Alisha Reyes was 17, disenchanted with school and depressed when she picked up a pair of knitting needles and changed the course of her life.
Ten years later, she’s sharing the joys of fiber arts with children and adults of all skill levels at her new studio and workspace, Fiber Circle Studio in downtown Cotati.
After a soft opening Jan. 4, Reyes had a grand opening celebration Saturday, her 27th birthday. The festivities marked not only the studio’s official opening, but also a milestone for Reyes.
Knitting, she said, gave her confidence, a sense of satisfaction and a creative outlet, all in one.
Opening a studio is an opportunity for Reyes to welcome those just starting out or accomplished in the arts of spinning, weaving, fiber processing, sewing, yarn dyeing, knitting, crocheting and felting. She and a dozen accomplished artisans also offer workshops in basket-making, soap-making, embroidery and leather crafting, along with fiber arts.
Reyes hopes to create a community hub that’s “inspiring, supportive and encouraging,” a place where aspiring and accomplished fiber artists can work side-by-side and learn from one another.
“You need that encouragement,” she said. “You have to have all these different elements or variables.”
As a teen in Santa Rosa, Reyes dropped out of school and didn’t have a clear path for her future.
By chance — boredom, actually — she took a knitting class and found an outlet for her creative expression.
Reyes was working in a sock store at Coddingtown Mall at the time, when she flipped through a mall directory and noticed there was a nearby yarn shop offering a sock-knitting class.
She didn’t know a knit stitch from a purl, but was undeterred. She completed a pair of variegated socks she still wears a decade later.
“They called me a ‘knitting prophet,’ ” Reyes said, a natural who mastered knitting from the start. “My brain gets it, my body gets it. My entire life shifted. That’s what pulled me out of that dark hole.”
She began knitting socks to sell at work, but when the store closed and the economic downturn created a scarce job market, Reyes turned to knitting. A lot of knitting.
By age 20, she was teaching beginning and advanced knitting classes. She spent five years on the crafts fair circuit, selling her handmade baby items, including booties, hats and, naturally, socks.
The joys of knitting sparked an interest in other fiber arts, and Reyes traveled to a small town in Washington state where she traded farm labor for training in fiber processing, spinning and self-sustainability. She returned to Sonoma County a few months later, her interest in fiber arts flourishing.
Reyes also earned an associate degree in business from Santa Rosa Junior College.
Now married and the mother of a 4-year-old son, the Petaluma resident is putting her talents and resources together to create a community workspace where all ages and levels feel welcome.
Visitors include grade-schoolers whose parents want them to learn an art, young adults who’ve picked up fiber arts skills online at popular sites like YouTube and Ravelry, and retirees seeking a hobby and creative outlet.
Newcomers are drawn to the endless options for creativity and the wide range of fibers.
Fiber artist Cecelia Yarnell of Santa Rosa who was visiting the studio on a recent afternoon said there’s a “creative energy” when people come together in artistic pursuits, “not to mention all the sharing and picking up ideas.”
Lynn Noble of Santa Rosa stopped in to work on a weaving project, happy for an opportunity to talk “with people who share your interests.”
That, said Reyes, is what her workspace is all about: a sense of community.
“The community is going to shape where it goes. It’s my job to facilitate that,” she said.
The light-filled 1,200-square-foot studio features space and equipment for numerous fiber arts pursuits. There are table and floor weaving looms, a variety of spinning wheels, sewing machines, and equipment for fiber processing and dyeing, plus tools used in the various mediums.
Materials are available for in-studio use, with fees for day use ($15), monthly workspace ($30) or access to the entire studio ($75). Workshop fees vary.
Reyes is enthusiastic about the support she’s received from fiber artists, including her workshop instructors “who are passionate and well-versed in what they do.”
She credits the generosity of fiber artists with helping her develop her skills and expand her interests.
Now, she said, Fiber Circle Studio is a gathering place for learning and creating, and for finding inspiration, just as she has done during the past decade.
“It’s the feeling of accomplishment from creating something,” Reyes said. “It’s the gratification you get from making something. It’s a form of therapy. It’s meditative.”
Plus, she said, “the process is beautiful in and of itself.”
Contact Towns Correspondent Dianne Reber Hart at firstname.lastname@example.org.