Best of 9 - 2015 Edition - The Modern Natural Dyer, The Shop's New Look, and Farm Work

Posted by Kristine Vejar on December 30, 2015 0 Comments

You may have seen people playing a fun game currently circulating on the internet. Visit this website, enter your Instagram name, and it will pull the 9 most popular photos you posted to Instagram in 2015. Kind of fun, right?

I was excited to pull ours as Verb can feel like a whirlwind - and it is interesting for me to be able to step back and to see what the things are you like to see. Here are our results. Let's do a recap. 

In October, I published my first book, The Modern Natural Dyer. I signed the contract to write my book in August 2013. Writing my book has been such a tremendous journey, with a great period of anxiety and anticipation during the period of finishing the manuscript and waiting for it to be published. It has been such a relief - and so very exciting to have my book printed and now available to the public. Plus! It seems like people are using it and like it. I spent so much time, alone, writing, hoping that the book would work. That it could be a tool and people would really be able to use it, but I really didn't know if that would be the case. Though now the book is out, and people are already diving in and using it, and it works! Hurray! I am so grateful for your support.

The book has been going so well - that in November, my publisher sold out! (Hence the photo of Callie, my dachshund, with her face covered in yarn, which she did herself by the way). I could have never dreamt of such a thing. Natural dyeing is such an incredible form of art and craft with endless possibilities. I am so happy that others are interested in learning about it - and in creating their own natural dyeing practice. The Modern Natural Dyer is a culmination of work I began in India in 1999, and my current natural dyeing practice. Its completion marks the end of a nearly 15 year cycle of work. It is very freeing to think what might come next. 

In addition to releasing the book in October, we celebrated 5 years in our current space on San Pablo Avenue. While waiting for the book to be printed and for its release, we decided to remodel the shop. In an attempt to really open the space, create a blank canvas for our yarn and fabric, we built new shelves and painted them white. We expanded the dye studio. Verb's classroom used to be in the front corner of the shop, this is now part of the dye studio, and the classroom moved towards the back of the shop. Now, the dye studio has more space to conduct research and to design projects. The classroom is more integrated into the shop-side of Verb. Customers now have a place to sit and plan projects. There are still some tweeks to be made, though overall, the change has been really helpful while trying to run Verb efficiently and effectively. 

In 2015, we spent a lot of time on northern California farms, continuing to work towards our goal of supporting farmers by sourcing locally grown raw materials. Back in 2002, I saw the natural course of my life leading to a PhD program. As I interviewed for the different schools, I couldn't help but think I wanted to use my hands, and that all of the programs I was considering were heavily academic, and book-related intensives. I throughly believe to achieve a holistic understanding of a material and process, it takes a hands-on approach. Actually being on the farm, and working as part of the farm team, helps to understand the materials I take and make into yarn, in a physical way. The physical sense of the labor it takes to make these beautiful, whole materials we use to make clothing from. Hopefully, in 2016, I will write more about that topic. 

We helped shear over 1000 pounds of wool in Mendocino County - which is where we captured the photo of the newly shorn ewe jumping for joy. This wool is in storage right now as we decide on the mill it will be sent to and design the yarn which it will be made into. We also spent a lot of time with our friend and organic farmer, Sally Fox. In the Spring, we helped shear approximately 500 pounds of wool. We sent this wool, in its multitude of colors, to Vermont, and made our 4th batch of Horizon.

In the Summer, we travelled to Sally's farm to help plant her cotton breeding nursery. Cotton has been literally next to me my entire life, to think of how many t-shirts I have worm, and is a plant and material that I have completely taken for granted. Throughout this 15 year course of textile-intensive research, I have read about cotton and have learned how to spin it. I have learned about its water intensive characteristics and about the farming practice of using pesticides used to grow it. But I know very little about the different species, what each has to offer, and the various methods of farming. Sally has taught me so much about this amazing plant. When I listen to her speak about it, and growing it, it is almost like listening to someone speak a foreign language. Or like being a kid, overhearing adults talk, being able to pick out familiar words, but not quite understanding how to they fit together, and what the larger meaning is. I find this fascinating and compelling, and want to learn more. We returned to Sally's farm in October, to see the now grown, the first cotton bolls forming, among a sea of cotton flowers. In the photo, you can see, the deep, rich, caramel-colored cotton boll. We walked through the field, as she gave us the history of each plot, where the seed came from originally, who were its parents, and if she will cross it with another plant in the nursery to create a new seed. In the distance, low, grey clouds loomed, because finally, the rain is coming.  

Making our way to the last photo in this collaged-sequence, a rainbow of naturally-dyed yarn. This year, among Sally's cotton, we grew one row - 900 feet - of dye plants, as an experiment. Between the dye we grew at Sally's, the dye we have been raising in the backyard at Verb, and the indigo Rebecca Burgess raised, which we have used to create indigo fermentation vats, we were able to create the entire rainbow of color from 100% locally grown dye. AND we were able to use this dye on 100% locally grown wool. Some of it organic wool. It has taken us FIVE years to be able to do this, with a large helping of sweat and tears. 

As we head into 2016, though I have many ideas for projects I would like to start, I am currently working on not starting any new projects for the next few months. Instead, I am wrapping up projects that are almost near completion (like a new yarn that will be released in the next few weeks). I am taking time to reflect on the journey I have been on and to support The Modern Natural Dyer. I really want to help people establish a natural dyeing practice and to help them find the joy I have found in using natural dyes. One thing is for certain, I have learned a lot about time, and the time it takes to grow roots. Five years used to seem like a long time to work on something, and now - it is clearly a reasonable amount of time it takes for a seed to germinate. 

At Verb, this has been our best year yet. Thank you so much for being part of our community! I can't wait to make more things with you - and to continue investing in farmers and textiles in 2016. 

Happy New Year!

- Kristine (and the Verb crew) 

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