The Long Thread Podcast

Long Thread Media

The Stories of Cloth, Thread, and Their Makers

  • 35 minutes 44 seconds
    Rowland & Chinami Ricketts, Indigo Artists

    Indigo is a unique dyestuff, no less so for being found in so many different plants. Coaxing the blue hue out of green leaves and onto yarn or cloth requires a combination of chemistry and skill that has arisen across the globe.

    Rowland and Chinami Ricketts each found their own way to indigo in Tokushima, Japan: Rowland was looking for a sustainable artistic medium after learning that the darkroom chemicals in his photography were making their way into local streams where he was teaching English. Chinami was seeking a colorful lifelong practice working with her hands, and it made sense to pursue the specialty of her region. Tokushima is celebrated as one of the leading centers for indigo cultivation, and both Rowland and Chinami took on an apprenticeship in traditional Japanese methods of working with indigo.

    Rowland and Chinami are now located in Bloomington, Indiana, where Rowland is a Professor in Indiana University’s Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design. Though thousands of miles from where they first learned to grow indigo, Indiana also has a temperate climate that suits Persecaria tinctoria plants. Following the cycles of planting, harvesting, and processing, they cultivate a crop of indigo for their own work and to support other artists each year.

    Rowland’s earlier indigo works included noren, a form of decorative home textile that often screens a door, and geometric paste-resist wall hangings. In recent years, he has taken on more large-scale installations that play with light, volume, and even sound; these works have occupied interior and exterior spaces on several continents.

    Chinami chose to pursue the difficult kasuri technique, a bind-dye-weave method akin to ikat. Chinami creates warp and weft kasuri in patterns that require great skill and precision to dye and weave. Her primary format is narrow-width woven cloth intended for kimono and obi, though recently she has transformed that cloth into wall-mounted artwork.

    In addition to their separate work, Rowland and Chinami collaborated on Zurashi/Slipped, a large yarn-based work created for the Seattle Art Museum exhibition Ikat. We also spoke about Rowland’s explorations of the traditional American coverlet in a few multicolored works.

    Whether you’re drawn to fiber art, traditional textile methods, or the magic of indigo, you’ll love this interview.

    This episode is available in two formats, a full version that includes portions in Japanese and English (available in the Handwoven Library) and a voice-over version in English only (available through the regular podcast feed).

    Links

    Ricketts Indigo

    Watch Rowland discuss the recent piece Bow as part of Project Atrium at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Jacksonville, Florida.

    See photos of Chinami as she plans, dyes, and completes a project in kasuri.

    See Zurashi/Slipped on exhibit at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art until September 1, 2024.

    The Fort Wayne Museum of Art exhibit also includes a number of pieces from Rowland’s series Unbound, which uses historical American coverlet patterns in a meditation on the colonial globalism of the triangle trade.

    This episode is brought to you by:

    Treenway Silks is where weavers, spinners, knitters and stitchers find the silk they love. Select from the largest variety of silk spinning fibers, silk yarn, and silk threads & ribbons at TreenwaySilks.com. You’ll discover a rainbow of colors, thoughtfully hand-dyed in Colorado. Love natural? Treenway’s array of wild silks provide choices beyond white.

    If you love silk, you’ll love Treenway Silks, where superior quality and customer service are guaranteed.

    At Stewart Heritage Farm in New Market, Tennessee, farm to fiber and yarn has been a part of their story for 20 years. Home to a small herd of alpacas, Stewart Heritage produces small-batch roving, yarn, and finished goods available in 100-percent alpaca and natural blends in natural tones and brilliant hand-dyed colors. Discover the fine quality, long-lasting comfort, and soft luxury of alpaca to wear and enjoy in your home. Explore and shop alpaca at stewartheritagefarm.com.

    The Adirondack Wool and Arts Festival is the perfect way to spend a weekend surrounded by over 150 craft vendors in Greenwich, New York. Discover a curated group of vendors featuring the best of wool and artisan crafters. Throughout the weekend enjoy workshops, free horse drawn wagon rides, free kids’ crafts, a fiber sheep show, and a sanctioned cashmere goat show. Join us September 21 & 22, 2024, and every fall! For more information visit adkwoolandarts.com.

    13 July 2024, 6:00 am
  • 51 minutes 54 seconds
    Spotlight Episode: Brown Sheep Company

    Andrew Wells is the third generation of the iconic American yarn manufacturer Brown Sheep Company. Living near the family business outside Scotts Bluff, Nebraska, he grew up giving tours and sweeping the floors when his parents, Peggy and Robert Wells, ran the business. His grandfather, Harlan Brown, had been a sheep and lamb farmer before deciding to begin processing wool yarns, a business he eventually passed along to his daughter and son-in-law. (The company is named not for the color of the sheep but for the Brown family.)

