Handmade: After 60-year wait, Novi man takes up weaving

Jocelynn Brown
The Detroit News

Eric Schillinger of Novi has been “intrigued” by the art of weaving almost his entire life, but it took 60 years for him to develop skills as a weaver, and if you ask what took so long, well — you’ll get a response that’s short and sweet — “Life happens.”

“When I was in school in Greenfield Village, our art teacher introduced us to weaving in the village on those big (floor) looms,” he recalls. “We didn’t do a lot of weaving, but it was something that intrigued me, and I’ve wanted to weave ever since.”

It wouldn’t be until his wife, Kari, decided to give him a weaving class for his 70th birthday that Schillinger would begin learning to weave. Still working at the time, he says, “My wife took me to Baker Allegan Studios & Gallery in Allegan. They rent time on big floor looms, so you can weave a rag rug. She gave me that for my birthday and I wove a rag rug. She also gave me a little 10-inch Cricket loom.”

Needless to say, Schillinger, now 72 and retired, has been hooked on weaving ever since. Asked if it’s everything he thought it would be, he says, “Yes, it’s fascinating. I absolutely love it! I made 15 scarves for Christmas (presents). I wove a shawl for my daughter, and I’m currently working on a vest for myself.” The vest is a project he’s doing with the help of his weaving instructor, Nancy Peck, at Michigan Fine Yarns in Livonia. One of his more intricate finished projects is a computer bag he wove, using strips of batik fabric. It was something he learned at Woven Art in East Lansing. He lined the bag with the help of his wife, but says he’s also learning to sew.

As the only weaver in the family Schillinger says, “My wife is an artist in lots of other mediums, including knitting, which is actually how we found Nancy Peck.” The couple attends class together every Monday night at Michigan Fine Yarns. He weaves while she knits. (What a delightful couple’s night out!)

Schillinger enjoys the whole learning process of weaving. “I’ve been intrigued by it all my life, and now that I’m doing it, what’s inspiring me is what’s happening with it. I seem to be able to do it pretty well,” he says. “People are always encouraging me, and it’s learning. It’s a chance to put my brain back to work and keep it active. Some of the weaving is pretty complicated.”

He says he wove every day up to Christmas, but he’s sort of taking a break these days, weaving every other day or so. Meanwhile, he’s been putting together about a 40-inch wide floor loom, the third in his collection, which includes a 25-inch wide rigid heddle. He says, “I have the floor loom half warped. I’m struggling through the first time.”

When it comes to a reaction from male friends about the fact that he weaves, Schillinger says, “I get a lot of eyebrows on the ceiling, and the typical response — ‘You what?’ It’s not something that men today do, but if you go back in time, men were the weavers. I’m comfortable with it.”

Along with weaving, Schillinger also makes wooden fountain pens that he sells under the name Quaine Lane Arts. Visit quainelanearts.com where you’ll find not only beautifully handcrafted pens for sale, but his entertaining blog on weaving.

(If you know a man who knits, crochets, weaves or sews, please email me at jbrown@detroitnews.com with a sentence, or two, describing his work, along with his contact information.)

Detroit News Staff Writer Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150 or jbrown@detroitnews.com. For more news and giveaways, visit her blog at detroitnews.com/crafts.

Contact Eric Schillinger at quainelanearts.com.