New Tangletown store caters to fiber artists
TANGLETOWN — One barrel is filled with fluffy bats of pastel wool fibers, another with a merino wool in rich purple, orange and green. A neighboring shelf displays the softest fibers, bundles of cashmere and silk mixes in saturated pinks and reds.
Open packages invite customers to touch each fiber and examine each color before deciding what to buy.
These materials are the warmest and most inviting element of the Fiber Studio near 48th and Nicollet until you meet the owner.
Pam Angier, a Southwest resident for more than 25 years, opened the Fiber Studio in September to get back into the community three years after her first business closed.
“I missed having a shop, the interaction with people and sharing creative juices,” Angier said.
Angier previously owned Up a Creek, an eclectic combination of gifts, antiques, crafts and classes five blocks north of her new shop.
“She’s a fixture in the neighborhood,” said Leslie Granbeck, a customer, instructor and student at the Fiber Studio.
Granbeck met Angier as a customer at Up a Creek and the two formed a friendship over their common love of antiques, beading and fiber art.
On this evening, a group of fiber art students gather to learn Kumihimo braiding techniques from instructor Barb Knoche. Another day, Granbeck instructs classes on beginning needle felting and creating felted beads and baubles.
When Creative Fibers, a nearby store devoted to fiber arts materials and classes, closed earlier this year after 36 years in business, Angier opened her shop, which is the only of its kind in Southwest serving a growing community of fiber artists.
“There’s nothing like this anywhere around,” Angier said. “Everyone who’s involved in needle felting or wet felting, they say the same thing. They think it’s just on the cusp of exploding in interest.”
Angier describes the process of needle felting, a fiber art techniques that varies in difficulty depending on the size of the project.
“You use foam bases and needles and fiber of your choice and you just start poking away. It’s miraculous, it starts compressing and it starts making a fabric. The needles have barbs and the fibers have scales. It’s kind of like when your hair gets tangled up and snarled. The action of poking the barbs tangle up the fibers, and then the scales in the fibers lock together,” she said.
Finished needle felting projects are hard to distinguish from wet felting projects made from the same fiber, but wet felting is used most often for larger projects.
“Wet felting is taking the fibers and applying friction and hot soapy water. It makes the fiber shrink and bind up,” Angier said.
New fiber artists are drawn in by the affordability of the materials and the aesthetic appeal of the techniques.
“It’s visual, it’s tactile, it’s instant gratification, or not, depending on the scope of your project. You don’t have to devote your entire dining room table to a project for four weeks. You can go home with something after class. This is a great place for people to come in and indulge their passions, whatever they may be,” Granbeck said.
The Fiber Studio sells fibers including wool, merino, alpaca, mohair, silk and cashmere; tools for felting, spinning, braiding, embroidery, dying, collages, altered books and scrap booking; and many related classes.
Angier offers a wider selection of these items at a lower price than many crafting superstores where they must be special-ordered.
“There’s plenty of yarn stores and, of course, you can pick up a very expensive little pack of roving [processed fleece] at Michaels [arts and crafts store],” Granbeck said, “but I think Pam is the first one in the area to have a store devoted to fiber artists.”
Angier welcomes new fiber artists to undertake small fiber projects with beginners’ kits and classes, such as “Wooly Gnomes” wherein students needle-felt 2-inch gnomes from wool fiber.
“The nice part here is that I sell short lengths of yarn so you don’t have to go to the store and buy a whole skein of yarn. Customers can buy whatever they want in small quantities,” Angier said.
Her relationship to the fibers she sells is unique to the small shop.
Angier gets fresh fleece from several local farmers, which she washes and sells to customers who then either dye, felt, or spin the fleece.
“What I think is so cute is she’ll get fibers and she’ll know the name of the sheep that it came off of and it’s on the label. Little Curly-Q made this skein of yarn,” Granbeck said.
The green benefits of the product are important to Angier.
“It’s a renewable resource. Every spring the sheep give up their fleece, and then they start growing the next fleece. You know where it’s been processed and how. I really love that about it,” she said.
The availability of fresh fibers at the Fiber Studio is a plus for fiber artists who enjoy spinning yarn.
“The advantage of spinning your own yarn is if you take it from the washed wool and card it, you know that it’s not overprocessed. It’s more of an organic item. You know how it’s been treated and processed. Then you can spin it just the way you like it and [dye it] the color you want it,” Angier said.
A love of fiber arts and a sense of familiarity draw local fiber artists to Angier’s shop.
“If you walk through the door at the Fiber Studio, Pam will introduce you to each and every person that’s here. She knows everyone by name, and greets everyone by name. If she’s met you once she’ll remember your name, and that’s really impressive in today’s big-box sort of society. It’s a lovely thing,” Granbeck said.