Dec 21, 2023

Yarning for more: The Flagstaff Wool & Fiber Festival immerses attendees in fiber arts

The Flagstaff Wool & Fiber Festival will be hosted at the Pioneer Museum from June 3 - 4.

Venancio Aragón, a Diné textile artist, will demonstrate tapestry twill weaving on his Indigenous upright tension loom.

Wake up. Pick an outfit to wear. One sock, then the other. Phone, wallet, keys. Out the door. While clothing is a big part of everyone's life, its production is rarely a topic of conversation. Especially when it comes down to the very beginning of its creation–the spinning, weaving and shearing that go into every piece of clothing. The Flag Wool & Fiber Festival connects the public to the rich cultural history of regional fiber arts, demonstrating creation right before their eyes.

Andrea Greene, the founder of Flag Wool & Fiber Festival, began the festival in 2015. This year is the festival's ninth iteration, with two of those years being virtual due to the pandemic. Earlier in 2015, before beginning her journey with the festival's creation, Greene was asked by the Arizona Historical Society to lead a Sheep to Shawl demonstration, when you shear a sheep, spin the yard and then knit or weave it into something all at once, in front of an audience. The Arizona Historical Society told Greene that they had been running a wool and fiber festival off and on since 1996 with varying levels of success and asked if Greene wanted to take it over.

Greene had previously gotten into fiber arts through knitting, spinning and yarn dyeing. She opened an Etsy shop selling yarn after the birth of her son and fell down the rabbit hole, learning more and more about fiber arts as the years went on. When presented with this opportunity to lead a Fiber Festival, she said yes, asked a friend to help out and has been working hard to expand the festival ever since.

"So much has changed," Greene said. "It used to just be me and one of my friends but now we have a solid team of five that run it. We’re a non-profit now, and we use the Pioneer Museum and the Coconino Center for the Arts property and the Sechrist field. It's grown tremendously."

Supported through grants from local organizations like the City of Flagstaff, Creative Flagstaff, Arizona Community Foundation and Arizona Foundation for the Arts, the event has expanded into a multiple-day celebration of fiber arts. The festival is free to the public, with demonstrations, workshops, vendors, livestock exhibits, live shearing, lectures, food vendors and many more elements.

"We have vendors everywhere from raw fleece, yarn from small farms, hand dyed yarn, candles, soap–there is a woman out of Prescott Valley that does goat milk soap–there will be woven rugs, towels and finished garments like that," Green said.

Most of the events included are free to the public, but there are also some ticketed workshops available for purchase. With the help of grants, Flagstaff Wool & Fiber Festival was able to bring in two featured artists who will be doing free-to-the-public demonstrations. Venancio Aragón, a Diné textile artist, will demonstrate tapestry twill weaving on his Indigenous upright tension loom and how the Navajo lap spindle is used to spin wool fibers into yarn. Alissa Allen, founder of Mycopigments, will present on the history of using fungi for dyes, how to test them for dye potential and guide a silk scarf dyeing.

"Everyone should come," Greene said. "We really have something for everyone, for little kids up to people who already know what they are doing. People just enjoy the sheep shearing alone, it's a huge draw. Everyone who is there is really positive and willing to share. To be able to stop and chat with these people doing these crazy things–some that you might have heard of and others that you haven't–it's a really fun time."

The Flagstaff Wool & Fiber Festival team has always wanted to keep the festival accessible to all, making as many parts of it free to the public. With the help of the community, they hope to open some eyes and hearts to an immersive farm to fiber experience.

"One thing that is really important to us and our mission as a nonprofit is to help connect the community to these fiber artists, and making this connection for free," Greene said. "We couldn't do that without the community support that we get, whether that be through grants or the team of women who run it. It's not one person. It takes a whole lot of people to make this happen. We’re so appreciative of everyone who helps out. With community events, especially free ones, the more the community gets involved, the more it can grow, be supported and continue."

To learn more about the event and volunteer opportunities, head over to the Flagstaff Wool & Fiber Festival website.

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