Member Spotlight - September 2021

Beth Duncan 

Beth and her family moved to Libertyville, IL, when she was in 7th grade, and since that time Beth has considered the northern suburbs of Chicago her home, except for a few years in Rochester, MN.  She credits her family with giving her a creative spirit early on. All of her family were continually involved in “projects.”  Her dad travelled a lot for his job and always told his family that he was going to work to make money so that they had enough to do more projects.  Beth’s dad rehabbed houses and restored antique cars. Her mom, also a Fine Line member, was an interior designer and was the main influence in those house restoration projects.  Her mom also taught baking, knitting and sewing, not only for her own family, but also for 4H. Beth knitted her first sweater when she was 8 years old. She knitted a hammock for her father a bit later.  All these early experiences gave Beth the incentive to seek new and creative things to do. 


While she was in high school, Beth became interested in weaving.  While a junior in high school, her boyfriend, who was 2 years older and already in college, bought some 2 by 4’s and set about to build her a loom.  Being at the Milwaukee School of Engineering, he went to the nearby Kessenich Loom company, which was then in Wauwatosa, WI, to buy the metal workings for the loom.  He then roped in his friends to tying on the string heddles.  This incredible gesture obviously signaled true love, as he and Beth got married several years later and are still married after 43 years.  Along with the loom came a book by Iona Plath which Beth used to teach herself to weave.


After a year in community college and a year at the Art Institute of Chicago in textiles, Beth became co-owner of a home goods store in Crystal Lake with her mother and a friend. Though she still did some creative work, the store and raising two children occupied much of her time.  She did do flower arranging with artificial flowers at the shop, where she earned a reputation doing work for a condominium entryway on Lake Shore Drive and putting together another arrangement that was sent to India.  She also did projects with her own children, including rehabbing the 1840’s house in which they lived. In 2008, they decided to close the store and that, coupled with the fact that both of their children were grown, Beth had more time to pursue other interests. 

Beth decided to take a pottery course, which she found to be less satisfying for her than she had hoped.  She also signed up for the Master Gardener Course through the University of Illinois Extension, something she found interesting, but nothing fed her passion as much as weaving did, something her husband helped her realize. She joined the Woodstock based Warp and Weft Weavers Guild, and became involved with other weavers and increased her skills.  Looking for more weaving instruction, she traveled up to Sievers on Washington Island in Door County, WI, to take a weaving class.  It turned out that the teacher was none other than Heather Winslow.  Although Beth had heard about Fine Line, Heather’s talking about Fine Line and the weaving workshop for visually impaired weavers, really piqued Beth’s interest.  Her first class at Fine Line was silk dying with Dagmar Klos. 

Beth has continued to expand and grow her weaving skills.  She loves to take classes to learn new weaves and structures.  She also teaches at the Fine Line, something she enjoys greatly.  During the Covid isolation months, Beth taught a weaving Zoom class for her friends at the Woodstock Weavers Guild, as well as for Fine Line.   


Currently Beth owns four looms--two computer dobby looms, a treadle loom and a table loom.  She continues to take classes, some in person and some online, to expand and grow her skills.  She has been involved in a multi-shaft study group, and continues to be involved in her weaving guild.  Beth’s work can often be seen in shows at the Fine Line and recently at Gallery 116 in St. Charles.


When Beth and her husband moved to Rochester, MN, for a number of years, she looked for ways to continue with her weaving skills.  The closest guild was in Minneapolis, 80 miles from Rochester.  But she did find a yarn shop with a weekly get-together. She also happened upon a number of fabric stores and was amazed at the beauty of some of the new fabrics on the market. Though she had never been drawn to quilting, she became interested in the modern type of quilting. Then she happened upon improvisational quilting, a unique approach to quilting which utilizes free piecing and sewing without always measuring or cutting to precise measurements. This technique fed Beth’s creative spirit.  While they were living in Rochester, their son was involved in a very serious accident in Cedar Rapids, IA.  Beth spent months driving the three hours to and from Cedar Rapids. When she left early in the morning, the sun was coming up on her left, and when she drove home, it was setting on her left.  The stability of the sun rising and setting gave her a sense of peace during this difficult time.  It also led to her improvisational quilt she entitled Ian’s Sunrise.

Beth credits her family with her creative bent as well as her various teachers and colleagues.  She has always been fascinated by color, and that remains a driving factor in all of her work. Beth continues to teach weaving at Fine Line, including working with the weaving workshop for visually impaired weavers, and will be teaching her second improvisational quilting class here in October.  Watch for more of Beth’s creative endeavors in the future.