March 7, 1934: Ten women gathered to hold weaving classes at the Women’s Institute. This group became the nucleus of the Victoria Handweavers’ and Spinners’ Guild.
The charter members of the weaving guild were Mrs. Ruth Anstey, Mrs. E. F. Arnold, Mrs. F. I. Bell, Mrs. S. Carmichael, Mrs. L. Clowes, Mrs. M. Findlay, Mrs. W. Peden, Mrs. Sexton, Mrs. E. Simmonds, and Mrs. Violet White. Ruth Anstey continued to be an active member of the Guild until her death in 1988 at the age of 97.
The first President was Violet White, who held that position for 11 years.
A donation of $6.00 was given to the Guild by the Women’s Institute to buy materials for handweaving and Mr. John Kyle, Director of Technical Education for the Provincial Government, supplied the five table looms. Members paid $3.00 for a course of 10 lessons taught by Mr. Eldridge.
December 12, 1934: The first Annual Meeting was held, with 7 of the 10 members present. By the second annual meeting there were 31 members present and they now met in each other’s homes. By the 1939, meetings were held in the Union Building on View Street and at the YMCA on Blanshard Street.
Exhibitions were held annually at the YMCA and at the Empress Hotel. In later years meetings were held in the Douglas Room of the Hudson’s Bay Store.
1940: In April, the Guild withdrew from the Women’s Institute and called themselves The Victoria Handweavers’ Guild. The membership was now 38. The war years put a strain on the membership, but they carried on.
In the 1930’s, the BC Department of Agriculture promoted the growing of flax for weaving fishing nets. The location chosen was Cloverdale in the Fraser Valley, but the outbreak of war and the ensuing lack of labour brought the industry to an end. The guild corresponded with the Department of Agriculture with reference to the flax and the possible availability of same for spinning. Sixty pounds of flax grown in the Fraser Valley was eventually given to the guild in 1944. Hand towels spun and woven from the flax remain in the guild’s Permanent Collection today.
1944: The Guild became affiliated with the Society of Canadian Handicrafts Guild.
1946: Ethel Rankin was elected guild president and served until 1947. The Guild obtained rooms at Prince Robert House on Douglas Street, where meetings and courses were held. There were now 40 members.
1949: The guild constitution was amended to include an elected Standards Committee to set quality standards for articles included in the guild exhibitions and sales.
1951: The Guild moved to the Blue Room, which was upstairs at the corner of Yates and Broad Streets. Active membership was open to any handweaver sponsored in writing by two members in good standing; such handweaver must be the owner of a harness loom in active use. Only active members were entitled to vote or hold office. The membership fee was $2.00 per year.
1952: The Guild’s membership had grown to 53. Miss Florence Daniels, Instructor of Weaving at Hull House, Chicago, was welcomed as a guest at the September meeting.
1954: Frances Clark was elected guild president and served until 1955.
1958: The Guild moved their meeting place to the Victoria Art Gallery.
1961: The membership was 73. A Social Service Committee was formed to help the handicapped. Florence Daniels taught summer school classes at the Gallery. She gave fall and spring classes, at first through the Department of Education evening program, and later in her own home until her death in 1975. Many of our present members learned to weave with Miss Daniels.
1962: Victoria’s Centennial Year. The Guild decorated a float that participated in the May 24th parade. Membership was now at 81. Eight hundred visitors attended the annual exhibition that was held in the Douglas Room of The Bay.
1963: Saw the beginning of what was called A Library Afternoon, open from 2:00 to 3:15 pm. The Guild had 38 bound books. Membership was 75.
1964: The Guild presented a table loom each to the Cerebral Palsy Clinic and to the Arbutus Craft Centre in honour of the Guild’s 30th Anniversary.
1965: The Guild produced the Bulletins for the Guild of Canadian Weavers. This included both writing the articles for the year and producing the samples to be attached to each Bulletin.
March 1966: Another move for the Guild. This time to a building on Vancouver Street. The library, threads and equipment were contained in a small room and the meetings were held in the large workroom of Arbutus Crafts. Later, a larger room upstairs was obtained which the Guild was able to use for all activities.
1968: Life Memberships were initiated and awarded to Ruth Anstey and Violet White. In ensuing years, others were similarly recognized for their contributions to the Guild.
1972: The Listeners group was formed so members who could not attend meetings could keep in touch. Gathering in the afternoon once a month in each other’s homes, they hear and discuss the Minutes of the Last General Meeting. Show and Tell is conducted and there is a program with a guest to talk about and demonstrate a special interest. The members have contributed small projects for our various conferences. This group remained active until 2011.
1973: The Guild’s name was changed to the Victoria Handweavers’ and Spinners’ Guild.
November 1973: Another move—to rooms on the second floor of the Pemberton Holmes Building at Government and Broughton Streets.
1973-74: The Guild spearheaded the amalgamation of all BC Guilds and initiated the Newsletter Exchange amongst the Guilds.
September 1974: Small Interest Groups were suggested and the first to be formed was Spinning. There are now several spinning groups as well a group called Just 4’s. There used to be an active tapestry group as well.
