The craze of handweaving began with the dawn of civilization; it is “very, very old, like, beginning of civilization kind of old,” says Sandra Swarbrick, president of the board of directors of the Handweavers Guild of America, Inc., an international guild with members in Germany, England, New Zealand, Japan, Norway, France, Italy, Israel and many others.
“Handweaving has been around, like, forever,” Swarbrick says. Before the industrial revolution, everything was made by hand. The art developed as civilization developed. However, “the industrial revolution killed (handweaving),” Swarbrick says. But with the dawning of the arts and crafts movement started by William Morris and John Ruskin of 1880s Britain, handweaving enjoyed resurgence; and in the 1900s, the guild system began forming. The Weavers’ Guild of Boston, the first American handweaving guild was conceived in May of 1922 when Ellen Webster, and Francis Stewart Kershaw, wife of the director of the Museum of Fine Arts, gathered 10 fellow handweaving enthusiasts around her Cambridge, Mass. tea table on a Saturday afternoon. From there, “the nature of the craft has evolved and continues to evolve,” Swarbrick says.
“Now, there are a lot of people who are doing handweaving and are pretty good at it,” Swarbrick continues. “There are younger people getting involved in the craft. I see it as growing. We get lots of new members through the Internet.”
As it grows, handweaving is continuously benefiting those who participate, especially the elderly.
“The research indicates that having a purpose in life has been found to be very important,” says J. Adam Milgram, executive director of the Stein Institute for Research on Aging at the University of California, San Diego. “If you have a hobby, it makes life meaningful.”