    In 1980, the following ad appeared in Spin Off magazine:

    Sheep Company Starts Mill

    The Brown Sheep Co. of Mitchell, Nebraska, has started a spinning mill. They have wools in gray, black and white and knitting and weaving yarns for sale. For more information write: The Brown Sheep Co., Rt. 1, Mitchell, NE 69357. Send $1 for samples.

    The risk that Harlan Brown took in 1980 put the family on a course to become an important resource for American crafters. Decades later, Andrew and his family are pushing their commitment to A

    Building on Tradition

    The first five decades of Brown Sheep Company have been times of decline for both natural fibers and American manufacturing, but the Wells family continues producing wool yarn. Mantaining consistent quality in the face of such seismic shifts has called on the family’s creativity and perseverance. Instead of straying from their core values by moving production overseas or reducing quality, they continue purchasing wool from the American West and creating yarn in their small-town facility.

    Brown Sheep Company performs as much of the processing as they can do themselves, from spinning through dyeing and packaging. Finding a dye house has become a challenge for many yarn manufacturers, and Western Nebraska has a dry climate with scant water resources. Brown Sheep Company keeps the process within their own hands by doing all their own dyeing. Their dye facility conserves water and energy by filtering waste water to use for the next dye bath (even if it’s a different color). The company stores a sample length of each dye lot for years, just to make sure that each skein of Lamb’s Pride or Nature Spun will match the same colorway that you bought years ago.

    The choice of fiber reflects Brown Sheep Company’s philosophy, too. Instead of chasing ultrafine fibers that prove less durable in finished goods, Andrew travels to the Center of the Nation Wool Warehouse in South Dakota to choose soft wool in grades appropriate for hats, mittens, scarves, and sweaters. Lamb’s Pride blends in some mohair for luster, drape, and durability. The easy-care classics Cotton Fleece and Cotton Fine include enough wool to stay light and elastic, which makes them popular for summer and baby items as well as weaving. Their newest yarn, Harborside Aran, is composed of four plies for a substantial yarn inspired by Irish sweaters; the palette of 17 colors has a rich, slightly heathered look.

    On the Needles and Beyond

    These days, Brown Sheep yarns may be most popular for knitting and crochet, but the company has always served a variety of fiber crafts. Lamb’s Pride and other non-superwash wool yarns are go-to essentials for fulling (knitted or crocheted feltmaking). The company offers a number of their yarns wound on cones to make them accessible to weavers from pin loom to rigid heddle to multi-shaft.

    Brown Sheep Company’s yarns have been used in weaving since the very beginning, when Harlan Brown sold his yarns to Diné (Navajo) weavers out of his car on his first sales trip. Diné weavers continue to use Brown Sheep yarns in their handwoven textiles, and they are an important partner for the company. Closer to home, the company’s Director of Merchandising—and Andrew’s wife—Brittany Wells has fallen in love with weaving and design. In addition to designing for magazines such as Handwoven and Little Looms, she created an officially registered pattern for Scotts Bluff County Tartan. Andrew and Brittany’s young sons are the fourth generation of the Brown-Wells family to work in the family business—so far, as models.

    In this spotlight episode, Andrew and Brittany talk about the process of making high-quality wool yarns, the impact that Brown Sheep Company has in the American craft landscape, and what makes them more excited than ever to carry on the family tradition.

    To see photos of Brown Sheep Company’s yarns, the Wells family, and the projects discussed in the episode, visit the show notes at Handwoven magazine.

    Links

    This episode is brought to you by:

    Brown Sheep Company is a four-generation family business bringing you high quality wool and natural fiber yarns. We spin and dye U.S.-grown wool into hundreds of vibrant colors at our mill in western Nebraska. Our mill has something to offer for every craft, from our well-known knitting and crochet yarns to wool roving for spinning and felting. We offer U.S-made needlepoint yarn as well as yarn on cones for weaving. Learn more about our company and products at BrownSheep.com.

    6 July 2024, 6:00 am
  • 1 hour 21 seconds
    Kate Gagnon Osborn & Courtney Kelley, Kelbourne Woolens

    Working together in a Philadelphia yarn store, Kate Gagnon Osborn and Courtney Kelley learned how to help customers choose the right yarn for a project, welcome in timid new knitters, and create samples to help move yarn out the door. They learned what didn’t work (donut-shaped balls of yarn that hopped off the shelves and tangled, patterns that used a few yards of a 100-gram skein) and what did (unfussy classic yarns, wearable sweaters, and lots of fun-to-knit hats). They founded Kelbourne Woolens in 2008 to offer yarns and patterns to local yarn shops like the one where they met. Their academic and artistic backgrounds gave them a love of fibers—both studied weaving and dyeing—but much of what they’ve learned in business has been gleaned through trial and error, common sense, and their extraordinarily collaborative partnership.