June 1977: The Guild hosted the 8th Biennial Conference of the Association of Northwest Weavers Guild (ANWG.) This was held at the University of Victoria Campus, with a full capacity registration of almost 700. Proposed renovations forced a move to new premises at St Alban’s Church on Ryan Street. However, with the Guild’s membership growing (now to 240), larger facilities were required and the hunt continued.
April 1979: A happy moving day. Our little “Cottage” at 3811 Snyod Road housed all our equipment, library and records. General meetings were held in the adjoining St. Luke’s Church Hall were the Fireside Room was also available for workshops. Membership was 283; the library owned 300 books as well as many periodicals, pamphlets and sample collections.
1978-79: The Constitution was revised to reflect our growing Guild.
1981: The membership peaked at 320.
1982: The Guild again produced the Bulletins for the Guild of Canadian Weavers.
1983: The Guild became a registered society, with a new Constitution and Bylaws as required by the Society Act. Supplementary Rules and Regulations were formulated.
1984: Our 50th Anniversary. To celebrate, in May, we presented Fibre Gold Conference ’84 featuring complementary workshops with instructors from across Canada. All events took place on the University of Victoria campus.
July 1984: Major renovations were needed in the Cottage and the church required it for their minister. We moved to Harbour View School in Esquimalt.
February 1987: Harbour View was needed as a Public School. The library and looms were moved to St. Ann’s Academy. Meetings were held at St. Matthias Church.
August 1989: Proposed renovations at St. Ann’s forced a move to the cottage at 930 Mason Street for the library and looms. Meetings were held in St. John’s Church Hall, next door.
April 1990: First Island Retreat held at Parksville, organized by our Guild.
May 1990: First ‘Memorial Program: in memory of Mrs. Anstey, with a special guest lecturer.
January 1991: Started Community Tapestry for the Commonwealth Games. A loom was set up in the foyer of the Royal BC Museum and the project was finished in May. The Tapestry now hangs in the Sports Department at Commonwealth Place.
June 1991: Due to rising rents for a full-time space to house all the looms and equipment, it was decided to sell the large looms and some equipment. Arrangements were made to rent meeting space at St. Margaret’s School where we would have use of the kitchen to house the library.
January 1992: Moved to St. Margaret’s School. Annual Exhibitions and Sale held at Cadboro Bay United Church Hall.
June 1993: Approved revisions to the Constitution and Bylaws and the Rules and Regulations.
September 1994: Chairman Frances Smith announced the Steering Committee set up to plan the ANWG Conference in Victoria in June 1997.
February 1997: Arrangements made to move to St Aiden’s Church Hall during the summer. Meeting nights changed to the third Thursday each month except July, August and December.
May 1997: The ANWG Conference, Straits and Strands hosted by the Victoria and Vancouver Island Weavers and Spinners Guilds, held at the University of Victoria, June 26-29. Guild membership is 193.
1997: TAPIS wove a tapestry for the Cool Aid Association. The 4-H Fibre Club was organized and run by two members of the guild.
1998: The location and format for the Annual Show and Sale was changed. Fibres A’hoy was held at the Maritime Museum in Bastion Square for a month. The Guild storage was moved from Quadra to Vanalman.
1999: Victoria hosted retreat at Tigh na Mara Resort in Parksville. A towel exchange with Deep Cove Guild was held. A vest competition was held at the September meeting. A number of members attended workshops at Coupeville Arts Centre and at the ANWG Conference in Bozeman, Montana.
2000: The annual sale was held at a downtown location in the Arts Council space for 5 days. A competition was held to name the Guild Newsletter and the winner was Fibre Web. Basic weaving classes, called Right from the Start, at the Cedar Hill Recreation Centre were sponsored by the Guild. Guild members knitted bears for children in refugee camps.
2001: Members made award ribbons out of silk fusion for Convergence in Vancouver. A spinning group had a sheep to shawl demo at the Saanich Fair.
2002: Island Tide had a juried show at the Fran Willis Gallery and arranged a downtown walking tour in connection with Convergence in Vancouver.
2003: The Guild was part of the Peninsula Studio Tour with a sale and spinning display titled Beyond Wool at the Saanich Fairgrounds. A questionnaire was sent to members asking: What is a perfect Guild?
2004: The Guild held a Birthday Tea to celebrate their 70th anniversary. Handmade items were sent to help fire victims in the interior. The items in the storage locker at Vanalman Rd were downsized.
2005: The Guild held its first Spin-In which saw about 50 members and visitors gather at the Elk Lake Baptist Church and spend the day spinning. There was a potluck lunch, door prizes, Show and Tell and several vendors.
2009: The Guild celebrated our 75th anniversary with a dinner and fashion show. The challenge for the Saanichton Fair was to enter 75 items into competition, and we far exceeded that! The first annual Spindle Walk was held in August with members drop spindling around the ”Signs of Lekwungen” spindle sculptures in Victoria. The Guild also hosted the Annual Spinning Retreat in Cowichan Bay.
2012: The Guild has 123 members, and new members are always welcome!