Kristine Vejar has a yarn shop in Oakland, California. And in that shop are yarns close to her heart. (I’m not just talking about Quince, though we’re on the shelf, and very proud to be.)
Kristine’s love of textiles–their craft, history, and beauty–began with her grandmother. And as so often happens, once bitten by fiber love, she wanted to start from scratch and do it all. She has. Kristine is a master dyer, creator of Pioneer, a yarn spun from California wool, and owner of the shop A Verb for Keeping Warm, a fiber enthusiast’s paradise.
Here’s how she says it all began:
As a kid growing up in the Midwest, yarn and fabric surrounded me. My grandmother and her friends loved to knit and sew—together—and they loved to bake and eat coffee cake, a huge draw in any crowd. They were some of my best friends.
Years later, I found myself in India studying art and architecture. Textiles were everywhere, people were weaving, dyeing, sewing, and knitting. It showed me how much there was to learn about making fabric. Textiles provided a solace within and a connection to the wild and wonderful country of India. Because I could sew and knit, I could work alongside others, a practice which created bonds between us, even though my language skills were limited. Eventually, my interest in textiles led me to a group of nomadic herders who stitch exquisite embroidery on their clothing and apply detailed appliqué to their quilts and camel covers. I began to learn their techniques and to document the way in which they recorded their history in the surface of their textiles, through motifs, colors, and materials. This project evolved into a Fulbright grant. I spent another year and a half in India, documenting the nomads’ textiles and traveling to other parts of India to meet and learn from other textile makers.
When I returned to the US, I wanted to continue my connection to India. Naturally, embarking on a life in textiles seemed the most obvious and delightful way to do so. In India, I was captivated by the process of natural plant dyeing. I liked its long tradition, the connection to the earth, and the challenge of working with a material that has inherently limited capabilities: Supply, you need to grow the plant or find it, lightfastness, and color, it often takes multiple plants to give a seemingly common color, like green. Those that work with natural dyes are constantly coaxing them to perform in a multitude of ways.
I produced my first batch of naturally dyed yarn in 2007, in my kitchen. From there, the business grew and we built a small natural dyeing studio in Berkeley, then opened a tiny little store next to the dye studio. As people came and the community grew, we decided to embark on a much larger adventure, A Verb For Keeping Warm. We rented a space ten times larger, built in a new dye studio, and created a much larger shop with the hope of carrying raw materials in which to make textiles which are conscious, well thought out, and make people and animals feel good.
Thankfully, at this time, Quince launched their website and the company included all of the elements I honor and value: They source wool from the US and mill it here, creating jobs in textiles as well as beautiful, well-made yarns and patterns. While Quince wasn’t ready at that time to sell wholesale, the Quince model meant to me that the yarn industry and US textiles were moving in a positive direction. Now that Quince has begun to wholesale their line, having Quince yarns and patterns in the store is really a dream come true. Quince helps to fulfill my vision for Verb, a place which supports and contributes to the US textile industry in a sustainable and ecological manner, a place that nods yes to tradition and applies the classics to fashion-forward aesthetics, a place where people can learn the craft of making fabric and garments through classes in everything from how to choose a perfect handspinning fleece to how to knit your next best-fitting sweater.
Since the inception of Verb, I’ve dreamed of making a line of yarn from California wool. Last winter, we had the opportunity to work with Sally Fox, a local hero of mine, who has worked for 30 years on the cultivation of naturally colored organic cotton. She added merino sheep to her textile farm about 10 years ago. They help fertilize the soil and provide fleece. We purchased organic merino wool from Sally to make our newest yarn, Pioneer. It turned out better than I could have imagined, woolly, warm, soft, and naturally dyed. I hope that people can come to Verb and experience the presence I experienced with my grandma, to get lost in the act of creating, to feel the stress of everyday life slide right off their shoulders, and to connect with others, as I did in India, through the act of creating.
Thanks Quince for being part of the Verb experience! And many thanks to our customers for supporting our endeavors.