For all things thread, yarn, fibre and fabric, head to St. Jacobs this week, as the village is once again home to a festival celebrating the fibre arts.
With permission, staff and volunteers with the Three Sisters Cultural Centre are rebooting the St. Jacobs Quilt and Fibre Art Festival, which had run for more than two decades before the pandemic struck.
The event is now WEFT Fest: the Woolwich Expressions in Fibre Traditions Festival.
“Just before the pandemic hit, those ladies [the St. Jacobs Quilt and Fibre Art Festival committee] were about to celebrate their 25th year running the Quilt and Fibre art show. They retired the show,” said Three Sisters artistic director Jax Rula, who makes handmade dolls.
“My sisters and I built this centre totally with the idea that one of the things we would do is be able to be part of that show. I set up the hanging system specifically down the center beam here to hang quilts.
“I went and talked to those ladies and said we’re all ready to be part of the show. And they said ‘We’re retired.’ And it was very, very sad. I couldn’t really get them to pick it up again, but they gave us their blessing and said go ahead and do it yourselves, you just have to change the name. ‘Quilt and Fiber Art Festival’ really covers pretty much everything that it is, so we had to come up with a new name.”
Weft is a weaving term for the threads that are woven crosswise to make fabric. They are woven over and under the lengthwise threads known as the warp.
“The fibre arts are a really important part of the culture of this region, so being able to keep alive that tradition of the quilt, and fibre arts festival, even though it’s in a new format, is really important to us,” said Rula.
The WEFT Festival’s opening gala takes place at the Three Sisters Cultural Centre today (March 23) at 6 p.m. Events throughout the festival include a fibre arts auction, tea room, speaker series, vendors’ market, fashion show, quilt display, guild show, workshops and felted art show and sale. The closing gala is on April 2 at 4 p.m. at the Three Sisters Cultural Centre.
“I think [this festival] is important for exposure,” said Alison Hall, an artist participating in the event. “Because if you didn’t have something like this happening, then where would you do it? You’d have to find out your own methods to put your stuff out there. And it’s not always online, that’s not always going to be the way to go. And for fibre, you can’t really see stuff online anyway. You can look up close at all the little threads and the little details much better in person.”
Hall is a needle felting artist who got her start in 2012 after seeing a video on YouTube. “It was not a popular thing back then,” she said.
She now works out of the Three Sisters Cultural Centre under her company name, Woolly Wonderlings.
“Fibre art has, particularly with felting anyways, has been very much relegated to sort of the artisanal craft arena, which is fine. I mean, I respect it completely. And it’s definitely a legitimate form of fibre art,” said Carolyn Parks, another needle felting artist who is showing and speaking at the event.
“I just think that this festival in particular is going to really allow us to showcase some of the finer art, and I don’t mean that in a snooty way. I mean that in the application of two dimensional wall art where you’re seeing tapestries and you’re seeing pieces and you’re seeing display items,” she said.
“I think that it’s just really exposing people to fibre art in a way that they have never been exposed to before in some cases.”