Thinking about guild members meeting and having dinner together brings on a feeling of nostalgia these days. I just hold out hope that one day soon we will all be able to celebrate weaving together again. Here is Sheri Ward's description of her very special guild group and the placement project they took on. This article is from from Handwoven January/February 2021. — Susan
Every other month, the Gourmet Weavers meet at each other’s homes in the northwest corner of Washington State for a meal and camaraderie. Generally, there are 12 in the group dictated largely by the number of guests most can accommodate in their homes. The meals are potluck with no rules, meaning one meeting’s meal may be made up of salads and another of desserts. At one meeting, all but one member brought a berry dish, making the purchased pizza contributed by a latecomer a welcome addition.
Most of the members are weavers, or at least were at the start. Because interests change over time, today our membership includes fiber artists with expertise in surface design, knitting, felting, spinning, and embroidery.
After the meal comes show-and-tell, which includes updating each other about our lives, showing recent textile creations, talking about workshops we’ve attended or textile trips we have taken. Over the years, we have formed a close-knit group.
Some years ago, we had an exchange of friendship placemats. Each member warped her loom with a twill pattern and wove placemats, one for each participant in colors chosen by the recipients. All who joined in the exchange ended up with placemats of their chosen weft color, woven in patterns selected by the weavers. Our placemats 1.0 were even featured in the documentary film Interlacements by Marilyn and Rainer Romatka.
Since that exchange, our group’s makeup has changed, with some moving out of the area or passing away and new members joining. When newcomers came to a meal at the home of one of the participants in the placemat exchange, they were always in awe of the placemats. Eventually, we started talking about doing a second placemat exchange, version 2.0.
For version 2.0, we decided to focus only on overshot patterns. Each participant chose an overshot pattern and one or more coordinating weft colors. Following the same format as the first exchange, everyone wove a placemat for everyone else in the group using their chosen colors. No two people chose the same overshot draft. Some of the patterns were well-known, such as the Cat Track and Snail Trail that I chose, and others were less well-known, such as Maybaeth, Lisa Christiansen’s choice, or Johann Schleelein Numbers 123 and 42 that Marilyn Olsen and Donna Hunter chose, respectively.
For warp and tabby weft, we used 5/2 pearl cotton in natural. For pattern weft, we chose 3/2 pearl cotton in the designated colors, and the hems were 10/2 pearl cotton in natural. All threading drafts had 224 ends and were 14 inches wide in the reed with a sett of 16 ends per inch. The on-loom length for each placemat including hems was 22 inches, and the finished size was about 12 by 17 inches. Our warps were about 9 yards long to weave 13 placemats each, enough for everyone in our group and even those not in the exchange. We each bought about 2 pounds of 5/2 pearl cotton, 1⅓ pounds of our chosen weft (which we divided and distributed), and about an ounce of 10/2 cotton.
To simplify the process and be sure the placemats matched, we standardized our weave plan. The plan called for 1-inch hems woven with 10/2 cotton on each end and 20 inches of overshot patterning. We also stipulated that the weaver add an extra tabby pick using contrasting 3/2 yarn at the hemline to aid in making a sharp fold, and that the individual placemats be separated by a couple of picks of a contrasting weft color.
Each weaver secured the edges and then gave the placemats to the intended recipients for finishing, which included wet-finishing, hemming, and either attaching the weaver’s label or embroidering the weaver’s initials on the hem.
All in all, we found that the Friendship Placemat Exchange 2.0 was a satisfying project. We will be enjoying our beautiful placemats for years to come. They may even inspire us to launch version 3.0, who knows?
Note: Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Gourmet Weavers are currently on hiatus.