    They have developed a slightly eclectic grouping of yarns based on natural fibers: a range of colorwork-friendly 100% wools, a trio of heathered and tweed yarns milled in the Donegal tradition, some lightweight summer cottons, a mohair blend, and several other projects at various stages of development. Their Germantown yarn, named for the Philadephia neighborhood and the centuries-old American wool yarn tradition, was fueled by Courtney’s love of history and Kelbourne’s desire to offer a domestically grown and spun yarn that welcomes knitters at all levels.

    In addition to developing yarns for the Kelbourne Woolens label, they distribute a small number of other yarn companies, bringing their yarns to American yarn stores. That includes Faroese company Navia, which preserves the knitting and agricultural heritage of a tiny group of North Atlantic islands, and Misha & Puff, a knitwear company that offers a RWS-certified line of yarns and patterns.

    Having recently opened a retail space attached to their warehouse in the Mount Airy neighborhood of Philadephia, Kate and Courtney now have their own space to welcome knitters in person, experience the currents of the knitting world, and learn to suppport other yarn shops.

    Links

    Kelbourne Woolens’s website and store locator

    Read more about the history of Germantown yarns in “Yarn with a History as Old as America” in PieceWork Winter 2022.

    The Wool Islands, a short documentary about Faroese wool and yarn

    This episode is brought to you by:

    Treenway Silks is where weavers, spinners, knitters and stitchers find the silk they love. Select from the largest variety of silk spinning fibers, silk yarn, and silk threads & ribbons at TreenwaySilks.com. You’ll discover a rainbow of colors, thoughtfully hand-dyed in Colorado. Love natural? Treenway's array of wild silks provide choices beyond white.

    If you love silk, you’ll love Treenway Silks, where superior quality and customer service are guaranteed.

    KnitPicks.com has been serving the knitting community for over 20 years and believes knitting is for everyone, which is why they work hard to make knitting accessible, affordable, and approachable. Knit Picks responsibly sources its fiber to create an extensive selection of affordable yarns like High Desert from Shaniko Wool Company in Oregon. Are you looking for an ethical, eco-friendly yarn to try? Look no further than Knit Picks’ Eco yarn line. Need needles? Knit Picks makes a selection for knitters right at their Vancouver, Washington headquarters.

    KnitPicks.com—a place for every knitter.

    29 June 2024, 6:00 am
  • 39 minutes 11 seconds
    Jess Zafarris, Author & Etymologist

    If you knit, spin, sew, weave, or follow any crafty pursuit, you will not be surprised that many of our most common metaphors come from textiles. They are interwoven in our vocabulary, and whether you like to spin a yarn from words or fibers, you will recognize many of them.

    But then there are the words whose textile roots are less obvious: Rocket. Bombastic. And we’ve forgotten the regional roots of some kinds of fabric, where the skill and creativity refined in a particular place produced an exceptional kind of cloth. You might know what fiber comes from Kashmir, but can you identify the sources of muslin, gauze, damask, or calico? You might know that the pejorative term “shoddy” comes from the fabric trade, but can you identify the roots of tawdry, sleazy, and chintzy?

    In this episode, Jess Zafarris and I trace the threads of textiles in our vocabulary. Jess is co-host of Words Unravelled (one of my favorite podcasts) and author of several books, most recently Words from Hell: Unearthing the Darkest Secrets of English Etymology.

    Links

    Useless Etymology website

    Words Unravelled with RobWords and Jess Zafarris podcast audio and video

    Useless Etymology Instagram @uselessetymology

    Rigmaroles & Ragamuffins: Unpicking Words We Derive from Textiles and Ruffians and Loose Women: More Words Derived from Textiles by Elinor Kapp are available from the author.

    Dhaka muslin

    “Drizzling: A Regency Rainy-Day Hobby”

    Shoddy From Devil’s Dust to the Renaissance of Rags by Hannah Rose Shell

    This episode is brought to you by:

    Treenway Silks

    Treenway Silks is where weavers, spinners, knitters and stitchers find the silk they love. Select from the largest variety of silk spinning fibers, silk yarn, and silk threads & ribbons at TreenwaySilks.com. You’ll discover a rainbow of colors, thoughtfully hand-dyed in Colorado. Love natural? Treenway’s array of wild silks provide choices beyond white.

    If you love silk, you’ll love Treenway Silks, where superior quality and customer service are guaranteed.

    Yan Barn of Kansas

    Learning how to weave but need the right shuttle? Hooked on knitting and in search of a lofty yarn? Yarn Barn of Kansas has been your partner in fiber since 1971. Whether you are around the corner from the Yarn Barn of Kansas, or around the country, they are truly your "local yarn store" with an experienced staff to answer all your fiber questions. Visit yarnbarn-ks.com to shop, learn, and explore.

