A Little Bit of Yarn Goes A Long Way

When Erin Barrett took up weaving, she was looking for a creative outlet after having her daughter and retiring from her dance career. What she found was a whole new career.

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Just a glance at the entryway of Missouri-native Erin Barrett's home reveals an expert use of color and a total mastery of the mid-century modern aesthetic. The former ballet dancer (who performed with Tulsa Ballet and Charleston Dance Theater) has found domestic bliss in her Charleston home, with its vaulted ceilings, airy white walls, jewel-toned accents, and plenty of artwork which she sources from individual artists online. Most impressive, however, is her studio in the back of her house, where she's crafted a living out of plenty of yarn and a few choice looms.

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"I'm like when I'm working and I start to get in the groove; I'm just going, and going, and going."

After stumbling upon an online tutorial by author and blogger Rachel Denbow back in August of 2014, Barrett decided to try her hand at weaving. "Once I started, I kept doing, and doing, and doing it," she says, sitting adjacent from one of her works-in-progress in a corner of her sunny studio. Three months later and she had an Etsy shop to call her own—aptly named Sunwoven—and today, she's high in demand, supplying West Elm with three of her designs (all of which she actually manufactures herself) and giving her Instagram followers the chance to score some dreamy wall art through occasional Instagram auctions.

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"I definitely lean more towards, like, mid-century, modern when it comes to furniture. I like keeping things clean and bright, but yet I still try to keep it comfortable."

Although she has two assistants helping with the business side of Sunwoven, Barrett's unexpected career as an independent craftswoman hasn't taken the joy out of weaving, even if her hands always seem to be quite literally full.

"My husband built these and they were suppose to be bookshelves, but they were too short and books wouldn't fit in there. I was like, 'Well, why don't I put my yarn in?'"

Having just completed a wholesale order for 15 customers and finished up a batch of custom designs for a few loyal fans, the mom of two is taking time to weave for herself, revisiting some of her favorite old designs, and experimenting with her favorite colors (her most cherished yarn is a mustard yellow, and she just has a little bit left of it before it runs out and she can't find a replica of it in any yarn shop—it's what's known as a "yarnicorn" in the weaving community). Before weaving was a career move, it was a hobby—and it will always be something she can turn to for some R&R.

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"My parents live in Missouri and we go twice a year, and about 20 minutes from them there's a really great yarn shop with tons and tons of stuff. I just stock up there, or I have my mom grab what I need."

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"It's relaxing," says Barrett. "I tend to have a lot of anxiety and I feel like weaving has combated that in a way that helps me balance out my life. I do a lot of my work at night once the kids go to bed. It's just nice to just sort of lie down, listen to all the NPR podcasts, and weave."

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Barrett's favorite color combination: mustard yellow and blush pink.

A small weaving still takes four-and-a-half hours to make.

"There are two different styles I do: more geometric pieces or more organic, flowy pieces."

For more eye candy (and for the chance to score a weaving), follow Erin on Instagram @sunwoven.

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