Business Communities

Spotlight On: Local Cloth

Miles Klein, left, and Matilda Law, weavers from Warren Wilson College. Photo by Caroline Williford

By Emma Castleberry

Local Cloth is a nonprofit organization dedicated to growing and supporting the fiber economy in Western North Carolina. Local Cloth began in 2012 as a special project of HandMade in America and has grown into a vibrant place for local artists and farmers to teach, learn, sell their products and connect with the community. “We have a rich textile tradition in the mountains of Western North Carolina, a tradition kept alive by our region’s craft schools and made modern by textile programs at Haywood Community College and Warren Wilson College,” says Judi Jetson, a founder and chairman of the board for Local Cloth. “We have more fiber artists per capita than any other place in the US and hundreds of small farms raising sheep.”

Local Cloth Shop. Photo by Caroline Williford

Local Cloth hosts a biennial regional exhibition, an annual Fiber Farmers Day and occasional fashion shows. As an educational member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild, the organization also has a robust calendar of workshops and special interest groups. Local Cloth improves access to local textiles and fiber with its retail studio in the River Arts District and booths at the Southern Highland Fall Craft Fair and the Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair. Local Cloth will hold a holiday market in the studio on Saturday, December 10, from 10 a.m to 4 p.m. In addition to its existing inventory, the market will feature special selections offered by 14 farmers and fiber artists.

“This year we’ve started a new project to make blankets from local fiber that is dyed here and woven here—we call them Blue Ridge Blankets,” says Jetson. In its first year, the project sourced fiber from 15 local farms, spun the fiber at the last remaining local mill, Two Roots Fiber Mill, and worked exclusively with local dyers who belong to Local Cloth’s Natural Dye Interest Group and weavers in textile programs at Haywood Community College and Warren Wilson College. “The Blue Ridge Blankets are a dream come true for Local Cloth,” says Jetson. “Now 10 years old, we’re finally growing into our name.” Samples of the Blue Ridge Blankets are in the studio now and the public is invited to vote for their favorite designs. The winners will be available for sale in the fall of 2023.

Eileen Bercham first learned about Local Cloth through a neighbor and quickly became a regular at the Monday knitting group meetings. “At first, I only went to knitting meetings,” she says. “I then started taking classes, which were so awesome. The classes are well-taught and encouraging.” She then started volunteering to work at the Local Cloth store and now sells her hand-knitted items there. Members of Local Cloth receive a 20 percent discount on classes and are eligible to sell items in the retail studio. “My specialty is lace shawls and scarves,” Bercham says. “It is rewarding to know that a person will enjoy something made by hand.”

Local Cloth Holiday Market

Cathy Nielson joined Local Cloth in 2020, attending virtual tours of artist studios and classes via Zoom during the pandemic. Nielson had learned about the financial struggles of local artists through her work at Mountain BizWorks and was drawn to Local Cloth’s mission. “I was intrigued by a non-profit, volunteer organization that was working on the individual needs of fiber artists and the greater community issue of financially sustaining the arts,” she says.

Nielson is a regular attendee of a weekly special interest group for knitters, crocheters and needle felters. “This group has been phenomenal in restoring my enthusiasm for knitting and for encouraging me to look beyond what I already know how to do,” she says. She’s also explored other fiber arts classes offered by Local Cloth including book making, tapestry weaving and indigo dyeing. “This is the group that has given me the encouragement and support I needed to restore my creative identity,” Nielson says. “Local Cloth is a multifaceted fiber arts organization that you can be involved with in many different ways: visit the shop and buy a beautiful piece of art, take a class from a talented instructor, join a special interest group and get to know other members who share your passion, volunteer for a Local Cloth event or an ongoing activity.

However someone chooses to be involved, I believe their individual creativity will be sparked, and they will be an active supporter of individual fiber artists and the greater economic impact that the fiber arts have on WNC.”

The Local Cloth Studio is located at 408 Depot Street, Asheville. For more information, visit

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