Local Products: Echoview Fiber Mill’s Throws
By Leah Shapiro | Photos by Nicole McConville Photography
Before she established Echoview Fiber Mill in Weaverville, Julie Jensen spent many years working as a tax lawyer in Washington, DC. During this time, she realized that an urban environment wasn’t the right fit for her and longed to return to a rural lifestyle like the one she experienced growing up on a farm in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In early 2005, while visiting friends who were in the market for property in Mills River, Julie tagged along on their search and asked the real estate agent if there were any horse farms for sale in the area. To her surprise, there was one in Weaverville. Julie purchased the home and 27 acres of land later that year. Splitting her time between DC and Weaverville for the next five years, Julie eventually moved to the area full time in 2010.
Shortly after the move, Julie was inspired to build a textile mill after taking a class on community mills at Gaston College in Belmont, North Carolina. She wanted to help make a positive difference and help small farmers find an alternative source of income to growing tobacco. “I wanted to find an industry which could give a value-added product for local farmers,” says Julie, who turned to the business of processing animal fiber. In April 2012, Echoview Fiber Mill opened for business with a 17,000-square-foot facility. Today, the farm has stretched to include 75 acres.
From the raw fiber to the end products, everything at Echoview is American made and celebrates the American spirit of handwork and expression. Julie says her business model is similar to that of American Apparel with its implementation of sustainable and ethical manufacturing practices. As the first LEED Gold certified manufacturing mill in the country, the mill has 196 solar panels on the roof that produce nearly half the consumed electricity during summer months.
The mill processes raw fiber from animals on the Echoview farm (such as goats, alpaca, and llama), as well as other animals in the Southeast and other parts of the country. The business’ fiber processing services helps farmers who do not have the time or equipment to carry out such a task. “The farmers bring their animals’ fiber to the mill after shearing and can choose how they would like that fiber processed,” says Julie. “There are several intermittent steps in processing fiber to a finished yarn product. The farmer can choose the steps they would like Echoview to complete for them.” Some farmers, for instance, choose that the fiber be turned into roving, so they can spin it themselves. Others may want the fiber to be turned into yarn.
Echoview’s yarn products exemplify what is known as the mill’s vertical integration strategy. That term, Julie explains, refers to the company’s engagement in various steps of production beyond the central manufacturing component. For instance, fiber is washed, spun into yarn, and made into products, such as blankets and socks—all in house. The company also offers a retail space open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. In addition to yarn (which craftspeople especially love!), Echoview also sells wool dryer balls and Zen Mats.
Recently, Echoview has added luxury textile items for home furnishings and apparel markets to its catalog of products. “We are very excited about our new throws, designed and woven in house, using yarn produced in house!” says Julie. “We have recently created some pretty amazing baby blankets and ladies’ scarves as well. These items are an example of our vertically integrated textile process.”
In-house designer Allyson Ansusinha creates many products on the Stoll knitting machine, which uses advanced technology similar to that of a threedimensional printer. The throws are soft, luxurious, and vary in size and fiber source. They currently come in seven shades, and that number will likely grow as the line expands. In addition to Echoview’s retail space, these throws can be purchased at Nest Organics in downtown Asheville and Homestead Linens in Hendersonville.
Echoview Fiber Mill is located at 76 Jupiter Road in Weaverville. For more information, including other local shops where you can buy Echoview products, visit echoviewnc.com or call 855.693.4237.