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A Connection to History

Learning a lost art with the Weaving, Spinning, and Fiber Arts Guild of Idaho Falls

Published online: Sep 12, 2019 Articles, Education And Arts, Family Fun Guide, Looking Back
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There’s a lot to be said for this new era of iPads, PlayStations or electronics. All of this technology that lives in a some kind of cloud makes our lives easier in so many ways. But what about our ancestors? They certainly didn’t have the same tools but they found meaning in working with their hands to take care of their families. Simple tasks, such as weaving, spinning and other crafts were more than hobbies, they were a way of life. With the advancement of technology, it’s easy to see these things slipping out of homes and into history books. But it doesn’t have to be this way. There’s a group of like-minded individuals in Idaho Falls who are committed to not only reviving these lost crafts and arts, but sharing them with the next generation and beyond.

The Weaving, Spinning, and Fiber Arts Guild of Idaho Falls has been around since 1972-1974. With over 50 members, there is a wide range of members with all kinds of experience. This organization is full of people who enjoy fiber arts such as felting, basketry, dyeing, knitting, tapestry, rug making, beading and making lace on top of weaving and spinning. Some members even maintain their own flocks of animals to keep their fiber habit supplied, though it’s certainly not a requirement.

The organization is currently being led by Sylvia Wiklund, who has been a member since 1994. She’s done it all over the years except for raise her own sheep. Other members often come to her when they get into tricky spinning situations because she’s a master of the spinning wheel.

“I always feel a connection to the past when I spin because it’s been done for centuries before me,” says Wiklund. “I get a real sense of satisfaction when I create something.”

In 1988, Wiklund’s great grandmother left Sweden on a boat. With more luggage restrictions than Southwest and Delta airlines combined, she came with one suitcase. Inside was a spinning wheel and not much room was left for anything else. After arriving in America, she used her spinning wheel to make goods such as mittens and scarfs which provided money for her family. It was her only livelihood in the beginning as she made this foreign country her new home. Wiklund remembers seeing this spinning wheel and admiring it’s beauty when she was a small child.

In 1983, she decided to learn the art for herself.

“I took a class in Pocatello and ended up spinning all winter,” says Wiklund. “But I had to get another wheel because my family heirloom was in disrepair and it’s hard to find someone with the skill set to fix it correctly.”

With some determination, she found a man in Montana who was able to repair antique spinning wheels. This gentleman hand carved new parts to replace the ones that had become warped. After hours of work, the spinning wheel from 1888 was returned to Wiklund in 100% working order.

“It spins wonderfully,” says Wiklund. “I’ve always been fascinated with spinning, weaving and knitting. I’ve done so many projects over the years including sweaters. One ended up being wearable even.”

That is the joy of the Weaving, Spinning, and Fiber Arts Guild of Idaho Falls. It’s not a serious organization where only professionals are allowed to participate. The guild welcomes people of all ages and backgrounds to come and learn. This organization has a heart towards teaching people and getting them excited about the fiber arts. In fact, the public has an open invitation to join them every Tuesday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. for Studio Night at 482 Constitution Way, Suite B-11, in downtown Idaho Falls. Studio Night is a time for members and non-members to come together to ask each other questions, learn new skills and work on projects.

“Studio night is extremely laid back and full of people who are willing to teach their skills to new people,” says Wiklund. “If you don’t have equipment, the Guild will help you get started with rentals and other used products so you don’t have to invest a ton of money. Come with what you have and you will find people who are ready to help.”

More than just spinning, the guild is full of people who weave, dye and even raise exotics to harvest their fibers. Within this group, you will almost certainly find a kindred spirit in whatever lost fiber art you are interested in learning. For a $25 annual membership fee, you can become a member yourself. See you on Tuesday night!

You can learn more about this amazing club by visiting their site at www.srfiberartists.org. You can also connect with members through this site if you have questions, would like to sell fibers from your own animals or get involved with their monthly classes.

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