    15 June 2024, 6:00 am
  • 59 minutes 56 seconds
    Masey Kaplan & Jen Simonic, Loose Ends Project

    When Jen Simonic and Masey Kaplan’s friend lost her mother, she had the challenge of going through her mother’s things while grieving her loss. Among her posessions was something almost every crafter has at least one of: a work in progress. Jen and Masey had each finished projects for bereaved family members before, but neither of them could take on this one, a pair of crocheted blankets for two very tall sons.

    If the two of them were happy to finish a loved one’s unfinished craft project, they thought, other fiber artists would be willing to do it, too—fiber artists with a variety of craft skills. And there must be families of deceased crafters who weren’t lucky to know someone personally who could take on the task but would treasure having a finished item that their loved one began for them. So began Loose Ends, an organization that Jen and Masey think of as matchmakers for heirs and finishers of uncompleted works,

    Loose Ends, which was established in May 2023 as a 501(c)3 nonprofit, set out to build a network that connects volunteer crafters with local families to complete projects that were left unfinished by death or disability. Hanging flyers near their homes, Jen and Masey quickly found finishers and projects in crochet, knitting, and quilting. Loose Ends currently seeks finishers in any textile handcraft and matches finishers with projects across the world. Projects under way include weaving, embroidery, and beading, as far afield as Alaska, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. Their informational flyer is now available in 12 languages.

    You may be surprised to learn that for about 2,000 projects in process, 25,000 volunteers have signed up as finishers—so crafters far outnumber craft projects at this time. But Loose Ends is always looking for more volunteer finishers, both to cover a variety of crafts and to match families with nearby finishers when possible.

    Any of us who love making things with our hands hate to think of our work in progress going to waste, languishing in boxes or (worse) winding up in the trash if we’re not able to finish them ourselves. By matching finishers and unfinished works, Loose Ends brings solace to families of deceased crafters and honors the work of their loved ones.

    Links:

    Loose Ends Project website

    Sign up as a finisher or request help with a loved one’s project on the web forms.

    Help families and finishers find Loose Ends by hanging flyers, which are available in several languages.

    Visit the website to make a donation.

    This episode is brought to you by:

    Treenway Silks is where weavers, spinners, knitters and stitchers find the silk they love. Select from the largest variety of silk spinning fibers, silk yarn, and silk threads & ribbons at TreenwaySilks.com. You'll discover a rainbow of colors, thoughtfully hand-dyed in Colorado. Love natural? Treenway's array of wild silks provide choices beyond white.

    If you love silk, you'll love Treenway Silks, where superior quality and customer service are guaranteed.

    At Stewart Heritage Farm in New Market, Tennessee, farm to fiber and yarn has been a part of their story for 20 years. Home to a small herd of alpacas, Stewart Heritage produces small-batch roving, yarn, and finished goods available in 100-percent alpaca and natural blends in natural tones and brilliant hand-dyed colors. Discover the fine quality, long-lasting comfort, and soft luxury of alpaca to wear and enjoy in your home. Explore and shop alpaca at stewartheritagefarm.com.

    Brown Sheep Company is a four-generation family business bringing you high quality wool and natural fiber yarns. We spin and dye U.S.-grown wool into hundreds of vibrant colors at our mill in western Nebraska. Our mill has something to offer for every craft, from our well-known knitting and crochet yarns to wool roving for spinning and felting. We offer U.S-made needlepoint yarn as well as yarn on cones for weaving. Learn more about our company and products at BrownSheep.com.

    KnitPicks.com has been serving the knitting community for over 20 years and believes knitting is for everyone, which is why they work hard to make knitting accessible, affordable, and approachable. Knit Picks responsibly sources its fiber to create an extensive selection of affordable yarns like High Desert from Shaniko Wool Company in Oregon. Are you looking for an ethical, eco-friendly yarn to try? Look no further than Knit Picks’ Eco yarn line. Need needles? Knit Picks makes a selection for knitters right at their Vancouver, Washington headquarters.

    KnitPicks.com—a place for every knitter.

    1 June 2024, 6:00 am
  • 42 minutes 52 seconds
    Eileen Lee: From Quilts to Jeans to Painted Warps (classic)

    A career professional at Levi Strauss & Company, Eileen Lee learned about dyeing, weaving, and sewing on an international scale: giant factories full of loud looms weaving 2/2 twill, pattern pieces cut out of four-foot-high stacks of cloth, and no possibility of adding a tuck here or a dart there without retooling. During her years in the industry, Eileen saw major shifts in the market for the company's signature product, as their target customer began to look elsewhere and their manufacturing shifted overseas.

