MONROE - They gather from across Monroe County each week in a white outbuilding on West Albain Road, and when they get together, thuds from their otherwise silent machines punctuate conversations.
A dozen or so women, ranging in age from their 40s to their 80s, practice an ancient craft in front of complex machines to produce beautiful works of art. The only electricity being consumed powers fluorescent bulbs overhead.
"We're not teachers and we don't hold classes, but if someone wants to learn to weave, we teach them," explained Terry Benore, one of the founding members of the Farm Weavers Guild.
The Guild, a 10-year-old group, is a collection of local women dedicated to the art of weaving cloth from thread or scraps of material.
To practice their art, they use intricate looms that can fit on a table top or fill a living room.
In their outbuilding headquarters, just yards from Mrs. Benore's farmhouse, more than a dozen large and small looms fill the floors and occupy tables.
"Weaving can just take over your whole life," said Mrs. Benore's friend and mentor, Janet Peters. "It really gets in your blood."
Mrs. Benore, who lives in Monroe Charter Township, and Mrs. Peters, from Bedford Township, met when Mrs. Benore - for reasons that still largely escape her - purchased a loom more than a decade ago.
Mrs. Benore had no idea how to use it or the intricate process required to set it up, but a friend knew someone who did: Mrs. Peters.
"I called her out of the blue and told her I had just bought a loom from an elderly man in Petersburg, and I asked whether she might be able to look at it," Mrs. Benore said.
Within a few hours, the two strangers were poring over the large wooden contraption, and a lasting friendship took hold.
Mrs. Peters taught Mrs. Benore how to use her new loom, how to make patterns with warp and weft, and how to weave disparate strings into rugs and towels, belts and jackets.
Soon, other would-be weavers were watching and learning from Mrs. Peters, who herself has been weaving since 1973. The Farm Weavers Guild was born.
"There aren't a lot of people that do this, so if you want to do this together, you have to drive a little bit," explained Mrs. Peters. "Weaving is the glue, but it's not everything."
Mrs. Benore agreed.
"It's such a great group. We just have so darn much fun together," Mrs. Benore said.
And the group keeps changing. Last week, its newest member walked in the door ready to learn the craft.
"I just really liked the people," said Kelly Kellie, a resident of Monroe.
"They were just so nice and so eager to share what they know," she said.
Contact Larry P. Vellequette at: