Spinning and weaving are naturally quiet and relaxing, but some fiber artists have a grace that outshines their art.   Martha Laster is one of those rare, wonderful ladies. In her gentle way, she has supported, encouraged and helped many aspiring spinners and weavers.  “It’s hard to put into words,” she said, looking around the Spinning and Weaving Shop. “But this has been the joy of my life the last ten years.”

 

Martha has always been fascinated with fiber arts, but in the late 1960’s she seemed to be alone in her interest. She couldn’t find any equipment or teachers.  “My husband got a spinning wheel kit out of a farm magazine and built me one,” said Martha.

 

She taught herself to use the wheel. The first fiber she spun was cotton, considered a challenging fiber by many modern spinners.  “We lived in Mississippi where no one spun,” said Martha. “I got some cotton. It was just ginned, not carded. It was a lesson in patience to learn to spin with it.”

Martha crocheted 18 placemats for her daughter, daughter-in-law and herself with the yarn she spun from that cotton. She kept spinning and learning. She tried other fibers as she found them.

“I was so excited when I got carded wool,” she said. “It was so easy to spin.”

So, she bought her own hand cards and ordered fleece from magazine ads.

“I used to wash all my own fleece,” she said, laughing. Now she purchases already carded or combed wool for some of her spinning. A versatile and talented spinner, Martha said she learned to weave so she would have something else to do with all the yarn she made.   “I came to the Ozark Folk Center when they opened in 1973 and saw weaving,” said Martha. “I knew I had to do it.”

 

Like many others, the Folk Center continued to draw Martha and her husband back to Mountain View. She loved the community of artists and he wanted to retire in the mountains. That connection gave her a chance to learn to weave.  “I took a class here (at the Ozark Folk Center) in 1996,” said Martha. “I bought publications and joined the (Ozark Fiber Folk) guild. I’ve learned from other weavers. I give them credit for a lot.”

 

A loose-knit group of fiber artists, the Ozark Fiber Folk Guild hosted its first annual Sheep to Shawl contest last year at the Ozark Folk Center. Martha was one of the spinners on the team that included Dana Shaeffer and Melody Conatser. The shawl they created that day took second place in the competition. More importantly, the contest entertained and intrigued hundreds of visitors.

 

While Martha’s love of her craft shows in the beauty of the pieces she weaves, it goes far deeper than that.  “It’s a joy”, she said of weaving. “I’d like to carry on tradition and pass it on to young ladies.”

You can visit with Martha or one of the other talented fiber artists in the Spinning and Weaving Cabin at the Ozark Folk Center from 10:00 to 5:00, Tuesday through Saturday, April through November.