When Lane Wight was a child, she loved ballet. But her interest soon shifted to something that would become a lifelong passion — sewing.
“I was wandering around our basement one day and I found this little dress, like for an infant. It had been cut out but not sewn together,” she said.
“I asked one of my grandmothers how to do it. So I sewed it together and gave it to one of my father’s business partners, whose wife just had a baby.”
It may have been Wight’s first garment but it was far from her last, in fact, she has made her own clothes since the age of 10.
The project sparked an interest in fiber arts that continues to this day. And she’s not alone. In fact, since relocating to the Golden Isles she has found a family of sorts, the Golden Isles Fiberarts Guild. The local organization has brought together those dedicated to the passion of creating for 30 years.
“I retired and moved here, I joined the guild and started learning more about the different kind of fiber arts that I hadn’t done before, like quilting and weaving,” she said.
Drawing in new members who, like Wight, longed to learn was a goal for the founding members — Mary Egle, Kim Merck and Jean Sucher — back in December of 1988. The women put out the call for those who might be interested in gathering to form a guild to promote these types of arts. And it worked. Since then, the group has continued to thrive, hosting meetings at 3 p.m. on the first Monday of the month at Holy Nativity Episcopal Parish Hall on Mallery Street, St. Simons Island. Meetings include a show and tell, where members share their work, as well as instructional sessions that address particular techniques.
Within the group, there are also smaller pockets — dubbed “interest groups” — that focus on a specific element of fiber arts. A sampling includes beading, embroidery, garment construction, rug hooking, weaving and others.
The group also enjoys taking their work out of the meeting hall and into the community. In fact, one of their biggest annual events will be held from 6:30 to 7 p.m. Feb. 1 at the SoGlo Gallery in downtown Brunswick. The members will be putting on a fashion show to accompany an exhibit of their creations.
Wight says that those who attend the event, which is held in accordance with First Friday, won’t be disappointed.
“We will have a lot of things that I think people will find interesting ... one of those is the boro coats, which is based on the Japanese garment, it means ‘tattered’ and it’s a patchwork with rows and rows of stitching to reinforce it,” she said.
“There was a big interest in it back in the 60s, which is also when there was a big interest in the Japanese Shibori technique, which is where we got tie dye.”
The boro jackets made by guild members will be displayed in the fashion show and along with dozens of items in the fixed exhibit.
Jean Cieszeski, for one, has been very impressed with the submissions. The guild’s secretary says there will be a wide variety for the public to peruse.
“We just have some really talented people. There will be showing their own garments, scarves and wraps. We will have some quilts from the quilting group ... those are breathtaking,” Cieszeski said.
“It is just amazing to see what people do. There are so many different types of techniques and you gain a new awareness of the type of art that is out there. People can take something in their imagination and then produce it. It is just incredible to me,” she said.
“The way people use colors and textures is just mind-boggling. I’m from Upstate New York, where everything is very dark so the colors are wonderful.”
Audrey Stewart agrees, noting that the splash of hues will certainly beat the winter blues. A knitter and embroiderer, Stewart has been a part of the guild for two decades and is hopeful that the public will turn out to support the guild’s show.
“I helped check everything in this year. There is just an abundance of color. I think people will be astonished at the color and textures. There is quite a variety,” she said.
For Stewart, the event will be both exhibition and a chance to walk the runway as a model.
She will be wearing her work, showcasing two unique tunics.
“One of them has a history ... I got it from this small business woman in Malaysia. I got to see the fabric dyed. That was 18 or 20 years ago ... and it’s be laundered many times since,” Stewart said with a laugh.
“I am also going to be wearing a tunic that I recently made with a little decoration. I made it on my new sewing machine so it’s kind of about renewal.”
While Stewart thrives on learning and sharing, she has gained much more than techniques to advance her craft — Stewart has stitched together a special group of friends.
“I’ve said a number of times, especially when I first became a part of it, that I got a new group of best friends,” she said.