Susan Schmieman's nimble fingers seem to work magic as they turn rags and yarns into supple, colorful fabrics. She's the owner of Flying Fibers, a weaving studio in historic downtown Kennewick.
She learned to weave 12 years ago and found her craft gradually taking over her home.
"I needed to get this out of my house," she said, waving at the shelves of yarns, stacks of weaving magazines, and nine floor looms in her shop. "I realized what I really wanted to do was teach."
Schmieman's studio is at 11 S. Benton St., Kennewick. It's open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday.
In addition to selling weaving supplies and tools, including looms, Schmieman also sells handmade scarves, hand towels, placemats, wall hangings, pillows, runners and more. She also does custom weaving and will hand-dye wool if you can't find the color yarn you need.
Lessons on weaving cost $150 and run for two weeks. Students are provided with instructions on setting up a loom, yarns and instructions on weaving a table runner. Use of a loom is included.
Karen Lamar of West Richland took her first lessons from Schmieman in January and says "now I'm hooked."
"All my kids are gone, so it was either go back to work or find something fun to do. I chose fun," Lamar said, adding, "I find weaving a really creative art."
Another student, Marion Halupczok of Kennewick, took her first lessons in September and Tuesday was in the studio threading rainbow-hued yarns on one of Schmieman's looms, readying it to weave tea towels.
To weave, long strips of cloth or yarn are intertwined.
"I find weaving an interesting, hands-on, mind-on, activity," Halupczok said.
"My husband is surprised I can sit at a loom for hours. I'm usually pretty hyper, but I've found weaving has a lot of rhythm and linear movement. It's a great upper-body workout and the best exercise I've found for brain aerobics," Halupczok said.
Of everything Schmieman weaves, her first loves are the wool and rag rugs she makes. That's because they remind her of those her grandmother, Henna Aho, made for the family.
"She was from Finland, and the Fins are great weavers," Schmieman said. "When I was 5 or 6 years old, she would let me sit on the bench beside her at the loom. If I was really good, she'd let me help."
Grandmom Aho's specialty was rag rugs woven from the family's cast-off clothing.
"I grew up in Centralia, and we had an old chicken coop -- but no chickens. Mom used to toss all our old clothes into it for rags. I can still picture my grandmother, bent over at the waist, picking through them," she said.
The family still has some of the rugs Grandmom Aho wove, though they're well worn and coming apart. Sadly, neither Grandmom Aho's weaving skill nor her loom were passed down to younger generations.
Schmieman said she taught herself how to weave from books and lots and lots of practice. She also takes classes when she can.
"It would take a lifetime to learn about weaving, and really, you'd never get to the end of it," Schmieman said.
Except for what's for sale in the studio, Schmieman uses everything she makes.
"Each one is a labor of love. Yes, it takes many hours, sometimes 20 or more, to get a loom set up and threaded ..., but the reward for setting it up is the weaving," Schmieman said.
Her business phone is 528-3782; email, FlyingFibers@gmail.com; website www.FlyingFibers.biz.
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