Twist O’ Wool celebrates 40 years; find them at Field Days

TWIST O’ WOOL Guild member Nancy Smith demonstrates sock making at the 2018 Addison County Fair and Field Days.

NEW HAVEN — This week the Twist O’ Wool Fiber Guild celebrates 40 years as a guild and 40 years of demonstrating at the Addison County Fair and Field Days.
The guild was organized by Eleanor Boutcher of Shoreham, Ellen Leone of Bristol and Shelagh Smith of Monkton in May of 1979. They created a mailing list of about 50 people, put advertisements in the papers, and posters were put up to inform folks about the initial meeting. About 30 people showed up at the Ilsley Library in Middlebury and they filled out questionnaires about what they hoped would be accomplished with the guild.
Their first joint project took place at Field Days, where they demonstrated going from a “Fleece to Fichu” all in one day. A “fichu” is a historic garment, usually a large, square-shaped scarf worn by women to fill in the low neckline of a bodice, which originated in the United Kingdom during the 18th century.
“At 10 a.m. we began in the pouring rain under the sheep tent with washed fleece, carding, spinning, plying, and crocheting until 8 p.m. when the last piece of fringe was attached. Taking part were Eleanor and Linda Boutcher, Barbara and Nancy Kennedy, Ellen Leone, Elsie Philpott, Annette Reynolds, Shelagh Smith, and Deb Wheeling.” They were assisted by family members who sold raffle tickets for the shawl and helped with other tasks. The drawing for the fichu was held in the afternoon and won by Ellen’s mother, Bonnie Kavanagh, and raised $47.50 for the group. In September, the guild elected its first officers and they were on their way.
Their focus both in 1979 and today is to educate themselves and others about wool, sheep, spinning, weaving and other fiber skills. Every August since 1979, the guild has continued to demonstrate and educate visitors to their tent at the fair. Over the past 40 years, they have maintained proficiency in their skills and added to their initial focus on wool to many other natural fibers.
The guild invites anyone attending Field Days take a few minutes to stop by their tent, located near the horse barns, on the way to the sheep tent, where they will demonstrate during the fair from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. each day. Children will have a chance to learn how to spin and weave.
They will be displaying their 2019 Guild Afghan, which will be raffled off to the winning ticket holder. Raffle tickets are $1 each or 6 for $5. Money raised from the sale of the tickets goes toward educational programs and workshops held throughout the year. They also purchase books and equipment that can be used by members.
A display of this year’s “Challenge,” in which members challenged themselves to learn a new technique or make something they had never attempted before, will be shown and visitors are welcome to vote on their favorite piece.  Members will be spinning, knitting, weaving, carding fiber and working on other demonstrations throughout the fair.
The guild meets the first Thursday of every month at 7 p.m. at the American Legion, 40 Wilson Rd., in Middlebury from September through June. New members are always welcome. The first meeting for the 2019-2020 year will be held on Sept. 5.

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