    A century ago, Eileen's grandmother saw a tradition on the cusp of changing, even disappearing. Hawaiian quilting grew from the basic stitches taught by Christian missionaries into a distinct cultural tradition, with large appliqué motifs and echo quilting lines. But the quilters who made these quilts didn't share them outside their families; some quilts were burned to keep their designs a secret. Hannah Ku´umililani Cummings Baker threw open her cache of quilt designs and taught the skill to anyone who cared to learn, creating both a wider market and a fresh generation of quilters. One of her students was her granddaughter Eileen, who wrote about her grandmother in PieceWork Summer 2021.

    From her grandmother's tutelage to a career in mass-market textiles to her current studio and teaching practice, Eileen Lee's story is woven and stitched together.

    This episode is brought to you by:

    Treenway Silks is where weavers, spinners, knitters and stitchers find the silk they love. Select from the largest variety of silk spinning fibers, silk yarn, and silk threads & ribbons at TreenwaySilks.com. You'll discover a rainbow of colors, thoughtfully hand-dyed in Colorado. Love natural? Treenway's array of wild silks provide choices beyond white.

    If you love silk, you'll love Treenway Silks, where superior quality and customer service are guaranteed.

    You’re ready to start a new project but don’t have the right yarn. Or you have the yarn but not the right tool. Yarn Barn of Kansas can help! They stock a wide range of materials and equipment for knitting, weaving, spinning, and crochet. They ship all over the country, usually within a day or two of receiving the order.

    Plan your project this week, start working on it next week! See yarnbarn-ks.com to get started.

    Brown Sheep Company is a four-generation family business bringing you high quality wool and natural fiber yarns. We spin and dye U.S.-grown wool into hundreds of vibrant colors at our mill in western Nebraska. Our mill has something to offer for every craft, from our well-known knitting and crochet yarns to wool roving for spinning and felting. We offer U.S-made needlepoint yarn as well as yarn on cones for weaving. Learn more about our company and products at BrownSheep.com.

    18 May 2024, 6:00 am
  • 55 minutes 22 seconds
    Lilly Marsh, Custom Weaver

    Lilly Marsh creates blankets, shawls, and other cloth, almost exclusively from local wool. Working closely with farmers and the nearby Battenkill Fiber Mill, she gets to know not only her neighbors but the fibers they grow: the surprisingly lovely wool from East Friesian sheep raised to produce milk, the springy Dorset crosses that are popular in the region, and other fibers of the Hudson Valley Textile Network. Formerly a shepherd herself, Lilly knows how important and unique this wool is to the families who raise it.

    She is a full-time professional custom weaver. “I weave primarily with all local wool,” she says. “That’s what I do full time, day after day after day.” The cloth that she weaves helps farms and small businesses transform their fibers into finished products that shoppers at a farmers’ market can take home and enjoy. She sees her role as weaver not as the sole artistic voice directing textile production but as one link in the chain between farm and consumer.

    Lilly appreciates her complex, powerful looms and their ability to create dynamic cloth, but the designs that make her heart sing are the ones that bring out the best in her materials. Where many weavers gravitate toward cotton, silk, and lyocell, she finds wool yarns fascinating and nuanced.

    At earlier points in her textile journey, Lilly was a shepherd herself, raising a flock of Corriedales in Indiana. She earned a PhD in America Studies, focusing on the work of knitter Elizabeth Zimmermann. As she expands her studio and deepens her work with the Hudson Valley Textile Project, she says, "What else would I do with my time? This is what I want to do. If you ask me what I want to do tomorrow, I want to show up at my studio and see what else we can make. Wow, that’s what I want to do."

    Links

    Lilly March Studios

    Hudson Valley Textile Project

    Long Thread Podcast interview with Mary Jeanne Packer

    This episode is brought to you by:

    Treenway Silks is where weavers, spinners, knitters and stitchers find the silk they love. Select from the largest variety of silk spinning fibers, silk yarn, and silk threads & ribbons at TreenwaySilks.com. You’ll discover a rainbow of colors, thoughtfully hand-dyed in Colorado. Love natural? Treenway’s array of wild silks provide choices beyond white.

    If you love silk, you’ll love Treenway Silks, where superior quality and customer service are guaranteed.

    At Stewart Heritage Farm in New Market, Tennessee, farm to fiber and yarn has been a part of their story for 20 years. Home to a small herd of alpacas, Stewart Heritage produces small-batch roving, yarn, and finished goods available in 100-percent alpaca and natural blends in natural tones and brilliant hand-dyed colors. Discover the fine quality, long-lasting comfort, and soft luxury of alpaca to wear and enjoy in your home. Explore and shop alpaca at stewartheritagefarm.com.

