Fiber artists weave a tapestry of community
By: Terry Rader
On any given Friday night, you can find a group of fiber folks gathering around an open table at Gate City Yarns, located at 231 S. Elm St. from 6 to 9 p.m. This growing fiber family welcomes all fiber-related projects anyone wishes to bring in and work on. Even if the shop doesn’t carry the materials of your particular fiber craft, you are welcome to join in with the regular crafters who will appreciate your work.
Amanda Baughman, fiber artist and owner of Gate City Yarns, began working part-time at the shop five years ago. An avid yarn-lover, she was excited to work in a place dedicated to fiber arts and never dreamt she would make it her own in 2016. Talking with Baughman on a cold, rainy December morning, she said that bad weather draws more people in, especially during big snow forecasts. She said people want to work on something comforting when it’s cold and miserable. They can bring their projects in and warm up by the fireplace while they work.
Baughman welcomes fiber enthusiasts of all ages and skill levels. She invites everyone to ask questions when they get stuck on a project. She said she learned a lot from fiber artists’ questions and if she doesn’t have the answer, she will work with you to find it. From weaving, crocheting, knitting, spinning to felting, many fiber mediums are supported with classes at GCY.
Knitting and crocheting classes are offered on a regular basis, and Baughman said to call for the most up-to-date class schedule. She said that anyone could learn how to knit and crochet.
“Just as you taught yourself to walk, you may have fallen over a lot in the beginning, but with practice, you got better,” Baughman said. “With fiber art, it takes practice, and then muscle memory kicks in.”
Beginners are encouraged to come to the introduction classes ahead of joining in the Friday night gatherings. The Introduction to the Hand Spinning class includes the fiber, spindle and 1 ounce of roving, so you can try it before going all in with a new hobby, Baughman said. The Introduction to the Spinning Wheel class is open to new or nearly new students who get to use the shop wheel.
When out-of-state visitors come to the shop looking for North Carolina art, they love to buy locally made yarn, Baughman said. She said that handmade yarn is art, and GCY displays local fiber art pieces for sale including the work of Gerald O’Donnell, a Greensboro fiber artist who has fiber landscapes and abstract pieces on display at the shop. O’Donnell also teaches felting classes about every six weeks.
Baughman said there are a couple reasons why she believes people want to learn a craft. One reason is to keep their hands busy, “so we don’t get into trouble.” She also said it’s relaxing, comforting and feels good to create something.
“Many fiber artists are introverts, and we tend to express our feelings in art and will create something that says ‘I care about you and I love you, so here is something I made to show you, rather than tell you.’”
It is always a heartwarming surprise to discover new ways in which local artists are compassionately giving back to their community utilizing their skills and talents. Operation Bed Roll is a collaboration between Greensboro’s field operations and police departments, spearheaded by Tori Carle, the City of Greensboro’s waste reduction supervisor.
Carle said that plarn is a mash-up word of plastic and yarn made from strips of used plastic bags. These strips are crocheted into 3-foot by 6-foot bed rolls that serve as an insulating barrier for homeless residents who sleep on the ground. She said it also helps keep plastic bags out of the landfill and from causing 10 to 12 shutdowns at the recycling center each day due to bags getting caught in machinery.
“Anyone can participate by learning how to make plarn, and for those who want to make the actual bed rolls, I recommend learning a few simple crochet techniques. You can always recycle a practice or bad bed roll at the grocery store,” Carle said. “With an overabundance of bed rolls last year, we were happy to share the love with our Winston-Salem neighbors. Bed rolls are always welcome.”
Carle said now that Operation Bed Roll is becoming self-sustaining as residents take it on as individuals or in groups, she can focus on other waste reduction needs.
There are 50 bed rolls for winter 2018 as of this date and nearly 500 bed rolls completed since the program’s inception in 2016.
TERRY RADER is a freelance writer/editorial/content/copy, poet and songwriter, part-time co-op community outreach/wellness at Deep Roots Market, certified herbalist and flower essences practitioner and pet/house sitter, formerly an ad agency creative director, copywriter, branding strategist and Earth Harmony columnist, a storyteller on a mission to raise awareness for creative people, grassroots, sustainability, holistic wellness and underground happenings in our community.
1/7 Introductory Weaving class includes loom, $315, 1/20, 1-3p.m., Introductory Hand Spinning class, $35, 1/27, 1-3p.m., Introductory Spinning Wheel class, $45. Gate City Yarns is located at 231 S. Elm St., in Greensboro. Regular hours are 10 a.m.-7 p.m. except 9 p.m. Friday nights, call 336.370.1233. For most up-to-date fiber art knitting, crocheting, felting classes, visit the GCY website and Facebook page. For more information about the City of Greensboro Recycling and Operation Bed Rolls for The Homeless, visit the website. Learn to make bed rolls on the City of Greensboro website.