By Maria Fredericks
Members of the Overmountain Weaver’s Guild have been busy weaving together plans for the group’s annual Fiber Fair and Sale at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park.
Jean Green, who has been organizing the fair for the past three years, is excited about this years’ event.
“The Fiber Fair’s a fun thing,” Green said. “You can spend the day learning about fiber. It’s a celebration with everything fiber.”
Green said there will be many fiber activities for the public to try, including the always popular “sit and knit.” This activity allows individuals of all knitting and crocheting levels to come together and discuss knitting.
In addition, there will be an exhibition for “fleece to shawl.” In this activity, wool fibers will be carded in the same direction, which will permit the fibers to be woven into fabric.
This year’s event will be the 10th annual Fiber Fair and will be held Saturday, March 16, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Green noted that the purpose of the fair is multifold. First and foremost, the event provides a means for the weavers to demonstrate their skills for the public. Green said many talented weavers will show their techniques in knitting, crocheting, basic weaving and spinning.
In addition to the demonstrations, guild members will answer questions and provide tips for knitters and crocheters. The organization will have looms for guests who desire to learn to weave fabric. Spinners will demonstrate the fine art of making thread. The fair will also offer an educational tour on the fibers and dyes made from native plants.
The event will also feature a presentation on the “Baa-tany Goat” project. This long-running project utilizes goats to graze on invasive plants on the grassy balds of Roan Mountain during the spring and summer. The goats are providing a natural method of removing underbrush and exotic plants that are crowding out native species.
If enough people attend this year’s fair, Green hopes to hold a crocheting contest. The goal for the competition will be to see who can crochet the most yarn in a set amount of time.
Green encourages all people to attend the fiber fair.
“It’s relaxing and fun for the family,” Green said.
She added that planning for this years’ fair has gone rather smoothly. The only challenge she encountered was the remodeling of an older section of the park’s visitors center. As a result, the fair will be moved to a different part of the visitors center from last year.
This year’s Fiber Fair will also host a small group of alpacas, which are always popular with visitors. Green said the alpaca will be contained in a fenced enclosure.
The alpaca is a domesticated species from South America in a family of mammals that includes camels and llamas.
Alpaca hair can be made into a type of fiber, similar to wool, that can used for making knitted and woven items.
Barbara Newlun, co-president of the Overmountain Weavers Guild, has been weaving for 20 years, but spends more of her time now on knitting. Newlun will show her weaving skills at this year’s fiber fair.
“Foremost, I am a knitter,” she said. “I will be demonstrating the spinning.”
Newlun encourages the public to get involved with the Fiber Fair and promised the event will have activities that everyone can enjoy.
“We will be having weaving, knitting, crocheting, fiber making and jewelry making,” Newlun said. “There are all kinds of things people can do.”
She added that attendance for the Fiber Fair increases each year. She expressed a delight at seeing younger generations taking an interest in weaving, although younger individuals prefer knitting and crocheting.
“Crocheting and knitting have become more popular,” she said.
Green said that she and other members of the Overmountain Weavers Guild feel that working with fibers helps to establish a connection to their past.
“It takes us back to our roots from a time-honored tradition,” Green said.
Green has new appreciation for the way people once had to weave and spin out of necessity, not as a hobby.
“It’s very challenging to take the fibers and turn them into thread, and then take that thread and turn it into fabric,” Green said. “There is an immense satisfaction from creating thread and fabric.”
Since the establishment of the Overmountain Weavers Guild in 1972, the Guild has gained a reputation for fostering some very distinguished weavers and spinners in its ranks. Each individual has a unique ability in weaving.
The goal of the guild is to for the members to use their knowledge to educate people in the art of weaving and help others improve upon his or her skills.
The Overmountain Weavers Guild meets at The Exchange Place in Kingsport at 10 a.m. on the third Wednesday of every month. The group sometimes holds a “Boot Camp,” which is a more intense workshop, on the first Saturday of every month. For more information on the Fiber Fair or the Overmountain Weavers Guild, call 543-5808 or visit www.omwg.net.