    Brown Sheep Company is a four-generation family business bringing you high quality wool and natural fiber yarns. We spin and dye U.S.-grown wool into hundreds of vibrant colors at our mill in western Nebraska. Our mill has something to offer for every craft, from our well-known knitting and crochet yarns to wool roving for spinning and felting. We offer U.S-made needlepoint yarn as well as yarn on cones for weaving. Learn more about our company and products at BrownSheep.com.

    KnitPicks.com has been serving the knitting community for over 20 years and believes knitting is for everyone, which is why they work hard to make knitting accessible, affordable, and approachable. Knit Picks responsibly sources its fiber to create an extensive selection of affordable yarns like High Desert from Shaniko Wool Company in Oregon. Are you looking for an ethical, eco-friendly yarn to try? Look no further than Knit Picks’ Eco yarn line. Need needles? Knit Picks makes a selection for knitters right at their Vancouver, Washington headquarters.

    KnitPicks.com—a place for every knitter.

    4 May 2024, 6:00 am
  • 53 minutes 55 seconds
    Annie MacHale, Inkle Artist

    The call of complexity draws some weavers to more shafts, more structures, more hand-manipulated techniques. For Annie MacHale, refining the techniques and celebrating the artistry of very simple bands has been a lifelong fascination. Starting when she first picked up a shuttle and inkle loom in her teens, Annie has worked in wool, cotton, and hemp, creating practical cloth that’s just a few inches wide.

    Any bandweaver has heard the question more times than they can count: “But what can you do with it?” Annie replies, “The uses are limited only by your imagination.” Her work has found an avid audience and market among guitarists and reenactors. The simplicity of an inkle band is its key to versatility as a strap or ribbon. “A woven band can be so many things to so many people, and in the world of weaving, it’s very simple, but it’s also very useful,” she says. “That’s what attracted me to inkle weaving.” (She has a list of uses on her website for anyone who weaves more bands than they currently have a use for.)

    Although Annie describes her own approach to design as spontaneous, her first book contains an extensive directory of patterns and palettes for weaving inkle bands. In Celebration of Plain Weave can be read as a response to the idea that making plain bands isn’t real weaving. “It seemed to me there was this general sense that plain weave wasn’t all that interesting, that if you wanted to do something cool, you either had to learn some pickup technique or do card weaving. And I disagree with that,” she says.

    Plain weave holds plenty to keep her engaged and exploring, but Annie also plays with pick-up in her work. Her second book focuses on an unusual and complex Baltic technique using three warp colors. She also loves finding connections between her bandweaving and traditional weaving techniques from around the world, from banded Chimayo designs to Scandinavian backstrap bands to Andean pickup.

    Besides weaving miles of inkle bands on her own, Annie enjoys teaching inkle weaving, including basic skills, color and design, and several methods of pickup. “Have loom, will travel,” she says, referring to her upcoming classes across the country (listed on her website).

    Links

    Annie MacHale’s website

    Upcoming class schedule

    In Celebration of Plain Weave

    Three-Color Pickup for Inkle Weavers

    “Inkle Weaving Basics” (free class on Taproot Video)

    “Uses for a Woven Band”

    Annie’s Instagram

    Annie’s woven guitar straps

    This episode is brought to you by:

    Treenway Silks is where weavers, spinners, knitters and stitchers find the silk they love. Select from the largest variety of silk spinning fibers, silk yarn, and silk threads & ribbons at TreenwaySilks.com. You’ll discover a rainbow of colors, thoughtfully hand-dyed in Colorado. Love natural? Treenway's array of wild silks provide choices beyond white.

    If you love silk, you’ll love Treenway Silks, where superior quality and customer service are guaranteed.

    Learning how to weave but need the right shuttle? Hooked on knitting and in search of a lofty yarn? Yarn Barn of Kansas has been your partner in fiber since 1971. Whether you are around the corner from the Yarn Barn of Kansas, or around the country, they are truly your “local yarn store” with an experienced staff to answer all your fiber questions. Visit yarnbarn-ks.com to shop, learn, and explore.

    Brown Sheep Company is a four-generation family business bringing you high quality wool and natural fiber yarns. We spin and dye U.S.-grown wool into hundreds of vibrant colors at our mill in western Nebraska. Our mill has something to offer for every craft, from our well-known knitting and crochet yarns to wool roving for spinning and felting. We offer U.S-made needlepoint yarn as well as yarn on cones for weaving. Learn more about our company and products at BrownSheep.com.

    20 April 2024, 6:00 am
  • 54 minutes 31 seconds
    Alissa Allen, Mycopigments

    “Rule number one: Never drink the dye bath.”

    Indigo and cochineal may be the most widely recognized natural dyes for many fiber artists, and there’s little temptation of sampling an indigo vat or pot of ground insects. But a simmering kettle of dye mushrooms or lichens? That might smell delicious, but if you’re in a class with Alissa Allen, it’s not soup you’re making—it’s an amazing range of colors. Depending on the species you find and the methods of extraction, you may get not only earthy browns and yellows but vivid purple, magenta, green, and more.

