weavers

Let it flow: a selection of scarves from handspun yarn at the San Juan Weaver’s Guild show in 2019. (Courtesy photo)

It’s the time of year not only to be thinking about bundling up, but actually doing something about it.

And on Saturday, you have your chance.

The San Juan Weavers Guild (SJWG), a collective of local artisans, has been in this region for years.

The guild was formed in January 1977, when “nine fledgling weavers” came together to exchange ideas and determine how they might offer handwoven items to the public.

A year later, their first sale was part of a local potter’s sale. Perhaps surprisingly, the coterie of fledglings sold 200 items.

Today, the guild boasts more than 60 members and sells upwards of 1,500 pieces at its annual sale. Members of the SJWG reside in Telluride, Ridgway, Montrose, Olathe, Delta and Grand Junction, “All up and down the Grand Valley here,” guild member Janet Miller said.

The group’s sale is extremely popular (a line forms early to get in). It’s a tradition they hope continues this weekend, when the 43rd annual iteration of the show returns Saturday.

It will be held at a new venue: the Ute Indian Museum.

It almost didn’t take place at all.

“We were very disappointed not to be able to hold it last year,” Miller said. “Holding it this year involved a very difficult decision, in view of the current health crisis in Montrose. A lot of people have been cancelling events because they’re worried. We got together and discussed it, and I do believe the decision to host it was unanimous. We just didn’t want to give up: we were offered the space at the Ute museum, and we thought it was right for us. We’re excited to see how it goes.”

Colorful scarves from handspun yarn, baskets, ornaments, jewelry and yarns for spinning will all be on offer. Miller could not be precise in her descriptions because — per guild tradition — no one knows exactly what’s up for sale until they open the boxes on Friday and see for themselves.

“We don’t know until inventory is checked in the day before what will actually be included,” Nancy deCastro, the guild’s show and sale coordinator, has said. “It’s always exciting to see what our members have been creating, and since we were unable to host this event last year, we’ve had even more time to build our inventory. Regular visitors to our sales arrive early, but also know that there will still be a good selection of items throughout the day for those who can’t be there when the doors open.”

The guild is still in existence for the reason it was founded: to pass along knowledge.

“Our model is to share, and to educate others about these skills that were very common in the past, but aren’t anymore,” Miller said. “We’re trying to keep this knowledge somewhat alive, and share it through future generations. Tons of things have been lost: People used to know how to weave a shirt on the loom, for example, and have it come out almost finished. But we no longer have the knowledge of how weavers did this. They would weave a shirt from a single piece of fabric. Today, the best we can do is weave separate pieces” — sleeves, bodice — “and sew them all together. Or, we weave a single piece of fabric, and cut it up.”

The show is Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. November is Native American Heritage Month, and admission at the museum is half-price.

The museum will host a free event Sunday, including a tour by museum director CJ Brafford, screening of various Native short films, a flute performance, samplings of chili and native Frybread, and more. The day ends with director Brafford (Oglala Lakota Sioux) offering stories around the campfire, from 6-8 p.m. On Nov. 27, the museum hosts another free event: the short-film festival “Native America.” To learn more about the Ute museum, visit historycolorado.org. For more about the San Juan Weavers Guild, visit sanjuanweavers.org.