2013 - The Best of Verb

Posted by Kristine Vejar on December 30, 2013 0 Comments

I have to admit. I was a little afraid of 2013. I can be superstitious - and that ol' 13 hanging in the wings gave me pause. Though in reality, 2013 ended up being an astounding and wonderful year - filled with creativity and growth.

A Verb for Keeping Warm - A Year in Review

Stitches West 2013 brought us back to sharing a booth with Rosemary Hill of Designs by Romi, showcasing new designs and colorways just for the event. One of our favorite parts of the event is to see all of our customers and friends who visit from near and far. The icing on the cake was winning Most Beautiful Booth for the second year in a row.

We released Horizon
 in May and again in November; this incredible wool yarn line was grown 90 miles away and dyed with natural dyes.  We had the privilege to work with organic cotton farmer, Sally Fox, who grows the most beautiful and happy sheep on her biodynamic farm, Vreseis. A highlight to being so close to the farm was being able to participate in the shearing for the second batch of our yarn, with the skillful shearer Matt Gilbert.

The indigo fermentation vat was born in October with the help of local indigo grower Rebecca Burgess. Rebecca's work developing Fibershed, a non-profit invested in local dyes, fiber, and labor has become a resource we appreciate and support for all of its contributions to the community. In this instance it gave us composted indigo leaves to start a Japanese style fermentation dye vat. With the help of renowned artist and teacher Rowland Ricketts and Rebecca's guidance we now have an indigo vat made of live cultures. This style of indigo vat, raising it and maintaining it is an art in itself - one that we are just beginning to practice. We look forward to learning more about fermentation and indigo in the this upcoming year. 

Maiwa in Vancouver, B.C. held it's annual Textile Symposium. Adrienne and I flew to Canada for the first time to take classes with Bryan Whitehead, an artist and indigo dyer who lives in Japan. There they learned about the care of a live indigo fermentation vat and the many incarnations of the ancient art.

In July, Adrienne and I got to take a vacation! We went to northern Minnesota and enjoyed the lakes by kayaking and fishing (Kristine mostly kayaked and Adrienne mostly fished). Kristine visited Nebraska to see her Grandmother, Gertrude, who taught her the German way to knit when she was young. The vacation of course had to include at least a little bit of textiles. We toured the Bemidji Woolen Mill and Faribault Woolen Mill. Both mills provided a fascinating look into manufacturing with wool - and gave us a glimpse into how complex and challenging it is to be a U.S. based manufacturer. 

Seam Allowance moved into its 2nd year!  The goal to make 25% of your wardrobe is still going strong in 2013 with the members' skills developing considerably. Most members are wearing at least 25% handmade on a daily basis. Some members, including myself, are up to 50-100%. 

AVFKW Celebrated our 3rd year in our new space. At out 3 year anniversary party we asked folks to wear what they've made using materials available at Verb. We set up a photo booth and had an outstanding turn out! Way to go makers!

The first ever DIY Alabama Chanin Trunk Show was held at our store with an awesome and enthusiastic attendance. Many folks wore their existing Chanin pieces, shared their experiences, tried on clothing, and made swatch samples using the American produced knit jersey made by Alabama Chanin. All in all it was it was a great success proving it to be an event desired and inspiring. We are looking forward to April 2014 when the Alabama Chanin trunk show returns to the Verb! 

This year Jessie and Huelo accepted new challenges!  Jessie, our long time resident seamstress extraordinaire and sewing teacher is now employed at Chrome in San Francisco. This is an amazing company and Jessie will flourish with her great skills and talent. We are so happy for her and wish her the best. Thankfully she still teaches at AVFKW from time to time.  Huelo, our knit night hostess, AVFKW blogger, and blossoming knit wear designer is on her way to Bulgaria, where she was a peace corp volunteer, to work in marketing. We are very proud of them!

Sponsoring the Fine Wool Fiber Symposium for the second year was a great honor. We met many more artisans, farmers, and folks interested in California's future as a textile producer.

