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Fiber, Fabrics & Fun: 4-H youth learn the art of weaving

Ruth Forster knew she had discovered something special when her fifth grade class took a field trip to the historical reenactment village of Westville in Columbus, Ga.

As the kids explored the setup of how villagers lived life in the 1800s, the act of weaving captivated Forster.

“That’s where I saw a loom and a spinning wheel for the first time,” Forster said. “I started weaving because I’d always been fascinated by it.”

Forster started working with a loom in 1995 and purchased her first loom and spinning wheel when she was in college. She first learned how to weave on her loom, then learned how to spin fiber a year later.

“Spinning is very challenging. It is not just something you sit down and say ‘I’m going to learn this’ and do it; it takes a lot of practice and a lot of patience,” Forster said.

Forster has been teaching that patience and sharing her love of weaving with the Holmes County 4-H Fiber, Fabrics & Fun Club.

Holmes County 4-H Agent Chris Lauen said the club has learned about the history and science of textiles through an overview of sourcing and identifying natural fibers and processing them into usable fabrics.

“I didn’t realize how much you can do with cotton and all the different ways you can make fabric,” said Natalie, 11. “I think it’s cool to see all the different kinds of wool you can use on animals.”

The club members went straight to the source for their fiber when they met an alpaca in the October meeting. They collected alpaca hair they will spin into fiber that they can later use to make fabric and sew with.

In the club’s November meeting, the kids visited Forster’s fabric shop and sewing studio to learn all the different parts of a loom and how they work together to weave fibers into a collective piece of fabric. The goal is to ultimately advance to making a quilt.

The students learned how to patiently set up a loom and the correct sequence of steps to make the loom work its magic. They also learned why it’s important to keep their hands out of harm’s way and to work at a slower pace until they get the process down pat.

“When you’re weaving and get into the zone, it’s very soothing,” Forster said.

For more information about Holmes County 4-H, visit www.holmescounty4h.com or call 850-547-1108.

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