CNCHnet . . . The Textile Arts Webzine of the Conference of Northern California Handweavers

Mt Lassen Fiber Guild: A Brief History

Formed exclusively as a weaving study group in 1955 by six Northern California weavers,  the Mt Lassen Weavers Guild met quarterly for a week’s practical workshop at the Lake Almanor cabin of their instructor, Polly Yori.  Membership in the Guild was juried, each prospective new member required to submit a sample of their weaving to demonstrate competence.

By 1959, the Guild had grown to 25 weavers from northern and northeastern California, including professional production weavers and hobbyists.   The quarterly meetings featured instruction by noted weavers of the period, including Bea Tanner, Kay Sekimachi, and Irma Robinson.  The Guild filed workshop samples with warping and treadling notes and other pertinent information, and members kept similar personal records.

Guild records for the period between 1959 and 1999 currently are missing.   We are searching for them and plan to interview the few early members who still reside in the area to glean information from their personal records and recollections to fill in the gaps.  Several of these interviews have been conducted.

During the period for which we have little information, the Guild focused yearly on creating a themed weaving display that competed with those of other guilds at the April CNCH meet.  Josie Otwell, a Chico State art professor and weaver, developed workshops throughout the year to support the theme and was a judge of the various guilds’ works.

From 1988 to 1993 the Guild was very involved with CNCH.  Doris Moran was chair of CNCH in 1988 and the Guild hosted the annual CNCH conference in Chico.    Five years later, in 1993, the event came to Chico again; Nancy Hodges was co-chair.

The Guild relocated its meeting to Chico in 1999, changing its name to Mt Lassen Fiber Guild and its mission to include all fiber arts.  The Guild, now meeting at AVL Looms in Chico, numbers more than 45 members with various skills.  Spinning, basketry, knitting, dyeing, surface design and raising fiber animals and plants are some of the areas in which members share their expertise with other members and the public.

Guild members have provided venues for members to share and experience fiber arts outside their own expertise, as well as sponsoring workshops by professional fiber artists.   Additionally, there is an open spinning group, and various members offer one-on-one mentoring in their particular fields.

Sandy Fisher weaving and Jane Burke spinning flax at the Nut Festival

Sandy Fisher weaving and Jane Burke spinning flax at the Nut Festival

Fiber Fusion is an event created and organized by Mt Lassen Fiber Guild to celebrate natural fiber and color, featuring demonstrations and mini-workshops in traditional and contemporary fiber arts, exhibits of various species of fiber animals, and a marketplace.   The first Fiber Fusion was held in September 2012 and subsequently in early October 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 at Patrick Ranch in Durham, California.

Members assembling 'drinking straw weaving kits' for May Fire at Blue Oak School

Members assembling ‘drinking straw weaving kits’ for May Fire at Blue Oak School

The Guild participates in local events such as the California Nut Festival, Patrick Ranch Museum Country Faire and Threshing Bee, the Tehama County Museum Annual Jubilee, Farm City Celebration Harvest Festival at Bidwell Mansion in Chico and various holiday bazaars and school events, such as Chico’s Blue Oak School May Faire.

Finding Future spinners at the Butte County Farm City Celebration 2016

Finding future spinners at the Butte County Farm City Celebration 2016

At these events, the Guild’s sheep-to-shawl team demonstrates the steps from fleece to woven cloth. Some members demonstrate or provide hands-on activities in portable fiber arts, such as kumihimo, knitting, crocheting, and weaving on table looms, inkle looms and rigid heddle looms.

To promote the study of fiber and textile arts, Mt Lassen Fiber Guild offers a scholarship to residents of those counties served by the guild.  Residents who are pursuing college coursework in the fiber and textile arts, in the raising and care of heritage breed, luxury fiber-producing animals or in the sustainable cultivation of fiber plants, such as flax, may be eligible.

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