Posted by: bschutzgruber | July 27, 2017

Weaving at the University of Michigan Medical Center

Since 2002 members of the Ann Arbor Fiberarts Guild have been weaving at the University of Michigan Medical Center Comprehensive Cancer Center.  AAFG member Marion Marzolf was asked to set up a weaving program as a form of entertainment and distraction for patients waiting to see the doctor. The University Medical Center owned a Harrisville Floor Loom (4 harness 36″) that could be used to weave cloth for hats that could be given to the patients free of charge.

The program is part of the U of M Cancer Center Patient & Family Support Services Art Therapy Department. For the past 15 years we have been set up in a variety of corners, hallways, rooms, nooks, crannies, and now have a home in the main lobby as different weavers come in Monday through Friday to weave for several hours. Over the years nearly a dozen members, myself included, have volunteered to weave or sew hats. We have a budget for purchasing yarns and supplemental fabric, plus other weavers donate yarn. We put 7 yards onto the loom each time and will get about 18-20 hats out of that. So far we have given away close to 1,900 hats!

We spend almost as much time chatting with people as we do weaving.  We hear stories of family members (both here in the USA and from around the world) who would weave, spin, knit, crochet, quilt, tat, cross-stitch, and more. Patients’ faces light up with smiles as they find ‘just the right hat’. And for those who would like to try their hand at weaving we give a simple lesson.

With the loan of a smaller loom we wove memorial handkerchiefs for the Bereavement Center for several years.

Currently we are weaving fabric for the hats as well as for pockets that are sewn onto canvas bags because depending on the treatment, not everyone is in need of a hat.

As far as I know we are the only program of this kind in the country and we were featured in the 2015 Summer issue of Thrive magazine (published by the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center).

In November 2016 we were contacted by the daughter of Josephine Grant Strobel.
“Josephine was a great weaver having learned from Swedish tapestry weaver Lillian Holm while in high school in the late 1930’s at Kingswood (part of the Cranbrook Schools in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan). She loved it and found great peace and fulfillment in weaving. She was so creative and was a breast cancer survivor. I would be interested in donating her loom to the University of Michigan (I am an alum) and I know she would be overjoyed to know that it was being well used.”

It took some time to work out all the details and I am happy to say that in January of this year, we moved the loom into our corner of the lobby.

The “Big Girl” as we have come to call her is beautiful!  She appears to be homemade as we cannot find any makers mark or brand. The Harrisville loom is still being used for hats, the Big Girl for pockets and the smallest loom is warped so we can give quick lessons if someone is interested in trying.

“We are so pleased to have this wonderful skill shared with our patients, not only for the calming affect it has by sitting and observing the weavers, but also for the lovely hats made for our patients from the weavings.”
–University of Michigan Medical Center Comprehensive Cancer Center


  1. This is a wonderful project Barbara – well done to all of you. I particularly like the idea of the pockets for canvas bags – I get so many of these from, it seems, every event I go to these days and I don’t always want to be carrying around a promotional logo or whatever. A woven pocket would be just the right thing for some of them and is a great way of personalising the bags.

    • Thanks Alastair. We’ve had many visiting medical personnel express interest in the program.

      • I am sure you have – the arts and health are becoming a big thing. About time too!

  2. What a great program!

    Here’s a tidbit from Energy Medicine: The more patients you can get to weave the better. : ) The cross-over pattern of throwing the shuttle, the figure 8 pattern that the yarn makes, coupled with the foot pattern of raising and lowering the warp threads are all very beneficial energy patterns for the body.

    Thank you for doing this and for telling us about it.

  3. What a marvelous program. Whenever I’ve done demonstrations, people want to join in and do some weaving. Nice that you have a loom set up for patients and family/friends. Can you share the pattern for the hat? What type of yarns do you use? Treatment related bad heads are quite sensitive to touch.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi Saly-
      Thanks for your interest. We mainly use 5/2 cotton both warp and weft with some rayon if that’s been donated. All the fabric is machined washed/dried before we sew. The hats are a simple ‘pill box’ style using the woven fabric as either the band or the circle top with commercial fabric (polar fleece for winter and cotton/poly blends for summer). I will post some photos of the hats after I go in on Thursday.

  4. Barb, I love the idea of this community service project. Would you be willing to share the pattern for making these hats. I see someone all ready asked. Most our guilds volunteering involves letting children weave bands on cardboard looms.

    • Thanks, Barb
      I got some photos and dimensions for the hats when I was at the Cancer Center today so I’ll be posting photos and more details about the hat patterns.

  5. […] my July 27, 2017 post Weaving at the University of Michigan Medical Center I have been asked to share more information about the hats we […]

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