The first five gatherings of this organization were organized by Evelyn DeGraw and Marjorie Whitney of the Department of Design, University of Kansas, and were held on the Lawrence campus from 1954-1958 and called Midwest Weavers Conferences.

In 1959 the Kansas City guild organized the gathering at University of Kansas City. At this meeting the name Midwest Weavers Conference was formally adopted.

To establish a treasury to cover any conference shortfalls and to encourage other guilds to take on sponsorship of the conferences, dues were collected: 60 people from 5 states (KS, IA, MO, NE, OK) paid $2 and became Charter Members.

Kansas City sponsored the 1960 conference, followed by Tulsa (1961) and Des Moines (1962); these conferences continued to be held at the University of Kansas City.

In 1962 the first discussion of a need for start-up funds and a constitution and by-laws appears; the latter were ultimately adopted in 1967.

Early conferences featured one guest speaker (some of these were: Berta Frey, Mary Snyder, Mary Pendleton, Budd Stalnaker, Else Regensteiner), guild exhibits and a style show.

In 1964 the conference fee was $10; this included lunch, but the banquet was extra! Style show categories that year were: “suits, coats, skirts, dresses—after 5, dresses—street, men’s apparel, miscellaneous ladies’ apparel and children’s apparel.” Another year the program included a panel discussion entitled “The Great Debate: Original Weaving vs. Book Weaving.” Some conferences offered demonstrations on such topics as bobbin lace, macramé, tapestry techniques and spinning. The first commercial exhibits appeared in Denver in 1966 (American Craftsman’s Council, Burg’s of Lund, EB Bosworth, Countryside Handweavers, EE Gilmore, Mary Pendleton, Paula Simmons, Robin & Russ and Studio Knit Center).

Initially the organization was governed by a permanent secretary and treasurer with president and vice president being chosen from the guild sponsoring the next conference. Henry Hoffman of Shawnee, KS, served as secretary from 1952- 1970. Marjorie O’Shaunessy came on board in 1971 as secretary/treasurer.

In 1980 new by-laws were adopted which changed the name of the organization to Midwest Weavers Association and established a Board of Directors; Midwest Weavers Conference refers to the conferences specifically.

By MWC 1982, Ames, IA, guest speaker was Gerhardt Knoedel (Cranbrook Academy of Art), there were 39 mini-sessions, 6 maxi-sessions, 11 demonstrations, 20 guild exhibits and 20 vendors; attendance was just under 650. Conferences continued to be held annually until 1991; at that time it was decided to hold them in the off-Convergence years.

By 1980 the mailing/membership list had grown to 6000 names and was impossible to manage—many members had become inactive, moved with no forwarding addresses, passed on, etc. Conferences at that time often had 500-600 attendees.

Today we have an up-to-date membership list maintained by a Database Manager. Conference attendance has been 250-300 in recent years.

Since 2005 the board has put forth a great deal of effort toward assisting the host guilds in every way possible beginning with putting together a booklet of conference guidelines and moving forward with web presence and more communication with members through newsletters, the website and email.

So……how old are we?   You can decide – counting back to the first gathering at Lawrence in 1954, or beginning with the first guild-sponsored meeting in Kansas City in 1959, or counting from the adoption of our constitution and by-laws. If you count conferences, our 50th conference was held in 2017!

So, any way you count it, we are doing well!  

Written by Vicki Tardy in 2010

Below are the locations or sponsoring guilds for each of the conferences:

1954 Lawrence, KS

1955 Lawrence, KS

1956 Lawrence, KS

1957 Lawrence, KS

1958 Lawrence, KS

1959 Kansas City, KS

1960 Kansas City, KS

1961 Tulsa, OK

1962 Des Moines, IA

1963 Topeka, KS

1964 Lincoln, NE

1965 Wichita, KS

1966 Denver, CO

1967 Columbia, MO

1968 Tulsa, OK

1969 Kansas City, KS

1970 Des Moines, IA

1971 St. Louis, MO

1972 Lincoln, NE

1973 Denver, CO

1974 Minneapolis, MN

1975 Kansas City, KS

1976 Naperville, IL

1977 St. Louis, MO

1978 Cincinnati, OH

1979 Milwaukee, WI

1980 Lake Forest, IL

1981 Columbia, MO

1982 Ames, IA

1983 Berea, OH

1984 St. Paul, MN

1985 Bloomington, IN

1986 Denver, CO

1987 Lawrence, KS

1989 Cincinnati, OH

1990 Pittsburgh, PA

1991 West Lafayette, IN

1993 Cedar Falls, IA

1995 Milwaukee, WI

1997 Canton, OH

1999 Bloomington, IN

2001 St. Louis, MO

2003 St. Louis, MO

2005 Sheboygan, WI

2007 Omaha, NE

2009 Grinnell, IA

2011 Hancock, MI

2013 Emporia, KS

2015 St Paul, MN

2017 Indianapolis, IN

2019 Grinnell, IA

2023 Des Moines, IA