Balancing Preservation and Innovation

Betty Barry and her granddaughters at the Johnny Appleseed Festival.
About a dozen guild members demonstrate at the festival each year.
Guild president Karla Yauchler with her beautiful felt ornament inspired by the work of Dale Chihuly. 

Last month, I spent some time with the Flax and Fleecers Guild in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I love visiting communities of fiber lovers and noticing how much we all have in common. Similar conversations on fleeces, wheels, books, and the next potluck add a familiar feel to a group I have only just met. At the same time, every group is surprisingly unique. While I don't live far from the Fort Wayne guild, I had not had an opportunity to get to know them well. By the end of my lovely weekend visit, I went home feeling impressed by how this guild continues to balance old and new, preservation and innovation. Founded in 1975, the guild was begun by a group of fiber enthusiasts active in Fort Wayne's Settlers Inc. organization. The group still participates in local reenactments, including the Johnny Appleseed Festival. The guild typically meets at the Swinney Homestead, a beautifully restored

 1840's home that is now a museum. Building on these traditions, the Flax and Fleecers hold Spin In Public Day events at the local library, share photos via Flickr, and have members with a broad range of interests, including many younger members.



Betty Barry, who has been active in the guild since the mid 1980's and served as president several times, has taught many members how to spin. She recently opened Little Shop of Spinning, where she now holds spinning workshops and sells supplies. Betty is one of the Flax and Fleecers who has welcomed many new faces over the years and helped build a unique spinning community that continues to thrive!  



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