I had a lot of fun designing and weaving for the mail-in towel exchange that the Handweavers Guild of America (HGA) held this summer in lieu of the on-site exchange that was planned for Convergence 2020. Here’s Penny Morgan, President Ex-officio of HGA, talking about her experience in organizing and holding the exchange. —Susan
We have certainly all seen many changes in our lives because of COVID-19. I work at a hospital, and although my daytime life is nothing but COVID, I long for that world where there was so much more to every day than the pandemic. I have made a concentrated effort to find the special places in my life where I can feel a connection to others while we are still being told to stay apart.
Although we had to postpone HGA’s Convergence 2020 Knoxville to 2022, I wanted to find a way to weave our lives together. To replace the cancelled on-site exchange, I decided to create a mail-in exchange for all HGA members and offer all interested weavers a chance to connect. The original exchange participants were all planning to attend Convergence 2020, but after we sent the invitation to join the mail-in exchange, about 20 HGA members not planning to attend Convergence also registered. My goal to connect was met!!
I usually jump at the opportunity to participate in an exchange. I like the challenge, the planning, and the need to commit to completion. Many of the exchanges have been kitchen towels—who wouldn’t want a new collection of handwoven towels? They are absorbent, unique, durable, and created with love! I remember each exchange and sometimes have even reached out to the weaver who wove my towel to say how much I still enjoyed it. For me, each towel is a reminder of a special time and place.
For the mail-in exchange, I decided that there would be no limit on the number of entries. More than 60 weavers registered! If I had any idea who actually delivered my mail, I would have baked a batch of cookies and left them as a thank-you or perhaps an “I’m sorry” gift. I purposely gave the participants an extra month to mail packages (thinking of the mail delivery folks). In retrospect I should have cleared off a larger spot in the bedroom, but I did remember to put a big waterproof bin on my patio because every afternoon in Florida brings showers, and I worried about damage to the towels between the time they were delivered and I got home from work.
The creation of an HGA Handwoven Towel Exchange Facebook page provided further connection. I began opening packages, took pictures to share, and contacted each person when their package arrived. I have continued to post on the Facebook page and have truly enjoyed reading comments posted by contributors in the exchange. In the end, there were 56 participants all of whom wove 5 towels for a total of 280 towels!
I had the best seat in the house. I have been able to touch each towel and enjoy the various methods of packing. I have also read some wonderfully thoughtful notes included with the entries. As part of the exchange, I asked weavers to share their thoughts while weaving, in the hopes that I could develop a story of our lives during this health crisis. Some of these stories are beautiful and uplifting; others are deeply emotional and speak to who we are as humans in a world with a fuzzy sense of direction during these difficult times.
I'm looking forward to receiving my five towels. In her last email to the group, Penny said that all the towels were packed up and ready to go to their new owners. I'll let you know what I get. So excited! —Susan