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Meredith King weaves traditional crafts into her education

I visited Tryon Arts & Crafts and was overwhelmed by the vast change in the building. It no longer has the sterile feeling of a school, but offers a warm invitation to explore the traditional crafts of the foothills region. Surrounding the main gallery space are spacious and well equipped classrooms for weaving, pottery, lapidary, and of course the new forge is located just outside the building.

I arrived during the Tuesday weaving class and was introduced thirteen year old Meredith King, the youngest member of the class, just as she was setting up her loom to start a new project. So far, all that was on the loom was a precise set of black yarn running from back to front.

What are you making here?

I&squo;m working on scarves. The black is half acrylic and half nylon yarn for the warp.

She then pulls out a fluffy pile of variegated pastel blue.

This fringe-y polyester is for the weft. I&squo;ve already done one with the yellow-orange fringe. It&squo;s not necessarily something you can wash, but they make beautiful gifts and I just tell people to &dquo;keep it clean.&dquo;

How long have you been taking class here?

I started the weaving in January, and have been taking pottery since October.

How did you get involved?

I&squo;m homeschooled and we always come to Harmon Field for soccer. One day we stopped in to look around at the new center and found out about the classes and I signed up.

So is this part of your school schedule?

On Monday I double up and fit two school days worth of lessons into one so I can come here during the day on Tuesday. It&squo;s really great. My Tuesday tradition with Mom is to stop for coffee in Columbus on our way from Landrum and then she brings me here for the class from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. On Wednesday evening I take the pottery class with my grandmother.

Are there other weavers in your family?

There&squo;s not really a family connection to weaving. My mom gardens and cooks, but I do all sorts of art and pretty much am the only arts and crafts one in the family. I&squo;m always working on making something.

What do you do with your projects?

These are presents.

What else have you made?

I made baby blankets for twin cousins. I recently finished six placemats, wove a piece to make into a tote bag, and have tried two kinds of scarves.

That seems like a lot, how long does it take to create these?

Setting up the loom usually takes the longest and the weaving goes quick. These scarves are a plain weave since the yarn is so showy. The only complicated part of the tote bag was sewing it together. The placemats had a diamond pattern made from threading and the way you weave, like the wedding pillows you see Sylvia working on next to us.

How is the class run?

Sue and Kris are in charge of the class, but it&squo;s more like a weaving club. They don&squo;t direct us in terms of projects, but you get help on whatever you are working on while you&squo;re here.

How long does it take you to finish a project?

Right now I&squo;m setting up for three scarves, so I set up the warp eight yards long and it will take me about two and a half classes to finish all three. I might come back on another day if I want to finish them sooner.

Did you ever try weaving before?

I had done some weaving with a little peg loom and a table loom at home.

So are you wishing you had one of these full sized looms at home now?

Not really, I think I either would get sick of it, or never stop if I was at home. I can always come here on another day if I want to weave more during the week.

What will be your next project?

I have three baby blankets to make for a cousin and two family friends. I like making things for people who need them.

What are you working on in the pottery class?

We&squo;re doing some hand building and throwing on the wheel. In pottery you finish something every week.

What are some of your favorites you&squo;ve finished?

There&squo;s a peace sign tray and some bigger pots thrown with three and a half pounds of clay that are pretty cool. I also used clay and wove a trivet to combine projects from both classes.

What would you say to someone who was considering taking a class?

It&squo;s a really good idea! The instructors are really great and you get all the resources you need.

As I leave Meredith to get her scarves started, I visit with her neighbor Sylvia Chiodini about how she is creating the pattern for her pillows with only one color of thread. Her project is also intended as a gift. She moves swiftly with the pattern written out in front of her so that she can track the progress. I can see an example of how the treadles are set up at the next loom where Bonnie is setting up a new project.

Bonnie: The treadling changes with different projects, some are more complicated. When you step on a pedal it determines which harness or harnesses are raised. The outside pedals are for &dquo;tabbing&dquo; and then the others are set up depending on the pattern.

Liz Wyckoff is working on a standard twill pattern at the next loom and shows me how this works. The pattern is created by alternating the harnesses that are raised and the pattern is basic enough she doesn&squo;t need it written out. She shows me how this differs from the complex pattern for the treadles that Sylvia has set up on her loom.

Sylvia: I have a loom at home, but come here for companionship. Here there are women of all ages with the same interests working on fiber arts with different levels of experience.

As I look back at Meredith, she is now happily engaged in creating her festive fluffy scarf that is quickly taking shape under her hands. To find out more about the opportunities for community crafting, stop by Tryon Arts & Crafts at 373 Harmon Field Road, call 859-8323, or visit tryonartsandcrafts.org.