able to spin (the raw material) into thick yarn or thin sewing thread," she said, as the roll of white yarn slowly grew bigger and the raw wool disappeared from her hand.

The fiber can be strengthened by spinning two or more strands together, creating "plys," Schuller said.

Once the material is spun, it is lightly washed again.

"You can hang them on the line or lay them out to dry," she said. "Then you are ready to create with it. It is a wonderful process -- to see it from sheep to shawl."

Schuller's home is a testament to the enthusiasm she has for her art. From wall hangings to bathmats, the fibers she loves are woven into her decor. It is a labor of love, she said.

Sharing what they like to do, guild members meet at 1 p.m. the second Thursday of every month in the Payson Womans Club.

"We always welcome new members who want to come and share their knowledge or learn something new," said Leone Dobbins, the guild's newly elected president. For more information, call Schuller at 472-7959 or Dobbins at 474-2113.

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