I had the privilege of teaching in Washington state for 8 days in March this year. I found out how to pronounce names like Skagitt and Whatcom. I enjoyed meeting some fascinating weavers. I also experienced the wonderful community of weavers in the Puget Sound area, and of course I saw some lovely scenery.
I didn’t know that the Skagit Valley is one of the top producers of flower bulbs in the world. The bulbs I order from Holland often originate in the Skagit Valley. While I was there the daffodils were in bloom.
My first teaching assignment was a lecture to the Whidbey Weavers Guild. During this time of emerging corona virus activity, the guild was well attended. My lecture on Overshot: Past and Present was a warm-up for the three-day workshop I would begin the following day.
We had an eager 15 attendees in the overshot workshop. The work was very creative. I send out instructions for preparing the looms ahead of time. In the workshop, everyone follows the same treadling order, but each weaver chooses their own colors to bring. Sometimes the thickness varies from one weaver to the next, also. The result is that everyone’s artistic decisions and sense of design are apparent. No two set of samples are identical. The students work through a certain set of treadling patterns and go home with a variety of samples. Some of their work is pictured below.
It was fun getting to know this weaving group. They are so supportive of each other and encouraging. I have never taught in an area where I needed to plan my presentation around the ferry schedule so that was a new experience. I said my good-byes at the end of the weekend class, knowing that I’d see some of them the next day.
The day after my overshot workshop, two wonderful ladies took me up to my next assignment: a lecture on Summer and Winter to the Skagit Valley Weavers Guild. Many of the guild members were also members of Whidbey Weavers Guild and of the Whatcom Weavers Guild, who would host me for my next workshop. A couple of my overshot workshop students brought in their samples. They had cut them from the loom and washed them the day before, after the overshot workshop was finished. It was fun to see their completed work and talk about what their next steps would be.
After my lecture I was driven to Lynden, Washington where I would give my last workshop of the trip on early American textiles.
The three-day Early American Textiles workshop was presented at the Jansen Art Center and hosted by the Whatcom Weavers Guild. Nine students wove round robin style on ten different looms. Each loom had been warped by one of the students in a traditional weaving pattern using thread similar to what early American weavers would have used. Throughout the workshop we stopped to talk about production practices within the US and Europe during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. One of the students brought in a lovely coverlet she had found in a thrift store. Another shared stories of her aunt and uncle who were weavers. My students were very knowledgeable and, as usual, I learned as much from them as they did from me.
The students did lovely work. On the last day, we cut the samples from the loom and secured the edges of each student’s work. Then we cut the samples apart so the students could take them home and wash them. One of the students sent photos of her work after washing.
Typical towel fabric Samples are laid out and prepared for cutting apart. Photo by Sheri Ward Photo by Sheri Ward
The Whatcom group was a tight-knit community of weavers, too. Many have known each other for years and they constantly share ideas and encouragement. The Jansen Art Center provides studio space for their collection of looms as well as library and meeting space. The staff at the Jansen Center was very welcoming and the cafe served some dynamite lunches–plus afternoon lattes to keep us all going.
I hope I get a chance to visit the area again. I wish everyone had such a nurturing weaving community. We all need connections and we benefit from seeing each others work. I’ll leave with a couple of photos from the ferry to Whidbey Island from Mukilteo.