The Weavers Guild of Kalamazoo holds an annual sale with demonstrations each year at the Kalamazoo County Expo Center at the Fairgrounds. With free admittance, it begins Thursday afternoon, November 21st and runs for three days.
Judi Southwell has been in the guild almost since the beginning, which was 1968. Back then, Southwell used a loom borrowed from a relative who had taken it in trade for some plaster work he had done. She learned how to weave in a class at the Kalamazoo Public Library. Eventually, her husband made her a loom out family walnut that they had inherited.
The guild meets once a month. They are weavers, spinners, knitters and felters.
“It’s open to everybody, even those who do not do fiber art but are interested in it,” says member Marta Williams.
She’s been weaving for 20 years after taking a class at the Kalamazoo Institute of the Arts. Southwell says weaving can be as simple as the paper weaving that's done in elementary school, over and under. The warp threads on the loom are held tight. The weft threads go the other direction. The pattern is determined by how the warp threads are put through what is called heddles, which are little pieces of metal with a hole in the middle. Foot pedals raise and lower the threads that are through the heddles.
Guild member, Anne Mehring once spun 3,000 yards to make a wrap for herself. She worked very quickly spinning the fiber in less than a month and weaving it in a couple of months. The weaver’s guild meets at the Portage Senior Center. They have more than a hundred members.
“Most of our work is to educate the public,” says Williams, “and to spread the word on how much fun weaving is and working with fiber art.”
The yearly sale is the big money maker to bring presenters to the meetings. The sale features work of the members. There is weaving, spinning, yarn, Christmas ornaments, felted things, clothing, home decorations like placemats, runners, dishtowels, rugs and wall hangings. Mehring spins on her spinning wheel as she explains what helped her decide to take up weaving.
“I have a very many-times great grandmother. I have one of her linen sheets," she says. "It had a little piece of paper on it that was dated the late 18th century. Caroline Bingham had probably been involved with the creation of the fibers and the weaving of it. And, I thought to myself, ‘Well, if she could learn how to do that, I certainly could, too.’ I continue to spin with my squeaky spinning wheel.”