Introducing Maia Discoe of Tactile Fiber Arts

Hi, all! As you know, I am arranging a series of artist appearances and talks at K2Tog throughout the next year. We had a great time in February with Michelle Miller of Fickleknitter and Lorajean Kelly of Knitted Wit – lots of beautiful yarn and patterns scrolling through our fingers and into our stashes! This month, we welcome Maia Discoe of Tactile Fiber Arts. I first came across Maia as a dyer when I went to the Interweave Knitting Lab show in San Mateo last year. It took me a long, long time to choose just one skein, but I did it!!! A gorgeous hunk of fingering weight super wash in lovely natural shades of blue, green and yellow. When I was paying, Maia and I each said to each other, “Don’t I know you?” We recognized each other from the store, but we were faces out of place! Idid not know she was a big-deal dyer! Maia has kindly consented to be in the store this Sunday, March 11, from 1 to 4, with her glorious hand-dyed yarns made with all natural dyes. She’ll give a talk about her dying philosophy and have her goodies to sell!

Here’s a pic of Maia’s booth from Madrona, where she recently showed and sold . . . .

I asked Maia some questions about how she works . . . .

Kimberly: How long ago did you start Tactile Fiber Arts and why? What moved you to start dying and then selling?

Maia: Tactile had its 5th anniversary last month! It all started with a love of wool and fiber. After my first yarn store job 25 years ago, I want to have a yarn store myself. About 8 years ago I wandered into a spinning class and fell in love. That teacher also taught natural dyeing. Soon I was dyeing my own fiber and selling my handspun. Eventually, I decided to stick to the dyeing and started Tactile. My dream of making my living in wool has finally come true!

Kimberly: What kinds of yarn do you use and why? What kinds of dyes do you use and why?

Maia: I love all kinds of yarn and fibers. I love the scratchy can only look at it from afar yarns and the soft luxurious yarns you never want to stop touching. For Tactile, I focus on well constructed yarns, US grown and processed whenever possible. As a spinner I have come to appreciate how much the construction of a yarn affects the look and feel of garments made from it. I look for yarns that bring a variety of options to my line.

I use only natural dyes for several reasons. I love the colors of natural dyes. I also love the fact that natural dyes are of the earth and used properly are safe for the planet. My studio is at my house, I use my wash water and exhaust baths for watering my garden. I wouldn’t do that with synthetic dyes. I am also a part of sustaining traditional crafts and communities. Every time I order dyes, I am keeping those traditions alive. The most interesting aspect of natural dyes is that there is always some more to learn. Dye combinations are unpredictable and often glorious. I could spend the rest of my life playing with natural dyes and not exhaust the possibilities for color and effect.

Kimberly: What’s your single biggest challenge as a dyer and businesswoman? How do you tackle that?

Maia: My biggest challenge is keeping up with all the details involved in running a business. I am a one-woman business. Aside from a small bit of help with my online store, I do everything: dyeing, marketing, sales, bookkeeping, website design, etc. Finding balance is difficult. Many of these tasks are not fun; I would much rather wash yarn than do my bookkeeping. My solution is to “reward” myself with the tasks I love like dyeing after I have completed tasks like paperwork.

Kimberly: Tell me about one or two products that you are really proud of and why.

Maia:  One of my newest yarns is Madrone, a Rambouillet wool worsted weight grown and processed in the western US. Rambouillet is a merino type breed developed in Rambouillet France by breeding French sheep with a flock of merino sheep gifted to France by the King of Spain in about 1800. The fiber is soft like merino and the sheep are well suited to the western US states. The yarn is spun from carded wool making it loftier than the yarn usually found in yarn stores. (note to Kimberly: I would be happy to demonstrate and talk about yarn construction as part of the trunk show).

I am also really excited about my Wild Crafted line. It started when Alana Dakos [of Never Not Knitting] approached me about yarn support for a hat pattern in her book Coastal Knits. She asked if I use local dyestuffs for any of my colors. I had been thinking about doing this for a while and suggested eucalyptus. Unknown to me, eucalyptus leaves were the inspiration for the hat. It was too perfect! For this line, I have dyed with plum leaves from my backyard tree, rhubarb root, horsetail, and Queen Anne’s lace with many more ideas to come. All are gathered from my local area. It has been a wonderful adventure I plan to continue.

Kimberly: What is new for you this coming year?

Maia: This year I am expanding my yarn selection from mostly lace and fingering weights into DK and worsted weights. I am also seeking out more breed specific yarns and yarns grown and processed in the US.


About kjwinston

I am a freelance religion reporter living in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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One Response to Introducing Maia Discoe of Tactile Fiber Arts

  1. Pingback: K2Tog Trunk Show – Tactile Fiber Arts

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