Hand-dyeing Hobby Becomes Business Venture for Local Artist

by | May 2020

Wool + Timber founder Nathalie Carrigan

Photo: Chris Emeott

Fiber artist pursues an unintended business venture.

When Dellwood’s Nathalie Carrigan and her husband bought a house three years ago, it had a large open wall where Nathalie wanted to hang a piece of art. She studied studio art in college and thought maybe she could create something suitable for the space. She never dreamed at the time that what she would create would become a business and even be spotlighted on an HGTV show. Here’s how it all happened …

When Carrigan’s grandparents downsized to a condo, her grandpa gifted her a collection of live edge boards along with the pick of any tools she wanted from his workshop. “He taught me how to use most of the tools when I was young,” Carrigan says, remembering how she and her brother would make things like cribbage boards in their grandpa’s workshop.

She’d been admiring some dye-dipped canvases and wondered how she could create something similar and incorporate the live edge boards. So she went about experimenting with hand-dipping yarn to create a similar effect. “My first attempts were pretty rudimentary and kind of disappointing,” Carrigan says. But she kept trying and eventually ended up with a fiber art tapestry that looked great in her home.

When her sister-in-law saw how terrific the piece looked, she wanted one too. And then so did friends, and so on until her husband finally said that if she was going to spend so much time creating these wool and timber art pieces, she should consider selling them. Enter a high school friend who also works in PR, and Carrigan’s business Wool + Timber was born.

Carrigan uses a blend of alpaca wool yarn because it dyes well and hangs straight. “It’s soft and people like to touch it,” Carrigan says. “I love that. It also adds texture and softness to a home which is what people love.”

It takes up to 800 strands of yard for a medium-sized tapestry. Carrigan cuts each piece and dip dyes them with an acid-based (basically, vinegar) dye, one color layer at a time. “Each step doesn’t take long, but the overall process does because you have to wait [for the dye to dry].” The colored strands are attached to live edge boards that Carrigan has cut, planed, sanded and stained. “The wood takes me longer than anything else which surprises people,” Carrigan says. Now that she’s used up her grandpa’s wood, she gets wood from a Minneapolis mill. “It all comes from trees that have fallen naturally,” Carrigan says. “Nothing is cut.”

Then Heather Fox of Edina posted a social media call for fiber art to display in an episode of herHGTV show Stay or Sell.  A friend submitted photos of Carrigan’s work and she ended up having a tapestry staged in a home on the show and was also invited to create a tapestry for an episode.

Carrigan has now been commissioned to create a piece for the lobby of an Edina apartment building, and shoppers can find her work for sale at Brad and Heather Fox’s new Foxwell shop in Edina.

Carrigan says, “For me, fiber art is a new way to combine all of the things that I love into something that is not super common.” She says starting a business was a little overwhelming but that she loves making her tapestries. And we love how beautiful and interesting they are.

Find Wool + Timber at wooltimber.com.
Facebook: wool + timber
Instagram: @wooltimber


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