›› Mila Czemerys & Beth Threlfall

The Community Weave Art Project is an artistic endeavor conceived for FernFest by local artist Beth Threlfall and Fernwood NRG. The weave consists of plain cotton t-shirts and was created over a span of roughly 14 hours by over a hundred people in Fernwood.

The loom—inspired by similar ­projects found on Pinterest—measures four by six feet and is hand-made from sturdy 4x4s, with 3⁄2 inch screws every half-inch. There are 132 screws on each vertical beam, and 91 on the horizontal beams. The t-shirts were donated by the Women in Need ­Society (WIN), artsREACH, and a few generous community members. The ­weaving ­process involved slicing the t-shirts into long ­horizontal strips, knotting them together, stringing them on the loom as the vertical warp, and then weaving into the horizontal weft—back and forth, back and forth, until the end of each line was reached and ­knotted off. The final rug ­measures an impressive 3.5×5 feet.

But what started at FernFest actually grew well beyond that one memorable ­Saturday afternoon, which saw about five of the overall 14 weaving hours occur. In order to finish the project, people young and old wove over the next three weeks during a garage sale, a teenager’s ­backyard party, neighbours dropping in, and ­whenever a few minutes could be found during the days, evenings and weekends.

“One of the most common comments I heard was how it brought back memories of people weaving with their ­grandmothers,” says Beth. “It seemed to allow for a lot of personal moments. People also seemed grateful for the opportunity to participate in the project. Before I could even say thanks for participating, they would thank me for having the chance to weave.”

The beauty of the finished ­Community Weave speaks for itself and serves as a strong visual metaphor for the strength, diversity and resourcefulness of our community. Beth recalled how “everyone was really ­surprised by the complimentary colour combinations that were occurring, and how the pattern just seemed to ­naturally come together.” She also expressed how “people just really enjoyed touching it!”

Now that the loom is built and the pilot weave successfully completed, just imagine what could be done with future ­community weaving projects: What if the same T-shirt method was used with all the shirts tie-dyed? What if they were ­alternating black-and-white? What if it was woven in rainbow Pride colours? The ­possibilities are endless!

You will be able to see the ­Community Weave in the Cornerstone Cafe this ­September. We will be taking ­suggestions of what the neighbourhood thinks should be done will the final piece. Thanks to everyone who participated in this project!