PEACHTREE HANDSPINNERS GUILD HISTORY
The idea for the guild began as a spinners study group in the Fall of 1984, and blossomed into this guild in 1985. By May we had 23 members. This first year started with traditions that have been part of the guild’s philosophy throughout its history. We spent time learning about the fibers we spin, participating in public demonstrations at folk festivals and holding workshops with our own homegrown talent. Our social spinning times included visiting, learning, shopping and of course . . . food. In the early years of the guild we started celebrating Distaff Day with a party, holding Retreats for fun and companionship and ending the year with a Holiday Social. We continued our public demonstrations, expanding into a large commitment in 1987 to work at the Georgia Renaissance Festival which continues into the present.
In 1988, our guild hit a great growth spurt and it was during that year that we held a contest to pick a logo. Claire Gregorcyk designed our logo and won a fleece. In the next year we kept spinning, and were a very big part of the very first Sheep to Shawl held at the Tullie Smith Farm at the Atlanta History Center. We grew to nearly 80 members.
The 90’s saw the guild growing and working. Each year filled with activities for the members, retreats, workshops and exciting programs to share with new and old members alike. In 1991, we held an exhibit at Underground Atlanta that began a tradition of bigger and better exhibits. In 1994 we held our second exhibit at the Rockdale/Conyers Art Council Gallery in Conyers. In 1995 we hosted the Fiber Forum Conference, which was a rousing success and the programs through out the year showed an expanding interest by our members for netting, basketry, texture in yarn and our projects. We invited nationally known spinners, weavers, beaders and knitters to help us perfect our skills. The guild always looks to not only our own talented members, but also to the great selection of outside workshop leaders that can aid the group in its journey through the craft.
1997 found the guild growing and breaking attendance records. By the February meeting we had 66 members and some of those were new or returning members. Our guild exhibit was held in Cartersville, and again we made ourselves proud of the workmanship and talent of our members. During the next several years leading up to 2000, the guild continued the now-time proven practice of electing co-presidents to serve together with the terms alternating. With two people with equal power, the guild continued the exciting growth and continued to discover how much fun our time together can be. The retreats, workshops and programs as well as our continued presence in public demonstrations kept the guild in the public eye. In addition to organized public appearances, our members were and are active in their home counties and communities, demonstrating, instructing and sharing their love for fiber.
Our guild made a big move for our group in 1999; we moved our meetings to the Hamilton Community Center in Scottdale. The Georgia National Fair offered a new division in the Fine Arts Competition and Peachtree’s membership had the best showing in the new Spinning and Weaving Division, ensuring the continuing support of the Fair for this craft. The officers for 2001 were ready to bring our group into the new millennium.. Using our home-grown talent and having Margaret Heathman at the helm, our Plying the Arts was the largest it had ever been. We had a weekend of classes and shopping that rivaled Fiber Forum.
Our largest and most proud accomplishment in 2001 was the guild exhibit “Skilled Hands: The Art, Craft and Technology of Fiber” which was held during the summer at the Emory University’s Library Schatten Gallery. With more than 200 pieces, including equipment, yarns and special exhibits, from 45 of our members, it was the biggest exhibit to date from this group. The staff at the gallery worked hard and displayed the pieces with a professionalism that took our breath away. Opening speaker, Rebecca Stone Miller, and the opening reception made the exhibit a class act. We had members spinning and weaving during the exhibit and looked forward to holding another exhibit in that fabulous space.
In 2002 the guild was busy with hosting Plying the Arts at the Hamilton Center with 10 teachers and 19 classes, and holding three workshops with Rita Buchanan, Australian crocheter, Jenny King and Lily Chin. The monthly meetings continued to be filled with learning and social experiences, and members attended demonstrations and retreats.
In 2003, the guild hosted another successful Fiber Forum in March, demonstrated all around the state, enjoyed our annual Fall retreat and attend great meetings with a cotton study and stories of adventures in New Mexico. We once again held a great exhibit at Emory’s Library Gallery, called Friendship, Fibers and Finds, November 2003 through February 2004 – with even more on display and live demonstrations during the time it was up.
The year 2004 was a busy, year. The guild had fun with all its social gatherings: Distaff Day, Holiday Social, Fall Retreat. We had members attend Fiber Forum and Convergence, held a sock exchange, color spinning with Deb Menz and nuno felting with Geri Forkner. Our programs held programs on dropspinning, dyeing, felting, kumihimo and yoga for spinners. This was the year we lost one of our inner circle when Margie Freeborn-Bood died of lung cancer. Her memorial service held in July was a celebration of her love for life and fiber and family. Her memory continues in many of the activities that the guild participates in to this day.