World Class Instruction
AVFKW strives to be a center for cultivating skills related to the creation of textiles. We host teachers from near and far who bring with them a wide set of talent and expertise. This year, we hosted Amy Herzog knitwear designer, and author of Fit to Flatter. Emily Wessel of Tin Can Knits brought her trunk show and knitting expertise to AVFKW all the way from Scotland. Rebecca Ringquist, author and embroidery artist from New York, came to Verb twice. Stephen West of Westknits, traveled to AVFKW from Amsterdam to teach class and meet folks. Alissa Allen came from Massachusetts to teach mushroom dyeing. Natalie Chanin came and shared with us her ideas about running a business, staying true to your creative spirit, while caring for the environment. Clara Parkes toured the U.S. on her Great White Bale Adventure and we were lucky to host her for an evening of tales. We also dyed one of the Great White Bale shipments. Gudrun Johnston, knitwear designer, joined us for the first time and taught a Shetland lace class in late October - that was quite a treat! Early in 2014, we are hosting expert pattern drafter, Cal Patch, and comic and knitting historian Franklin Habit

And let's not forget our cadre of local teachers - those who create the foundation for our skills in the fields of knitting, sewing, natural dyeing, spinning, and weaving - and make it possible for us to host more advanced classes and techniques. These great teachers include Julie Weisenberger of Cocoknits, Brooke Sinnes of Sincere Sheep, Michael Wade of Fiber Beat, Stacey Sharman of Peppermint Pinwheels, and our in-house staff: Karen, Adrienne, Mckenzie, and Vivian. Many of these teachers have their own textile-centered businesses. I am so happy that we are able to contribute to their businesses and grateful to their contribution to Verb. 

Choice Materials
One of my favorite parts of my job is procuring beautiful, unique, and inspiring materials. This year marked many inaugural products to the store that excel as the most choice and rare gems. AVFKW became a Brooklyn Tweed flagship store and participated in the incredible trunk show traveling the U.S. this year. With great anticipation we hosted Takako of Habu with her amazing clothing samples and endless amounts of out-of-this-world yarn. In an effort to further our investment in a well curated collection of fabric and sewing notions, I flew to Portland, Oregon for the Quilt Market. There I saw new trims, felt sewing kits, and the new collections of fabric - an added bonus was meeting fabric designers like Amy Butler, Liesl Gibson, Tula Pink, and Melody Miller.

We debuted a new illustrated project bag featuring Marcel, the french angora and Cleo the dachshund drawn by Lisa Congdon, an illustrator and local designer. It was incredible to work with her and hope to do so more in the future.  

Great Press!
In the September issue of Sunset Magazine AVFKW was listed by three esteemed locals as a destination spot in Oakland, not to be missed! In November our store was highlighted in AAA's VIA magazine. Diablo Magazine featured AVFKW's Horizon yarn in July, as an Editor's pick for their Best of the East Bay 2013 product. We cannot wait to make more headlines in the future!


All and all - a great year of making things and helping those around us to make things - our favorite thing to do!

And finally - my most dreamy accomplishment - in 2013 I received an opportunity to write a book on natural dyes - with my favorite publisher Abrams / STC Craft, with the help of Melanie Falick, an amazing editor and visionary. 

With that said, I'm going to take a couple months to really focus on the book, which means I am taking a break from writing on the blog and from social media. Sarah and Adrienne promise to keep you entertained and in the loop of everything happening at Verb. Lots of great things coming up for 2014! So stay tuned!

Thank you so much for being part of the Verb community. I am so grateful to have been given this opportunity to know you and to support your textile producing habit! 



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Out & About: Fibershed's Fine Wool & Fiber Symposium

Posted by Kristine Vejar on November 13, 2013 0 Comments

This Saturday, November 16th is Fibershed's 2nd Fine Wool & Fiber Symposium in Point Reyes Station.

Fibershed is a local non-profit dedicated to using materials grown and processed within 120 miles to make clothing. As Fibershed is very conscious of ecology and the climate - this year's focus is on clothing and the climate. It is great to wear clothing made out of materials grown in the area - though there is still a lot to discuss regarding how those materials are grown and harvested. Fibershed promotes the creation of materials locally - and - that are created as sustainably and consciously as possible in light of preserving the environment. Presently, the symposium is sold out. Though for the first time, you can watch the symposium streamed live over the internet.

Don't let the fact that the symposium is sold-out stop you from taking a day trip out to Point Reyes Station. There will be a pop-up shop featuring materials raised by and products made by Fibershed members. Here is a list of those participating.

A few weeks back, I led a community indigo dip using indigo grown locally by Fibershed members. We used naturally colored brown organic cotton fabric. The cotton in this fabric was raised by Sally Fox. We used Sally's cotton because it is beautiful and because it has been raised in California - within this Fibershed. Afterwards, I received an email from an attendee at the indigo dip. She expressed her disappointment wishing that we used white cotton so she could see the indigo blue better. I see the attendee's point - though feel strongly that we create space and use what is available regionally. In some ways, the indigo event was an assessment of what we currently have to offer in this region. Some are happy with what we have, others desire more (and some have never even considered our region as a place to obtain textiles and materials). 

