Karen E. Farley at the loom. photo by Chris Gustin

Back Roads of Brown County
Studio Tour, 2010
and a weaving lesson

by Karen E. Farley

As the leaves turn to orange and red, more than 20 artists and craftsmen will open their home studios for the 9th annual Back Roads of Brown County Studio Tour. The tour will take place the entire month of October and visitors can watch artisans create original artwork and explore the spaces that inspire these artists.

When Our Brown County editor Cindy Steele asked if I would do a hands-on story for the tour—which included a weaving workshop with Chris Gustin—my answer was a very quick, “Yes!” Chris agreed to a private lesson and promised to share her ten most important things to know about weaving.

My day began with a scenic drive to the Homestead Weaving Studio in southeastern Brown County. When I arrived, Chris was busy at work in her rocking chair. Inside her studio was an intriguing array of handwoven rugs, purses, shawls, scarves, and clothing. After a quick introduction to the basics of weaving, I was ready to start my project.

My first task was to decide if I wanted fuzzy yarn or traditional rag and pick out the colors for my rug. On the porch, large plastic bins held a variety of multicolored balls of recycled material from thrift shops, weaving mills, sock factories, and bedding manufacturers. It was a tough decision.

With strips of fabric measured and cut, I picked out my loom. Chris has five weaving looms on the front porch and a larger one inside. The one I chose was a 1949 Weaver’s Delight and by the end of the day I realized how it got its name. The charm and simplicity of this older loom was the perfect choice for a beginner. There were no foot peddles to confuse the novice, just an adjustment of the loom as the machine slowly made its way to the end of the porch.

As I got acquainted with Weaver’s Delight, Chris prepared the ski shuttle, a device made of wood that holds the strips of material. Shuttles are thrown or passed back and forth through the separation of threads on the loom. This allows the weaver to weave back and forth as the harnesses are raised and lowered in the proper order according to the pattern. My knowledge of weaving, which was very limited, now includes terms like weft, warping, beater, and shed.

As soon as the first row was completed, I was hooked. The repetitive motion of weaving was addicting and fun. Throughout the afternoon, my patient and wise teacher was ready to answer questions and fix mistakes I made along the way. When I reached the halfway point, my strips of fuzzy remnants began to look like a rug.
After three and a half hours, the last shuttle made its way through the loom. My “Shaggy Chic” rug was ready to be finished. As Chris removed the rug from the loom, she shared stories about the other looms on her porch. “That one came with bleach stains,” she laughed. “The husband would weave while the wife did the laundry in the basement.”

We finished our conversation outside under a large umbrella and I made plans to come back with my grandchildren. Leaving the studio, I noticed a sign for a community rug. “About 20–25 people stop by and weave,” she explained. “When it is finished I donate it to charity.”

Chris Gustin has been a weaver for over 40 years and specializes in making rugs from recycled material, helping the environment and creating one-of-a-kind rugs. She offers “day weaving” classes year round as weather permits. “The idea is not to actually teach weaving through this event, but to stimulate an interest,” she explained. Weaving allows her to express herself and pass on the joy of weaving to others. “What I enjoy the most is when weaving “clicks” with the student…when they actually “get” the process and then can enjoy the rest of the experience,” she said.

Chris, along with a select group of artisans will open their studio to the public during the month of October. Visitors will see demonstrations and meet the unique people who call Brown County their home. Last year, couples from China and Japan, and a woman from New Zealand visited some of the studios. Some of the participating artists will also offer classes by appointment.

The self-guided tour is free and a detailed map is available in a brochure. Visitors can pick up a brochure at local merchants and at the Visitors Center. Present the brochure at each studio and the artist will stamp the brochure matching the purchase amount. When it is filled, turn it in at one of the studios. A drawing will be held for artwork and other prizes after the tour.
For further information visit
<www.BrownCountyStudioTour.com> or call