Green Business Feature: Cariboo Handwoven – Colour, texture, and art

By LeRae Haynes –

Turning a creative spark into warmth, beauty, and comfort is at the heart of Cariboo Handwoven, where spinner/weaver Jane Perry takes local wool and colourful, quality, soft cotton from Quebec and weaves luxurious wool blankets, soft cotton blankets of all sizes, hand and bath towels, and classy scarves. She’s also started felting woven pieces to make vests and other things.

Jane Perry from Cariboo Handwoven. Photo: LeRae Haynes

Jane Perry from Cariboo Handwoven. Photo: LeRae Haynes

She says making handwoven cloth for different purposes has intrigued her for over 35 years. “I began weaving on a pirta backstrap loom in Finland as a university exchange student,” she said. “Then I graduated to table and floor looms and learned about weave structures, fibres, and colour effects,” she explains.

A member of the Williams Lake Spinners, Weavers, and Fibre Artists Guild, Perry is also president of the Central Cariboo Arts and Culture Society.

“My favourite fibres to weave with are wool and cotton,” she said. “I spin as much high-quality local wool as I can get my hands on, including from the Wengers and Donna Froese, both on Fox Mountain. I took a lot of their fleeces with me in the evacuation,” she continues. “People love the local connection in the finished blankets.”

When Perry gets local wool for spinning and weaving, it comes ready to go.

“It’s shorn from the sheep, put in a bag, usually washed, and maybe fluffed up a bit,” she said.“Sometimes it’s been mechanically carded into a continuous, very fat strip called ‘roving,’ which is very nice to spin.”

Shetland wool blanket on a birch tree behind Jane’s house. Photos: Jane Perry

Shetland wool blanket on a birch tree behind Jane’s house. Photo: Jane Perry

She says when she’s getting ready to weave, she makes a plan for the project—the warp on the loom has to be planned ahead. That plan, however, can change from blanket to blanket.

“With seven blankets, I’ll have at least nine or more ideas,” she said.“I may be weaving a diamond pattern in white hand-spun wool, and think, for the next blanket I’ve got to throw in some orange or some nice purples. Or I’m feeling earthy and say, this next blanket should be in browns and forest greens,” she states. “I’ll start with a plan and think I know where I’m going, but this process is also creative and wonderfully spontaneous at times.”

Weaving is not only creative, it’s physical. When you’re weaving 5’ wide sections, you’re really moving—big side-to-side movements to catch the shuttle, pull the beater toward you to bring the new thread into the cloth, press down a new treadle, and sling the shuttle back the other way.

Perry’s items are shipped across Canada, and are sold from her home studio, at businesses throughout Williams Lake and at the Medieval Market.

“It means so much to me, and inspires me, when people see more in my work than I ever imagined, and it is very humbling when something I make is given as a gift,” she adds. “‘Our baby is currently being nursed to sleep in your blanket,’ one young father said to me. ‘Other than his mother (and maybe me), it’s probably the most comforting thing in the world to him.’ I was really touched.”

Joan Beck’s pottery on one of Jane’s towels that was designed to compliment Joan’s colours.

Joan Beck’s pottery on one of Jane’s towels that was designed to compliment Joan’s colours. Photo: Jane Perry

One thing important to Perry is that in her weaving process she leaves behind as little as possible. The unweaveable last part of the warp, called the thrums, as well as the cardboard cotton cones and core tubes, are given to a local preschool for kids to use for crafts.

She explains that the wildfires and evacuation knocked a lot of wind out of her sails, and that the effects from the season will likely be with people for quite some time.

In a recent blog, she wrote about what to take with her during evacuation. “Some people focus on memories, others on having what they need for the future. I think I’m in the middle,” she said.

“The actual simplicity of evacuation, though, is really how little we need when we have each other.”

For more info about Cariboo Handwoven, visit www.cariboohandwoven.ca. You can follow the link to her blogs from her webpage, email her at cariboojane@shaw.ca, or follow her on Facebook.

LeRae Haynes is a freelance writer, song writer, community co-ordinator for Success by 6, member of Perfect Match dance band, and instigator of lots of music with kids.

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