Couple breathes new life into Winnipeg River Heritage Museum Loom
By: Vince Clark
Jointly donated by the Vincent & Chevrefils Families, the Hand Made wooden loom dating back to the mid 1850’s was one of the St-Georges Museum’s most prized artifacts prior to the destructive fire of 2014. Though not directly in the fire, the loom did receive some smoke damage in the blaze. Until recently, it sat in storage with the other artifacts as the construction of the brand new WRHM took place. Beginning this October, some artifacts were beginning to be pulled out of storage and set up for display. The loom was one of them, but was in desperate need of some TLC.
During the week of November 4-10, 2019, Long-time weaver Susan Styrchak and her husband Gary came to the WRHM to restore the Loom to its former glory. This was to be Susan’s third trip to St-Georges. The restoration process for the Loom was a long and arduous task. Although the Loom structure itself was cleaned after the fire, the strings were very dirty and matted. “We spent a long time just unravelling the strings and washing them.” Said Styrchak who had brought them home with her after her first visit. Once the strings were ready, the Loom needed to be strung, at which point the weaving could finally begin. Fibres were arranged in a particular order to form a white towel with a blue striped pattern. Susan, with Gary’s help, weaved the towel approximately halfway to completion, so the display illustrates the process of weaving using the Loom.
Susan has been weaving for over 50 years. “My mother always knit, and she taught me at a young age.” She said. This ignited a passion for knitting and sewing which eventually led her to an arts and crafts exhibition at the Polo Park Shopping Centre. “There was a class on weaving there. I took it, and I was hooked” she quipped. Since then, she’s made hundreds of pieces and even has a book depicting some of her work. She is also a proud member of the weaving group known as Manitoba Weavers and Fibre Artists or MWFA. The group has been inexistence since 1947. “Weaving gives you a whole new respect for what people had to do just to have new clothes” she said. Hand weaved items are shockingly durable as well, “There are towels I weaved 20 years ago which are still perfectly intact.” Susan said.
The WRHM would like to sincerely thank Susan and Gary for all their hard work and dedication. We hope everyone has the chance to come see this marvelous piece of history very soon!
N.B. Artisans used to weave fabric cloth locally that was then sold to the Hudson’s Bay Co. for their Pine Falls store retail department. Some former weavers known to the WRHM were Georgianna Bouvier, Lisa Bruneau, Claire Vincent, and Eugenie Vincent. We are looking for samples of work to display. Please contact Diane Dubé at 204-340-6703 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have or know of any such works.