Watching the symposium streaming live and / or coming out to the pop-up shop are two ways in which we can actively participate and contribute to our Fibershed - in products that we would like to see developed further. It is the people who are at the symposium and the pop-up shop who have committed themselves to this process, who need our support, and who I am sure would love to hear what types of things you are looking for. For instance, if enough people desire white cotton fabric, then we as a community could come together and help create that white cotton fabric.

We are so used to having everything, or nearly everything, or what we think is everything available to us. When really, there are so many great things available to us that we don't think have value or are unaware of their value. Or have gotten used to the shoddy quality of what is available to use that we have forgotten what beautifully woven cotton or linen feels like. Keeping an open mind is so important in the aliveness in the practice of making especially when giving consideration to the sustainability and the environment. By listening to the process, treating it as a journey, you will inevitably make something beyond your original conception, filled with people and places, and beautiful.

If we would like to see things change, less abuse of labor practices, more consciousness when working with the Earth, and simply all around better materials, transitioning from consumers of fiber, yarn, and fabric - those unattached to the people or place of where a material is grown and gathered - into community members who invest in fiber, yarn, and fabric grown locally or grown by a group of people you know and respect is how we can come to see change.

Currently, to have fabric milled in the USA, it is tens of thousands of dollars. Either consumers and business owners are going to have to come together and commit to one another in order for these types of things to make progress or a very large corporation can own the process. Sometimes during the early stages of a movement or of a business, we know we believe in their practice or in their establishment though they don't carry what we want or what we think we want. Sometimes, in order to support the businesses and institutions who carry our ideal ethics, means making compromises in what we want, for what they currently have, and requesting what it is that we do want to see. It is a process and an evolution. One that we all must participate in for change to occur. We might have to use brown cotton fabric until white cotton fabric becomes available. Even though I might desire white cotton, I know that by investing in Sally's brown cotton could mean we are one step closer to one day getting white cotton fabric. Especially if I tell her, along with my investment in her brown cotton fabric, that this is something I would like to see in the future.

I am intrigued by the creative means in which we could help people who are trying to make the change to longstanding ways of doing business. CSAs would be one example of creative business models in which some organic food growing farms have come to thrive. In this model, the consumer becomes a community member by prepaying and investing in the farm. How could these models evolve to help textile material growers establish their businesses? How can people come together, to decide on a body of materials they would like to see cultivated in the region, and then help share the heavy burden of making these materials. It's an interesting and complex quagmire.

I am looking forward to the lively and engaging discussion at this year's Fibershed Symposium. Will I see you there?




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Stitch Exchange: 3 Year Anniversary Party!

Posted by Kristine Vejar on November 12, 2013 0 Comments

On Sunday, November 10th, we celebrated our 3 year anniversary in our San Pablo Avenue location. Moving to this location meant that we would have the space to hold classes, invite teachers from around the world to broaden our textile-making-garment-making skills, house the materials and patterns needed to inspire and make accessories and clothing, and last but certainly not least the space to host our students and customers. We asked people to bring in an object they made from materials sourced from Verb. Here are just a few of the beautiful pieces and the people who made them! I am so proud. Beyond the fact that they are wearing what they made, I adore seeing their faces light-up when talking about their process of making and when showing what they have made.

I drew this design for a special project bag made for our anniversary. I incorporated the 3 things that anchor Verb: knit fabric, woven fabric, and a blank space to apply dye. I started an indigo vat and helped people dip their project bags.


We re-released Horizon. People were carrying bundles of it. Better yet, people were wearing sweaters made out of Horizon! Sally, the farmer, and her daughter, Marcella, came for the afternoon. It was wonderful to have them with us.

Huelo designed a new pattern using Horizon called Lake Merritt. For a limited time, this pattern is free with the purchase of a kit.

Other than that, just an all around beautiful day, people streaming through the door, hugging one another, learning about each others projects.

Thank you so much to everyone who came to the party - and to those who could not be at the party - though support Verb in so many other ways. I am so very grateful. You have helped me to achieve the dream of having a shop and an occupation within the subject of and making of textiles - my very favorite thing.

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In the Dye Studio: Horizon Rounds the Bend

Posted by Kristine Vejar on November 05, 2013 5 Comments

Excitement abounds in the dye studio this week as we prep Horizon for it's re-release on Sunday, November 10th.

