Meet our natural dye and crochet instructor, Caroline Worrell! Caroline is an emerging Denver-based fiber artist who explores the intersections of art + fashion through the use of traditional Women's craft processes. She specializes in crocheted wearables, natural dye processes, and various other sustainable fiber practices.
Caroline began teaching at Fancy Tiger Crafts last fall (you may remember reading our previous Meet the Maker featuring Caroline). Since then she's helped introduce our community to natural dying by hosting introduction to natural dying classes as well as classes based around crochet design.
Read our Q&A with Caroline to learn more about what inspires Caroline as a maker and what you can expect from her workshops!
What inspires you and your work as a maker?
Fashion is definitely one of my biggest inspirations. I’ve been into fashion ever since I was young. That passion has without a doubt been a huge influence on the type of work I make and also the things I enjoy teaching. I got my BFA in fibers and textiles, so learning about the fashion industry through a cultural and environmental lens was really when I became fascinated with this intersection of fashion, aesthetics, sustainability, and traditional craft processes. The way we present ourselves to the world is so much more than the clothes we put on. Depending on where you buy your clothes, whether you make them yourself, buy clothes from large corporations, or make really intentional choices about where these garments come from- it all speaks to the much larger idea of how these choices affect the world we live in and the generations to come. Clothing also provides a general sense of liberation for so many people. With both my art and teaching practice, I’m constantly looking to provide a sense of refuge and security for femme/queer communities. How would you describe your crafting journey? What inspired you to explore the world of natural dyeing?
As a kid, art was always such a big part of my life. Through middle and high school I loved to paint and draw and definitely depended on it as an escape. Growing up, my sister and I spent a lot of time with my grandmother who is a very talented crocheter. She taught me to crochet when I was super young, but it didn’t find its way into my art practice until college. My first semester of college was one of the hardest times of my life and I needed a practice that was meditative and mindless. I picked up crocheting again and something just clicked. It was also at that time that I was introduced to the world of natural dyes! One of my professors at the time was a super talented forager and dyer and that really peaked my interest. I realized I love process-heavy work. Things that take a lot of time and patience bring me a weird sense of peace. Once I was fully designing my own garments and patterns, I made the decision to start naturally dyeing all of my fibers. It granted me access to another level of freedom in a way- financial freedom (yarn in big chain stores is so expensive), liberation in color/design, and liberation from consumerism/environmental harm. I have a long way to go in the way of keeping my art practice totally sustainable, but natural dyes were a really important first step. Now I have my own yarn subscription service where I send out bi-monthly fiber shipments of all naturally dyed yarns to empower students and other makers to make the shift to natural color!Tell us about your studio or workspace.
My studio and workspace these days is essentially my itty bitty apartment in Cap Hill. I live here with an awesome roommate who is also an artist and (gratefully) allows me to take over our kitchen on dye days and almost all of our storage space haha. My room has a shipping/printing station that also doubles as my sewing table. There are baskets and hangers everywhere for my massive yarn stash. Luckily my crochet practice is something I can do anywhere. On nice days, you can find me crocheting in Cheesman Park or outside coffee shops. I am also the owner of an 8 harness floor loom, but unfortunately she lives in a friend's garage unassembled, as I just don't have the space for it currently. Acquiring some official studio space in the next year or so is a huge goal of mine.
How would you describe your design aesthetic?
My design aesthetic is very cottage core/grandma vibes haha. I love vintage textiles and vintage fashion, so I spend a lot of time in thrift stores saving blankets, coverlets, and doilies. I love to mimic those traditional motifs in my crochet patterns and sketches. When I first started designing clothes, I was making dainty, form-fitting garments (that I personally would never wear.) It took some reflection for me to be like- “Why am I making clothes that I don’t feel good in?” I shifted my focus to making things that made me feel confident and unique and I’ve found that others connect much more with that sentiment as well. What inspired you to start teaching?
So often, people see my work and say- “oh I could never do that.” While I’ve had a lot of mentors and facilitators to my art practice, a lot of my processes are totally self taught and I want everyone to know that not everyone is just “born” an artist. Art is a learned discipline and that takes practice, passion, and perseverance. How do you approach teaching skills to others? What do you hope participants get out of your workshops?
I start most of my crochet classes with the statement that crocheting is like jazz. If you want it to be super structured and predictable, it can be. It can also be super fluid and flowing and intuitive. I never want students to get discouraged (especially beginners) if their tension isn't perfect right out of the gates, or if they realize they made a mistake 2 rows ago. The important part is that the process is fun, despite the mistakes. If anything, students get to spend an hour or two with other crafters, having a laugh, and trying new things! What is your go-to playlist or podcast to listen to while you work?
Ooooh music is really important for me while I’m doing anything. I’m a Spotify addict and making my own playlists is definitely one of my favorite things. I have a playlist called “Big Gorl Pants”' and it's for sure my hype up playlist for bucking up and conquering my day haha. I also listen to podcasts like “We can do hard things” with Glennon Doyle and “The Confident Collective” with Kristina Zias and Raeann Langas.
Get hands on experience with natural dying by signing up for Caroline's Intro to Natural Dyes Workshop or crochet your own pair of statement earrings by taking Caroline's Crocheted Earrings Workshop! Discover more of Caroline's work on her Instagram (@carolineworrell) or her website, www.carolineworrellfibers.com.