    “Mycopigments,” the term that Alissa coined to talk about her work, draws from the word “mycology,” or the study of fungi. From her background as an ecologist with an interest in foraging, she has become an expert and sought-after teacher on the art of extracting pigments from mushrooms and lichens. As interest in mushroom dyeing has grown, the Facebook group she founded on the subject has become a popular international resource for aspiring color foragers.

    One of the most intriguing elements of mushroom dyeing is the regional variation, not only in the mushrooms and lichens available but what influences come from the local biology. To make sure that her students have a good experience in a particular region, Alissa gathers and dries samples in preparation for classes. Having taught from coast to coast, and with a series of classes in Oaxaca, Mexico this fall, her library of mushroom samples is substantial. She sometimes ventures out mushroom-hunting with a small kit to test potential dye sources in the field.

    Essential to Alissa’s work is careful and respectful foraging practice—not, as you might think, to avoid toxic mushrooms but to leave enough fungi and lichens to fulfill their roles in the ecosystem. Collecting only a portion of the specimens she finds and never purchasing dyestuffs gives her enough to dye and teach.

    And the whole process is a source of wonder: What do these chemical compounds do for the mushrooms and fungi that they’re found in? Why did the first person decide to try extracting color from them in the first place? Why do the dyed products so often come out different colors from the original mushrooms? Listen as Alissa Allen shares some of the natural delights that she finds in unexpected places.

    Links

    Mycopigments website

    Mushroom and Lichen Dyers United Facebook group

    Mycopigments Instagram

    Schedule of Alissa’s classes

    This episode is brought to you by:

    Treenway Silks is where weavers, spinners, knitters and stitchers find the silk they love. Select from the largest variety of silk spinning fibers, silk yarn, and silk threads & ribbons at TreenwaySilks.com. You’ll discover a rainbow of colors, thoughtfully hand-dyed in Colorado. Love natural? Treenway’s array of wild silks provide choices beyond white.

    If you love silk, you’ll love Treenway Silks, where superior quality and customer service are guaranteed.

    At Stewart Heritage Farm in New Market, Tennessee, farm to fiber and yarn has been a part of their story for 20 years. Home to a small herd of alpacas, Stewart Heritage produces small-batch roving, yarn, and finished goods available in 100-percent alpaca and natural blends in natural tones and brilliant hand-dyed colors. Discover the fine quality, long-lasting comfort, and soft luxury of alpaca to wear and enjoy in your home. Explore and shop alpaca at stewartheritagefarm.com.

    Brown Sheep Company is a four-generation family business bringing you high quality wool and natural fiber yarns. We spin and dye U.S.-grown wool into hundreds of vibrant colors at our mill in western Nebraska. Our mill has something to offer for every craft, from our well-known knitting and crochet yarns to wool roving for spinning and felting. We offer U.S-made needlepoint yarn as well as yarn on cones for weaving. Learn more about our company and products at BrownSheep.com.

    6 April 2024, 6:00 am
  • 57 minutes 41 seconds
    Sally Fox, Colored Cotton Breeder

    In a period when agriculture moved toward chemicals, genetic engineering, and monoculture, Sally Fox decided to explore what could happen if she collaborated with nature instead of fighting it. With an academic background in entomology, she studied ways to minimize the amount of pesticides needed to grow crops, and the more she saw the effects of those chemicals, the more she wanted to steer clear. Looking to avoid synthetic dyes, she was intrigued when she came across a few seeds of naturally colored brown cotton, which is naturally pest-resistant.

    According to conventional wisdom, brown cotton couldn’t be bred to have a staple long enough for textile mills to process it commercially. Only easily dyed, longer stapled white cotton was suitable for large-scale use, the thinking went. But Sally decided to try anyway, breeding a few plants on the side as she continued working in agricultural research. Over time, she saw interesting results, including a range of green and brown hues; more washfast and lightfast color; longer staples; memory; even improved flame resistance.

    As a spinner and weaver, Sally had a unique advantage as she developed her cotton lines: the help of skilled spinners who tried her samples and put them through a variety of tests. It was the handspinners who introduced the idea of boiling the cotton yarn, which weakened some colors and strengthened others that she brought forward. The support of handspinners and weavers helped sustain Sally through challenging decades when conventional agriculture threatened her work and her livelihood. Her cotton proved naysayers wrong: organic and naturally colored cotton could be spun at industrial scale and provide similar or better results to conventional cotton.

