22 Years of Mustering
The NSW town of Mudgee will be host to the 22nd Wool and Natural Fibre Muster on June 2 this year.
The Muster is an annual event organised by craft groups in the western regions of country NSW with an aim to help promote the use of natural fibres in hand crafts. The Muster features demonstrations, competitions and workshops on selected aspects of fibre craft.
Whenever you wear a hand made garment, be that a jumper, a hat or a scarf, it gives you a warm glow and you look and feel unique. And as much as mass produced articles are the norm today, there remains a dedicated group of individuals who continue to keep alive the art of creating those hand made masterpieces that makes you stand out in a crowd.
However, the question is; where do these people learn their art? Because you can buy machine made products cheaply, the popularity of handcrafts has declined and it is no longer taught in schools or technical colleges. And even when the few exceptions exist, people from remote country towns would rarely get the opportunity to attend formal courses.
Dorothy Findlay of Forbes, who attended all but three of the last 18 Musters tells how her introduction to hand spun wool craft began with receiving her spinning wheel from David Jones in Sydney accompanied by a few foolscap pages of assembly instructions and some basic notes on how to spin.
It was under these circumstances that back in the early 80's, in West Wyalong a small group of ladies devoted to hand craft came up with the idea of a "Muster", a muster of people to exchange skills, techniques, and to promote the art of making quality garments by hand. The response far exceeded their expectations. Over one hundred people turned up to ask questions, watch demonstrations, discuss the different ways of preparing wool and learn how to spin, knit or weave it into a product of pride and joy. It was such a success that they decided to make it an annual event to be organized by different craft groups within a hundred mile radius of West Wyalong.
In following years the muster went to Condobolin, Junee, Griffith, Young, Grenfell, and its focus expanded from wool to other natural fibres such as cotton, cashmere, mohair, silk, and it became the Wool and Natural Fibre Muster. Another expansion was to also invite traders who sell the fibres, accessories, and even equipment to allow attendees to see what is available and to stock up for the year.
As the fame of the muster spread and its capacity for information exchange realized, the muster could not be contained. In its 22-year history it has broken out from the hundred mile containment and has been held as far away as Goulburn, Bathurst and this year it is back in Mudgee for the third time. It has also expanded to showcase some commercial use of natural fibres and to include stalls offering many of the products for sale to gain wider public interest in natural fibre crafts.
Indications are that interest is still growing and visitors to the Mudgee muster have pre-booked accommodation from as far as Warren, Junee, Goulburn, and Newcastle to attend free workshops on techniques like silk painting, finger-knitting a scarf, and dyeing your yarns, and to watch demonstrations.
In addition, the muster also fosters competition, and this year it is the Great Western Sock Challenge: Sock it to Me! or If the sock fits, wear it. With some excellent prizes on offer for the
most outstanding, the
most colourful, the
most outrageous and the
people's choice the competition is attracting entries from all over the State. With lucky door prizes and a parade of the socks the muster will not only be educational but also promises to be a lot of fun - really a
must do event.
Inquiries can be directed to the Muster organiser, Marianne Farkas: email@example.com..au