Duo sharing skills to keep craft alive

BELOVED: Margaret Belling and Olive Edyvean are life members of Wagga’s Hand
Weaving group. The group marks 45 years this weekend. Picture: Laura Hardwick

BELOVED: Margaret Belling and Olive Edyvean are life members of Wagga’s Hand Weaving group. The group marks 45 years this weekend. Picture: Laura Hardwick

THEY are the duo described by their admirers as “better than Google”.

Revered for their incredible fine motor skills, Olive Edyvean and Margaret Belling are two of the longest serving members of the Handweavers and Spinners Guild of Wagga.

Olive joined the guild when the club was in its infancy, attending her first meeting in 1970 – just two years after it was established in 1968.

Five years later Margaret walked into the guild’s annual general meeting and became the newest member of the tight-knit fold.

“My daughter was doing textiles and spinning was becoming all the rage so she wanted a spinning wheel,” Olive said.

“She learnt how to do it but spinning was too slow for her – she much preferred knitting.

“My husband was running a sheep stud so there was lots of beautiful wool around so I gave it a go and never stopped.”

Like Olive, it was the beauty of the countryside that helped inspire Margaret’s passion for spinning and handweaving.

The pair has only ever used natural dyes to colour their fibres, choosing yellowbox, eucalyptus, onion skins and cochineal over synthetic dyes available on the commercial market.

“The reason why is simple, every colour you put together compliments one another whereas commercial dyes clash,” Margaret said.

As well as using a wide variety of natural dyes in their craft, the experienced spinners have tried their hands at an extraordinary range of fibres.

“It’s not just sheep wool, you can use alpaca, silk, dog hair, hemp, rabbit or camel hairs,” Olive said.

“I came across a man at the Henty Field Days one year who owned bison and he said he would send me a sample to see if I could use it.

“He did, but it was a tiny sample that still had hay and poo in it.

“I was still able to get out three strands of 30 centimetres or so.”

Now aged 90 and 80 respectively, Olive and Margaret offer a wealth of knowledge and experience to newcomers to the crafts.

“I am gifted with my hands and I love to give to others,” Margaret said.

At its peak the guild has boasted upwards of 50 members but the numbers have declined leaving about 20 regularly attending meetings.

“With all the mod cons that exist now I just don’t get the whole ‘not having time’ thing,” Margaret said.

“People should have more time.

“Still, I do believe history will repeat itself at some point. Even now things like Wrap with Love are bringing knitting back.”

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