Skip to content

Fibers and Friendships Flourish at Tarrytown Campus

by Marc FerrisCategory: Updates

Article from the May 2024 issue of River Journal. Reprinted with permission of River Towns Media LLC.

A loom threaded with colorful warp threads

When Charlotte Holton‘s loom got stuck as she weaved a green and blue tea towel, Laurie Pyburn and Tali Havazelet clicked into troubleshoot mode and helped her figure out a solution.

Such is the ethos at the Weaving Center, located on the Marymount Convent campus in Tarrytown, known officially as the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary Eastern America.

Dedicated to teaching and encouraging the “artistic use of fibers,” the center provides knowledgeable mentors, two dozen floor looms and a collection of colorful yarn for purchase. They also offer group and individual classes along with loom rentals.

Sister Bianca Haglich, 97, learned weaving during a trip to Finland in the late 1960s. There, the practice is a communal event where people socialize as they work the looms.

After returning to Tarrytown in the early 1970s, she introduced a weaving course at Marymount College, founded by the convent’s nuns in 1907.

The school provided space for her to open the Craft Skellar in 1977, the center’s prototype. After the college closed in 2007, they occupied an interim space and moved the looms to the current location, a former gym and auditorium, in 2015.

Sister Bianca built such a fervid following that some of her acolytes dubbed themselves the Wacky Weavers. Yet there’s nothing crazy going on at the center. In fact, most activity occurs in silence.

“There’s really no chit-chat,” said Havazelet, who took over the day-to-day functions around 2005 as Sister Bianca eased into the background. “The only time we’re talking is when we’re instructing or sitting for lunch and tea.”

Students and group members create scarves, table runners, pillows and place mats out of any fabric that can be woven, including wool, cotton, mohair, linen and silk. One weaver uses horsetails, “although she’s really more of an artist, not someone making a garment to wear,” said Pyburn.

Beginner Kripa Kewalramani learned about the center from a teacher at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan. She plans to “bring back textiles from India and weave them the traditional way. Everything now is man-made, and I miss feeling natural fabric instead of the polyester-like chemicals we have today.”

Working a loom is challenging, akin to playing a musical instrument. “It’s a repetitive process to learn,” said Pyburn. “You have to want to do it and the ones who get through the initial learning curve love it.”

Holton, a beginner whose aunt used to weave, is figuring out the ropes. Pressing the foot pedals like a church organist, she also pulled on the harnesses and shifted the shuttle back and forth behind the yarn. “There are a lot of moving parts,” she said.

Because the endeavor is an art form as well as a skilled craft, “there is always more to learn,” said Pyburn. To that end, the center maintains an extensive library of fabric patterns and practical how-to books.

Volunteers keep the nonprofit center going. “It’s a community, which is why people are drawn here to keep that flame alive,” said Pyburn.

Weaving is “an old-fashioned skill that is experiencing a resurgence, like knitting,” said Havazelet. “We can’t take a loom with us on the train, so we’re in a different league of dedication. But when you get into the zone, it’s meditative and you forget all about the craziness in the world.”

The Weaving Center is open Tuesday to Friday, 11 am to 5 pm. 50 Wilson Park Drive, Tarrytown. 914-332-1948.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *