Leanne McEachern: Master Weaver

It should not come as a surprise that master weaver and quilter Lynn Leanne McEachern would end up in the Battlefords, which has long enjoyed a strong and active community of weavers and quilters.  

McEachern describes herself as a “fibre artist” who works in fabric and yarn.

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“I weave fabric and also use fabric to make quilts – the two things that I do,” she said. She also spins and knits.

McEachern was born in Toronto but says she “grew up an Alberta girl” where she was raised and spent most of her life. She had been a single parent there, and ended up in North Battleford after meeting Dan McEachern, who she married.

It was in Alberta where McEachern learned about fabric, in junior and senior high in Edmonton and then at the University of Alberta, where she majored in textile design.

“Basically, we disassembled textiles, we took them apart,” said McEachern. “And I was just fascinated with how they all came together.”

She had a weaving class in university, which she ‘didn’t do anything with … for another 20 years,” but later on after she had kids she look a class through the Edmonton Weavers Guild and got into weaving that way.  

In the meantime, McEachern was quilting, something she was able to do using the sewing machine at home. She used one that her dad bought her in university and kept it for 35 years until the motor burnt out on it, she said.

The quilting came first because it was “easy and readily available.”

“I used to piece all sorts of fabrics together and make quilts,” she said.

The quilts would always be given away or donated for use.

She ended up going back to school to do computer system technology at NAIT, when personal computers were just coming in.

She later ended up teaching at Alberta Vocational College and later at Keyano College in Fort McMurray.

“Keyano College had a very big fibre community, very active,” McEachern said. “So I got into spinning and quilting up there and met a few weavers.”

They used to make at least one quilt a month for the hospital and everyone would get together and piece them together.

It wasn’t until she took a class in 2000 through the Edmonton Weavers Guild that she got into weaving, and “I’ve been weaving every since.”

What she liked about weaving was that she could “combine [her] own textures and yarns and colours and fabrics.”  

It involves having a loom, of which there are table and floor looms. McEachern has a floor loom, which means she can use her feet to raise harnesses and create the patterns, which frees up her hands for weaving.

“I just really enjoy being able to work with different patterns and create different things.”

Four years ago she began the Master Weaver Program through Olds College and finished her level 4 this year. This was also the first year she taught level 2 at Olds.

For the Olds program, you go for one week in June and then “do your homework over the next 10 months and submit it to be marked.”

As for how long it takes to create a finished product, “it all depends on what you’re making,” McEachern says. A scarf take six hours while a blanket could take six days. 

She sells her items through the Saskatoon Weavers Guild which has a sale in November, and she has a couple of items going into the Saskatchewan Craft Council show called Prairie Woven – From Utilitarian Roots to Contemporary Art running Sept. 16 to Oct. 28.

McEachern does not stick to one particular style, she says, as she likes to learn new things and does not stick with one technique for very long.

“When I get bored, I try a new technique and move on,” she said.

She pointed out a gamp, which she likes to make because it “allows you to experiment with different threadings on your loom,” she said.

Recently, she entered a quilt in the Canadian Association of Quilters show in Toronto, which she had never done before.   

“It was a wall-hanging, made from a pattern,” said McEachern. The winning quilt, which included a lot of points and stars and stitching on top, was done through a technique of “paper piecing” – where the pattern is paper and you lay your fabric on it to get the pieces to fit together, she said.  

She did the piecing and Sandra Fisher of Maidstone did the quilting. There were 126 entries judged.

“It’s nice to be compared to other quilters across Canada,” said McEachern.  

What is next for McEachern? She and Sandra are going to be working on their own design which showcases more of her stitching. McEachern also plans more teaching opportunities over the winter and plans to head to North Carolina for teaching opportunities down there.

Right now, however, she is in the process of moving to Leduc, Alta, because “I have a grandbaby and I’m going to be looking after him in September.”

She looks forward to juggling that challenge along with her weaving and quilting activities.  

“They’re both things I really enjoy doing, I’ve done them over the past 40 years,” said McEachern. “They’re good pastimes to have.”

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