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The colorful world of the Minnesota Textile Center

This national fiber arts nonprofit is a green line stop away from the UMN campus.
Image by Sommer Wagen
Vicky Eidelsztein works her shift as a shop associate at the Minnesota Textile Center retail store in Minneapolis on Tues., April 9, 2024. Eidelsztein said she has been working part-time at the Textile Center, a national center for fiber arts, for almost a year. She is also a screenprinter and printed the “Fiber Art for All” design on T-shirts for the shop. (Sommer Wagen/[email protected])

Never was there a more colorful and enchanting place housed in a simple, one-story brick building than the Minnesota Textile Center. 

The center is a national nonprofit fiber arts organization nestled on the corner of University Avenue, just a short stroll away from the Prospect Park Green Line station. It’s a unique nexus of artmaking, education and community hidden in plain sight.

“It’s a place of reunion,” said Vicky Eidelsztein, a part-time associate in the center’s retail store. “People are members here for many years. There’s a group of women that come in and sit in the library to work on their sewing projects together.”

From crochet to rug making to quilting, Textile Center is a resource for everyone, regardless of skill level, interested in the fiber arts — appreciators, beginners and masters alike.

According to Mia Finnamore, the center’s communications director, Textile Center programs fall into three categories: education, exhibitions and retail.

Textile Center offers classes in a variety of mediums at all skill levels taught by artists from around the world. Their Pat O’Connor Library contains over 32,000 volumes about all fiber art media. Their “Garden to Dye For” grows plants anyone can forage to make natural dyes.

It features exhibitions, such as Mary Logue’s “My Life in Rugs,” that are always free for public viewing. Its retail shop, brightly and cheerfully lit by the building’s large front windows, offers tools and guides to different mediums as well as items crafted by Textile Center members and other local artists.

Four women — Carla Adams, Margaret Miller, Paula Pfaff and Nedra Granquist — incorporated Textile Center 30 years ago to fill a need for a space of community, education and sharing of art in the fiber arts community, according to their website’s “History” page. 

Today, Textile Center remains an important institution within the fiber arts community locally and nationally. It also stands to be a great resource for the upcoming generations of fiber artists.

In the age of the COVID-19 pandemic and environmental degradation due to the fast fashion industry, Gen Z has created a fiber arts renaissance, especially knitting and crochet. A cursory TikTok search of #knittok shows videos with likes ranging from the thousands to hundreds of thousands.

When I visited Textile Center on Tuesday, their delivery receiving room was stuffed with boxes upon boxes of donations of all things fabric arts that they were preparing to sell at their garage sale April 19-21, a key event they host twice every year. 

“We have two completely full rooms of things that would otherwise potentially end up in landfills,” said Erin Husted, the center’s retail and merchandising director. “Then we sell it to the community at highly, highly discounted prices.”

Husted and Finnamore agreed the garage sale is a great way for students and young people to get involved with Textile Center or step foot in the world of fiber arts in general.

“The supplies for fiber arts can be really expensive if you’re buying them brand new,” Husted said. “This way you can find knitting needles for a dollar, a huge bag of fabric for 15 bucks, acrylic yarn for a buck a skein … it’s really accessible.”

All proceeds from the garage sale go back into the center’s other programming, according to Husted.

Students can also become Textile Center members, which comes with its own set of perks, at a discounted rate of $30 per year.

Moving forward, Husted said Textile Center aims to prioritize growing its presence as well as the diversity of its leadership and community — particularly in age as well as in race. 

“We do think fiber art is for all,” Husted said. “We’re making sure we are bringing in lots of voices, not just the ones of our founders.”

Though fiber arts has been practiced since humanity’s beginnings, its relegation as “women’s work” has trivialized its artistic potential, as well as the potential for others to try it. Exploring places like Textile Center and building community within them is the way to break down those stereotypes and truly open up the craft to everyone.

Needless to say, I’ll be stopping by the garage sale. Perhaps I’ll finally get an embroidery hoop for cheap or a vintage crochet pattern book. Whatever I find, I’ll know it’ll be from a place that welcomes me as I am.

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