Cornelius 4-H fiber arts club looks for free place to weave

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: STEPHANIE HAUGEN - Instructor Cooki Messmer shows club members how yarn was made in ancient times as Jasmin Flores looks on. Two months ago, Adrian Arroyo Millan thought wool came from pillows. Now he knows it comes from animals, such as the goat he met two weeks ago. He also knows how to spin it, weave it and make cloth, rugs and belts out of it.

Adrian is part of the Cornelius’s 4-H fiber arts club, founded last fall by Cooki Messmer to teach third- and fourth-graders an ancient art.

Messmer and fellow weavers Sarah Casey and Liz Winsche teach two groups of eight kids each from Cornelius Elementary — one on Tuesdays, the other Wednesdays — how to weave, spin and create artwork with a variety of fibers. But the club dedicated to teaching the younger generation a dying skill may be in danger of unraveling.

It’s not for lack of interest (there’s a waiting list), but for lack of space.

The club has been meeting in a room in Grande Plaza, the building that used to house Grande Foods in Cornelius.

Grande Plaza owner Eugene Zurbrugg needs to rent out the space he’s been letting club organizers use free of charge.

Located right across Adair Street from the elementary school, it was the ideal location — free, and close enough so Messmer could meet the kids at school and walk them over.

Messmer packed up her looms and yarns last week with nowhere to move them. Until she can find a space to hold class and store the looms and spinner, the club’s future remains uncertain.

This is the first club Adrian has joined. “I like weaving; I want to sign up again,” the third-grader said. “It’s really cool because you get to learn about making things and history and new words.”

Messmer, a retired Cornelius Elementary School counselor, knows the positive effect after-school programs can have on children’s lives. “It’s an opportunity for positive relationships with mentors and other kids, and for structured learning outside the classroom,” she said.

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTOS: STEPHANIE HAUGEN - Isabela Sanchinelli (left) uses the floor loom last week, while another club member tried his hand at spinning (right).While club member Emily Abela Gale likes to try new things, Isabela Sanchinelli is more reserved. Francisco Sanchinelli said his daughter, like Adrian, didn’t want to join anything else before she found the weaving club. “But now she’s coming home and making all kinds of different things,” said Francisco, who was born in Guatemala and is glad his daughter can learn about one of his home country’s art forms. “She really seems to enjoy it and this is something I can’t teach her.”

Twins Ivan and Elena Lucero say they might enter something in the Washington County Fair when they’re old enough. “I didn’t know much about yarn and I wanted to know more,” said Ivan, whose favorite weave is the Japanese kumihimo braid, which is perfect for keychains, jewelry, belts and other accessories.

“I want to be like my mom and make stuff,” Jasmin Flores said. “It’s fun and some of the [skills] are difficult but then I learn how to do it.”

Kids learn to work on floor looms, table looms, inkle looms and handlooms, and take some of the smaller ones home with them to practice.

Messmer and Casey try to expose the kids to new experiences — and feel good about doing doing so.

“It keeps them busy in a constructive way,” said Casey, who was in 4-H when she was growing up and met Messmer a few years ago through Portland’s Handweavers Guild. “It’s a lifelong skill.”

Room for looms

The Cornelius 4-H fiber arts club, a 501c3 non-profit, can offer no funds for renting space. Contact Darsy Schaal, Washington County 4H representative, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.

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