As sweater weather hit the region earlier than usual this year, the Champaign-Urbana Spinners and Weavers Guild’s annual sale drew a crowd to Hessel Park Christian Reformed Church in Champaign on Oct. 31-Nov. 1.
There were about 25 exhibitors showcasing their work, according to Guild President Beth Englebrecht-Wiggans, who has been active with the group for the past 15 years.
Some of the visitors were on the hunt for holiday finds, others were regulars who came to see new designs while proudly wearing and showing off their purchases from previous years, and others were just interested in learning how fiber artists do what they do.
The Guild is one of the many organizations in support of the arts that call Champaign-Urbana home, and it boasts a strong 55-year history. Its roots trace back to a previous club that was formed in late 1950. The resurgence of interest in crafts saw the membership swell in the early 1960s, and by the early 2000s it had over 70 members.
According to Wiggans, the group’s last remaining charter member, Dot Replinger, died in 2018. With the help of her architect husband, John Replinger, she exhibited her work at art fairs across the Midwest. One of her bedspreads is in the collection at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.
At this year’s member sale, scarves, hats, mittens, felt animals, ornaments and hand spun yarn were on display alongside member demonstrations. One of the demos was by Julie Watkins, who is a specialist in Naalbinding, an ancient art practiced throughout the world. It is essentially binding with a needle. It’s not knitting and it’s not crocheting but produces intricate designs. Watkins uses a variety of fibers in her work, including hemp.
Next up for the guild is a couple of workshops hosted by Washington state-based weaver Robyn Spady next spring. The first two-day session on March 9 and 10 will be held at Homer Lake Forest Preserve on four-shaft looms, exploring a variety of weave structures for beginners to advanced weavers. That event will be followed by two days at Allerton Park for intermediate to advanced weavers on block design.
More information, including sign-up details, can be found at the guild’s website.