Free Spirit Fibers, a new shop downtown, will hook needlecrafters up with local yarns.
Imagine cozying up, now that the evenings are chilling, in a sweater knitted from wool that was grown, spun, and dyed locally. And why not? West Virginia is a state of pastures, after all. Locally and regionally produced yarns haven’t been easily available, but Mandi Powell wants to change that in her new downtown yarn shop, Free Spirit Fibers.
Powell traces her interest in yarns to learning a simple crochet stitch from her babysitter when she was 8. “I used to chain and chain and chain all the time,” she laughs. “I didn’t know how to do anything else.” But she admired the elaborate doilies her grandmother and great-grandmother made so, when she got old enough to have a job scooping ice cream, she saved her money, bought a book, and taught herself more.
When Powell later set aside her career as a nurse to become a stay-at-home mom, she picked her crochet hooks up again—and this time they took her to a fascination with fibers themselves, where and how they’re made.
“I used to buy acrylic yarn from the craft store, but I started thinking about supply chain processes,” she says. “There are a ton of people within an hour of Morgantown who are spinning and dying their own fibers, shepherds with their own flocks of sheep.”
Wait, really? We looked it up. As it turns out, more than 300 farms in the state raised sheep for wool in 2017, according to a USDA agricultural census. A few fiber mills operate in West Virginia, too, where raw wool and other animal fibers are processed into products that include yarn.
“It totally makes sense to support local makers,” Powell says. So this month, she’s opening Free Spirit Fibers on Fayette Street to supply knitters, crocheters, and other fiber artists with yarns that are produced either in West Virginia and the adjoining states or using environmentally friendly, animal-friendly, or fair trade practices.
Powell loves the historical buildings and the arts scene downtown, and she’s looking forward to being part of it. She plans to offer classes and group sessions, filling the vacuum of camaraderie and expertise that opened up when Needlecraft Barn closed in 2018.
Free Spirit Fibers opens on Wednesday, October 21, with a COVID-modified grand opening on Saturday, October 24.