Burnie 40th Birthday

Posted by VP for KS on 13 June 2014 | 1 Comments

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Burnie Handweavers Spinners & Dyers Guild celebrate their 40th Birthday in 2014.

The Guild was formed after spinning as a craft was brought to the notice of Bev Paton in Burnie in 1974 at the Craft Council of Tasmania travelling Exhibition "Fi'bre, Plus". Several people who were invited to spin at the "Fi'bre Plus" were enthusiastic to start a group. On 31 October 1974 a meeting was held, 9 people attended and formed the Burnie Guild. It was the first Spinning Guild in the northern part of Tasmania. Our first meetings were held at Breckenborough, the home of Mrs Kath Doherty, and monthly meetings were arranged.

In 1975 the Burnie Guild successfully applied for a Federal Government grant and received it through the auspices of the Craft Council of Tasmania. This enabled the purchase of basic equipment as we were a non-fundraising organisation; it gave a boost to members who were learning to spin. Members were growing in numbers; our Executive approached Greg Campbell, the Administrator of the Adult Education Centre in Burnie, to arrange meeting space. Greg Campbell was  most helpful and we rented a room for each month over many years at a nominal fee.

Our aim has always first and foremost been to promote our craft and to help members and intending members receive every assistance in this area, and to explore the limitless avenues to spinning and weaving etc. Being new to our craft we next had to procure fleeces, and the farmers gave us every assistance. Our members then had to identify the various breeds of sheep and the type of fleece suitable for our spinning. Talk about some hilarious learning curves!

The Guild next had to embark on finding tutors for our workshops. The first was Janet Blundell of the Hobart Guild, accompanied by Erna Foot. They demonstrated spinning techniques and various mordants for vegetable dyeing. It was a most memorable workshop. The tutors down the years have been a tremendous success right up until now. They have given freely of their expertise, adding a richness and friendship to our members. Some came from the Mittagong Workshops, NSW; one was Elizabeth Nagel. Jenny Poore came from New Zealand. Our Guild at this stage had 30 to 40 people. 

Our Guild decided we would have Exhibitions to show our craft. The first was held in Burnie in conjunction with the Pottery Group, and it was most successful. From then on we have had fabulous bi-ennial exhibitons. Some of the venues have been Adult Education in Burnie, The Coastal Art Centre, the Hellyer College, Burnie Civic Centre and recently, the Information Centre in Wynyard. They have been working exhibitions with spinning, weaving, dyeing and felting in progress. We have participated at the Burnie and Wynyard Industrial Shows by demonstrating spinning and entering garments and articles in the Industrial Halls.

Through the years the Guild has also participated in the Highland Bothwell Games by always sending a team of 4 members to compete in the spinning, plying and knitting of a small article. Or life member, Audrey Bradley, has won World Congress Awards for spun wool, knitted garments and longest thread.

We have always enjoyed social activities by  meeting each month at member's homes, and attending various Group Days at Launceston, Deloraine, Devonport, Burnie and Forest at Circular Head. Friendships and camaradarie is enjoyed during our time together and Show and Tell fires everyone's imagination for new and varied ideas.

Christmas is always celebrated together. Every winter in past years we were invited to Judy Poltock's home in Penguin for a winter solstice dinner and sing song at the piano, played by Gwen Diprose. Both members have passed away and this is a sad loss to our Guild. Members have  been invited to a property at Green Hills near Stanley and, after a terrific luncheon, the day ended in much humor with Shirley Dunn and Joan Stitz being chased by the cattle, one of them caught up on the barbed wire fence by her nether garments! The other incident that comes to mind is the gigantic apple strudel we made for lunch, rather than spinning.

Down the years we had many Presidents and acclaim should especially be given to them for their strength and purpose at holding our Guild together. There are only 2 inaugural members left out of the original 9 members on this, our 40th year. Over the last few years we have joined the Handweavers, Spinners and Dyers Guild of Tasmania because of insurance and other issues. We have had 6 life members, 2 have passed away and the State Guild has graciously awarded life membership to our current Life Members.

After the Adult Education Centre in Burnie was demolished we had to find alternate accomodation and were fortunate to rent the unused Uniting Church. Over the years membership has reached 270 and all have left a legacy that has given our Guild craft richness. We have a proud history of quality and quantity exhibited both intra and inter state. We now have a coordinator, currently Kimbra Shadbolt, with Judy Foulger as Treasurer.

The Burnie Spinners and Weavers through the 40 years deserve congratulations and best wishes for the future.


Beverly Paton, Inaugural Life member.