Weaver, Sam Burton

Weaver Sam Burton working a Harrisville loom at his Rolla home. Burton is helping keep the traditional craft alive as a member of the Weavers Guild of South Central Missouri. The group meets monthly for luncheons in Cabool.

The art of weaving remains central to the lives of many in South Central Missouri. The artisan craft creates various textiles by warping yarns or threads through a loom into select patterns. It also brings a certain enchantment and beauty to the lives of those willing to learn the intricacies reading a pattern and working a loom.

Fueled by passion and fellowship, local weavers have banded together into a regional guild to keep the wisdom and artistry of weaving alive and thriving. Their efforts offer a unique insight into the charm of an Ozark tradition and the people who've mastered it.

“This is one of those hobbies where once you get into the weaving you're just not bothered by other things,” says Sam Burton. “I've been happy to have something to do. Sometimes I won’t weave for maybe a week, but then I’ll weave every day for a week.”

Now 92 years old, Burton has been weaving for 15 years. He first became interested in the craft after seeing Glenn Broombaugh working a loom during Old Iron Days at Meramec Spring Park outside St. James. The two became friends, and eventually, Burton himself began demonstrating traditional weaving at Old Iron Days.

“The little kids, the ones 7 to 12 especially, were just fascinated with it,” Burton says of his loom. “I liked having them help me with it. Some weavers don't want anybody around their looms, but I would get two kids, one on each side, and let them throw the shutter back and forth to each other. They really enjoyed it.”

Burton today has three looms at his Rolla home, including two Harrisville models and a Schadt. He regularly makes rugs, dish towels and table runners as a hobby. One of his scarves even previously won a Blue Ribbon at the Missouri State Fair. However, Burton says that garment is not his proudest creation.

“The youngest of my granddaughters got married and I made her a huck-lace shawl with Swarovski crystals on it,” he says. “She wore that at her wedding reception.”

Burton says helping him enhance his skills has been the Weavers Guild of South Central Missouri. The group meets monthly in Cabool for luncheons during which they share their latest wares and learn new techniques through member programs.

“Their programs are as good and anywhere,” says Vicki Frazier, a St. James-based weaver and member of the local guild, as well as several others in the region. Fraizer can gauge talent as best as anyone. She regularly attends weaving conventions across the country and also sells thousands of dollars worth of her weaving through her business, Wrinkle in Time Hand Wovens.

“It is magical,” Frazier says of weaving. “I find it very much like playing an organ because it’s like you're reading music, your feet are doing something and your hands are doing something.”

Burton says such exercise has helped him age well.

“I think this is particularly good for seniors because it keeps your mind active,” Burton says. “What happens for a lot of older people as they sit and watch mindless television all the time and they don't keep their mind doing something.”

There are several examples of focusing Burton can cite.

“It’s not just sitting down and weaving like a lot of people think it is, the big work is getting ready for it,” Burton says. “Before you do anything with you loom warp you have to think things through. You have to figure out what’s called your SETT. That’s how many ends of yarn you’re going to have per inch. I usually work with any place from 10 to 30, but it can go up. If you're working with silk it can go up to 600. All within an inch! You have to use your math.”

Burton and Frazier say the Weavers Guild of South Central Missouri invites the curious or weavers of all abilities to attend one of its meetings. It meets at 10 a.m. the second Tuesday of each month at the Ozark Older Iron Club, located at 310 Cannaday Street in Cabool.

“That's one thing we’d noticed at Old Iron Days, there were always people who’d come by and say ‘Oh, we have a loom that we don't know how to use,’” Burton concludes. “We would tell them, we'll help you learn.”

Visit www.etsy.com/shop/wrinkleintimeweaving to see Vicki Frazier’s weaving. For more information about the Weavers Guild of South Central Missouri, contact Frazier at vicki.l.frazier@gmail.com or (573) 263-1067.