Our programs in 2005 were filled with learning about man-made fibers, needle-felting, skirting and sorting a fleece, bast fibers, and Knitting from the Top Down. We had a Color Workshop with Deb Menz and she presented a program for the entire guild also. We restarted Spring Retreat at the Salem Inn in Conyers, and held our Fall Retreat at the Calvin Center in Hampton. Our members attended Fiber Forum in Long Beach, Mississippi. We held a morning study group on Bast Fibers and enjoyed social spins and our regular social activities. We began a great tradition of displaying our love for fiber and books at the Dekalb County Library, Decatur Branch during the summer and it continues to be a great success each year. Early in the year we lost Barbara Creamer in an automobile accident, and we faced the loss of one of our own by coming together as a guild. Later in the year we began the tradition of drawing a name from all the members of the guild and paying for part of the cost of retreat for that person in Barbara’s name. Retreats were among the favorite events of the year for Barbara, and so we honor her every year with this fund.
2006 was a year of transition and change for the guild. This is the year we began at the Hamilton Center and ended the year a wandering entity. Distaff Day and the first half of the year saw us at the Hamilton Center. We held a spinning wheel go round, learned about backstrap looms and frame looms, hats, heard Annie’s story of Knitting and participated in a RenFest Challenge where many years of renfest scraps were handed out and people made whatever they could from the woven pieces. We had a wonderful dye workshop with Kathryn Scott Weber and attended our spring and Fall retreats. Members demonstrated at RenFest and other places like Westville and members attended Fiber Forum in TN and Convergence in Grand Rapids.
We met in different locations, including the Decatur Library, and held the Christmas Party at Dodie Proctor’s amazing home in Monticello. The board made the search and discussed where we might find a home and the search continued into 2007, but this time did not slow the guild, our meetings continued to be well attended and activities were exciting. We held our Plying the Arts at the Lyndon House in Athens and filled the Center with shoppers and students for that weekend in August.
During the 2007 year, we made major changes which gave us a permanent home again. We changed our meeting day to Saturday which allowed us to begin meeting at the North Decatur Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall. The new board stepped up and led us into this major change with enthusiasm.
Our programs included learning about Plying, social spins, dye day, learning to skirt a fleece, hearing about Alice, Debra and Laura’s experiences at Penland with Deb Menz, and MacGyver Spinning techniques. Spring Retreat also was our March meeting at Salem Campground and the fall retreat was held at the Gwinnett Marriott. Our members played Fiber Poker and displayed their finished pieces at the Fall Retreat. Having a new home and a new day for meetings gave the guild new challenges as well as opening the doors for bigger and better opportunities. We celebrated our Holiday Party with food, friends and fiber in December looking to the next adventure!
Co-Presidents, Millie Fuss and Jennifer Ratcliffe led the board into 2008. We had a Silk Experience with Robin Russo in April, held both Spring and Fall retreats, finding a great home for the Fall retreat, the Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center in Mansfield – never getting enough of them, and had social spins, learned about cotton with Peyton, Michelle and Stacy, gathered fibers for an exchange called “Natural Treasures”, and were guided on how to prepare for the Georgia National Fair by former winners. Members attended the Tampa Convergence, and participated in demonstration opportunities all around the state.
In 2009, we held a dish towel exchange, which spawned a second one, learned about Top Down Sweaters, Papermaking, Rigid Heddle Weaving and continued the social spinning habit and invited people to join us at Spring and Fall Retreats and during the many demonstrations our group did during the year. In June we lost Gregg Everhart to cancer and although the hole he left in our guild’s heart will always be there, his memory continues to fill that space and give us smiles when we think of his love for all things fiber.
In 2010, the officers of the guild continue to give us leadership and enthusiasm. The guild continues to participate in spins, workshops – this year with Celia Quinn and Patsy Zawistoski, retreats in the Spring and Fall, and programs that open doors for new spinners and experienced ones alike. The August Spinning 101 event was a great success with 26 new and novice spinners getting one-on-one help with their drop spindles and borrowed wheels.
This year the guild celebrates its 25th year and it will be a time of challenges and fun. We have challenged everyone to do something with “25″, we are bringing back Fiber Poker and the friendship afghan. Our programs include social spins, with dye pots bubbling every month thanks to Kim Wall, spinning wheel go rounds, spinning on the great wheel with Annie Hall, textiles from all around the world, dyeing with Easter Egg dyes, and days of partying and sharing.
As we watch the guild continue to grow and remain vital, we enjoy the companionship the meetings provide and the support the group gives to its members. Over the years we have watched friends grow and change, children have grown and married, grandchildren have been born. Experienced spinners have expanded their knowledge and abilities, while beginning spinners have blossomed into talented and able mentors. We have members who raise sheep, angora goats, llamas and alpacas and angora rabbits. Our members include teachers, authors, people of all ages and walks of life. Our members knit, crochet and weave with their handspun; there are members who make baskets, paper, quilts and rugs. We have members who build their own equipment and are innovators in the field of beading, sewing, ceramics and wood. Our members are men and women, young and old. We have members who provide retail services to those of us who are demanding and informed shoppers. We have members who share their knowledge freely and are wonderful ambassadors for the guild, bringing visitors who become part of our group. As we meet new friends and cultivate old friendships let’s continue to make this guild one of the best in the Southeast!