Couple hooked on art of weaving
Story BY Vanessa Ray
Photos by Tom Hawley
Kelly Kellie is a believer.
Anyone who spends time with her will come away understanding just how much the notion of Kelly believes in “being kind to both people and the earth,” as well as “the value of handmade art.”
She also believes the clothes we wear or textiles in our homes can bear meaning both “emotionally and ecologically” when repurposed.
Kelly’s belief in the transformative power of fabrics led the weaver and her husband, Tim Kellie, to start their Etsy shop, Quiet Storytellers. They’re not just weaving fabrics; they’re weaving stories.
And both stories and inspiration are not hard to come by in the Kellie home.
Set in a residential section of downtown Monroe, Kelly and Tim’s home is as whimsical as the weavers who reside within it. One step inside and it becomes obvious just how important art and self-expression are to them.
Though they are currently prepping their home to sell, the personality of each room is evident. Every area of the two-story home has its own unique theme and story.
The “castle room,” was created and painted by Kelly for youngest child, son Matthaei. Though most of the wall art has been covered in white paint, the bluish-gray appearance of stone walls peeks out from a corner closet.
There’s also the room painted by daughter Molly, when she was 12, the “fun square room,” with blocks of bold color meticulously illustrated across the four walls. The lavender “underwater grotto room,” with a coral-themed door, was painted by their oldest daughter Leah (Robert) Graf, when she was 12.
There are also days, much like this warm September afternoon, where the Kellie’s inspiration comes in the form of watching their grandchildren, Cian, 6 and Luna, 3.
Though her days are full of hustle and bustle, Kelly, sitting at a loom, creating rugs, towels, scarves, and coasters, brings her insurmountable joy and peace.
Her looms are precious to her, ranging in age, brand and size. Much like Kelly’s work, they all have their stories. The Norwood is the oldest, built in the 1940s, but the Leclerc and the rug loom also have special places in her heart.
“I learned on 100-year-old looms, which are still going strong,” Kelly said.
Much like the textiles she creates, there’s a story to how Kelly began weaving.
“About 10 years ago, Monroe High School did an arts and crafts vendor event,” Kelly recalled. “And one of the artisans – who was a weaver – volunteered to be on our school board as we were putting it together.”
Though she had been interested in weaving, she was not sure where to start, so when the artisan invited her to Farm Studio Weavers, a group that gets together once a week, she jumped at the opportunity.
“I went out there and just enjoyed the process,” Kelly said
Kelly’s love of weaving began to rub off on her husband. After watching a demonstration of a 1924 sock machine during the Farm Studio Weavers annual fall show, Tim was immediately hooked.
“It was captivating,” he said.
Tim initially balked on purchasing the machine – mainly due to going back to school – but caved after graduating.
“Once I finished my degree, it was basically my graduation present to myself,” Tim said.
“One of the ladies gave me a couple of lessons on how to use it,” Tim said. “She showed me what to look for with the cantankerousness of an old machine.”
“And I’ve been having fun ever since,” Tim added with a wide smile.
He learned the basics of sock stitching in an evening, then practiced on his own until he got the hang of it. Tim’s reason for learning his craft is simple: He wanted to spend more time with his wife.
“The idea behind (stitching socks) was that I could do this while she was weaving,” Tim said. “That way we have something we can both do together.”
What both Tim and Kelly didn’t anticipate was the amount of concentration required to stitch socks.
“I didn’t take into consideration that I’d have to keep count of how many rows I’m doing,” Tim said. “So, there’s not as much conversation as we anticipated.”
With the machine, it takes Tim about three hours to knit a pair of socks.
“At first, I was trying to see how fast I could make a pair of socks,” Tim said.
“I finally said ‘No! This is stressing me out.’ Now it’s just about enjoying the process.”
Sock knitting gained widespread popularity during WWII when the American Red Cross gave away over 100,000 Gearhart circular sock machines in the United States and Canada.
Trench foot was deadly and, thanks to the work of knitters, countless soldiers avoided injury with socks that kept their feet dry.
Though the use of personal sock knitting (and knitting in general) fell out of favor with the advent of factories and the assembly line, there have remained those, like Kelly and Tim, who enjoy the process of creating an item with their own two hands.
“There are moments of fun,” Tim said. “And there are moments of frustration.”
And while both Tim and Kelly qualify as artists, they don’t consider themselves as such.
“You have to have a creative outlet,” Kelly said. “It’s important to have a hobby and having an end result is something I appreciate.”
Kelly and Tim’s pieces are available for purchase at https://www.etsy.com/shop/QuietStorytellers
Farm Studio Weavers is located at 4309 W. Albain Rd. in Monroe.