Woodhatton Spinners and Weavers

1980 - late 1990s

Woodhatton Spinners and Weavers

1980 - late 1990s

Theme: Arts and crafts

This essay written by Alison Carew was first published in Women Together: a History of Women's Organisations in New Zealand in 1993. It was updated by Alison Carew in 2018.

1980 – 1993

An informal craft group, Woodhatton Spinners and Weavers was started in 1980 by approximately eight women who met through Woodhatton Playcentre in Wainuiomata. The group had two main functions – creative and social. Many of the women had felt frustrated at the lack of outlets for their creative energies and opportunities to share and develop their skills. All were full-time mothers who found it difficult to combine craft work with caring for small children. Existing craft clubs seemed to cater mainly for older women, and were not geared to having babies and toddlers present.

The chance to meet with other women, and discuss mutual interests and problems while their children played together, was as important as the craft work. Many of the original members lived in the rural area around Wainuiomata, on small 'hobby farms'; some had no regular transport. For a number, the group became their only regular social event.

The women met at noon every second Tuesday (a non-playcentre day), at each member's home in turn. After a leisurely pot-luck lunch, they settled down to work. Most had portable spinning wheels or small tapestry looms. Over the years, the group widened to include other crafts such as embroidery, patchwork and knitting.

The afternoon's work was punctuated by attending to the needs of children, who on the whole played amicably among the toys, wheels and bags of fleece. On warm days the group often moved out to spin in the sun. At 2.45 pm there was a flurry of packing, tidying and washing dishes before collecting older children from school.

The talk at meetings ranged far and wide, from the practical to the philosophical to the personal. The closeness which developed within the group extended to supporting each other through pregnancies, births, illnesses, family crises and marriage breakdowns.

Membership remained steady at around ten, with six or seven at each meeting. The physical limitations of house meetings kept the group small and intimate. Friends who showed an interest would be invited to join after everyone had approved. Although many left to re-enter paid employment once their youngest child turned five, a few stayed.

The only formal office was that of treasurer. Members paid 50 cents at each meeting; this covered the group's subscription to The Web, the New Zealand Spinning, Weaving and Woolcrafts Society's magazine, and the capitation fee for affiliation to the society, allowing members to take part in workshops, courses and festivals. In 1983, for example, several members attended a memorable two-day workshop in Lower Hutt run by leading spinning tutor Jenny Poore, while other members minded their children. The group also organised its own workshops. Lower Hutt weaver Kathleen Low demonstrated the use of plant dyes, and members who had been on a felting course shared their new skills.

In 1993 the group was still meeting regularly, although numbers had dwindled as economic necessity drew more women back into paid work. By then there were fewer spinners and weavers, perhaps because self-sufficiency had lost some of the appeal it had in the 1980s, when members took great pride in raising and shearing their own sheep, spinning the fleeces, and knitting or weaving the yarn into clothes for their families and furnishings for their homes. But the group continued to provide companionship, support, and an outlet and inspiration for creative skills.

Alison Carew

1994 – late 1990s

By the late 1990s the group had stopped meeting. Several families had moved away, some women returned to paid work, and the more committed spinners and weavers found other outlets for their creativity. Like many such groups, the Woodhatton Spinners and Weavers had met a particular need at a particular time, and then disappeared.

Alison Carew

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