Tucked snug alongside Sunset Pond you’ll find a crafty, quaint space filled to the brim with fabric and yarn the colors of our own local landscape. True North Textiles, started in 2014 by Amy Tyson, is a custom, hand-woven rug manufacturer that specializes in both fabric and flatweave rugs which sells to customers throughout the United States and New Zealand. Amy explains, “handmade rug production is really rare here. There aren’t a lot of people making rugs in America.” There is plenty of industrial carpet business but, “craft is really popular right now.”
Amy previously worked as a carpet designer in New York before responding to a Craigslist ad from a Bellingham woman in need of a weaver for her own textile business. From there it was a quick progression; the previous owner retired, sold her three looms to Amy and True North Textiles was created. In only a few short years she has made the most of the unique space, equipment and local inspiration.
Hand weaving is an intricate, lengthy process that requires specific equipment. “Our looms are made in Chico, California by a small manufacturer.” All three looms, the largest being 12 feet wide, take up roughly half of the studio space. Each one is obviously heavy, complicated and, quite frankly, slightly daunting. Amy likened the manual dobby system to that of a player piano or music box- something relatable I could wrap my head around.
“At first I was afraid I was going to break the loom,” Meg Lehinger, one of the weavers, shared. She also expressed her appreciation for the fact that each are powered by air pressure and thus require less muscle from the weaver. The weaving process involves walking back and forth the full width of the rug, typically eight to 12 feet. When each rug requires four to seven days to complete, this is important. “It makes it easier to weave by using the body in the most efficient way,” Meg describes it, “like dancing.”
I was surprised to discover that April is actually their biggest sales month. Why? “I’ve been told it’s because it’s tax season,” Amy says but adds that spring-cleaning probably plays a big part as well.
The entire process from customer contact to rug completion takes a total of six to eight weeks. Since rugs are custom-made, the design process can be quite extensive as well. Samples of requests are sent to customers prior to actually making the rug to ensure they are getting exactly what they want.
When I inquired about color options, Amy’s eyes lit up. “Color makes a big difference. We use lots of PNW colors but coming from New York I brought urban colors back with me.” She described urban colors as being shades of gray and blue. “People in different places have different ideas of how they want to feel in their space,” Amy says. Since her customer base ranges from coast to coast, it makes sense to utilize all sorts of colors in their designs.
When asked why she thought craft was so popular right now Amy said, “I think it’s a response to things like iPhones and technology. Machine made products are precise in a way that is cold.” She explained, “it’s a rebellion against sameness.” This profound statement seems extremely relevant in a world where often both machines and people seem to be run by computer-based technology. Human touch is authentic and refreshing. In weaving, there is obviously a lot of handwork which Amy says is “more natural and not an industrial look.” She then went on to say that, “there is also a cultural trend in people investing more in their homes,” and to make it a “refuge to come home to.” A custom, hand-woven rug at your feet upon entering a house door would make anyone feel at home.
True North Textiles is still young, but the business is growing fast and has plenty of room to explore. Amy says that she feels, “the need to start creating a larger variety of styles and reinterpreting handcraft traditions from around the world.” There is time between projects that make putting energy towards innovation possible. Design potential, for instance, “We can design here and then have the products manufactured in different countries,” she explains. Along with this, Amy also expresses that she’d really like to make fabric.
After attending a local ceramics class, Amy realized that a lot of craft businesses in the area have the same problems. Since then she has organized monthly meetings to talk about and collaborate on these issues. It’s clear there is a lot of potential for the future of this business, but also other local businesses like it, as well.
Stop by the studio to find out more about the craft of rug weaving and what this local business is getting excited about. For more information on True North Textiles, visit the website, http://www.truenorthtextiles.com/.