Brief History of ASH

excerpt of article by Kathy Tummonds in the 25th anniversary issue of Loomsong, May/June 1995

  ASH was originally called the Atlantic Society of Handweavers. It wasn’t until 1981, during a constitutional review (l think we’ve undergone 3 now) that the current name of Atlantic Spinners and Handweavers was adopted. The actual formation of the group began just as Joan Thorne (left), the first President of ASH recounted in the annual report – May 1972 as recorded in Volume 2, No. 7.

Our organization had its beginnings in March 1970, with a letter from Mr. E. N. Roulston, Chief, Handcrafts Instruction, Continuing Education Program, Department of Education, sent to all weavers in the Halifax County area; with an invitation to a meeting in the Nova Scotia Museum to consider the formation of small groups of interested weavers, to work and study and to meet perhaps once a year as a large group. The old Halifax Weavers Guild had become inactive quite a number of years before, and had left a sum of money in their Treasurer’s hands which they wished to pass on to a weaving group should it be formed. As a result of this meeting, several small groups met for some months and in October of that year the groups came together and elected a President and Secretary-Treasurer, and decided to meet as one group at one-month intervals. The Museum kindly agreed to our use of the Project Room for our meetings and we were on our way.

Hence, started a 25 year tradition of weavers and spinners gathering at the NS Museum on the second Thursday evening of each month at 8:00 to learn, share and grow together as a group.

The fee for membership in the group, as you can see from the membership receipts, in 1971, below are slightly different than today. But bear in mind the postage for each ‘LoomSong’ was a very modest $.06 rather than the more exorbitant amount we currently pay of $.88. This computes to an increase of 1466%!!!! Too bad our salaries hadn’t escalated at the same rate.

Originally, members were kept informed about upcoming meetings with notices being mailed out. In March of 1971 a monthly bulletin containing minutes of previous meetings, articles of items of interest, letters to the editor, etc was instituted and named ‘LoomSong’. The preparation of the newsletter for the first year became the responsibility of Mrs. M. Prichard who lived in Bedford. However, in March 1972, Mrs. Prichard found it necessary to tender her resignation from the post and production of ‘LoomSong’ changed to being the sole responsibility of each of the five geographic areas in turn – Bedford, Dartmouth, Halifax, Rockingham and Seabright. Hopefully, drawing on all members to contribute twice a year. I found the introductions to subsequent Loomsongs (the writing very quickly changed to our conventional form) quite humorous.

Vol.3, No,1 starts “Greetings this month from Bedford – the land of service stations and “eating joints’ though we still have some picturesqueness left . . . .

In Vol. 3 No. 4 “… the Rockingham Rogues again wishing you a Happy New Year. . . . “,

This method of Loomsong production persisted until 1976 when it appears as if Anne Hillis assumed the editorial responsibilities. Our current method of ‘Loomsong’ production appears to have been initiated then. The various areas provided the material and the editor prepared it for production – I noticed that Bodil Wiktor held the post of chief typist for a 4 year period in the mid 70s. I guess that’s why she’s been such an asset to have had as co-editor for the past 2 years.

Much of the fabric of our organization today was put in place in those early formative years. For example at the March 1976 meeting, the idea of beginning an ASH Library in memory of Mr. E. Roulston was formulated. The library honoured the memory of a man, a weaver himself, who helped in the founding of ASH and was very supportive of weavers and NS crafts in general. (Mr. Roulston died suddenly in 1976.) Our library contains many books that belonged to him which were donated to us by Mrs. Roulston. (Portrait: Alex Colville, 1940)

The tradition of having a regular sample included with the newsletter was launched almost from the beginning and for a while the samples were woven at the Handcrafts Instruction Division of the Dept. of Education. Members, as now, provided samples as well. One of the earliest samples I discovered in Vol. 2,#5 is a beautiful coat fabric woven by Mrs. A. C. Sims of Bedford. It is a very handsome piece of cloth woven in twill using three shades of plum yarn obtained from Briggs & Little! There are some other unique samples as well – one that will stand out vividly, in my mind, for quite sometime is woven with plastic bread bags in the weft??? Vol. 4 # 7 Anyone remember providing that sample?

Just like today, programs were a highlight of meetings, perhaps more for some members than for others.

Membership in our group has fluctuated through the years. From Joan’s account below a substantial growth occurred in membership between 1973 to June 1975.

For the past two years the growth rate of our Society has been beyond all our expectations. From approximately 39 paid-up members in 1973 to 96 in 1975 is quite an increase. It is our hope that our membership will continue to expand to include new members who, along with our whole group, will be willing and eager to give their time and effort to make this a strong Society. We hope the members will give the same strong support to the incoming committee under Muriel Hogan as we have been given’
Respectfully submitted, Joan Thorne

By March 1978 the membership had further increased to 120. The late ’70 was apparently a very high point in ASH enrollment. In Nancy Boyne’s Annual Membership Report, 1985, she reports a total of 88 members. Today the number of ASH members is approximately 75. Of our current membership we are very fortunate to be able to boast about having several founding members as active, participating and very definitely contributing to the running of our group, These members names have appeared again and again in ‘Loomsongs’ through the years. . , . . they have been there to pitch in, organize and accept the responsibilities necessary for the continuation of a group.

  They have been an invaluable asset to ASH for 25 years and we hope for more years to come. Among the founders are Mrs. Dorothy Hill, Florence Margeson, Carol Duffus (left), Kathleen Graham and Joan Thorne – all continuing to be crucial members of the guild. In addition, another founding member who made a contribution to ASH is Miss Elizabeth Daine and for that the guild has made her an Honorary Member.

ASH has acknowledged the immense contribution of two other members over its 25 year history by asking them to serve as Honorary President. First, was Mary E. Black who held that position from 1972 to 1988. Currently our Honorary President is Mrs. Dorothy Hill who continues to be a great inspiration to us all.

ASH has had a busy 25 years and ‘Loomsong’ has played an important role in keeping contact with members and friends of the association. There is so much to the history of ASH that it is impossible to cover everything.

Kathy Tummonds

Atlantic Spinners & Handweavers, c/o Scott Manor House,
15 Fort Sackville Road, Bedford, NS B4A 2G6

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