Holding Space for Creativity at Fiber Circle Studio

Written by Amanda Fisk and photographed by Noelle Gaberman, except as noted.

Tucked into the Sonoma County town of Cotati, Fiber Circle Studio is a haven of experience in the fiber arts, and a space for anyone seeking to deepen their understanding. A place where anyone can come to learn or explore the world of fiber, from weaving and spinning, to knitting, crocheting, sewing, dyeing, or processing wool.

Alisha Reyes, the founder, and owner of Fiber Circle Studio, has created a bright, clean and beautiful studio space that offers classes and workshops in all the fiber arts, and the studio goes even further by providing the opportunity for fiber enthusiasts to come in and explore.

When Alisha was seventeen years old, she wanted to learn how to knit, so she enrolled in a sock knitting class. After making her first pair of socks, she knew she had found something she enjoyed doing. Realizing she had a passion for yarn, she wanted to learn more. Her connection to knitting led her to the world of fiber, where she discovered she wanted to try it all: weaving, spinning, knitting, crocheting, anything to do with fiber. While she continued to nourish her passion for knitting and fiber, Alisha also attended college where she majored in business. These two connections have given Alisha, now twenty-eight years old, the opportunity to create Fiber Circle Studio, a home for educational offerings and membership-based use of equipment to be creative and explore any of the fiber arts.

The studio offers the use of the space and the tools to work with: Floor looms and table looms for weaving, spinning wheels for spinning yarn, sewing machines for sewing, dye vats for dyeing, and carding machines for processing wool. There is a growing library of books for reference and instruction. Classes and workshops are conducted by visiting instructors who are happy to share their knowledge and experience. Fiber Circle Studio offers day-use passes and monthly memberships for using the facility and tools.

In the main room, there are five Jack type looms, and a table for gathering groups for discussion, or knitting, crocheting, and embroidery, etc. One of the other two adjacent rooms houses a growing library and a large table for laying out or working on projects. Here the vats of indigo for dyeing can be found. In the third room the small table looms, spinning wheels and carding machines, as well as various hand tools, are available for use.

The studio has a contemporary flair with clean lines and colorful displays of yarn for sale and yarn for weaving. Alisha has a keen eye for detail, and the studio has elegant aesthetic while maintaining a warmth and a feeling of welcome and comfort.

The studio is available for study and social groups, guild meetings, and workshops for independent instructors. Many from the Fibershed community are involved with Fiber Circle Studio: Mary Pettis-Sarley from Twirl Yarn is taking a weaving class; Keyaira Terry teaches tapestry weaving; Robin Lynde of Meridian Jacobs teaches rigid heddle weaving; Brook Sinnes from Sincere Sheep teaches a natural dye class.

Much like a fiber arts practice, Alisha’s community collaborations have continued to evolve since Fiber Circle Studio first emerged. Just before the studio opened, Alisha met Craig Wilkinson at Fibershed’s 2017 Wool & Fine Fiber Symposium, and upon learning that he grows indigo on nearby farms, invited him to share his indigo at the Fiber Circle Studio grand opening in January of 2018. The community indigo vat certainly made a splash, and now provides ongoing opportunities for classes on vat and dyeing techniques, as well as ongoing Community Indigo Vat access through Fiber Circle Studio’s workshop sign-up page.

Craig Wilkinson (left) tends a locally-grown indigo vat and offers indigo dyeing classes at Fiber Circle Studio (photos courtesy of Alisha Reyes).

“The response has been overwhelmingly positive in the aspects of community excitement, support and sharing projects and information about the community vat,” shared Alisha, “We have figured out what’s worked and hasn’t worked through the supportive responses of participants, as well as through trial and error and have been able to work towards what we hope to be a sustainable offering. It’s been fulfilling to be able to give access to a locally grown indigo vat to our community and create our own indigo journey and story.”

Fiber Circle Studio holds space for so much in the community: a place to gather, learn, and share all things fiber. And because Fiber Circle Studio is not a retail space itself, it allows for innovative opportunities like hosting a pop-up marketplace during the Wine Country Yarn Hop, allowing farmers and artisans (including many Fibershed Producer members) to sell goods directly to makers. From Alisha’s perspective, this facet allows the studio to “stay true to my business goals of not being a retail store, but has added value to the studio and our community by offering access to local fiber, dyers and makers, and in this way, has created a completed ‘circle.'”

Fiber Circle Studio’s community indigo vat offers opportunities for one-on-one access to a locally grown, composted, and fermented vat (photo courtesy of Alisha Reyes).

This year, Fiber Circle Studio took their home-away-from-home creativity on the road with their first retreat: Knitting Under the Redwoods in Mendocino. Journeying farther north for just a few days “is a way for me to bring creative people together on a smaller, more intimate level” and Alisha has set a goal of offering one locally based retreat per year. The solo-entrepreneur and mother of two confided that “if I’m being honest, it is a ‘justifiable’ way for me personally to relax, un-plug and connect on a deeper level with the amazing people I am surrounded by!”

It’s clear that Alisha is as generous in spirit as she in the spaciousness of Fiber Circle Studio. Earlier this year, she agreed to design a knitting pattern for the 2019 Fibershed Knitalong, a community-wide initiative to encourage the creation of locally-grown knitwear and drum up support for regionally raised yarns. For Alisha, it’s less about having her elegant Coast Side Cardigan pattern featured and promoted, and more about participating in a community of creators: “Seeing other knitters get excited about something you’ve created always warms the heart. I am so thrilled that we have such a strong community of people in Northern California interested in making their own clothing and accessories. For me to be able to participate in bringing the local knitting community together, to knit a pattern that has been designed locally with beautiful, local yarns is an overwhelmingly fulfilling feeling.”

The Coast Side Cardigan, designed by Alisha, is one of the featured patterns of the 2019 Fibershed Knitalong (photo by Paige Green).

Create what you want to see in the world could be a guiding philosophy equally applied to Fiber Circle Studio and to Alisha’s knitting pattern designs. She reflected: “When I very first began knitting, I was not at all inspired by many of the patterns that existed. They did not suite the style of a 17 year old… Had I begun knitting within the last few years, I would have been flooded with amazing patterns that were (and are) so my style, and therefore probably would not have embarked on the journey of designing.”

She started with off-the-cuff, improvisational efforts and “quickly learned that a lot more goes into a pattern than meets the eye and it is very mathematical. Being left brain-dominant, math was not scary for me to apply to knitting.” As her designs evolved into patterns, she picked up the standards, formatting, formulas, and tricks that help make a pattern knitter-friendly. “Eleven years later, I would not consider myself a ‘professional’ designer, however whenever I want to make something that inspires me and a pattern doesn’t exist – I love and feel confident in the exercise of sketching, creating formulas, drafting a pattern and knitting it!”

Lately, Alisha’s creative sparks are balanced by sustaining the offerings at Fiber Circle Studio, and she shared that “much of my designing has slowed down in the last few years, as much of my time is spent running the studio and chasing around my two littles. I hope to return to designing on a more regular basis once life slows a little.”

Inside Fiber Circle Studio, that feeling of slowing down to create is evident, and offers a treasured resource for nearby makers. The studio eliminates the high cost of investment in purchasing materials and supplies for anyone interested in the world of fiber. Instead, one can weave, dye, process fiber, spin and sew without having to invest space and money in equipment, as well as explore more portable arts such as crocheting and knitting. It’s all there at Fiber Circle Studio, a sanctuary of learning, processing, and being able to be creative in the fiber arts.

To learn more about Fiber Circle Studio, visit their website here.