THE SHORT STORY
A Verb for Keeping Warm wants to help you make things with yarn, fabric, natural dyes, and fiber. We offer classes in knitting, sewing, natural dyeing, weaving, and spinning. We sell yarn, fabric, natural dyes, and fiber. Get in touch, we would love to help you!
THE LONG STORY
A Verb for Keeping Warm occupies a 1700 square foot space in Oakland, California and is comprised of a shop selling yarn, fiber, and fabric, two classrooms, two dye studios, and a natural dye garden. A Verb for Keeping Warm incorporates founder Kristine Vejar's love for fiber and community. Through classes focused upon natural dyeing, knitting, sewing, spinning and weaving, and via the materials she carries, many of which support US based farms and manufacturing, she strives to preserve longstanding textile traditions and to support others working to create a textile-centered art practice.
Textiles, in the form of quilts and sweaters were always part of Kristine's family’s cultural landscape. She grew up within knitting and quilting circles, where the creation of textiles functioned as a way to create friendships and share stories. Years later, Kristine found herself in India studying Art History. She was drawn to a group of nomadic herders, named Rabari, because of their stunning, embroidered clothing. She began learning about the context of their work and the technique used to create their renowned for their intricate embroidery and applique, and found herself participating in their sewing circle.
The Rabari taught Kristine to notice cloth and clothing - something she had previously taken for granted. She realized textiles can embody endless potential to communicate identity and ethics. Like her own family, she witnessed how textiles brought people together, and provided a focal point over which to exchange news, stories, and lessons. Through learning about the Rabari's way of choosing materials, colors, and ways of using motifs as symbols, she found that textiles are be a way to document one's journey and ideology. These textiles are important, as they provide the only written record of the Rabari's history from their perspective. Kristine returned to the US briefly, to complete her degree and to work at The Textile Museum, Washington DC, documenting their Northern India textile collection. She returned to India via a Fulbright grant to continue her research with the Rabari and to explore textiles further. She met artisans and craftspeople within a wide range of textile traditions and production; from those who weave cloth with ikat patterns to those who spin cotton by hand. A community of natural dyers were particularly influential, filling Kristine found the idea of creating color from nature fascinating, yet another way to connect with one’s present and influential environment, and a medium in which to reflect this connection.
Upon returning to the US, Kristine began practicing natural dyeing in her kitchen as a way to stay connected to her work in India, and this practice has grown into what we know as A Verb for Keeping Warm today. From this foundation, and in an attempt to cultivate textile artists, create jobs in textiles, and to support and cultivate a local textile economy, Kristine has started a number of projects such as Seam Allowance, a group which meets monthly who have pledged to make at least 25% of their own clothing. In 2014, A Verb for Keeping Warm released its first line of sewing patterns, drafted by Oakland local, Tasa Gleason.
At A Verb for Keeping Warm, our dream is to see the ethics and production of textiles in a fair and ecologically sensitive manner enter people's minds, just how it has for the organic and local food movement. So we strive to support local farmers and to carry goods where each person who is part of the production, from the farmer to the weaver, can be known and part of the beauty of the completed project. This vision has led A Verb for Keeping Warm to create a number of products using locally grown materials. Having learned from a local sheep shearer that thousands of pounds of wool were being thrown away or sold for pennies to China, Kristine made it her mission to finally create a line of California wool yarn. In 2012, Kristine released her first line of yarn made from California raised wool. Called Pioneer, this yarn is composed of 100% organic Merino grown by organic cotton breeder, Sally Fox. At this time, she launched the California Wool Project, in which she dedicated herself and Verb to supporting local farmers, through the purchase of their wool. Since the release of Pioneer, she has created two more batches. In Summer 2015, she released Flock, a yarn made from wool grown by three northern California farms. She is in the process of making a worsted-weight yarn from California-grown Rambouillet wool. This yarn, named Range, will be released in Winter 2015.
Committed to creating more locally available natural dyes, A Verb for Keeping Warm has its own natural dye garden. The garden was started in 2011, when the San Pablo location opened. As the garden has taken root, it has been primarily used for education purposes - to teach others what forms of natural dyes are available and what they look like, while also teaching us at Verb how they grow in the Bay Area climate. In Summer 2015, Kristine utilized lessons learned from the garden, to guide Verb's first foray into farming: a nine hundred-foot long-row of dye plants planted at Sally Fox's Capay Valley farm. Kristine has also worked with local dyer and Fibershed founder, Rebecca Burgess, on cultivating and supporting a local indigo farming and dyeing initiative. Under the guidance of Roland Ricketts, Kristine helped Rebecca to create a special floor, modeled upon the traditional Japanese structure, to compost dried indigo leaves. Now, with this exceptional tool, Rebecca was able to create sukumo (composted indigo) using locally-grown indigo. And Kristine was able to establish fermentation indigo vats based upon those utilized by Roland Ricketts and based upon the traditional style of Japanese fermentation indigo vats. Currently, A Verb for Keeping Warm has two of these indigo vats. Fall 2015 marks the first season in which A Verb for Keeping Warm was able to create the entire rainbow of colors using locally grown dyes.
Due to your support, and these projects, A Verb for Keeping Warm currently employs ten women. A Verb for Keeping Warm is also home to The Modern Natural Dyer (Abrams, 2015), Kristine’s first book.
We hope you will visit us and join us in creating handcrafted textiles and clothing. Many thanks for reading about our journey!