Projects always loom for dedicated weavers
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Twice a week, the Lucy Quarrier Weavers gather in two second floor rooms in an office building on Lee Street. Wooden floor looms line the walls. The women chat and laugh as they settle into the benches behind their looms on Mondays and Fridays.
On a typical day, Ruth Hendrix, the group's matriarch and a founding member of the Quarrier Weavers, moves her shuttle across a delicate pattern on the tea towels she's making. Fran Moore lives up to her reputation for incorporating unusual materials as she weaves a nubby rug made from "sock caps," or the scraps of sock tops salvaged from a sock mill.
In the other room, Joy Kleeman weaves richly hued and textured yarn into narrow strip to make a scarf, a project she'll finish that day. Beside her, Lynn Meyer weaves row after brightly colored row of what will be a 10-foot rug, as she's been doing for many weeks.
"I could come here all the time and be happy," said Meyer. The women teasingly vie for her promise that she'll leave the rug to them in her will because it's so lovely.
They exclaim and celebrate with weavers who pull a completed project off her loom, as Mary Helen Pelurie did recently when she finished a sequined shawl.
Their conversations are punctuated by the booming clack made when a weaver slams the loom's beater on a newly woven row to tighten the threads. The women talk around the interruptions.
Some are newcomers, drawn to the group by a current member's invitation or just an interest in weaving. Because there is no weaving store in the area, the group provides a unique opportunity to exchange weaving tips and to discuss materials and techniques with knowledgeable weavers.
Members own some of the looms, but some are also available for rental. The women welcome new members, both experienced and novice weavers. Others, like Hendrix, have been serenely weaving at their looms for decades.
Hendrix knows the group's history, having lived it, and tells the story of the group's namesake. Lucy Quarrier, known to them as "Miss Lucy," lived in Glenwood in Edgewood with her prominent family. She learned to weave at an early age, possibly on the loom her ancestors brought on a wagon when they settled here.
She first taught weaving to women during the Depression so they could earn a little income. Later she taught adult education students at Garnet Career Center. Hendrix learned to weave in 1973 when her children were young. She knew "Miss Lucy," but someone else was teaching the class when she learned to weave.
Weaving quickly became very important to Hendrix. She and several other women decided they wanted to weave all the time, not only during class time.
In 1976 they formed Lucy Quarrier Weavers and set up their looms, first in a building on the corner of Quarrier and Hale streets, and later in their current home at 710 Lee St. The large windows overlooking Davis Park let in plenty of natural light.
The weavers come from varied backgrounds, including education, health and administrative fields. One is a masseuse. Another is an artist, although many of them have artistic talent. Former teachers, administrators and a health assessor weave when they can.
Moore has been weaving for about 15 years. She lives on a farm where she raises llamas whose wool she spins into yarn. "It gives me an excuse to have them. I need them for their wool," Moore said.
Moore said her bold pieces contrast with Hendrix's delicate creations. "I like instant gratification. The big stuff doesn't take as long," she said.
Kim Bingham sometimes picks up bags of alpaca wool, which she cleans, combs and spins into wool to dye. She experiments with colors and techniques to create unusual artistic pieces.
The cloth Barb Smith weaves for vests and jackets show the interest she shares with Bingham in unusual colors, textures and styles. Recently, she wove strips of fabric through the warp threads, which run vertically on the loom, to replicate the fabric's pattern in a different texture.
Hendrix usually takes new weavers under her wing and starts them on a simple project such as placemats. From that they progress to more complicated projects, perhaps inspired by the scarves, hats, tea cozy, rugs and fabric for clothing they see emerging from the looms around them.
The most complicated projects Hendrix tackles are the small patterns she weaves of snowflakes, Santas or other seasonal images that she incorporates on the front of the cards she's made each Christmas for the past 25 years. Although Hendrix treasures the items she makes, she credits the weaving group for her habit's longevity.
"I enjoy the group. I think that's the reason lots of us come. If I had to weave at home alone, I'm not sure I do it," Hendrix said.
For more information on Lucy Quarrier Weavers, call 304-343-5026 between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Mondays and Fridays only.