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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Fibery Saturday at the Midwest Weavers Conference in Houghton - Hancock Michigan

Early Saturday morning, at 4:30 am, my visiting fiber buddy Linda and I got up and hit the road.  Our visiting RV friends Sam and Donna were leaving also to head on home to St. Louis, so we said our Good Byes and took off northward in a very very very loaded up car.  (Yup, left Steveio home alone)

Linda had impulsively purchased a big rug loom from me, and we disassembled it the night before and pre-loaded it into the car. Donna and Steve helped us carry it out and arrange it till it all fit.  Good thing the seats flip down!  We were jammed to the max, but I had side mirrors to view behind me, and we were all set to roll.

Our destination was the Midwest Weavers Conference, called "Northern Wefts".   It was located at Finlandia University campus, 200 miles away in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan ("Da U.P." ta da Yoopers)   Our goal was to see the exhibits, shop the vendors, and attend the Rag Rug Special Interest Group meeting at 11:45.

I know the U.P. like the back of my hand, and found side roads to get around all of the road construction by Niagara, WI to Iron Mountain, MI.  Of course the time changes from Central to Eastern as we get north above Dickenson and Iron counties, so now we lose an hour besides to make our schedule even tighter to get there for the events we want to attend.

Gladly, we arrived in plenty of time to do some shopping and bring my four rugs to the meeting.   We wandered up and down the steep hills of Hancock where the campus was located till we got our bearings on the layout of which buildings hosted which events.  The campus is built on a steep hillside and some of the roads were at 45 degree angles to get up and down.  NOT kidding!  Some houses are built with a door on the second story to access when the snows get too deep on the Keewenaw Peninsula of the U.P. jutting out into the icy cold waters of Lake Superior.

The poor overloaded car was chugging up the hills---- saying "I THINK I CAN, I THINK I CAN" as it pulled itself up and into the various parking lots around the campus.

Janet Meany hostessed the Rag Rug event.  I have known Janet for a number of years now, and she is quite the dynamo on the rug weaving topic.  She lives in Duluth, Minnesota and traveled over to the U.P. of Michigan to chair this gathering.  She is the author and publisher of The Weavers Friend newsletter,  
and co-author with Paula Pfaff of the The Rag Rug Handbook, 
(also available at most weaving stores and on Amazon--- ISBN-13: 978-1883010287)

Over 50 weavers gathered for this event.  We combined wolfing down our lunches as fast as we could, while we listened to stories and saw the rugs being displayed by each weaver.  I told Janet that I would take photos of the rag rug show n tell portion, which she can later use in the next issue of the newsletter.  From time to time, I write articles and submit rug project pages for her too.  Guess that means I am a "published author"?

Now, in these next photos below, I do not have all the names of each participant showing their rugs.  I was too busy snapping photos!  So if you wish to email me at pfundt@gmail.com  with a description of your rug and your clothing, I will add your name underneath your photos!

I could not post ALL of the photos here, so I have a complete set on my facebook albums...  and here is a public link that can bring you to those photos.  You do not have to be a Facebook user to view them:

I just loved each and every rug, and each one had a tale to tell.   The photo on the left was from a gal who wove this huge runner from various shades of denims (Katie Meek)  in a traditional pattern.   The gal on the right used to live on a boat, and wove her very first rug, a denim one, to fit in the boat.  She was ADDICTED! They later sold the boat so she could have a big room to fit a loom on dry land!  LOL

Each weaver had a delightful story to tell about their rugs.

This was (if I recall right) a historical old runner rug the person got from a relative's home after they passed away.  It was in amazingly good shape after years of being a hallway runner.

Wheeee!  Loretta Stacy just wrote me with the following information about this rug-- (she is the gal in the floral top near Janet)  Here is what she wrote about the long runner:
"Hi Karen,

I had the historic rug at the Rag Rug Show and Tell at Midwest.  The rug is 3 ft wide, 17 ft long and 65 years old.  After my mother graduated from high school she worked in the local grocery store while still living at home with her parents.  She saved enough money to buy herself a new bedroom set.  

My grandparents thought it would be nice if her bedroom was carpeted.  They contacted my great aunt in Southern Indiana who knew a weaver and had rugs woven to carpet her room.  (My mother happened to have the biggest room in the house for her bedroom.)  The rugs were then shipped to Minnesota. 

While my mother was at work my grandparents sewed the rugs together and put down the "carpet".  When my mother came home from work her reaction was YUCK I hate it get rid of it!  She now says that was probably pretty mean on her part, but my grandparents obliged and took up the rugs.  

My grandmother must have cut the rugs up and made smaller rugs from them as we always had rag rugs in the back porch in my growing up years.  When a rug would wear out another would appear. I don't know where my mother had stored these rugs all those years.  

One survived at the original length as we lived in a large farm house with 4 bedrooms upstairs with 2 stairways.  The rug I showed was in the upstairs hall for 33 years.  

Twenty years ago the farm was sold to my brother and his wife but Mom kept the rug.  Last fall my mother started talking about moving into an apartment as my father passed away 8 years ago and she can no longer maintain the house and yard by herself.  

