ClothRoads – Fibres, Textiles, and Empowerment of Women

If you are interested in fibres, textiles, and the empowerment of women, you may be as fascinated with ClothRoads as I am.

Three women steeped in fibre, textiles, and design began ClothRoads, a company that curates indigenous artisan textiles and supplies from around the world, while promoting cultural and creative sustainability. Hand spun, handmade, hand weaving are all offered there. Notice a theme?

Happily, ClothRoads is sustaining itself, having just celebrated its fifth anniversary. You may not know the names of the three founding women, but they have influenced what we, as knitters, have been seeing and knitting for years. They remain thrilled to share their passion for beautiful textiles and global cultures –

  • Marilyn Murphy’s passion for textile arts led her to found the textile Arts Center in Chicago and she is a former president of Interweave, the media company focused on arts and crafts.
  • Linda Tiley Stark was vice president/publisher of books, sales, and marketing at Interweave. ClothRoads combines her love of high quality arts and crafts with doing good in the world.
  • Linda Ligon founded Interweave in 1975 and remains as an advisor there. She is interested in preserving the narrative of traditional arts and their makers.

I could paraphrase, but ClothRoads says best what it does and how it does it –

“From the rivers of India to the mountaintops of Peru, we go directly to villages and cooperatives to bring you these textile stories and the work of skilled artisans who are dyeing, weaving, spinning, printing and embroidering some of the world’s most beautiful objects. When you purchase from ClothRoads, you help us to build and develop new markets that allow artisans and communities, especially women and girls, to flourish.”

When we shop Clothroads, we receive not only exquisite finished goods or materials, but each of us has a role, however small, in supporting both the indigenous arts of countries we may never have the pleasure of visiting, and of helping women, who we certainly never will have the pleasure of meeting.

My original interest in Clothroads was, naturally, the handspun yarn. This photo is the angora kid goats in Tajikistan, on the edge of the Himalayas. The fleece they lose in the Spring is gathered, processed, and spun into the mohair yarn unlike any you’ve seen. Don’t think those big fluffy balls you’re familiar with – think smooth, soft, warm yarn, being skeined in the photo below. And when you see the word angora, it’s angora goats that provide what’s known as mohair. Marilyn Murphy says, “Only the best quality Angora kid fleeces are used for spinning this high luster, strong yet soft, lace- and fingering-weight mohair yarn.” You’ll find alpaca yarns from Peru on ClothRoads, too, and cashgora. Read all about how that fibre is made here and how one woman is making her living.

It’s necessary to say I am just a fan of these yarns, and the gorgeous silk scarves, and the fascinating stories about the makers and their methods (that have appeared 171 times so far) but that is all I am. This  may read like an ad for ClothRoads, but it’s not – it’s fan mail.


Here’s another ClothRoads item that I love. Wouldn’t it be fun to receive a package of  handspun silk, hand-knotted buttons in the mail? Who makes buttons anymore? That’s an old-timey craft. The women of the artisan cooperatives in Sefrou, Morocco make them. Each package, has about 40 buttons, 1/4″ to 3/4″ in diameter, in glorious colours. Knitters, crocheters, sewers, and anyone who creates in fibres of any kind will be delighted. To me, each is a source of inspiration.

And if you are a sewer take a look at the fabrics – handwoven lengths, shibori, indigo. And the finished items, like the silk scarves, are exquisite.

A warning – once you start looking at the handmade supplies and goods at ClothRoads website, you may be immersed for a good long time. I have barely scratched the surface of what you’ll behold.

We knitters likely have more in common with the founders of ClothRoads and the women who make the products than we are conscious of.

We create, by hand, too.

2 Replies to “ClothRoads – Fibres, Textiles, and Empowerment of Women”

    1. Oh boy – more beautiful things to covet. A must-visit site for anyone interested in the slow clothing movement. Much appreciated by this knitter/sewer!

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