Images above courtesy of Kira Luxon Photography via Wild Hand.
It goes without saying that 2020 has been an odd year for us all. I don't know about anyone else, but I've often fantasized about what it would have been like to quarantine somewhere besides Philly: say Paris with my sisters or Charlottesville near my mom or, more often, in my quasi-hometown of New York City. My nostalgia never goes too deep. All I have to do is imagine two screaming kids, two cats, two dogs, and what were briefly five fish (RIP) all contained within the walls of a small apartment... I quickly shudder and try to think of something else.
What I do miss the most about NYC is the easygoing chit-chat that made up my daily life, although I guess I wouldn't have been able to shoot the breeze much in quarantine anyway. Philadelphians are a little more reserved in general. That's why, when I happened to stop into Wild Hand, a beautifully curated yarn & ethically-produced goods boutique nestled into Mount Airy, one of Philly's gorgeous garden districts, meeting the vibrant and talented Theresa Hill of Ewe-Nited States of Fiber was such an unexpected pleasure. Theresa is so many things that I don't even know if vibrant does her justice. She is an ICU nurse, a cancer survivor, a veteran, a mother, a spinner and a dyer, who also leads workshops, which you can learn more about here.
It was so easy to talk to her, that when she mentioned she actually lived in Delaware, I had to bring up that I was also not a Philly girl but an ex-pat New Yorker. We both shared a laugh about how different the style of chitchat is in Philly. I've really come to love Philly, and I'm still trying to unravel that conundrum of how it can be both an international city but also feel parochial sometimes. I could be wrong, but it seems to me some of it comes down to how most Philadelphians have lived here all their lives and aren't eager to make new friends, whereas New Yorkers are often transplants from all over the globe. From there, Theresa and I got to talking about other things we shared in common-- our tendency to bring out confessions in strangers, our love of knitting (or in my case crocheting-- I was there to purchase yarn for my husband's Christmas present. A so-called "love blanket", called that because I always overestimate the proper size a blanket should be in the first few rows, so much so that my crochet projects always turn into monstrous-sized gravity blankets that take years and many skeins to complete aka a labor of love. )
Among the stories Theresa shared was how she had the hilarious idea to create a bag of "watermelon sugar love" fiber batt inspired by Harry Styles' popular summer anthem (see below). She also dropped that she had the knowledge to dye and spin the beautiful yarn in the bag herself. Since I have a sustainable fashion blog, I was instantly beside myself and eager to learn more about her craft. It's a thousand times more difficult to ask to interview someone in person than it is over email, but Theresa was very gracious when I stuttered out my request. Read on for the results of that request below, and leave me a comment if you also enjoyed learning more about Theresa's work!
Image above courtesy of Kira Luxon Photography with permission by Wild Hand.
Meanwhile, as I checked out from the shop, we kept chatting, and I also learned other ways 2020's trends have echoed in Theresa's life: Theresa also worked as an ICU/ER nurse and nursing home supervisor and, on many occasions, as has been the case for too many coronavirus patients, has been the only person there as her patients passed.
"I told them if there's anything they need to get off their chest, they can say it to me or say it in their heads." A sense of overwhelming gratitude for the angels that are on this earth and my luck in having encountered one overcame me as as we discussed God, religion, death, hope. "Um, I hope that's your husband outside," Theresa interrupted herself at a certain point, pointing at the large, masked man staring at me through the glass. "Oh, that's okay, he's used to this. That's the New Yorker in me coming out, always chatting with people, haha." Theresa shared that the same thing happens to her, that recently in Walmart she told a young woman she was beautiful, and they "ended up holding church" while discussing self-love. Sometimes it frightens me how strangers make what amount to confessions to me, but I loved the way Theresa framed it as a positive thing. I vowed to try seeing it that way in future.
Granted, sometimes that quiet, non-judgmental quality in me leads me to standing in line for three hours to vote, as I did this fall behind a former Republican, who literally told me every detail of her life story and all the reasons that now led her to voting for Biden in the current election. That was brutal, but I was actually afraid if I cut her off, she might change her vote! I suffered through it and tried to be gracious as she delved into her dating history, her family life, her childhood memories, and everything in between-- even dropping gruesome details about childbirth that made the man behind me visibly squirm. At other times, it leads me to connecting to folks like Theresa. Maybe it's on me to work on my boundaries a little more, so when I find myself in the former situation, I can politely extract myself and catch up on the "What A Day" podcast as I was longing to do that early-voting Election Day. However, in other cases, I'm so grateful when I'm going about an ordinary day and something extraordinary happens like meeting someone like Theresa.
Anyway, I thought Theresa was one of the more incredible human beings who crossed my path in 2020 or any year, and I wanted to share her story with you guys! I hope you enjoy! Read on for more about Theresa's passion for her own corner of sustainable fashion!
First, thank you so much again for agreeing to share your inspiring story with me! This "Take Five" interview section is a leftover from my days working as an editor at Easy Street Mag. I truly loved our format of asking everyone more or less the same five questions and sharing their amazingly varied responses, so without further ado, here goes!
1. Where are you from? Can you tell me a bit about your background?
Born in Chester. PA.... lived in many places, Paris, Germany, Finland, San Francisco, Colorado, but currently living in Delaware.
2. What inspired you to learn the crafts of dyeing and spinning?
I have been knitting and crocheting all of my life... since childhood, I stopped for a bit while in the army, and I picked it back up with a fierceness when I was going through breast cancer. I wanted to do something helpful and also keep my mind off of my own situation. So I knitted hats for everyone else, LOL. I learned how to spin in 2014 and how to dye, shortly thereafter.... I LOVE the "organic-ness" of taking the raw fleece, washing and preparing it, spinning it and creating a garment with my final yarn. Just knowing that my hands created - just like my ancestors had.... gives it a spiritual connection, you know?
3. What would you advise others to do who are interested in learning more about knitting or spinning but might be intimidated [like me]?
Have FAITH in yourself. Who cares if you get it perfect- for you- the first time out of the gate. Ignore those that do not support or want to criticize, and DO NOT compare yourself to ANYONE else, especially someone who has been in the game for years!
Also, be inspired by all that you see...
4. Are there other aspects of fashion or sustainability that inspire or worry or excite you? Or anything else you'd like to share about your craft?
Don't let trends dictate your style... Be you through it all... Definitely be inspired by trends and others. But then put your own spin on it.
5. What books or podcasts or classes would you recommend for others interested in learning more about what you do?
I honestly don't listen to a lot or know who all is out there, but I learned the basics from my fiber guild, my fiber friends, and several books. But, honestly, for those REALLY interested... take a workshop/class and use that opportunity to ask questions and take notes. Take that back home with you and EXPERIMENT.
You can learn more about Theresa's work and workshops on her website here.
Image above courtesy of Kira Luxon Photography with permission by Wild Hand.
Thank you again to Theresa and to Wild Hand, for providing these gorgeous images. Wild Hand is not only a shop but also where Theresa plies her craft and offers workshops. As their website states and I can verify, it's nestled in a sparkling corner of the beautiful Mount Airy neighborhood in Philadelphia. They are committed to sustainability in every aspect of the word, offering everything from a variety of ethically-made yarn, fibers, looms to hand-woven, gorgeous ethically-produced bags from Kenya's Kamba tribe. So many excellent stocking stuffer ideas that I was inspired to make a holiday guide here [coming soon]! Or, if you can't make it into their beautifully-lit curated space at the moment, check out their website here. Orders over $100 ship free!
Isabella David and her husband maintain these pages & always appreciate your support or just plain feedback. To guest blog/ comment/ contact/ or for any other enquiries, email: