I had the pleasure of visiting with Fatima Showkatian about her recently formed yarn company.
Tell us about what you make, including your processes and techniques.
Abuelita Fiber Company focuses on naturally dyed fibers sourced locally in the Chesapeake Bay area. I aim to share my love of wool and everything I learn about how yarn is produced. I support my local community by currently sourcing fiber farmers and fiber mills local to the Chesapeake Bay – Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C. West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. I dye all my yarn by hand and only use natural materials like kitchen scraps, natural plant dyes, or responsibly foraged materials from my local area.
What inspires or influences what you make?
My intention is to create beautiful fiber that inspires others. I focus on slow fashion that is intentional, traceable, and made using sustainably created fiber. I really appreciate the slow process of creating something beautiful by hand, whether it’s tea, coffee, yarn, ceramics, etc. I really love learning all about the process and creativity it takes to create something and I want to share that with others. I am influenced by the array of colors found in nature around me. I am also inspired by places I have visited and my cultural background. As an event planner I’ve had the opportunity to travel to places around the world that have rich textile traditions. Some of the most memorable moments were seeing rare vicuna in Chile, purchasing handmade yarn from a local producer in Bhutan there despite the language barrier, and visiting a carpet factory in Armenia where I got to try making knots for a wool rug.
What was your path to using fibers to make your art/products?
My love of fiber and knitting stems from my Cuban grandmother who taught me how to embroider, cross stitch, sew, and crochet as a child. My company is named in her honor. My grandmother was my babysitter growing up so when I wasn’t in school, I was with my grandmother. She passed on her love of fiber, craft and artistry to me. I have been a knitter for over 10 years now and I have an appreciation for all things handmade. Moving from knitter to dyer isn’t a surprise since I’ve already been obsessed with the fiber world for a while. I’ve spent quite some time learning about yarn and all the techniques needed to process fiber into something usable. I’m also very aware of our impact on the environment, so when I started dyeing yarn, I wanted to make sure I was using materials in a sustainable way.
What fibers do you use?
Currently I offer yarn made of sheep’s wool in the shop, but I’m open to experimenting and exploring with other fibers as well. I recently sourced some vintage cotton yarns that I’ll be experimenting with to see how they dye. As a knitter, I’ve used many different fibers though and really enjoy seeing how different fibers knit up. I try to be intentional about where I source local fiber, so the process can be a little slow sometimes. I’m also keen to try blending fibers together too. That might be something I will experiment with in the future.
What are the most significant challenges you face as a maker that uses textiles?
For me, dyeing yarn is the easy part! It’s running a business that can be most challenging. As a small business owner, I do everything myself, from driving to local farms to source fiber to marketing my latest shop update. Sometimes the paperwork and technical side of owning a business takes more time than actually creating and making yarn!
What do you do when you’re not making/creating?
I am an events planner! I plan conferences, meeting and events all around the world. Currently, I am offering a Fiber Retreat right here in Alexandria, Virginia to take place in November. This is a small event that will bring fiber enthusiasts together for a relaxing fiber themed weekend.
What makes you want to participate in the Chesapeake Fibershed?
I really value connecting with my local community. The world of fiber is vast, but it’s also hard to sometimes connect with folks in our local community who are doing similar things. When I came across the Chesapeake Fibershed, I was really excited to learn more about what you do and wanted to be a part of this community.
Where can we find your products?
You can find my work at abuelitafibercompany.com. You can also follow me on instagram @abuelitafibercompany
What else would you like us to know about you and your work?
I’m always interested in learning more and connecting with others who love fiber. If you have any questions about natural dyeing please reach out! I also do private events (fiber related or not) so you can reach out to me if you are interested in collaborating together.