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

A PLACE TO SHARE THE CRAFT OF SPINNING: Treadles to Threads Spinning Guild

A chance meeting in 1990 between a spinner, Patrick McGinnis, and a member of Diablo Weavers, Naomi Holt, began the legacy of what became our guild — Treadles to Threads. Just a few spinners at first, meeting at each others homes occasionally, to share spinning knowledge, wool, and trying out each others’ wheels, was soon organized into monthly meetings to have “Show & Tell”, continued shared expertise, invited guests and speakers and teaching others their craft.

By February of 1991, we published our first newsletter and began to make plans to join CNCH. This very casual group then needed to develop By-Laws and to actually have “officers”. We came up with the following officers list: Shepherd [president], Sheep Dog [Vice President], Shearer [Treasurer], Little Bo Peep [Hostess], Rumplestilskin [Programs and Special Events Chair].

Dues were only enough to pay for the newsletter, and if a paid speaker was invited, those who attended that particular meeting shared the cost. Officers were to hold their position till they no longer wanted it. Ah, those were the days!

Today, a bit more organized, the Guild is still a very inclusive and casual group. Treadles is still primarily a group of spinners with spinning related programs. One by one, however, many of our members have also been drawn over to the “Dark Side” by becoming weavers with actual looms. All the better to use up all that hand spun.

2002 Sheep to Shawl Web Slingers

2002 Sheep to Shawl Web Slingers

Through the years the Guild has often been invited to participate at public fiber arts demonstrations, to local schools to teach the children about spinning, and to various local museums. The Contra Costa County Fair was always a great place to put up a yearly booth and sit and demonstrate our craft to visitors.

Special projects over time have included;
Spinning at the Winery at Retzlaff Winery in Livermore. 2017 was the 20th anniversary of this popular event.
Seminars and workshops on Hemp even before it became popular
Wool studies of many breeds of sheep with the latest being a year long study of “Rare and Endangered Breeds of Sheep”
Annual Dye Days held in SPRING after we finally realized that no matter what summer day we picked it always turned out to be the hottest day of summer.
Sheep to Shawl competitions with our team “Web Slingers West”
Handmade sheep ornament exchange every December
Hand-spun Flax to Linen Towel, a project we’ve now done twice. The first time one weaver wove all the participants linen into towels [14 of them} The second time each spinner wove their own on a loom set up at Walnut Creek’s Civic Arts Weaving Studio.
Monday Spinning. Anyone who can, comes every Monday to spin, talk, drink tea and teach newbies to spin.

Will and Kate with their hand spun and hand woven blanket

Will and Kate with their hand spun and hand woven blanket

The Will & Kate Project. Almost every member donated hand spun to weave a thank-you afghan for Will and Kate Taylor for being our “Shepherds” for many years.

The most vast and rewarding project was the Guild’s participation in the “Knitting Project for Victims of War in Former Yugoslavia” in 1995. All yarn collected on a National basis throughout the U.S.A. was distributed by the International Rescue Committee to women’s groups in refugee camps and collective centers.

It was hoped the knitting could help ease the frustration of the long, idle hours many were enduring during the war. With a shortage of yarn, it was said women would un-ravel what they had knit the day before just to have something to do.

Treadles collected over 600 pounds of donated yarn. Only full, new skeins could be sent, so members spent many hours skeining good yarns and adding new labels so that it looked brand new.

150 pounds of that yarn was shipped by the Croatian Catholic Church of San Jose to the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women located in Massachusetts. The rest was the responsibility of Treadles’ treasury.  Glimakra Looms/Unicorn Books graciously offered to ship through their shipping agent which would save us 45%. The Guild did make a plea for donations and the local community responded.

600 pounds of yarn ready for shipment. JoAnn Bronzan, second from left, was the driving force for this effort.

600 pounds of yarn ready for shipment. JoAnn Bronzan, second from left, was the driving force for this effort.

The donated yarn could be used by the women for personal use or for knitted goods to sell. During a visit by a volunteer from the Women’s Commission to a refugee site, one of the women there said she had knitted 30 pair of socks in the past week, from some of the donated yarn, to sell. When asked how she could knit so many, she replied matter-of-factly, “My daughter needs new shoes.”

Conference 1995- there's more to conferences tha spinning, weaving, etc.

Conference 1995- there’s more to conferences than spinning, weaving, etc.

Several of our charter members and early members are still active in the Guild which speaks to the casual and helpful nature of the people in this group. We really like what we do, and we really like each other as people.

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