Flowers And Fibre: Exploring a Common Beauty

19 May 2021
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There is an alliance that seems to form between communities that share an interest in each other’s industries and businesses, from farms to fibre artists. In spring and summer, many knitters and crocheters become purveyors of plants for a while, spinning our creativity toward the natural environment. As a former greenhouse horticulturalist and current wool shop owner I’ve found that the people who frequent these places have a lot of beautiful qualities in common.

image description: a collection of colourful tulips and wool fibre lying on a table

Fibre art and horticultural endeavours pair up perfectly, keeping our hands busy in the textures of soil though summer, and warm in winter wrapped in soothing wool. It’s more than just keeping our hands busy and our minds occupied on a task—we grow things, planting seeds and casting on loops that we nurture until they become something else. In these pursuits we find self-expression that transmits our joy in the process to others who find joy in the result.

Photo 2016-05-30, 11 53 13 AM

Conversations in both yarn circles and garden forums involve similar patterns. We talk about design, bouncing ideas off one another, identifying arrangements that fit our landscape. One involves the landscape of our bodies, individual, varied, and beautiful; the other being our ecological spaces, by which we surround ourselves with all of nature’s perfect imperfections. We help each other when we get stuck, and solve puzzles together using science and art as our guide.

Conversations develop from a simple question and answer, one on one, and grow into a chorus of voices, resourceful and thoughtful. In the wool shop we tend to find ourselves around a table, working on our projects individually, together. In the garden centre we can find ourselves standing over a row of perennials talking tips and strategies with strangers, showing photos from our phones of previous years’ successes.

There’s a flow through these spaces, in wool shops and garden centres, with people coming and going, but what stays consistent is the sharing of ideas.

There’s solace in each of these spaces, in the fresh air of a greenhouse, in the warm walls of a wool shop. People don’t just find their craft in these places, they find peace of mind and clarity. There aren’t very many retail situations that offer such an experience. It’s what I’ve enjoyed most working in these places: the energy is positive, calm, and imaginative.

image description: a close-up of two purple tulip flowers

Even the physical organization of greenhouses and wool shops have similarities. Plants that prefer the same care get grouped together, making it easier to help customers pore over options that work within particular parameters. We do the same in wool shops, organizing yarns in complementary classes in order to help crafters find what works well together.

image description: purple and yellow flowers in a garden

In both environments customers come in with one or more of a few things: a pattern with some colours in mind, colours in mind but no pattern; a starting point or an end desire; or just seeking inspiration within the space. We discuss texture, colour, shape, size, purpose, and meaning.

There’s always a meaning behind a visit to both greenhouses and wool shops. Why someone is in that retail moment is what is most interesting to me. Each visit has inspiration at its heart. It’s often in the meaning that we are lead to find the right plant or fibre for a project. Meaningful reasons I heard for a visit to the greenhouse included stories of a customer’s grandmother who loved yellow flowers, and another customer who was losing her sight and could only see yellow. In the exact same way, whether about colour or design, these kinds of meaningful stories arise in the wool shop, each with heartfelt intentions. It demonstrates just how thoughtful we are in our experiences of these arts.

In the wool shop, I’ve found it invigorating to see how many people create handmade items for other people, and not strictly for family. In fact, from my observations, friends are most often the recipients. Many make, or make extras, for the purpose of charity. This community of artisans is endlessly giving. Gardeners share the same generosity, donating buckets of produce to local outreach programs, giving extras to friends, making preserves and sharing recipes. Patterns and recipes passed down and across, through history, passions, needs, and fashions. Trends evolve in each, but both gardeners and yarn crafters maintain their reliance on fundamental art and science.

I will never get tired of this. People who take a single small thing and build on it in personal, purposeful ways are kindred spirits. Artist creativity and scientific methods exist in harmony; the fibre arts being just one branch of exploration. The next time you find yourself in a greenhouse, imagine knitting, crocheting, or felting that scene, and in the wool shop see a garden for all the flowers.

image description: the front window of a yarn shop, with yarn and a scarf visible just inside

An invitation to get creative.

Image description: a collection of needle-felted strawberries in various stages of completion.

In addition to being a gardener, Amy is a fibre artist; she prepared a needle-felted strawberry tutorial for Digits & Threads.

Enjoy the image gallery below, featuring some of her other garden-inspired fibre creations.

All images courtesy Amy Vervoort.

Copyright © Amy Vervoort except as indicated.
image description: a woman wearing a green felted hat

About Amy Vervoort

Amy Vervoort is the owner of Olives and Bananas Fibre Art / Wool Shop in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Horticulture and fibre arts come together in her work, with a lifelong passion for gardening influencing this past decade’s concentration in the fibre arts. She crafts with wool roving, yarn, and threads to create whimsical designs, decor, and characters. She lives in Thunder Bay with her husband, Rohan, a geologist, and youngest son, Oliver; enjoying mother-daughter visits with her adult daughter, Hannah, in Ottawa. Her middle son, Finn, is remembered through all she does. Three silly cats, and two senior hounds complete the family.

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