Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Remembering our friend and mentor, Hazel Ryland

"I can't do math, but I am gorgeous!" - Hazel Ryland
Aug. 20, 1925 ~ Nov. 28, 2016
 Reno Fiber Guild's dear friend and long time member, Hazel Ryland, passed away in November.  She was a mentor and teacher to many present and past members of the guild and will be missed by all that knew and loved her.  You can read Hazel's obituary here.

Hazel was born in England and entered the military while still a teenager during WWII.  An article  about her military service appeared in the Nevada Appeal newspaper, Jan. 2016 . In 2014,  she was the proud  participant in an Honor Flight to Washington DC.

As I gathered stories about Hazel for this post, I talked with Gayle V. who had been a good friends with her for many years. Gayle remembers that Hazel would reveal some of her past, but not everything all at once, leaving you wondering "what happened next".  Photos of  Hazel revealed that she was a strikingly  beautiful woman in her youth and the quote under her picture above, is  very typical of Hazel's wry sense of humor.  In another anecdote, Hazel said she was asked if it was difficult to learn to drive on the right side of the road when she came to America.  Hazel's answer was no, it wasn't difficult.  Later, to friends she admitted she hadn't learned to drive until she came to America!  When you read the article  below, you may appreciate this addition to the story.   Hazel was crewing on the Duke of Malborough's yacht with her husband and when winding warps, found that she could make a cross using the sailing masts.

In 2013, Hazel was an honored weaving mentor at the CNCH conference at Squaw Creek.   What follows is the article that appeared about Hazel in the registration booklet and was written by her dear friend Jennifer de Jung.

Hazel Ryland was born in Biggenhill, Kent, England where she grew up with her parents and older brother. Claiming an unremarkable childhood the life that followed was anything but! Lying about her age, she entered the British Army in 1942. She was assigned to the Royal Heavy Artillery and stationed in London and South Hampton. Hers was a mixed battery of men and women. As a spotter, she learned the silhouettes of American, British, and German planes. Reassigned, she used a “predictor” in a pit located nearby the 3.6” guns to guide the gunners’ aim. One of the highlights of the war years was dancing to the Glen Miller Band.

She was given a loom by her father when she was 11 years old. After leaving the service in 1946, she, her father, and brother taught themselves to weave. She still has that little four-shaft table loom (converted to a floor loom by her father) on which they learned. She crewed racing sloops for three years, a remarkable accomplishment for a woman at the time. She married and she and her husband lived for a time on a “very old” pilot cutter. In 1959 she came to the US via Cuba on a 12 passenger merchant ship. Her first job was in a textile mill where she tied on new warps. No wonder that she can tie a weaver’s knot in her sleep. She then went to work at the Allied Arts Guild for Custom Handweavers in Menlo Park where she was mentored by Nancy Felsovany whose photo still graces Hazel’s home.

Prior to coming to Lake Tahoe in 1966, she trained as a Cordon Bleu chef and put those skills to work in the Bay Area and Carson City. In 1970, Hazel began to teach weaving classes. She has woven almost everything from pillow cases to coverlets and tapestry to rugs. For the past several years, her companion Mick at her side, she has focused on pile carpets woven on a beloved Fireside Loom using handspun and hand dyed warp, weft, and pile yarns. She can now do a Giordes knot in her sleep.

The number of weaving students and friends she has influenced is great and in recognition of that, she has been granted lifetime membership to the Reno Fiber Guild. Hazel will always be known for her insistence that we “Sawmple” and many students have been endeared by her oft stated, “I’m lousy at math, but I’m gorgeous!”

This photo is of Hazel receiving the mentor award at CNCH 2013 from her good friend, Jen.

To end this remembrance of our dear friend, here are a couple of personal memories about Hazel by Reno Guild members.

When I met her, Hazel was the youngest 90 year old you are ever likely to meet. She had the wisdom of freedom of her years and experience. She did not hesitate to speak her mind or share her opinion. And had the delight in life that she shared generously. She noticed the details and she helped you see that the world was a brighter place than you thought it was.

I met her a few weeks after she had hip surgery. She would be so frustrated that steps were still difficult or painful, then 3 minutes later delighted that her flowers were blooming and she could walk out with her "stick" to enjoy them. When I came for visits, I was just as likely to find her sitting in the spring sunshine as reading in her easy chair with her cat supervising. And I'll never forget her grin when she drove me around the short block in front of her home for the fist time - knowing that she had taken a little more of her independence back.

I miss her.
Melissa G.

I met Hazel at a meeting of the Carson City Weaving Guild here in the 1970's. I had woven on a cardboard inkle loom making belts, sashes and tapes. I wanted a loom and needed instruction on that scary piece of equipment. I signed up for a beginning weaving class with Hazel. We met at her home and enjoyed the outside patio area for our first steps on this adventure. When Hazel got to the drafting I was totally lost .... tears were in my eyes as I tried so hard to understand ... Hazel patiently went over it and over it until I felt a glimmer of hope and enough confidence to stay with the program. She gave me several mini catch-ups during those first years. She will always be loved and missed.

Nisha K.



  1. It’s not easy being a male in the hand-weaving world. Every time I met Hazel it was a pleasant experience she was always supportive and encouraging. She made me feel very comfortable and accepted. I didn’t know her away from weaving but I always look forward to interacting with her at weaving events. I will miss her strong positive presence

  2. My weaving journey started in her studio and it literally changed my life. She changed my life! I just fell into it, a totally random thing, and I do my best to pay it forward in her spirit.