A Verb for Keeping Warm
A natural dye studio, a yarn and fabric shop, a community classroom, an urban dye garden — these are just a few of the offerings held within the Oakland storefront of A Verb for Keeping Warm. The current location opened in 2011, a manifestation of owner Kristine Vejar’s love of textiles, exploration of natural dyeing, and vision to cultivate and support fiber arts. A Verb for Keeping Warm collaborates with California sheep farmers including Fibershed producers to create locally grown and naturally dyed yarns, and offers classes on dye gardening, knitting, and clothing construction. Kristine Vejar’s book, The Modern Natural Dyer, was released in 2015.
“At A Verb for Keeping Warm, our dream is to see the ethics and production of textiles in a fair and ecologically sensitive manner enter people’s minds, just how it has for the organic and local food movement. So we strive to support local farmers and to carry goods where each person who is part of the production, from the farmer to the weaver, can be known and part of the beauty of the completed project. This vision has led A Verb for Keeping Warm to create a number of products using locally grown materials. Having learned from a local sheep shearer that thousands of pounds of wool were being thrown away or sold for pennies to China, Kristine made it her mission to finally create a line of California wool yarn. In 2012, Kristine released her first line of yarn made from California raised wool. Called Pioneer, this yarn is composed of 100% organic Merino grown by organic cotton breeder, Sally Fox. At this time, she launched the California Wool Project, in which she dedicated herself and Verb to supporting local farmers, through the purchase of their wool. Since the release of Pioneer, she has created two more batches. In Summer 2015, she released Flock, a yarn made from wool grown by three northern California farms. She is in the process of making a worsted-weight yarn from California-grown Rambouillet wool. This yarn, named Range, will be released in Winter 2015.
Committed to creating more locally available natural dyes, A Verb for Keeping Warm has its own natural dye garden. The garden was started in 2011, when the San Pablo location opened. As the garden has taken root, it has been primarily used for education purposes – to teach others what forms of natural dyes are available and what they look like, while also teaching us at Verb how they grow in the Bay Area climate. In Summer 2015, Kristine utilized lessons learned from the garden, to guide Verb’s first foray into farming: a nine hundred-foot long-row of dye plants planted at Sally Fox’s Capay Valley farm. Kristine has also worked with local dyer and Fibershed founder, Rebecca Burgess, on cultivating and supporting a local indigo farming and dyeing initiative. Under the guidance of Roland Ricketts, Kristine helped Rebecca to create a special floor, modeled upon the traditional Japanese structure, to compost dried indigo leaves. Now, with this exceptional tool, Rebecca was able to create sukumo (composted indigo) using locally-grown indigo. And Kristine was able to establish fermentation indigo vats based upon those utilized by Roland Ricketts and based upon the traditional style of Japanese fermentation indigo vats. Currently, A Verb for Keeping Warm has two of these indigo vats. Fall 2015 marks the first season in which A Verb for Keeping Warm was able to create the entire rainbow of colors using locally grown dyes.”
Photo credit: Paige Green