    Today, Sally’s textile work is recognized not only for creating beautiful fiber and minimizing avoiding chemical pesticides and dyes but also fixing carbon in the soil. On her farm, she raises naturally colored finewool sheep and heirloom wheat in rotation with cotton. Like the fibers she has cultivated, her farm expands our ideas of what’s possible in organic agriculture.

    Links

    Vreseis website
    Fiber, fabric, and yarn in the Vreseis shop
    Vreseis’s Instagram

    This episode is brought to you by:

    Treenway Silks

    Treenway Silks is where weavers, spinners, knitters and stitchers find the silk they love. Select from the largest variety of silk spinning fibers, silk yarn, and silk threads & ribbons at TreenwaySilks.com. You’ll discover a rainbow of colors, thoughtfully hand-dyed in Colorado. Love natural? Treenway’s array of wild silks provide choices beyond white.

    If you love silk, you’ll love Treenway Silks, where superior quality and customer service are guaranteed.

    Yarn Barn of Kansas

    You’re ready to start a new project but don’t have the right yarn. Or you have the yarn but not the right tool. Yarn Barn of Kansas can help! They stock a wide range of materials and equipment for knitting, weaving, spinning, and crochet. They ship all over the country, usually within a day or two of receiving the order.

    Plan your project this week, start working on it next week! See yarnbarn-ks.com to get started.

    Brown Sheep Company

    Brown Sheep Company is a four-generation family business bringing you high quality wool and natural fiber yarns. We spin and dye U.S.-grown wool into hundreds of vibrant colors at our mill in western Nebraska. Our mill has something to offer for every craft, from our well-known knitting and crochet yarns to wool roving for spinning and felting. We offer U.S-made needlepoint yarn as well as yarn on cones for weaving. Learn more about our company and products at BrownSheep.com.

    23 March 2024, 6:00 am
  • 59 minutes 37 seconds
    Spotlight Episode: Yarn Barn of Kansas

    When Susan Bateman first opened Yarn Barn of Kansas in 1971, a woman starting a small business couldn’t get a credit card in her own name. Weavers like her had a hard time finding yarns, tools, and other supplies, some of which were only available from overseas, and she thought there must be an opportunity to bring fiber artists more of what they needed.

    Susan and her husband, Jim, have spent decades building the kind of store she wanted to see when she was learning to weave and hoping to grow her fiber skills: one with a wide selection of yarns, a lively education program, and lots and lots of books. Yarn Barn of Kansas occupies thousands of square feet with a storefront, classroom, and a massive warehouse stacked with boxes of yarn. (Jim says that he can easily prove that they have ten tons of inventory, and the stock room has a directory to help staff find just the right box.)

    Although the shop has Kansas right in the name, many of the store’s customers never set foot in the Lawrence, Kansas storefront. Susan and Jim make regular trips to fiber arts conferences from coast to coast, some years as many as one per month, always with that extensive (and heavy) selection of books that are difficult to find elsewhere. But many customers will never meet them or their staff in person anywhere. Beginning with printed catalogs and continuing with their website, Yarn Barn of Kansas meets many fiber artists where they are—literally, shipping to nearly all of the 50 United States every month.

    That doesn’t mean they’re strangers, though. Customers across the country call the shop for advice, troubleshooting, and some quick how-to in addition to placing orders. The shop has a full roster of classes in a variety of crafts, but much of the teaching that the staff does every day is unscheduled help by phone or in person. Between answering customers’ questions and taking orders, Susan and other staff design projects and create samples to help customers use the yarns and techniques on offer.

    Although they have offered classes and supplies for crafts from basketry to needlepoint to lacemaking in the past, Yarn Barn of Kansas currently focuses on weaving, spinning, knitting, and crochet. The store may be best known nationally as a weaving supplier, but closer to home, most of their local customers come for knitting. Susan and Jim had that range of customers in mind when thinking of their newest venture, a 100% organic cotton yarn from fiber sourced in Texas and spun and dyed in North Carolina. The unmercerized 4/2 yarn in 45 colors is a versatile size for crochet, rigid-heddle and multishaft weaving, and knitting. They’ve called the yarn Ad Astra, in recognition of Kansas’s state motto).

    Links

    Yarn Barn of Kansas website

    Discover Ad Astra, the new organic cotton yarn

    Read about Classes

    Subscribe to the Newsletter

    Find Yarn Barn of Kansas on Facebook

    Read Susan Bateman and Melissa Parson’s series on weaving best practices for beginners and beyond at Handwoven

    This episode is brought to you by:

    Yarn Barn of Kansas

    Yarn Barn of Kansas has been your partner in fiber since 1971. Whether you are around the corner from the Yarn Barn of Kansas, or around the country, they are truly your “local yarn store,” with an experienced staff to answer all your fiber questions. Visit yarnbarn-ks.com to shop, learn, and explore.

    16 March 2024, 6:00 am
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