Seeds and Threads

I’m looking forward to this year’s meeting of Weave a Real Peace (WARP)  in Decorah, Iowa, in a couple of weeks. Little Decorah (population 8,000) is not easy to get to. From where I live, you either drive for twelve hours through flatlands and corn fields, or spend four hours negotiating the Denver airport and flying to Minneapolis and then driving for three-plus hours. But it’s going to be worth the effort.

First, of course, for the WARP meeting itself–the fellowship, the inspiration, the stories, the programming, the late-night hilarity, and nightcaps. And the special reception we’re holding for Susan Schaefer Davis’s new book, Women Artisans of Morocco: Their Stories, Their Lives. But Decorah has other attractions, too.


Seeds and Threads
Linen tapestry from Norway. C. 1908 Vesterheim Museum collection.

First, and of great interest to textile junkies, there’s the Vesterheim, The National Norwegian-American Museum & Heritage Center, with its countless treasures of immigrant weaving and related arts. I’ll go there for sure. But there’s also Seed Saver’s Exchange, an organization, a force of nature, that I’ve admired ever since its founding in 1975.


A brother and sister, Diane Ott Whealy and Kent Whealy, started with seeds of two species–a morning glory and a tomato–both brought to Iowa by their great-grandparents from Bavaria. With roots in a state known for its vast corn-y monoculture, they somehow recognized the value of preserving these unique little germs of life. And they invited others to do the same. Today, Seed Savers Exchange preserves some 20,000 distinct varieties of seed supported by 13,000 contributing members.

Seeds and Threads

Seed Savers Exchange barn. Photo courtesy of Seed Savers.So how do these two cultural meccas connect? And why is Decorah such a perfect location for this year’s WARP meeting? Well, textile creation is second only to food production in the hierarchy of human endeavor. So consider the mission statement of Seed Savers Exchange:

“We conserve and promote America’s culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.”

Now strip out some of the nouns and adjectives and imagine your own textile words in their place: We conserve and promote . . . culturally diverse but endangered . . .heritage for future generations by collecting . . . and sharing. . . .

It’s what the Vesterheim museum does, it’s what WARP does, it’s what Thrums Books does. Each of us in our own way believes in the value of remembering and preserving the full sweep of human history, human ingenuity, human diversity.

I wonder if Seed Savers has any heirloom flax seed, or indigo seed, or cotton seed. I can’t wait to find out.


Thrums Books are available worldwide at ClothRoads, Amazon, and at your favorite indie bookstore.

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