By Jessica Reynolds The Daily Star
---- — The Cooperstown Farmers’ Market wants your old T-shirts, jeans, blankets, towels, sweatshirts, sweatpants and — most importantly — your willingness to participate.
Beginning Jan. 4, the community is invited to donate to and participate in a community up-cycle weaving project at the Cooperstown Farmers’ Market on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The goal of the project is to create ten three-foot-by-four-foot “rag rugs” for the 2nd Annual Local Foods, Local Spirits Cocktail Party’s silent auction on Aug. 7. Proceeds from the silent auction will benefit Otsego 2000’s agricultural endeavors. Otsego 2000, according to its website, is a nonprofit organization founded in 1981, “to protect the environmental, agricultural, scenic, cultural and historic resources of the Otsego Lake region and northern Otsego County.”
Cooperstown Farmers’ Market Manager Lyn Weir said the idea for the community rugs came after Dutchayr Farm, which raises sheep for wool fiber to create yarn, finished knitwear and felted items, became one of the first fiber farmers at the farmers’ market. Weir said this sparked the idea to highlight other local fiber farmers and weaving, in general.
“There are a lot of great weavers in our area,” Weir said, “but sometimes people don’t know they are there. We want to raise awareness.”
Anyone interested in helping make the rugs can try cutting and stitching strips of fabric or weaving on a 1923 Union Custom Loom, loaned to the farmers’ market by local fiber farmer, weaver and teacher Dawn Helstrom. Weir said participants are welcome to get involved in any or all aspects of the rug-making.
According to Weir, any clean pieces of cotton, fleece or denim can be used to make the rag rugs. Rags can be stained or have holes, as long as they are clean.
Weir said making a rag rug is a great way to recycle a waste item into a new up-cycled product. It allows old, useless fabric to be put to good use, she said.
Weir said Helstrom will weave the rugs right at the farmers’ market, using the old loom, which is from the Union Loom Works in Boonville.
“Her enthusiasm for this project has turned an idea into a reality in quick time,” Weir said of Helstrom, in a recent media release.
Helstrom said she completely restored the two shaft, 45-inch weave loom, calling the process a “labor of love.” She said it was thought of as a professional-grade loom in its day and was designed to do a hefty amount of weaving. Helstrom said she especially appreciates the fact that the loom was made locally.
Weir said Helstrom made the first of ten rugs last Saturday and said it “looks fabulous.” She said it took Helstrom approximately two hours to weave the rug.
According to Weir, other local weavers will be taking turns making the rugs at the farmers’ market, as well as talking to the community about their favorite fiber topic, such as fiber farming, spinning, weaving, felting, looms, loom restoration or fiber products.
Weir said the market currently features four fiber farmers who make a diverse assortment of products from a variety of animal fibers, our area’s raw ingredient for weaving, according to Weir. These farms are Dutchayr Farm, Mimikis, Glimmerglass Alpacas and Goat Sheep Shop. Weir said fiber from goats, sheep, alpacas, llamas and angora rabbits is turned into yarn, which is then knitted, crocheted, felted or woven into products that these farms sell.
Weir said, along with creating the community rugs, she is encouraging local weavers to sign up for the market and bring samples of their products, as well as business cards. Weir said she hopes to compile their contact information and create a directory of weavers for the community.
“That way,” Weir said, “if people are looking for something to be woven, they can just look in the directory and find a local weaver.”
According to Weir, weaving is a cottage industry with a long history in the area. She said she hopes the farmers’ market’s spotlight on weaving and community rug-making project, which will continue every Saturday until April 19, will encourage more interest in the topic.
“We are hoping to showcase the incredibly creative weavers and farmers in our area,” Weir said, “and the great local products that they make.”
The Cooperstown Farmers’ Market is located at 101 Main St. in Pioneer Alley.