Horizon is made from Sally Fox's organic merino sheep. Sally is an organic textile materials farmer in the Capay Valley, about 90 miles east of Oakland. The sheep she raises help to fertilize the ground in which she plants naturally colored organic cotton. As a matter of fact, her fields are full of puffy cotton at this very moment. The sheep also help to fertilize the ground where Sally grows her organic Sonora heirloom wheat. We are grateful to Sally for her care of the sheep, the pride she takes in creating the healthiest environment for the sheep, and for helping to cultivate a prime environment for the sheep to grow phenomenal fleece. Sally has a lot to contend with on a day-to-day basis: coyotes, managing 40 acres of growing cotton, while trying to balance the lively nature of the sheep, and the lively nature of nature - that which gives prickles and thorns - something we don't want to get into the fleece or to hurt the sheep. This past year, some of the rams had run through a field of filaree - a weed that produces a sharp, corkscrew shaped seed which when embedded into the fleece is nearly impossible to remove. A good portion of these fleeces could not be made into yarn.

Last April, Sarah, Adrienne, Huelo, and I went to Sally's farm to help with shearing. Matt Gilbert sheared about 120 sheep. Watching Matt shear is magical. The shearing of the sheep is very important to making great yarn. Matt is able to take the entire fleece off the sheep's back at a single pass of the clippers. So there is little loss of fleece in the shearing process. This means that all the fleece Sally has worked hard to raise over the year gets to go to the mill to be turned into yarn - a great, good thing - the more yarn, the better, right? While Matt shearing the sheep, we helped lead the sheep to the shearing area and helped skirt the fleece - taking off all the very dirty parts. Not super glamorous though necessary to make great yarn.

During the Summer, we sent the wool to Green Mountain Spinnery, just like the first batch of Horizon to be spun into a DK weight yarn. We depend heavily on Green Mountain's long history and expertise in milling wool into yarn - especially fine wool - such as Sally's merino. Like last time, they did a superb job cleaning and spinning the yarn. And, David, who works at Green Mountain Spinnery is an absolute gem. More than just washing fleece and spinning yarn, he is a real mediator, helping all of us to understand one another, bringing all the components of the process together.

We received the yarn about a month ago and began dyeing. There really is nothing like the fresh smell of a clean sheep wrapped up into a beautifully spun yarn. So yes, while we are busy dyeing, we are also busy grabbing handfuls of Horizon, and stuffing our faces into its squishy self.

It has been interesting to see the slight different in natural color between our first batch of Horizon in this current batch. The most notable shift is in Tree Fort. This time, it is much more grey. I love it.

Horizon has been the highlight of 2013 for me. Getting to know Sally and David, following the wool from the sheep to the shelf, natural dyeing Horizon, learning how the different natural colors pick up the dye, knitting with Horizon, learning about its characteristics as a yarn, how it wears, how it blooms, and then seeing all of the phenomenal projects made with Horizon. It has been an incredibly rich time.

The aliveness in which Horizon carries - the animal, the environment, the people, and the process - is beautiful but can also be fleeting. The more alive a material is - the more unknowns there are when looking into the future. Horizon works to remind me of gratitude without expectation. To be grateful for Horizon at this moment, and to know that Horizon using Sally's wool may not happen again. It may - or it may not. There are just too many unknowns from year to year. There is a limited supply of Horizon. If you like Horizon, and want to use it, now is the time to purchase it. We ash that you purchase enough to complete your project(s).

With all of this in mind, I am soaking up every ounce of dyeing and preparing this yarn for you, being absolutely present in each moment of the process.

Horizon will go on sale at 11am PST both online and in the shop.

If you are in the area, I hope you will join us on Sunday, Nov 10th, from 11-6pm as we celebrate Verb's 3 Year Anniversary and the re-release of Horizon. To learn more, please click here.

Huelo is releasing a new pattern to accompany Horizon just like last time.

We will have special limited edition special anniversary colorways.

And we have a few more surprises up our sleeve - so stay tuned!

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In the Dye Studio: Community Indigo Dip

Posted by Kristine Vejar on October 28, 2013 0 Comments

Last weekend, we hosted a party for our fermentation indigo vat. Nervous about how much the indigo vat could handle in a single day, we limited the group to 25 people. Each person received a piece of fabric made from Sally Fox's organic naturally-colored brown cotton.

People came from far and wide with a tremendous amount of diverse backgrounds and interest in the indigo process. I am so grateful to those that share in the love of indigo and the cultivation of it and who took the time to spend the day with us. Yes, indigo is beautiful as a color, though the act of community coming together gives the process and the practice strength. It creates a bond between us, nature, communities around the world who practice indigo dyeing, and the color blue. 

What we will do with the indigo vat weighs heavily on my mind. How will we build upon and contribute to the work of Rebecca and Sally? How can these different communities be represented within this dyed cloth?

Until next time! -- Kristine


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