A couple of weeks ago we were approached by the Cape Guild Of Weavers to host a demonstration at our Cape Town Micro Mill. About 20 members joined us at 78 Hout Street for an afternoon of weaving talk. As usual, our Hattersley loom, fondly known as Hattie, was the star of the show as Craig got her going for an attentive audience. It was fantastic to meet and share stories with such an enthusiastic group of people who share our passion.
We chatted to Guild member Michael De Souza, founder of a creative brand communication agency called Politburo, to find out more about the Weavers Guild and how to get involved. If you have been thinking about taking up weaving as a hobby this might just be for you.
Tell us a bit about the Cape Guild of Weavers.
We’re a community dedicated to the fibre arts, and the process of transforming raw materials into beautiful, functional things.
We believe that crafted, handmade items give enduring satisfaction to those who make them and those who use them.
Our members are skilled at a diverse range of disciplines so, although we’re officially a guild of weavers, we also focus on spinning, felting, dyeing and knitting.
Who are the key members?
Most of us are hobbyists, although a handful of our members are professionals who earn an income from production weaving, spinning or knitting. The Guild also attracts surface designers, textile students and academics, and we even have some Alpaca breeders in our ranks!
The various weaving and spinning teachers across Cape Town are active members of the Guild. I attend classes at Pennytwist, a studio in Rosebank run by Penny White. Our chair, Edith Hoskin, has a beautiful loft space in Durbanville where she holds regular weaving classes. Norma Ordman, one of our most skilled members, teaches weaving and spinning in Rondebosch. And Bastienne Klein, a great spinning teacher, holds regular drop-spindle and wheel-spinning classes.
I find that the most satisfying interactions are with those members who’ve gone down the rabbit hole – establishing some expertise in an obscure or technical subject like Japanese braiding, basketmaking or ropemaking.
That’s exactly the danger of a hobby like weaving. It’s a gateway drug, and we’re always surrounded by a few hundred other enthusiastic enablers who generously share their knowledge and guide us onwards to the next technique, weaving draft or method.
Tell us about your weaving journey, and how you first got involved with the guild.
In 2014, I’d just returned to South Africa after a few years in Asia, and was in the early stages of establishing a creative studio here in Cape Town.
For the first time in a while, I had the time and freedom to pursue interests outside work, and after an epic late-night Pinterest session, I decided that I wanted to learn to weave, and had to buy a loom immediately.
I saw the details of our guild shop online, but had no real intention of joining some community of weavers! My idea was to fly under the radar, persuade someone to sell me a loom, and figure it all out myself with the help of YouTube videos.
Thankfully, Jennifer Pauw (a masterful weaver of rugs) was stationed at the guild shop that day. In just 15 minutes, she talked some sense into me, persuading me to sign up for lessons, join the Guild, and take some more time to figure out what kind of loom would be right. I’ve been happily weaving ever since, and although it’s been about three years now, I’m still a real newbie compared to most guild members.
I did eventually buy a table loom, then another slightly larger one… and I’m still shopping for a really big floor room one day… although that’ll be expensive given the cost of the house I’ll need to buy to create enough space for it!
Are you working on any exciting new projects at the moment?
Unfortunately, work leaves me much less time for weaving at the moment. Nevertheless, I attend classes most Saturdays, and this week, I’ll start a warp for a black wool scarf that I’ve planned.
At home, I’m finishing up some simple and elegant cotton towels, and (for balance) I’m also knitting a colourful, chunky, oversize scarf out of t-shirt yarn.
The Cape Guild of Weavers meets every month. Can you tell us about these meetings?
We meet on the third Saturday of each month at the South African Centre for the Netherlands and Flanders (SACNAF) in Pinelands. Here, we’ve established a fantastic library of weaving books, magazines and weaving videos, which our members can borrow. At our meetings, we’ll usually invite a guest or member to talk on a specific weaving-related subject, or discuss some aspect of one of the fibre arts.
Occasionally, instead of meeting at the centre, we’ll go on an outing (as we did in April, visiting you guys on Hout Street!)
Every few months, we hold a few days of workshops. Our last round of these included felting, eco-dyeing, cloth weaving, shibori, tapestry, spinning, beading, knitting, kumihimo and wool dyeing. And every second year, we hold an exhibition of the work of our members. Our next exhibition will be held sometime around Easter next year.
Michael shared some images with us of his latest woven work.