ILLINOIS PRAIRIE WEAVERS GUILD EXPERTLY WEAVES FRIENDSHIP & FIBER ARTS TOGETHER
"A Strong Beginning" Study Group checks out a member's most recent project using up her stash of thread. Scroll down to view more projects.
Did you know there are a lot of crafty weavers looming around our area producing amazing things?!
Working at home on little looms, big looms with foot pedals, and everything in between, they’re turning out all manner of useful items in gorgeous colors, soft fibers, and appealing textures. From towels and placemats to tablecloths or fabric for fashioning jackets and dresses, these accomplished fiber artists are hooked on their craft. And, many are part of the Illinois Prairie Weavers Guild.
Hand-woven dining table runner by Sandy McLain Hochmuth using cotton thread.
Since 1949, the Guild has been busily elevating weaving to a whole new level of artistry. By engaging their membership (now international) with interesting guest speakers, educational workshops, a themed annual challenge, and five supportive local study groups, their collective expertise keeps on growing.
All skill levels in this fiber arts guild are welcome and that’s where the smaller, study groups come into play. They’re a boon to bolstering confidence for tackling simple or complex projects and sharing the joy of creating with like-minded friends.
Here’s a visit with one of them…
“A Strong Beginning” Study Group
On a recent, chilly spring day deep in a DuPage County forest (Blackwell in Warrenville, to be exact) seven enthusiastic women eagerly gathered under an open-air shelter to share weaving projects and stories. Their years of experience spanned anywhere from three to 40. As the meeting unfolded, they admired, kibbitzed, encouraged, chuckled over stumbling blocks, and offered insightful suggestions.
“While you’re weaving, you’re working at home alone following complicated patterns,” explained Jennifer Johnson. “So, there’s no one really available to ask for help when you encounter difficulty. That’s where the smaller groups within the Guild really step-up to offer individual guidance and encouragement.”
Show & Tell
Definitely, the highlight of the meeting is Show & Tell. Quickly the ladies pluck a plethora of projects from their various bags and parcels revealing a kaleidoscope of color, patterns and designs ready for feedback. As each creation gets passed carefully around for close examination, the weavers shared their behind-the-scenes stories. What inspired the piece; what challenges were encountered; where they discovered the pattern.
Their home loom models range from simple, smaller, table-top units to larger floor models that can be extremely expensive and even computerized. Many own multiple looms to accommodate a choice of projects.
At home, Sandy McLain Hochmuth demonstrates a rigid heddle loom.
What’s the Allure?
For everyone, the same reasons surfaced: the tactile satisfaction of choosing just the right thread or yarn, creating beautiful patterns in gorgeous color schemes, and then watching their creation come to life inch-by-inch as it grows on their looms.
“It’s a repetitive process that has an almost meditative quality about it,” said Sandy McLain Hochmuth. “Watching something develop on the loom is so satisfying – I enjoy doing it so much.”
Biggest challenge, they agreed, is properly threading the loom, especially if it is one of the more complex models. Threading can be very time-consuming at the start of a new project, but it’s the key to success. Making sample swatches is another must-do step for checking tension and pattern outcome.
Sandy demonstrates her larger LeClerc loom with her current project.
A closer look at Sandy's kitchen towel project on the LeClerc loom that is 416 threads across. She threads her loom using the two cotton cones of thread shown here.
“Once you know how to weave your own fabric,” said Noel Chavez, “you never look at commercially made products the same way again.”
Hilary McGrath seemed to sum it up perfectly, “Weaving is definitely a combination of swearing and perseverance.”
Despite the ups-and-downs of this exacting craft, each member appeared upbeat, sharing future projects they’re already planning, looming just ahead! Stay tuned…
For more information about Illinois Prairie Weavers Guild, visit: Illinois Prairie Weavers Guild –
A SPECIAL THANK YOU TO WEAVER, Sandy McLain Hochmuth, Illinois Prairie Weavers Guild Publicity Coordinator, for her contributions to this article.
Scroll down to see this study group’s Show & Tell samples.
During Show & Tell, Hilary McGrath shows her double weave, drawstring bag -- she even hand-wove the drawstring!
Another Show & Tell project -- turned twill -- by Jody Wilkins.
Jody Wilkins' double weave project.
Jennifer Johnson's fuzzy scarf project.
Close-up of the very soft, fuzzy scarf Jennifer Johnson created.