Celebrating 65 years with Lethbridge Weavers

Since 1951, when weaving became a popular activity in the Lethbridge Handicraft Guild, members practiced their art, taught others how to weave, and shared their pieces with the public through shows and sales. Initially, 16 box looms were purchased from Eaton’s for everyone to use. In 1954, Guild members saved labels from soup cans and when they turned their labels in to the Campbell Company they received $165 to purchase a floor loom. Today, the Guild owns many looms of varying sizes.

The Lethbridge Guild has always operated as a cooperative: all the looms are owned by the Guild and are set up with a common warp (the long threads on the loom) for all members to use. Guild members work together to plan group projects such as a Friendship bed coverlet, tea towels and place mats. Members use traditional fibres such as cotton, linen and wool, but they also experiment with yarns made from yak, dog and possum hair. They even use ribbons, zippers and VHS tapes to create imaginative works of art.

In the early 2000s, Guild members asked City Council for permission to develop an official tartan for Lethbridge. Months of weaving samples, choosing the perfect pattern, and getting Council approval resulted in a spectacular tartan which was unique in the world, and is officially certified by the Scottish Tartan Society.

The tradition continues. Knowledgeable local weavers have taught adults and children the art of weaving, spinning, and dying. Master weavers from outside Lethbridge have been brought in to expand the techniques and styles of Guild members. In 2005, the Guild received international recognition from Interweave Press when it won the Fiberhearts Award for its unique mentorship program. The $500 received with the award allowed novice weavers to learn from experienced weavers.

The Galt Museum & Archives and Lethbridge Handicraft Guild of Weavers have partnered over the past year to develop the exhibit Woven in Time: Celebrating 65 Years with Lethbridge Weavers. It is open to the public June 7 to September 1, 2014 at the Galt. On June 8, a 2:00 pm talk on the history of weaving in Lethbridge, by long-time Guild member Frances Schultz, will be followed by the official exhibit opening. Details at www.galtmuseum.com.