Remembering Mary Andrews
Last week Alberta and all of Canada lost one of our most treasured weavers. Mary Garnham Andrews passed away at the age of 102 in Banff Alberta. Mary shared her love and vast weaving knowledge with weavers across this country for over five decades and she influenced my weaving path more than any other teacher.
I would not be the teacher I am today if she had not been my weaving master.
It was the Spring of 1981, I was 22 years old and living in Thunder Bay where I was born and raised. I was a ceramics major at Lakehead University and was having a secret love affair with a loom in my mother’s basement. There was a big poster in the ceramics studio advertising summer classes offered at the Banff School of Fine Arts in Banff Alberta… that was so far away ALBERTA! Multi Harness Techniques!!!!
I thought, why not… two weeks on a big adventure all by myself, driving across the country in my brand new Chevrolet Chevette rocking on to the Doobie Brothers… what could be better than that. And after all, I had woven a set of placemats, an entire Overshot coverlet without alternating tabby picks between pattern picks and a blanket that stood up in the corner all by itself. I was sure I could handle a Multi-Harness loom or anything else that came my way.
I should have realized that summer that I had an angel on my shoulder guiding my every movement because Mary Andrews accepted me into her workshop and my life was forever changed.
Mary was formidable. Her knowledge and her presence demanded respect and I held her in awe. I was very nervous… she was a tad stern and I was… well ‘me’!
She was dressed in a royal blue pant suit with her trademark Bob haircut and that wonderful smile. At that time Mary was many many things… a serious weaver, extremely disciplined, a technical perfectionist, a traditionalist but with intense curiosity about modern things and a superb and demanding teacher.
I was the youngest person in the room, an aspiring hippie and remember… had woven exactly one set of placemats, one overshot coverlet without any tabby and a blanket that could have been used as a sheet of plywood… I might add that each of those projects were the most remarkable weaving I had ever seen up to that point. Within moments I was scared to death.
Mary’s class was formatted so that she lectured in the morning and we wove in the afternoon. I learned so much in the next two weeks… Mary taught me how to do read patterns, how to do draw-downs, how to hemstitch, how to do name drafts in overshot and that overshot had alternating tabbies between pattern picks :A), she taught me how to sit at the loom properly, how to hold a shuttle, how to control my selvedges. She taught me what the numbers mean in 2/8, what cellulose and protein fibres were. She gave us graphs with so much information crammed into them, sett charts, yardage charts, reed charts. She taught me the Fibonacci numerical series and the Golden Mean. In two weeks she crammed everything she could into my little brain and I learned that I could weave anything if I could read a draft.
I made it through all 12 samples alive. I did not understand a great deal of it, but I had a binder full of notes that I continue to learn from to this day.
She taught me the four P’s: with Patience and Practice you Persevere for Perfection. I have quotes she shared with us all through my book, “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand”.
Mary Andrews was a gem, she was the weaving worlds national treasure, she was a flower of Alberta. Her greatest gift was her ability to share her knowledge which she did with grace and kindness.
Bom in Montreal Quebec in 1916, Miss Andrews affinity with the “Comfortable Arts” was apparent at an early age. At the age of 23 while working as a senior counsellor at Taylor Statten Camp in Ontario, she was exposed to the craft of handweaving. On her return to Oshawa in 1939 she immediately bought the first of her 11 looms and began a life long study. Through correspondence with Harriet Tidball of the United States, Mary studied textile theory and cloth construction.
In 1943, while in charge of Occupational Therapy at the Royal Edward Laurentian Hospital in Ste. Agathe des Monts, Quebec, she began a teaching career that spanned more than 50 years.
From 1943-1948, Mary set up the Ontario Government Home Weaving Service, an agency designed to revive handweaving and encourage a cottage industry. Along with two other weaving teachers she taught and developed the project throughout Ontario. During the last year of this programme Mary continued her own studies at the Penland School of Handcrafts in North Carolina, USA.
