Rowan Green is the artisan behind Rowan Green Fiber Arts, a one-woman business in Olympia selling handspun, hand-dyed fine wool yarn and repurposed cashmere handwarmers, hats, scarves, shawls and more. Rowan designs and makes everything in her home studio using local, sustainable, recycled and repurposed materials.
“I start with second-hand, 100% cashmere sweaters that are castoffs from local thrift stores, diverting them from the waste stream,” Rowan shares. “The sweaters are sanitized, felted, cut apart, and sewn into hats, fingerless gloves and more.”
She cuts sweater scraps into pieces to appliqué and donates unusable scraps to a fabric recycling company. All stitchwork is done freehand.
Rowan weaves an ethos of sustainability and locality into everything she crafts. “I work with sustainable or regenerative farms and I buy local whenever possible,” she says. “Caring for the Earth while creating and supporting community partnerships is something I care deeply about.”
Deep Ties to the SW Washington Fiber Arts Community
Rowan has been weaving her way through the fiber arts scene for nearly two decades. She learned to spin in the early 2000s, after taking a job at an alpaca farm. Rowan quickly became enchanted by her environment and yearned to learn more. The women there gave her a spindle and some fleece from their guard llama, Mercy, and taught her to spin. Rowan was introduced to the Spinners Guild and began to enrich her life through textile and fiber arts.
In 2008, Rowan went into business at Pikes Place Market in Seattle. She was just learning how to be an artist at the time and found herself so inspired by artists around her that she began to immerse herself in art in every way she could, with museums, books and classes. She felt she was on the verge of something new, and one day, it happened. She accidentally shrunk her favorite wool sweater. Not wanting to get rid of something she loved, she tried her hand at repurposing. She cut the sweater into pieces, crafted hand warmers and a hat out of it, and wore it to work. To Rowan’s surprise and delight, people were so impressed with her design that they wanted to see more of it. Rowan decided this was her opportunity to make something out of this.
She got to work improving her sewing skills on Helga, her 1981 Viking sewing machine. She learned to appliqué and needle felt and grew her skills from there, making a business out of this that continued for eight years.
Fiber Arts in Olympia
Rowan decided to veer away from craft life and into ecology and permaculture for a time before going back to college, a decision that ultimately brought her to Olympia, and back to fiber arts. “Textile art draws me in again and again,” says Rowan. “It is such an important part of human history, of the history of women. It is as old as civilization.”
Moving to Olympia, Rowan quickly took an interest in involvement with the Procession of the Species and Samba Olywa. She joined the amateur percussion group and through this, she met Dr. Sean Williams, professor at The Evergreen State College, who invited Rowan to join her Irish Studies program. Being of Irish ancestry, Rowan felt it fit her perfectly. In the class, she learned about the entire world through the lens of Irish culture. This program, which was meant to culminate in a quarter abroad in Ireland, was cut short by the pandemic. Rowan finished her degree online in Olympia.
After graduation, Rowan found that she once again needed a creative endeavor in her life. After taking courses with Enterprise for Equity, Rowan wrote a business plan and launched a new incarnation of her fiber arts business. At just the right time in spring 2022, a spot became available at the Olympia Farmers Market. Rowan applied and has been a market vendor ever since.
Fiber Arts in Ireland
In Summer 2022, Rowan got her opportunity to visit Ireland and continue her studies abroad. She was awarded the Gilman Scholarship, which enables people who face significant barriers to study abroad. Rowan was also awarded a grant through the Olympia Weavers Guild to study Irish Tapestry Weaving. She enrolled in a weeklong intensive fiber arts course as well as an Irish Language course at Oideas Gael in Donegal, an Irish Language and Cultural Institute.
Shortly after arriving, however, Rowan contracted COVID and had to spend 10 of her 22 days in Ireland in isolation. Luckily, she was supported graciously by her hosts who put her up in a beautiful, old Irish cottage and set her up with Wi-Fi so she could attend her Irish Tapestry Weaving course online.
Being in Ireland, a place where ancient history lives side-by-side with the present day, and still greatly influences the culture there, Rowan learned a great deal and felt deeply connected to her own ancestry. She knows Ireland will call her back again one day. But for now, she is back in Olympia weaving magic through fiber.
Rowan Green Fiber Arts in Olympia
Rowan’s handcrafted cashmere wares and handspun yarns can be found locally in Olympia’s Gallery Boom art shop and Jorstad Creek Yarn & Fiber Company. Rowan has a booth at the Olympia Farmers Market. Visit her booth, say hello, and try on some luxurious handcrafted cashmere!