Iron Spring Weaving is a second career for Debra Jeffs-Grad. While she had always enjoyed sewing, knitting and crocheting, it was after she retired from a long career in nursing and social work that she discovered weaving. She loves the creativity and instant gratification of working on a loom. “Weaving is almost magical. The very same pattern looks and feels so different as the cloth is woven row by row,” she says.
Much of Debra’s work is inspired by the unheralded women who quietly provided for their families’ needs during the Great Depression and WWII by transforming flour sacks into clothing, towels and more. Women would unwind the flour sacks to make big balls of thread and then weave or sew them into new items. She is fascinated by how you can re-use the same pattern and get completely different results, and by the thriftiness of the women who found ways to recycle everyday items.
After she started working on a loom, it took five years before she felt confident to sell her wares. By that time all of her friends and families had said they had enough scarves and towels! She named her business after a spot on the Washington Coast where she began weaving in a small A-frame cabin overlooking the ocean and began to show and sell her hand-crafted items at holiday fairs and summer markets. She loves interacting with customers and hearing their own stories about their mothers’ and grandmothers’ economical resolve during the war while their husbands were away.
In 2020, the pandemic canceled all of her summer plans to sell at fairs and markets, yet Debra had already created a full inventory of products. And as she admitted, “My family often jokes that I sell my weaving in order to supply my habit.” What was she to do?
Within a few days, she saw a KOMO news blurb about WMarketplace and got an email from a friend encouraging her to learn more about it. Before listing her products on the site, she had never tried online sales, but 2020 is a year to try new ways of doing things, so she signed up as one of the first small female-owned businesses, a process she calls “a delightful experience.”
Debra’s story is illustrative of one reason why WMarketplace exists: to create a place where women-owned businesses can thrive, especially right now when COVID-19 has changed how consumers shop. She hopes that others can be inspired to embrace e-commerce too.
A longtime market seller once gave her this advice, “You are not a crafter. If you create your own design, choose the material and color combinations and then make your vision a reality, you are a Fiber Artist. We would never call a person who sells their original watercolors a crafter. The point being, value your creativity and your art. It is uniquely yours.”