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Fiber Arts Festival showcases local handmade work

on July 11, 2011

Fiber art brought local artisans and crafty hopefuls together on Sunday for the second annual Oakland Fiber & Textile Festival showcasing homespun yarn, brightly colored wool and techniques for transforming these materials into wearable art.

Booths of knitters, spinners and weavers lined the sidewalks at Lake Merritt’s Splash Pad Park yesterday, displaying their designs and fibers for sale. Passersby stopped at booths along the way to learn how to crochet and needlepoint, amongst other crafts. Make-and-take tables for children provided tutorials in weaving basics.

“We’ve gotten five times as much the response than we expected,” said Lou Grantham, owner of the San Francisco Fiber shop and one of the festival’s organizers. “We’re creating a synergy with all types of people, ages and businesses.”

Linda Partsch and her husband created their Dublin-based business Faerie Mountain Fibers three years ago, where they harvest, produce and dye wool to sell at craft fairs around California. People interested in learning old-school methods of spinning dropped by their booth Sunday for demonstrations on using drop spindles, a basic, portable method of spinning that’s thousands of years old. A drop spindle is a simple, two-piece wooden spindle that hangs from a piece of yarn, leaving both of the spinner’s hands free to hold the fiber. The spun yarn is released from the hook of the spindle and then wound onto a circular wooden piece also known as the whorl.

The wool used at Faerie Mountain Fibers is purchased from organic local farmers, then colored using natural dyes. “This is real and it’s fresh,” Partsch said pointing to the wool. “It still has some of the dirt on it from the farm.” Partsch and her husband shear the sheep themselves at the local farms they work with. She said she’s allergic to most wool, but not the kind her company uses; she explained a lot of the commercial wool is imported from other countries that use agents like motor oil to treat and soften the wool.

Using sustainable fiber production methods was a common theme throughout the festival. Maureen Macedo and her husband own Macedo’s Mini Acre, an alpaca ranch in Stevindon, CA. There they harvest the animals’ wool, then spin and naturally dye it before selling it wholesale. The alpaca wool industry is the fastest growing in California, Macedo said. “They’re small, cute, easy to work with and have this glorious fiber,” she said.

The fair was originally the idea of Bente Petersen and her husband, the couple who owns Piedmont Yarn & Apparel. Peterson approached Grantham, who teaches knitting and crocheting at Piedmont Yarn, to help organize the first fair last year. “We needed a way to generate income during the summer months when people aren’t buying wool as much,” Grantham said, adding that his goal was to also create more of a local community around the fiber arts.

The free festival encouraged attendance by beginners and people involved in different parts of the fiber arts industry. “If you have a weaving fair and you charge to get in, you get the same old people,” Grantham said. “It’s not a good way to invite the public in and get new people into the fiber arts. This is a way to generate a crossover and expand the circle between growers, makers and buyers.”

For Grantham, Sunday’s large crowd was a sign of a surging interest in crafting and homemade clothing. “When there’s a recession, the textile arts go up,” Grantham said. “People go back to the basics like clothing and feeding themselves.”

Visit the Oakland Fiber & Textile Festival’s website for more information about the vendors and artists.


  1. Jennifer Brooks on July 12, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    Great article! Just one comment: when using a drop spindle, the spinner winds the created yarn around the long stick-like part of the spindle, not around the whorl (which is the part that looks like a circle or disk).

    The whorl helps the spindle spin more smoothly (less “wobble”). The weight of it helps keep the spin going. The diameter of it helps determine whether the spindle spins quickly or slowly (like an ice skater pulling their arms in to spin faster). The yarn is wrapped above or below the whorl, but not around it.

    Thank you again for a great article!

    –Jennifer Brooks

    • Nicole Jones on July 12, 2011 at 2:19 pm

      Thanks for the corrected and much more clear explanation, Jennifer!

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