Spinning, dyeing, knitting, felting, weaving, and sewing are all verbs used to describe how communities have created cloth, garments, and other fiber-based goods. Such acts embody love and creativity. And such objects provide protection from the elements and keep us warm. Our company honors these traditions by offering a wide range of textile related raw materials, such as fiber, yarn, and fabric, along with classes to instill the skill and practice of creating your own clothing and warmth.
Our class subjects include everything from spinning and natural dyeing to sewing and quilting. We host a wide variety of teachers from around the world who are interested in exploring all aspects of making cloth, clothing, and other fiber-based goods. We believe by teaching these skills, students will gain a greater perspective over the time, cost, and labor of creating textiles and clothing and in turn hold a greater value for all clothing; from that which is handmade to that which is machine-made by people around the world.
Creating by hand, together, provides a space for community, for friendships, for inspiration, with the end result being a product which you can wear and use. Be happy! Wear handmade!
The History of Verb
A Verb for Keeping Warm incorporates Kristine Vejar's love for fiber, community, and preservation of longstanding textile traditions.
Raised in the Midwest, Kristine learned as a child how to knit and sew from her Grandmother. Within her Grandmother's knitting and quilting circles she learned the fine art of creating functional, beautiful, usable items, while eating coffee cake, and establishing lifelong friendships. In 1996, Kristine moved to California to attend Mills College where she earned a BA in Art History.
In 1999, as part of her undergraduate studies, Kristine traveled to Jaipur, India to study Indian Art and Architecture. Surrounded and intrigued by the piles of vibrant, gorgeous fabrics in the market, Kristine desired to travel to the source to meet the makers. She went to the Great Rann of Kutch in Gujarat, an epicenter of art and craft, and met the Rabari, known world-wide for their exquisite embroidery and applique. Over the course of a month long research project, the Rabari taught Kristine that textiles could embody endless potential - as a focal point for communities to gather, in turn, creating friendships. That textiles are a form of identity. Through creating specific combinations of colors, motifs, and materials, the Rabari's textiles, found in the forms of clothing and homewares, communicate to those outside the Rabari community, that they are part of the Rabari community, and to those within the community, what type of Rabari they are. Textiles are essential to provide protection from the elements, keeping Rabari warm on cool Winter nights, and from the sun during the day. Kristine especially liked the way Rabari's textiles, through each maker's choice of materials, motifs, and colors, keep a record of time and place. That each textile tells a story. And for a non-literate society, this is very important, as it is the only record, beyond an oral tradition, for that record. Also, at this time, she had her first glimpse into the world of plant dyeing.
Upon returning from India, Kristine, wanting to share her new found love and appreciation for Indian textiles, worked at the Textile Museum, Washington DC, in 2000-01, documenting their Northern Indian textile collection.
In 2001, Kristine received a Fulbright to go back to India to continue her research with the Rabari. Just following a major earthquake in Kutch, Kristine worked alongside NGO, Kala Raksha, to help re-build their communities through textiles. Traditional textile communities, such as the Rabari, utilized Kala Rakshas resources of design input, material choice, and color choice to create pieces which would appeal to the wider market. On a daily basis, Kristine traveled to villages within the Great Rann of Kutch to distribute and collect raw materials, build friendships, and gain insight into the creation and community around the function of applique for their personal and public use. Through the sale of appliqued pieces, designed for the public, Kristine witnessed communities re-build fallen structures and shaken confidence.
The Fulbright allowed Kristine more time in India for greater exploration. She met artisans and craftspeople within a wide range of textile tradition 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 with the desire to one day have her own line of naturally dyed textiles.
In 2006, in her kitchen, Kristine began dyeing her first line of naturally dyed yarns and fibers. They were in instant success, and with the profits earned, she created her fist natural dyeing studio, located in Berkeley. As word spread, more and more people sought out her studio, so she opened a small shop. More people wanted to get involved, to work in the studio, and to be part of the community as students. As Kristine began to search for space, she wanted one in which she could build her dye studio, had great light, outdoor access for a dyeing garden and indigo dyeing, and could house many people at once for large community gatherings. In 2010, Kristine found this space, at 6328 San Pablo, in Oakland. With the help of her community, her Mom (yay Moms!!), and the City of Oakland, Kristine was able to make this dream a reality.
