Fiber Frenzy

Getting wowed by weavers

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

If you happen to be on the Western Washington University campus Mon., June 17, don’t be surprised if the garbage can you just threw your used coffee cup into is suddenly the most attractive thing around.

In anticipation of the NW Weavers Conference, which will take place June 17-23 throughout WWU, members of the Seattle Weavers’ Guild will spend part of Monday “yarn storming” various educational edifices with woven, knitted and crocheted pieces that will embellish everything from the aforementioned refuse receptacles to handrails, light poles, columns and much more.

Although the 500-plus fiber enthusiasts who will be attending the conference—and yarn-bombing the school—have filled the 75 workshops, seminars and one-day classes to capacity (and did so in within 45 minutes after registration opened in January) those who are interested in fiber arts—whether they’re participating in the creative practice or purchasing the works of those who do—will have plenty of opportunities to get involved.

For example, a Marketplace Mall featuring supplies, demos and finished pieces by more than 30 merchants from around the United States and beyond will be open at various times June 20-22. Additionally, five textile-related exhibits will be open to the public and, come Sat., June 22, a free “Felting Frenzy” will focus on teaching participants how to take un-spun fibers and turn them into their own hand-felted item, which they can take with them when they go.

“In the Marketplace Mall, there will be merchants from near and far—from Bellingham and the surrounding area to Texas, Canada, California, Mexico, Guatemala, the Hill tribes of Laos, and more,” says organizer Joyce Hunsaker. “If you are a weaver, spinner, dyer or garment maker, you will find looms, tools, yarns and accessories for your work. If you are not a fiber artist yet, but appreciate what others have created, you will find rugs, scarves, baskets, bags, and much more, from local artists as well as women’s cooperatives in Mexico and Guatemala. Come look, come touch, come be inspired.”

For those who aren’t quite sure what fiber arts actually are, registration chairperson Sue Willingham has an apt description. “To me,” she says, “a person who designs and creates items made of fiber or using fiber techniques, such as weaving, twining, braiding, sewing and many others, is an artist, whether or not she or he sells that work.”

Judging by how quickly the conference filled up, and how many people are taking part, those putting on the event can confidently say getting involved in weaving and fiber arts isn’t an anachronistic practice, but a vibrant art form that continues to reinvent itself.

And, although the conferences only take place once every two years, members of the regional roundup say it takes that long to organize instructors, volunteers, locales and more.

Once everything’s in place, however, most guild members get down to the task at hand—learning more about their art form, and networking with other members.

“One of the most exciting events is the Fashion Show Exhibit,” exhibits chairperson Cyndi White says. “Most weavers are women, and we love to see what innovative methods have been used to create a woven garment. The conference also creates a togetherness among weavers, as we all love to touch, analyze and share fibers.”

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