Heddles, Treadles, Presto – Ruth Tafel and Her Loom Make Beautiful Art Together

Combining glorious colors and fantastic fiber keeps Ruth Tafel busy at her loom. Ruth is also busy sharing her love of weaving with those who share her passion as a member of the Sunnyside Weavers.

Residents and Local Community Members Meet at Kendal- Sunnyside Weavers

What began as a small group of six in 2014 has blossomed into 18 members that meet monthly at Kendal at Lexington in the historic guest house called, “Sunnyside House.”

While some members are residents and others are from the local community, the group includes a wide array of experience, styles, and specialties, such as the spinners – those who raise sheep or alpaca and use the wool to spin before weaving. Others, like Ruth, purchase their yarn or fiber. Regardless of the starting point, the end result is the same; producing beautiful textiles that take the form of clothing, wraps, scarves or tapestries.

Time to Devote to Weaving

Ruth became interested in weaving 35 years ago when she met a neighbor who did weaving, but she says it’s been a lifelong love of texture and color that drew her to the craft. “I always been interested in things woven, like birds’ nests. The idea of putting things together from nothing has always interested me. It’s such fun to play with color and texture and see what comes.”

A former teacher, she only worked on weaving projects during the summer. “There are parts of the process that take big blocks of time, and I wasn’t able to do that while having a job,” Ruth said.
That process involves setting up the loom; preparing the fibers, threading the heddle, adjusting the treadles, and more. While she can easily describe the process, it’s clear it’s the most labor-intensive part of weaving before the fun of throwing the shuttle and watching the design appear line by line.

Once Ruth and her husband moved to Kendal in 2014, she had time to devote to weaving year-round.

While she describes weaving as a “solitary process and commitment” the group dynamic is a great time for sharing work, learning tips and tricks, and hearing from guest speakers. Whether it’s an old-fashioned, giant loom that takes up most of a room, or a modern, more space efficient one, the basics are the same.

Lexington is Great for Art Lovers

At present, the group doesn’t have a loom available during their meetings, but one of their goals is to have a dedicated space and a loom so they can gather around for demonstrations.

The membership ranges from those who weave in order to use their home-produced fiber or artists like Ruth who sell their work. She says the Lexington area with its many local shops is great for artists and art lovers.

“One of the reasons I sell is so I can buy more yarn,” Ruth chuckled. “I like the concept of making it good enough that someone will enjoy it. It’s a wonderful thing, a heartwarming thing.” Ruth’s creations are on sale at Artists in Cahoots in Lexington, and she also participates in two area art shows each year.

Ruth’s work has been featured as part of the Studio Art Tour held over the years at Kendal at Lexington. The show included other resident artists producing work in everything from woodworking to sketching.

Art Show to Feature Resident Work

“Many working artists live at Kendal at Lexington. Later this year, we plan to showcase the beautiful work of the weavers and other artists at Kendal, as part of an art show and sale that will be open to the general public as well,” said Jessica Buhler, Director of Marketing.