In 1948 Mary was appointed Assistant Programme Director for the YWCA in Oshawa. She spent the next six years teaching handweaving, leatherwork and metalwork to hundreds of students. It was during these years that Mary first travelled west to study at The Banff School of Fine Arts with two of Canada’ finest weavers, Ethel Henderson and Mary Sandin. It was during these visits that her desire to reside in Alberta was kindled.
Mary joined the Canadian Red Cross in 1954 and served as a Rehabilitative Therapist in Korea and Japan after the Korean War. After working for 18 months on a Welfare Team she travelled through 13 countries working her way back to Canada in 1958.
On her return to Canada she was appointed Director of Handcrafts at the Grenfell Labrador Medical Mission. She travelled throughout Northern Newfoundland and Labrador teaching handweaving, embroidery and traditional rug hooking to its residents with the intent of developing cottage industries that could subsidize the fishermen’s incomes. She remained in Labrador until September of 1962 when she purchased her home in Banff and realized her dream of living in Alberta.
From 1962-1975, Mary taught at The Banff School of Fine Arts where she developed the programme from a six week summer course to a two year Diploma granting programme. Through her early guidance and insistence that Visiting artists be brought from around the world, the Fibre Department became a widely renowned centre of study for the Textile Arts.
Mary retired from The Banff Centre in 1975 and spent another five years teaching and lecturing all over Western Canada. In 1984 she developed a four year summer weaving programme for Olds College where her students prepared for the Canadian Guild of Weavers, Master’s exams.
One of Mary’s greatest personal achievements was earning her Master Weavers certification from the Guild of Canadian Weavers in 1972 and she later published her Master’s Thesis “The Fundamentals of Weaving” with book three finished in 1994. Throughout this massive three volume endeavour she was assisted by Ruth Hahn who provided all of her IT support.
She also spent a great deal of time serving the community of Banff by working in the Banff Library several mornings a week and donating her weaving for auction to raise funds for community projects. In her late seventies she was still taking courses in English Literature and Philosophy from Athabasca University.
Mary lived in her log home on Squirrel Street until 2013 when she moved into a Seniors Lodge and then on to Continuing Care at Banff-Mineral Springs Hospital. Mary Garnham Andrews passed away July 30th, 2018.
Mary’s recipe for Weavers’ cookies
Mary always served these cookies to her students on the last day of class. I hope you’ll make a batch, brew a nice cup of tea and think of her while you enjoy.
She used to say… “Weavers sit at their looms all day long. These cookies are full of healthy fibre.”
Note: (4 dozen per recipe)
In a large bowl mix:
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tsp Vanilla
- 2 cups flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ¾ tsp salt
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1 cup coconut
- 1 cup nuts (hazelnuts, walnuts)
- 1 cup crushed cornflakes
- 1 cup raisins
- ½ cup sunflower seeds
- ¼ cup sesame seeds
- ¼ cup wheat germ
- ¼ cup flax seeds
- 1 cup chocolate chips (optional)
Mix wet with dry ingredients.
Spoon on to a greased cookie sheet, flatten and bake at 350 for 15 – 20 minutes (baking paper or butter).
Undulated Twill Tea Towel Kit
We have had so many requests for Sharon Broadley’s striped towel since it first had a starring role in one of JST’s Online Guild episodes, that she has consented to share her pattern!
This towel has a lovely striping sequence moving from charcoal to dark grey to light grey and then to white, all laid on a black background.
This tea towel looks very classy hanging from a stainless steel oven door.
More exclusive, very limited edition silk colours
We’ve been experimenting with dreamy colourways inspired by pistachios, flax and glaciers.
There’s only a handful of sets available, therefore stocks are limited.
New Online Guild sample kits
New Online Guild sample kits are now available:
Exclusive, very limited edition silk colours
We’ve restocked last month’s lovely gradient pastel colourways.
Again, there’s only a handful of sets available, therefore stocks are limited.