Throughout this spring and summer, the committee members of the WGM Artisan Sale: Plied, Dyed and Woven (formerly Fiber Fair), will be sharing a series of articles about the sale, including the story of the new name, information on how to participate, and the new location at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. Although the sale isn’t until October, we want you to be thinking now about participating and what questions you have for the committee. Read on for more info about how the sale got its start.

History of the Annual Sale

by Katie Oberton

The annual Weavers Guild of Minnesota sale has been a staple for members and the community alike. The History of the Weavers Guild of Minnesota 1940-1990 by Jean Seeker mentions numerous iterations of a guild sale, including the first guild-sponsored sale in the spring of 1956. At that time, the organization expected each member to donate at least one piece of work, but also encouraged members to sell their own wares, with the Guild receiving 25% of proceeds. In the fall of 1956, they held another sale where the goods were all made from materials provided by the Guild, and the labor of weaving was provided by the members. There was a demonstration area, where community members were encouraged to try their hand at weaving, and then could take home a sample of their handmade work. 

In 1974, Fiber Fair as we know it came to be. Unlike previous sales, Fiber Fair offered “only fiber items hand-Crafted by Guild members.” (Sound familiar? The annual sale still runs on this premise.) At that time, the guild was experiencing an influx of members; in fact, the number of members would peak that year at around 800. The sale brought the guild publicity, a bit of revenue, and it was decided to make it an annual event.

According to the guild history, the fall Fiber Fair was so successful in providing income to guild members and to the guild itself that a spring fair was added in 1985 and repeated in 1986. At this time, Fiber Fair was held at a shopping center in St.Paul. In 2001 when WGM moved into its current location as a tenant of the Textile Center, Fiber Fair moved to the auditorium. Fiber Fair was held in the Textile Center auditorium every fall until 2013, when construction from the Green Line Light Rail encouraged WGM to move the sale to Northrup King Building, where it remained through 2018. The move to the Heritage and History Center at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in 2020 will give the sale, now called Plied, Dyed & Woven, a new venue and a fresh look. 

Although the sale has changed over the years since its inception, the purpose remains the same:  the sale is a benefit for the members. The Fiber Fair sale has always been about community within the Weavers Guild, and the Plied, Dyed, and Woven Artisan Sale is no different. We want to help you showcase your work, and meet new fiber friends along the way. This is a community event where all are welcome. We are excited to continue this long tradition within the Guild, and we hope you will all join us as we come together to celebrate and share our love of weaving, spinning, and dyeing.

Katie Oberton is the artist behind West Ash Designs (@west.ash.designs) and a Board member for WGM. She also serves on the Artisan Sale team.