I asked her if I could have the rug from the upstairs hall.  Her reaction still had not changed that much.  She said "You want that old thing!"  She had it in her garage!  

There are two places where there is some damage but it is in realatively good shape.  She is presently in the process of moving into an apartment and she had another 11 ft rug which she gave me just last week before the conference.  It is the same age as the other.

 Just thought you might be interested in this, but was to long to write in any of the comment sections."

Loretta Stacy

I showed four of my rugs, and spoke about the techniques used in each one...  A fellow weaver was able to grab my camera and snap a few shots for me of my own presentation!  How nice of her!

These next two rugs look very complicated, but are quite an easy process once you know the secret.  See either Janet and Paula's book on the page "diamond rugs" to learn how, or google Deb Sharpee, a weaver who has also taught this method of "swoosh rugs"

The patterns, warps, materials and combinations were a treat to any weaver's heart, and we thoroughly enjoyed the presentations of the hard work and creativity that was exhibited by the participants.

Rug after rug was unfurled to the ooohs and ahhhs of the audience.  I think we show as much interest in our rug weaving being revealed as much as any fancy fashion designer of haute couture clothing!

As stories were told of the process or materials, after each rug was shown, it was taken aside to be laid out on display for closeup examination afterwards.  What a great idea!

I had mentioned during my presentation that one of the rugs had been in my inventory for sale the longest, and nobody ever bought it!  It was my favorite colors and I figured I would just rip off the tags and keep it for myself now.  But one of the attendees came up afterwards and said she HAD TO HAVE IT!   She wrote out a check right then and there to buy it from me!  LOL   I honestly didn't come to the program to sell a rug----  but her purchase paid for the hotel room I booked for the night!  haha! 

We also toured the many vendors and emptied our purses on some more bags of fiber fun stuff... tools and warp and shuttles and tshirts and supplies!

While many of the attendees then went to their scheduled classes, we took the time to unload our personal belongings from the overstuffed car and move into our waiting hotel room nearby.  Many of the attendees stayed all week in the college dorms, but we were only staying one night, so we got a hotel room to share.

After we were unloaded, we went to another hall to admire the guild displays.  Guilds are "clubs" of artists, and many of the guilds in the Midwest put up displays portraying the theme of Northern Lights known as the Aurora Borealis ...  there were many displays of scarves, clothing, home decor and other types of weaving.    Each was amazing and lovely and well thought out.

But one of the displays was of extreme interest to me, which featured a rag rug study by the Weavers Guild of Minnesota.

(I apologize for the many photos to you non-rug weaving blog readers, 
but this is like THE DISPLAY of the most interesting and fascinating rugs 
for the rug weavers among us rug weaving blogger readers) 

I liked this rug in the photos below the best! It was woven by an elderly man in their guild. 
It was folded over the display rack so it was twice as long as what is shown on the photo

It had FOUR things going on.  
  • 1. the warp was graduated from dark blue along selvage sides all the way to white in the middle
  • 2. the weft was in dark denim at the ends, graduating to lighter denim in the middle of the rug and back to dark again at the other end
  • 3. in the darker sections, small pieces of inlay were light colors, and inlays of dark pieces in the lighter sections
  • 4. the twill structure was about 12 rows in one direction, then reverse to 12 in the other direction making a wavy pattern

Each weaver has their own style, color combos and tastes.  
Some are subtle and soft, some are bright and bold.  
All are winners in my book! 

After we wandered around the displays, it was time to remove the loom parts from my car and transfer them into Carol's minivan for it's trip back to Tennessee.  It was like Fibber McGee's closet to open up that car and take the pieces out step by step and reload them in Carol's van with layers of fabric in between to prevent any scratches.  I am just amazed how much we got in that van, plus they are planning on stopping at Great Northern Weaving store and Edgemont Yarns store on the way home!!!

After the loom swapola, we hit the dining area of the middle school where there was an evening event in the auditorium as a wrap-up to the whole conference.  We joined old friends and met new friends, shared a meal and swapped stories.  It was a delightful evening and we even knew a top weaver being presented an award for her woven clothing!  (Karen York of Beloit, WI area)

I bought some CD's of weaving music by Nadine Sanders, The Singing Weaver of Straw Into Gold   who also entertained at the evening program.  I planned to listen to them all the way home, and they will be playing in my studio from now on too while I weave!

By the time the program ended, both Linda and I were totally exhausted.  We stumbled back to the hotel and got in our jammies.  Wheeeeeewwwwww what a day we had!   We fell asleep with visions of looms, fibers, shuttles and rugs floating around in our heads.


  1. I am not a weaver but I really enjoyed this post and I loved looking at all the different rugs and designs. Some of them are really incredible.

  2. I LOVE the final picture!!!! You and Linda look like you're ready for a good night's sleep! Those rugs are amazing!!!! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Oh, fun! I'm sorry I missed this one. Forgot totally about it, even though I live in Marquette, only about 100 miles away. Would have had to miss it anyway, though, as hubby was in the hospital over the weekend with chest pains. But it was fun to look at the pictures. Maybe next time!


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