From making textiles throughout her life, and through living in India, Kristine places a great importance on the need for handcrafted textiles in our society. She has seen everything from the joy to which the textile process can bring to a person and a community, to unfortunately, the dire circumstances of those around the world are placed within to create textiles and clothing for others. Her goal is to teach as many people as possible to sew and knit, in hopes that by sharing the time, energy, and materials it takes to create textiles, people will develop a greater first hand knowledge of textile production, and that they will share her belief in the great value of textiles and the process of making them hold in our lives. Her dream would be to see the ethics and production of textiles enter people's minds, just as the importance of the creation and growth of food.
In 2014, Kristine completed her first book, The Modern Natural Dyer (Abrams / STC, Fall 2015). This book features a comprehensive list of dyes which can be made from plants, and one insect, cochineal. Instructions on working with both protein-based and cellulose-based fibers are included. There are 20 projects. Each featuring a different aspect of natural dyeing. Some projects use pre-sewn items, others incorporate sewing and knitting.
Kristine hopes you will visit us and join us in creating handcrafted textiles and clothing.
Natural Dyes: Our Process & Colors
The dyes used at A Verb for Keeping Warm (AVFKW) are organic sustainably-harvested extracts from around the world. In addition to that, AVFKW has its own organic dye garden in Oakland. All of the dyes used have been tested and have passed vigorous light fastness tests. We use aluminum potassium sulfate as a mordant. This is a food grade substance that is used for pickling and as an astringent. It is non-toxic.
At AVFKW, we choose to use natural dyes because we can trace each dye to where it comes from and who is harvesting it. Also, we love the beautiful, natural color palette that comes from natural dyeing.
By participating in the art of natural dyeing, we are contributing to a textile tradition that is an endangered art form. We are carrying on a process that was the original way humans learned to add color to cloth. Our hope is to continue to find raw materials and dyestuffs grown and processed in the US, so that we may contribute to the growing field of US sourced cloth and yarn.
A Note about Indigo:
Indigo is a dye with a complete and utter history onto itself. One could spend an entire lifetime on the study and practice of indigo dyeing. In order for indigo to permanently dye fiber, it must go through a reduction process where the oxygen is taken out of the indigo bath. The bath color changes from a blue to a green, then to a yellow. The color and testing the pH indicates the indigo bath is ready. As I dip a length of fiber or yarn into the bath, it comes out yellow. As it comes into contact with the oxygen in the air, the color changes from green to blue. Anytime indigo has been used in the dyeing process, the fiber must sit, curing, for at least a week in a controlled humid environment.
When spinning and knitting with fiber and yarn dyed with indigo, the blue color naturally rubs off on one’s hands. This is called crocking and is an inherent part of the process. It does not intimate a mistake or poor quality. Though crocking may occur, our products dyed with indigo are lightfast and high quality. Your hands turn blue, because although I have reduced the indigo, washed the fiber, etc. it takes pressured contact to release the extra residue.
Your handwork is part of the indigo dyeing process. After knitting indigo dyed fiber, typically, the residue is gone, and the crocking will cease. If you find blue on your hands or clothing, it can be removed with hot water and soap.
Please take care when using bamboo needles or wooden spindles with indigo dyed fiber or yarn, because they may become stained.
In short, indigo is alive. The use of indigo creates a contemporary artifact - representing a multitude of cultures, their ceremonies and craft, a dying art - being kept alive by you.
Our goal at A Verb for Keeping Warm is to give you unique, high-quality fiber, yarn, dyes, and spinning equipment. We are constantly looking for new blends of fiber. And are always trying to stock hard to find items – such as organic cotton, camel, cashmere, pygora, and rare wools. Whenever possible, we try to work with American and Canadian farmers, mills, and spindle makers.
If you are a farmer, and you raise sustainable/organic fiber producing animals or harvest organic plant dyes, please contact us, I would love to support your endeavor.