The fabric of their lives | Kitsap Week

Weavers create beautiful things, and they stay fit doing it.

POULSBO — Unless you are wearing all leather or are in your birthday suit, chances are you are wearing something woven.

Weaving has roots going back so far that no one can pinpoint exactly when or where it began—but it’s been around for thousands of years. And while nowadays most fabrics are factory made, some residents at Montclair Park in Poulsbo are keeping the ancient craft of hand-weaving alive.

You could say weaving has become part of the fabric of their lives.

“What is being made here is incredible,” instructor Barbara MacIntyre said. “You can’t go into a store and buy it.”

Kay Sproule, 92, is beginning her second hand-woven vest. She gave her first one to her daughter. The next one will go to her other daughter. After all, she has to be fair.

“I give all of my projects away,” Sproule said.

Brightly colored and artistically crafted, Sproule’s pieces—vests, table linens and bookmarks—are pleasing to the eye and to the touch, and make great gifts.

But weaving has given Sproule her own gift:  It’s made her physically stronger.

When she first started, Sproule was able to stand for only about five minutes at a time. Now she’s weaving so much that’s she’s built up her endurance and can stand for longer stretches.

On one occasion her family was trying to reach her, but she was down in the weaving room, away from her phone. Finally, the receptionist came to find her and told Sproule her family was worried about her.

“Ah! Tell them I’m weaving,” she said. “I’ll call them later.”

Kingston resident MacIntyre has been weaving for 40 years and once owned a weaving supply store in Montana. Her knowledge of different looms and patterns makes her an asset to the senior community.

“I was looking for something to do,” MacIntyre said. “And I wanted to do something that would make a difference.”

Audrey Klein is working on a teal blue shawl. Watching her weave the yarn through the loom is mesmerizing. The delicate pattern takes concentration. Now that Sproule is beginning a new vest project, Klein suspects the two of them will spend many days weaving the hours away.

“It’s more fun when she’s down here too,” Klein said.

“We don’t talk. We ignore each other,” Sproule joked.

Klein clarified Sproule’s comment, “We don’t want to distract each other. But it’s good company.”

Rosalie Lemieux is the enrichment director at Montclair. She’s been bitten by the weaving bug as well as learned along with the residents. Not only does weaving provide a recreational activity, but it also engages the mind, she said.

Calculators are brought out to figure how much yarn is needed for a project and how to allot for shrinkage. Decisions on yarn choice are important. Texture and color plays a big role on the look of the finished piece.

According to MacIntyre, weaving was used as therapy for injured World War I veterans. Not only did it provide them with something to do, it helped them regain strength and movement.

“And we’ve seen a difference here,” she said. Participants with limited range of motion in their arms now have a greater range.

MacIntyre founded the Kitsap Weaving School and with the blessing from the director at Montclair, holds class in what is known as “the weaving room.”  The classes are open to all ages and are held for all skill levels.

Having recently been remodeled, most rooms in Montclair are painted a soft yellow, but the weaving room boasts walls of white. This simple detail is a testament to the support of staff—white walls help show off the yarn’s true colors. Special permission was granted to paint the walls white, to help the artists work under favorable conditions.

Residents who aren’t weavers often stop by and watch the work in progress. They often mutter, “Oh, I couldn’t do that.” But MacIntyre knows they could. It just takes a willingness to learn.

After all, Sproule and Klein are still learning. They still make mistakes.

“We call our mistakes ‘hand-woven,’” Klein said.

“That’s right,” MacIntyre said. “It proves it was handmade.”

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