It’s been been an odd year with me and this blog. At the beginning of October, with a nudge from a friend, I tried to commit to a post a week, and it worked well – until I flew to England for a few weeks and things got a little left behind. Eitherway, I am very excited to be back and sharing a post all about the wonderful yarn I used for my design The Curve. If you remember, this was my first adult garment design and knowing that it would be a big endeavor I decided to go all in and used a yarn that I completely love and admire! The reason? It’s CA fiber, naturally dyed, and 100% American processed. And not only that, it is made from the softest Organic Merino, and put up in the hugely versatile worsted weight. This yarn is Pioneer, and the brains behind this amazing feat is Kristine of A Verb for Keeping Warm, in Oakland, CA. She has shared her journey in making the first and second batch of Pioneer on her blog, along with a conversation with the farmer who raised the wool, Sally Fox (who if you haven’t met her, please dig deeper – have you ever seen naturally coloured cotton?). With the intention to continue to share with you more about the yarn used in each of my designs (‘Behind the Yarn‘), I asked Kristine to tell us a little more about Pioneer and AVFKW. Whats more, you can find a discount for any Pioneer purchase good through the end of the week! See below for more details.
Annie : Firstly, can you tell us a little about A Verb for Keeping Warm, what it does, and why it exists?
Kristine: A Verb for Keeping Warm encompasses my love for all aspects of textiles: from growing the materials, to processing them, dyeing them, and making them into primarily wearable garments and accessories. I grew up visiting my Grandmother in rural Illinois, which is where I learned to sew and knit. I traveled to Jaipur, India in college to study Art and Architecture. Weaving and dyeing could be commonly seen. Up until this point, I had not thought a lot about how cloth is made or how color was applied, so it was a very eye-opening experience. I was entranced with the clothing there – and learning to read the different styles. I was particularly keen on a group of semi-nomadic people – the Rabari. The women wore all black with panels of intricately hand-embrodiered designs. I came to learn that they these designs were actually series of motifs, all named, and formed a designated catalog, which when looking closely at the style in which they were applied and materials used could communicate where she was from, how old she is, and where in the region she travels. From this experience, I knew that I wanted to work with textiles and people who are drawn to make them – A Verb for Keeping Warm is this forum. And through that forum, I try to teach as many people as possible about textiles, and how to make them. It also provides me the space to practice natural dyeing – which I consider my core interest – and something I hope to study over the course of my life.
Pioneer – it is quite the feat! For those who don’t know, can you take us back to the beginning, from where was this yarn born?
I adore Pioneer! I had been looking to create a California-based yarn since Verb began in 2007. For the past few years Fibershed has held the Fine Wool Fiber Symposium. The first year, I met Sally Fox. We got to talking and she said she had some wool that she was willing to sell. Sally has been a long term hero of mine – so it was shocking in the best way possible that she was willing to work together. After the symposium, we got together, I purchased the wool, sent it to Green Mountain Spinnery, and thus was born Pioneer!
Where do you get the inspiration for dyes and colourways?
California’s natural landscape – the greys, light yellows and greens – are always captivating. I find natural dyes enticing due to their limitations and nuances. To create lightfast colors which are non-toxic, do little to alter the texture the hand of the wool, and can be reproduced for production, there are only about 8-10 dyes and one mordant that I can use. I use about 8 dyes to create over 100 colorways. It is similar to a chef having access to 8 ingredients – and needing to cook over 100 delicious meals.
So where can we get our hands on Pioneer?
Pioneer is available on Verb’s online store – and in our brick and mortar in Oakland.
Anything new we can expect to see over at Verb in this upcoming knitter’s season?
We were just gifted a Montana wool company – named Sweet Grass. This company was originally started by the rancher, Carolyn Greene. About ten years ago, she felt that it was getting too much to handle – with needing to care for the farm. So her friend and fiber-lover Patti Bobonich purchased it. Patti and Carolyn have had a great relationship – with Carolyn focusing on the sheep and Patti on the yarn. A few months ago, Patti decided that she would like to travel and retire. Patti has been a longtime friend of mine and Verb’s and due to our work with Sally, she graciously offered us Sweet Grass. There are two yarns that Patti designed and milled which we have picked up and naturally dyed. We have named them Clover (200y / 50g) and Big Sky. (160y / 100g). They are both mule-spun at one of the last two mule-spinning facilities in North America. We have 1000 pounds of Targhee in Montana – and are currently discussing where to send it to be milled. In October, we traveled to Montana to see Patti and to meet Carolyn and her sheep. If you would like to read about our journey to Montana, I wrote about it in a series on the Verb blog called Textile Byways: Montana 2014.
What is a day in the life of Kristine?
Girl! Who even knows!!! Since the book – during the book – my life is on its head – to be continued!
And lastly, for those of you who would love to find Pioneer in your stockings this Christmas, let your loved ones know that Kristine has kindly offered 15% off any and all Pioneer purchases until end of day Sunday 14th December using the code ‘byannieclaire‘ at check out! Shop now!