Whidbey Weavers Guild member Gretchen Schlomann works in her fiber-arts studio in Clinton. Photo by Wendy Leigh/Whidbey News Group

Whidbey Weavers Guild member Gretchen Schlomann works in her fiber-arts studio in Clinton. Photo by Wendy Leigh/Whidbey News Group

Anniversary looms large for weavers guild after 50 years

What started with seven women who weaved together has, 50 years later, grown into a guild that is 150-plus members strong that promotes friendships, lifelong learning and, most of all, an appreciation for the fiber arts.

Whidbey Weavers Guild began in 1969 with a group of women who had been meeting over the years to weave and teach classes. Half a century later, members of the guild continue to create baskets, clothing, table linens, jewelry and other handmade goods using a variety of methods.

Many of the members’ products will be available for purchase at the 16th annual Uncommon Threads sale, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 1 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 2 at the Nordic Hall at 63 Jacobs Road in Coupeville.

“I just am impressed with the quality of their work,” past president Sally Starnes said of her fellow members.

She has been a part of the Whidbey guild since 1986, but it isn’t her first weavers group. She and her husband moved to several cities when he worked in the insurance industry, and the craft always provided a common topic to spin yarns about.

“A lot of my very best friends are weavers,” Starnes said.

It was no different when she and her husband moved to the area to operate a scuba boat. The Whidbey guild holds monthly meetings with speakers and individual members host study groups for certain sub-topics, such as dyes, tapestry, style fusion and a sampler.

The educational component is embedded in the roots of the organization. In 1965, three of the founders, Mary Ellen Littke, Thelma Brown and Doris Macomber, performed weaving demonstrations at a textile exhibit at the Coupeville Recreation Hall.

The next year, the same group did another demonstration at the Coupeville Arts and Crafts Festival. Soon after, Macomber was talked into teaching a small weaving class, from which the guild was born.

“You always learn something new, which is why I keep coming back,” Starnes said.

The group and many of its events are open to all skill levels and its members range from novice to nationally recognized artists. Some of the members raise their own sheep, alpacas, llamas and goats as sources of fiber.

Each year in April, the guild holds a two-day “spin-in” that features demonstrations, vendors and a friendly competition.

The group also occasionally does outreach in the form of demonstrations and classes at schools or libraries, Starnes said.

She said it’s important to keep the fiber arts alive and well.

“It’s very peaceful at times,” she said of weaving. “Sometimes it’s very frustrating. It’s a commitment to yourself.”

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