Weaving alpaca yarn: a productive and beautiful hobby
Precise, mathematical, purposeful. All words that describe Sister Jean Fuqua, SP — and her art.
Sister Jean has been weaving with alpaca fiber since 2003. She likes connecting back with White Violet Center for Eco-Justice (WVC), where she ministered for 12 years as one of the ministry’s founders.
Weaving is relaxing, Sister Jean says. At the same time, if the pattern is complicated it requires real concentration.
Several sisters first learned fiber arts in 2000 to use the alpaca fiber that was piling up from the Sisters of Providence then-new alpacas. Sister Jean started out knitting. But in time, as she better mastered weaving, she enjoyed it more. Today she still knits, but only to use up smaller bits of yarn too small to use in weaving.
At one point the former math and science teacher took a three-year hiatus from weaving. But she became smitten by the beautifully dyed yarn that WVC staff member Candace Minster had created and it brought her back in.
A good challenge
These days Sister Jean tries to weave at least a little each day.
“I like a challenge, and weaving is a challenge. If you make a mistake in setting up the loom you have to start all over. And I’m a perfectionist, so I like to see the perfect product.”
And she is definitely capable of a perfect product, having won a first-place ribbon and judge’s choice at a national alpaca show for one of her woven pieces.
Sister Jean’s scarves and hats can be purchased in the White Violet Farm Store and, when there are enough, at Linden Leaf Gifts, both at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
“I think people who come to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods enjoy being able to buy something that was made here.” And her items truly have been made here. From the alpacas who provided the fiber, to the volunteers who sort the fiber, to the natural dyes often grown here and the staff who dye it. To those who spin the fleece into yarn. And finally to Sister Jean, who weaves the yarn into a work of art.
What unexpected gifts does Sister Jean receive from her weaving?
“The realization that I can do something that is unique to me. I just like being able to make something that comes out beautiful.”