Spin city

Spinners and weavers

First-time weaver Pati Falk gets help from Reno Fiber Guild president Nancy Sanger during a guild class.

First-time weaver Pati Falk gets help from Reno Fiber Guild president Nancy Sanger during a guild class.


Spinning and weaving, like most specialized skills, come with extensive lists of insider terminology. Considering how ancient these particular crafts are, it’s little wonder that their associated lexicons are enough to set a person’s head, well, spinning.

But one need not start out knowing the difference between a drop spindle and a spinning wheel, or even a multi-harness versus a fixed-frame loom. With a little guidance from a local fiber arts guild, it’s possible to try these age-old arts. For Truckee Meadows residents, a good place to start might be with a visit to either the Carson Sierra Spinners and Weavers Guild or the Reno Fiber Guild.

Hannah Woods has been the president of the Carson Sierra Spinners and Weavers Guild for about a year and half now. Spinning is her guild’s specialty, and Woods has been spinning her own yarn—often from locally sourced wool—for over a decade now.

“Yarn shops were my haunt,” Woods said. “And I’d seen a lady actually spinning on her spinning wheel in one of the shops, and I approached her … and asked her, you know, what was going on. … We got into a conversation. She said that she gave lessons, so that began the spinning part of my journey. You know, with the fiber arts, everything kind of follows along. You try different things and whatever works for you, works for you.”

Not all of the Carson Sierra Spinners and Weavers Guild’s 40 members specialize in spinning. Some, of course, are weavers. Others are dye experts or knitters. Still others raise sheep for wool.

Once a month, from October through April, the guild holds meetings at Bartley Ranch, 6000 Bartley Ranch Road, during which they do a little show-and-tell, partake in classes taught by other guild members and outside experts, and welcome newcomers (regardless of skill level). The guild also does demonstrations. They’ll be at the Nevada State Fair in Carson City from June 9-12, and the Reno Mini Maker Faire in Idlewild Park on July 9.

“That’s what our group is all about, is to educate people … that this art is still very much alive and being practiced, and something that’s actually fairly easy to take up,” Woods said.

It’s also fairly affordable, at least to start with. Dues for the Carson Sierra Spinners and Weavers Guild are $25 per year, and a simple drop spindle can be purchased for a few dollars. But a spinning wheel might set you back anywhere from a few hundred bucks to more than $1000.

For those who are more interested in weaving, a visit to the Reno Fiber Guild might be in order. The guild holds an annual, multi-day “Learning to Weave” class. It’s a bit more expensive to get involved in than spinning, at about $240—$30 for the annual membership fee and $210 for the three-day course. This year’s class wrapped up on June 5, but there are other opportunities to get involved between now and next year.

The next regular Reno Fiber Guild meeting isn’t until September, but, according to former guild co-president Suzanne Woodhead, curious would-be weavers are welcome to drop in on the guild’s monthly show-and-tell and support group meeting, which is usually held on the second Saturday of the month at the Sky Peaks Retirement Community, 1530 Sky Valley Drive.

According to guild member Nancy Sanger, weaving—much like spinning—is pretty easy to get into. Sanger had always wanted to try weaving but had to wait until she’d retired from 38 years of teaching before having time to give it a go.

“I was in the first Learning to Weave class, and they have been so supportive,” Sanger said.

That was two years ago. Recently Sanger took over as the Reno Fiber Guild’s new president.