Sunday, 6 March 2011

Teaching Weaving in Haslemere – Sowing the Seed

The teaching of weaving, spinning and dyeing was central to the beliefs of the Peasant Arts movement; in Ethel Blounts word to “reconquer the ancient crafts of the home” would “in a thousand ways affirm the truths that imaginative hand-labour is honourable” (Blount, Ethel, The Story of the Homespun Web, 1910).  
Napkin (detail) made by the Haslemere Weaving Industry,
reproduced courtesy of The Dartford Warbler

The progress of the Peasant Arts movement's teaching can be seen in an article in The Times on 21st March 1924 which reported on the Peasant Arts Guild: 

“Mr Joseph King presided on Wednesday afternoon at the annual general meeting of the Peasant Arts Guild in the Conference Hall, University of London Club, 21 Gower Street.   The seventh annual report stated that the success of the Guild’s two Industries – Country Toys and the Homespun and the rug-weaving industry carried on at Haslemere – had been very noticeable.  The range of brilliant and beautiful vegetable dyes, and the instruction in the use of them, had been widely extended.  During the year 50 weaving lessons had been given, 20 in wheel-spinning, and 24 in vegetable dyeing. 

21 Gower Street, London
- location of the Peasant Arts Guild 7th AGM in 1924
(now The Academy hotel)

The pupils came from America, Switzerland, Wales, and Hungary.  It was recorded that in the death of Mr. Maurice Hewlett the Guild had lost one of its most valued members and patrons.  Dr Greville MacDonald, one of the wardens, in an address, said he believed absolutely in the necessity for the work they were doing.  There was something more in it than the restoration of spinning-wheels, looms, and hand-made tools.  It was the gathering of seed which had been almost forgotten, sowing it broadcast, and letting it spring up where it might.  Mr Godfrey Blount also spoke on a Country Party.

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