Guild Hosts the Iowa Federation Meeting

After more than a year of planning, our Guild rolled out the welcome mat to the Iowa Federation of Handweavers and Spinners on October 7, 2017. Sixty-three fiber aficionados and vendors gathered at the beautiful New Aldaya Lifescapes facility in Cedar Falls.

A highlight of the meeting was keynote speaker, John Mullarkey. A nationally known teacher and author, John’s specialty is tablet or card weaving. He kept the mood light with his delightful personality and humor as he described how he uses all of the bands he weaves.


John shares his contact information. His shirt’s collar and pocket lining are constructed from his card-woven fabric.


John’s tablet-woven shoe laces are on their second pair of shoes. The twist used in the weaving produces an attractive band that is exceptionally strong.

Thirty-six popular choice items were entered in seven different categories. The quality of the entries made choosing a favorite difficult. See the entries in the following slideshow.



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Who doesn’t like to shop? The Fall Federation vendors did not disappoint with a wide selection of fiber and related items available.


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After lunch the Federation business meeting was held, the Popular Choice winners were announced, and the door prizes were awarded. We also enjoyed a fashion show where models shared their wearable art.


Popular Choice winners left to right: Ellen Sakornbut-dying, Karen Agee-handspun, Bev Pender-handwoven, Stephanie Vanhousen-small loom and knitted, Becky Metcalf-felted and other fibers


Fashion show participants model their wearable art.

Following refreshments John Mullarkey shared his personal history with “string,” starting at a young age knitting with his grandmother to his present focus on card weaving. Along his journey through the fiber arts, John continues taking classes and workshops, meeting amazing teachers, and making lifelong friends. Some of the workshops are wonderful, some he doesn’t “hate as much as he thought he would,” and some he is certain he will never try again. There is one thing they all have in common: he learns new things which inspire him to innovate his card weaving.

So go out and take that class, learn something new, get out of your comfort zone. You may discover, like John, you bring new insights to the things you love to do.

So thanks go out to John Mullarkey for being our speaker, and to the attendees, vendors, venue staff, and members of the NEIWS Guild who came together for another successful Fall Federation meeting.






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Iowa Sheep and Wool Festival


The Northeast Iowa Weavers and Spinners Guild was well represented at this year’s Iowa Sheep and Wool Festival held June 17-18 at the Hansen Agriculture Student Learning Center in Ames, Iowa.


Sarah Humke was on the festival planning committee. She also conducted an introductory class on lace knitting and its history.


In addition to vending, Mary Stichter taught children’s classes both Saturday and Sunday on Kumihimo braiding and turning wool into yarn using a drop spindle.


Dawn Ask-Martin taught a crochet class on Saturday. She also demonstrated and helped with Mary Stichter’s booth.


Mother and son duo, Ellen Sakornbut and Patrick Mayer, had a busy week end vending at the festival. Ellen also led the class “Basics of Dyeing.”


Participants in Lisa Nelson’s felting class made cobweb scarves from colorful merino wool roving.

Guild member M. Paula Survilla was the featured author for the festival. She read and signed copies of her new children’s book, Over the Moon. She also designed the festival’s logo seen at the top of this page. Paula was assisted in her Knitbaahpurl booth by Joyce Boss.

The Iowa Sheep and Wool Festival was a wonderful event. We are very proud of our talented members who contributed to its success.

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Take a Shibori Dyeing Class

Join Mary Kay Madsen and learn folding and stitching techniques for this traditional Japanese resist dyeing. The class will be held at the Northeast Iowa Weavers and Spinners Guild’s dye lab. Registration information can be found below.

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Out of This World

The May program featured the Virginia Olsen Competition. This year’s committee members Janice Fobian, Karla Stille, and Karen DeVries, chose the theme Out of This World. Members entered projects completed during the current Guild year and  voted for their favorites in each category.


During each meeting Karen, Janice, and Karla encouraged members to create projects for the competition.

The committee challenged spinners to “go beyond your imagination and venture into the unknown” in the handspun yarn category. The members chose Lynette Risse’s skein. Lynette started with a bag of scatter bits, an assortment of fiber in a variety of colors. First she sorted and spun according to color; then she plied the colorful result with black alpaca.


Lynette Risse and her handspun skein

The weaving category asked weavers to “be inspired by the Northern Lights.” Diane Davison’s winning project is very precious to her. The cashmere and superwash fiber was once a part of the late Jan Gallagher’s stash and made a very soft scarf.

In addition the committee chose Diane’s scarf to receive the Audrey Stevens Craftsmanship Award. This honor is given for exceptional craftsmanship in a woven item submitted to the Virginia Olsen Competition.


Diane’s scarf received the popular vote in the weaving category and the Audrey Stevens Craftsmanship Award.

“Launch your project into the outer limits” was the guideline for the dyeing category. Colette Ubben used three different dyeing techniques for the yarns in her shawl. The first section was made from a handspun skein sprinkle-dyed with Kool Aid. For the next part, the wool was dyed before spinning. The shawl was finished with a space-dyed skein of handspun wool.


Colette used three different dye methods for the wool in her shawl.

Unsurprisingly the category with the largest number of entries was UFOs. Who doesn’t have a number of unfinished objects stashed away? To qualify, entries could have been started any time before the current year and finished during the current year.

Diane Davison obtained her color gamp from noted weaver and former Guild member Virginia Cleaver in the mid 1990s. The project was started and stopped many times before Diane completed it this year.


Diane’s color gamp was the most popular UFO.

Thanks to all those who entered items in the competition and shared their stories with us. Thanks also to the committee for organizing this annual event.

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Open House and Sale

IMG_0888Saturday, April 22 from 10-4

Sunday, April 23 from 12-4


Browse as assortment of items made by the Guild’s fiber artists such as rugs, scarves, table runners, hats, and bags as well as locally produced yarn and fiber.

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Great Scot! It’s Tartans and Plaids!

“I’ll take Category 1 for $400,” and answers in the the form of a question were things you would have heard during Mary Stichter’s interactive Jeopardy-style program on tartans and plaids. The friendly competition resulted in chocolates for correct answers and a wealth of information for those attending the April meeting.

Did you know:

All tartans are plaids, but not all plaids are tartans.

Tartans are always woven in twill with the same stripes repeated in the warp and the weft. Traditional tartans were made of wool. The stripes in plaids may vary in pattern, color and size.

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Iowa has an official state tartan.

A recent Guild project was weaving the Iowa Tartan on a guild loom, so some Guild members have woven their own Iowa Tartans!


The official Iowa Tartan was approved by the House and Senate on Tartan Day (April 6) 2004.

You can design your own tartan.

Here are links to sites that will help you:

Maybe you’d prefer to design a plaid.

Here is a link for for a tool to help you:

Some fun facts:

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Thanks, Mary, for the entertaining and informative program. Thanks also to Karla Stille for sharing how she designs plaids using algebra and transparent overlays.

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Spring Open House and Sale


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