Baby wraps have been around for years. But when a young mother wanted one handwoven, Ruth Thoem stepped up to the challenge.
“I heard about the request from the Burlington Handweavers and Spinners Guild, says Thoem, “so I wove her a baby wrap, and I have woven probably 40 baby wraps since then!” Thoem, owner of Ruth Handwovens ““ Really Useful Things Handwoven ““ enjoys interacting with her clients, so what's developed between Thoem and the young mothers is organic.
“It's really a great combination because they are young moms and they are local and I get to meet them,” explains Thoem, who has been weaving for 20 years. “They talk about colours, we talk about babies and I talk about grandchildren ““ it's a very warm relationship.”
Through the relationship, Thoem met a woman who helped set up her Facebook page, so more people could see her work. Since then she has been selling her scarves, shawls, table linens and other weaved items online.
Thoem also exhibits her crafts through the Art Gallery of Burlington that holds events like the upcoming Soup Bowl and Christmas sale on November 13 to 16. This will feature Thoem's handwoven items, as well as other weaving and guild crafts, like pottery, rug hooking and fine art.
After a barrage of baby wrap orders, Thoem took a break. “While I was weaving, I kept thinking of other things I like to weave, so I took off the summer and I wove tea towels and blankets and turned shawls and all kinds of different things. Now it seems right, so I'm weaving a baby wrap right now,” she explains.
Ruth starts off her day weaving if the day goes as planned, and spends “a few minutes” before bedtime at one of her looms either in her family room or home studio. She prefers to weave cotton, linen, wool, silk or Tencel, an eco-friendly wood-based fibre and arranges all yarn by colour in her studio.
Thoem designs everything she weaves. “I just finished two series of tea towels ““ one is based on a very traditional Dutch pattern ““ there are a lot of squares on it, she says. “I wove what I call my stainless steel appliance series ““ it's an appliance because it dries dishes and it's stainless steel because I used a mixture of silvery grays to make it look like the front of a real stainless steel appliance.”
For custom orders, clients send photographs of what they like and Thoem gets her inspiration from those images, samples that she keeps in her studio and from other sources.
Always searching for new designs, Thoem discovered an alternative to a traditional shawl at Hummingbird Weaving Studio in Barry's Bay. Thoem now weaves turned shawls that are structured like an infinity scarf to drape effortlessly across and not fall off like other shawls. She also creates lap robes that are 40-inches by 60-inches, perfect for cuddling up on the couch or to keep you warm on a cool September night when you want to sit outdoors and cherish those moments in your garden.
The Burlington resident lives by the notion behind the 100-mile diet, supporting local suppliers and their community.
“I don't understand why something has to go across the country if there's someone close by that can use it,” the artist explains. “If there's a weaver 20 miles from you and you want to buy something handwoven, why would you order something from across the country? I want to supply the neighbourhood, rather than the world!”
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