Peggy Taylor is one busy lady. Teaching, weaving, spinning, knitting and raising sheep are just a few of the many activities that occupy her time. But Taylor says she likes being involved in such a variety of endeavors.
"I make mostly handwoven textiles these days," she said. "I generally work in wool, cotton and linen. I also use handspun wool."
She learned to spin in the 1970s. Marilyn Klueger was her instructor. Klueger was one of the few spinning teachers back then, Taylor said.
"I wanted to learn to spin because my grandmother always had a spinning wheel in her front window. I never saw her use it, but I always thought it was fascinating," she said. "When I was four years old, she had lots irises planted outside and I would go out and weave iris leaves into little mats."
Taylor said she was always fascinated by looms, but didn't discover her penchant for weaving until she took a summer course at New Harmony through the University of Evansville.
"It was supposed to be a five week class, but it was so much fun I stayed for 10," she said.
She furthered her knowledge of textiles when working as the director of the textile department at Conner Prairie, a living history museum near Fishers that recreates American life in the 1800s.
"Conner Prairie was a great experience because I got to learn about historic textiles and how they were made," she said.
A few years later, Taylor was doing some genealogy research and discovered that her descendants were weavers in Cheshire, England. Their ancestral home was called Loom Hall.
Taylor has revived that family tradition and even has her own sheep in the pasture of her rural Clay City home. She raises Shetland sheep, a small breed known for their colorful wool in varying shades of gray and brown.
"They are small and easy to handle," she said. "They come in a variety of colors and they have tremendously soft wool."
Some her favorites from the flock include names like Russet, Twilight and Iris.
The sheep are sheared every year and Taylor uses the wool for her own spinning and weaving projects, also selling some on the side.
Her husband Bryan helps out with the sheep and has even been known to weave his own rag rugs on occasion.
"My family is very supportive of all these things that I do and that makes it all the more rewarding," she said.
Taylor likes sharing her talents with others and has taught many students in the art room at Clay City High School.
"The students are fun," she said. "They like to do creative things.
She has taught at Clay City for the past 19 years, but plans to take a year off starting this fall.
"I'm going to get some new ideas, get refreshed," she said.
Taylor will still be in a classroom of sorts, teaching an art history correspondence course through Ivy Tech. She also plans to take some classes, possibly in artistic quilting.
She'll continue to stay active making textiles and participating in a weekly knitting group. Right now her efforts are devoted to preparing for the upcoming Sheep to Shawl competition at the Indiana State Fair.
Taylor competes on a team with other spinners and weavers who all raise Shetland sheep. The goal is to spin wool and weave it into a shawl in a four-hour time frame. The shawls are judged and then sold.
"It's great working together as a team for a common objective," she said. "It's neat to see all the different shawls because each team comes up with their own design and the craftsmanship is outstanding."
Taylor enjoys teaching others about what she does, giving demonstrations at various events throughout the year.
"One of the most rewarding things about teaching someone to weave, knit, or spin is that they can then be creative and produce something wonderful on their own," she said.
Editor's note: Peggy Taylor's daughter, Emily, wrote this article at the request of the Editor. Emily worked as a summer intern at newspapers in Brazil and Linton. She has returned to college at the University of Southern Indiana, Evansville. This feature was suggested by a reader and neighbor of the Taylors.