"The first time I made one, I thought I died and went to heaven," said Felicia Macmillan, 71, of Warren. She's referring to a basket, and she made her first one when she joined the Youngstown Area Weaver's Guild in 1986. "I thought I was the cat's meow," she laughed.
The YAWG, a non-profit organization founded in 1954, currently has 35 members, including residents of Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana Counties. They have an affiliate membership with the HGA (Handweaver's Guild of America Inc.).
YAWG President Liz Andraso, of Hubbard, said joining is easy: "You show up one day and say you'd like to become a member." But it wasn't always that simple, she recalled - aspiring members at one time had to bring three skillfully crafted pieces to become approved.
Ken Macmillan, 72, of Warren, weaves a rug on a large loom located at the Weaving Willow in Hubbard.
"Now, we welcome anyone whose interested in, well, mostly weaving," Andraso said.
Members also decorate gourds and felt, spin, knit and dye materials in addition to weaving blankets, rugs, coverlets, shawls, chairs and baskets, among others.
October's meeting was canceled due to the group embarking on a road trip to Chardon to visit KNOTS (Knitting on the Square), as well as a weaving studio and gallery in Burton.
You can join
Membership dues for the Youngstown Area Weaver's Guild are $20 per year and have remained the same for more than 50 years.
Meetings are held on the second Wednesday of every month. Meeting locations vary from Canfield to Hubbard; members are given a newsletter detailing each month's location and activities.
Many of the meetings are held at Andraso's shop, The Weaving Willow in Hubbard, where she also teaches basketry, gourd crafting and weaving classes. The baskets are ranked from beginner skill level to advanced and intermediate, with prices varying from $12 to $40; kit discounts are also applied, and there are more than 120 styles to choose from.
November's meeting, held at The Weaving Willow, is titled "Christmas Warm Feeling." Members will bring "mug rugs" (coasters) that they have woven and paired with the design of a mug of their choice. The mugs will be wrapped with their corresponding mug rugs and filled with items such as tea bags and cookies. They will then be donated to the Beatitude House in Youngstown.
Carolyn Furnish, 57, Canfield, displayed her mug rug at a recent class. It matches the mug with a depiction of a double-layer piece of strawberry and chocolate cake, and will be filled and donated along with the others next month.
"We try to do at least one community service thing per year," Andraso said. The group has also donated handwoven gloves and hats for those in need, in addition to making contributions to Santa's Workshop.
YAWG also provided Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Warren with a loom; they've performed demonstrations at various schools and events. Several years go, members taught fifth graders at Western Reserve Middle School how to weave; the students then raffled off their rugs in order to raise money for their class trip. Basket weaving classes also have been taught at several schools, including Hubbard and Howland high schools.
"We do everything," said Ken Macmillan, 72, one of only two male members. He started out making rugs for his family, and his favorite activity is doing demonstrations with the weaving looms.
Macmillan, who said he also enjoys the solitude of weaving by himself, laughed and said, "My wife dragged me into this."
His wife, Felicia Macmillan, believes some people are inherently gifted with the ability and desire to weave.
"You're born with it," she said. "Once you start those gourds and you start weaving, you can't help it."