We continue our weaver spotlights with Echo, owner and weaver behind Chicibeanz Handwoven. Chicibeanz wraps are lovingly handwoven in Alberta, Canada and are used to create our most sought after handwoven Signature Carriers.
Our partner handweavers often are women-led family businesses operating with a small devoted team. We are delighted to share their stories and showcase their textile artistry and intricate work through the Signature collection.
The Chicibeanz studio is based out of Echo's home where she lives with her spouse, 5 children, and dog. It is truly a family business. Echo's teens and spouse help with odd jobs around the studio; a wonderful online admin and friend, Nicolle, helps with the business' online presence; her mother helps with the accounting books and seamstress work; and even her youngest children help with modeling...and making extra work for her. Ha!
Every step of crafting Chicibeanz' handwoven wraps is done by hand, literally turning threads into intricate, artistic fabric. Some of the high-quality handwoven material is sent off to Baby Tula's original factory in Poland to be transformed into gorgeous Signature carriers.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
Echo got her first glimpse of weaving in her late teens at an art school. It wasn't quite like weaving full-size wraps woven from expensive fibers on a huge loom. Echo says, "I often joke if I knew then what I knew after starting artisan weaving there is no way I would have actually started."
But that glimpse gave Echo the confidence and determination to buy her very first loom and started to teach herself how to weave.
Chicibeanz, as a company, started shortly after the birth of Echo's oldest daughter who is now 11 years old. It gave Echo an opportunity to make a bit more money when her husband was unfortunately laid off during the recession. Over the years Echo developed and designed many products like dance clothing, cloth diapers, and lots of fun kid accessories.
In 2014, Echo was involved in the babywearing community and actively wearing her 4th child on a daily basis. She became fascinated with handwoven wraps and she bought her first four-shaft loom. At that time, handwoven wraps were extremely hard to come by and it made sense to try them out as a new product for her business. Instantly they took off with her first sales made to her local babywearing group.
Since then weaving, dyeing, and sewing have transformed into so much more than a hobby or a job. It's a community. She has had the pleasure of working with some of her best friends including Amber of Kalleigh designs and Chelsey who branched off to form her own handwoven company, Beloved Handwoven. And it is a way of life. Echo thinks, dreams, and lives for colors and fibers.
Echo finds inspiration from a lot of places: a walk, a sunrise, family, flowers, holidays can all lead to an idea. She also loves to reach out to Chicibeanz fans and invite them alongside her weaving journey to share colors and images that are important to them. She will often turn to her Chicibeanz facebook group and gather ideas from her community.
When we asked how long the process of making a piece of handwoven material takes, it was difficult for Echo to determine how long the entire process takes.
"I'm always doing so many things at once that I've never been able to time myself."
She estimates that it typically takes about 2 months to complete a full warp. The initial stages take somewhere between 60-100 hours before weaving even starts. This is the dreaming, sampling, prepping, dyeing, and beaming stage. Then, she is prepping and dyeing the wefts. Followed by dressing the loom and finally weaving.
Despite the long process, Echo loves how she gets to live out her passion for art. She loves the quiet, late nights spent weaving while her littles are asleep. She is able to turn yarn into some of the softest, most colorful fabric and that alone is magical.
Her favorite part of the process is when she is dressing her loom with a new warp. This is when she will get to know warp and it will whisper its name to her if it hasn't done so already. She gets to see the dye pattern play out that she has just spent the last month creating.
Several hours are now spent where Echo takes every single strand of the 700-900 warp threads and places it through her loom, not once, but twice to fully dress the loom. This creates the pattern for weaving. She ties it onto the loom beam and evens the tension. Then she describes the next moment as the most amazing. She gets to throw the first pic with her shuttle. Sometimes she will have to step away to fully appreciate this moment. As it passes through every one of those threads with a swish sound, she holds her breath. It has begun.
LOVE FOR CHICIBEANZ
Echo feels so blessed by the Chicibeanz fans that an amazing and supportive community. Her fans are to likely drawn to Chicbeanz because of its bold and saturated coloring. Echo adores bright glowing colors and rainbows and it shows in her work. Almost all the yarns she uses are hand-dyed, by Echo, in her studio.
She also specializes in using only the highest quality fibers when weaving. The Chicibeanz signature wrap is a 100% bombyx silk wrap. Echo wants each piece that she weaves to feel like butter; soft and effortless to wrap with. It's a piece of art that feels like heaven and adds just a bit of luxury in a world of chaotic parenting.
We were curious what Chicibeanz might have headed our way.
"Currently, I am finishing up some dyed silk warps for April that are absolutely stunning. Scheduled for May I have a dyed, sparkle ringspun cotton run that is destined to partially become Tulas... there may even be a custom opportunity involved there. But that all is hush hush right now. Perhaps even some new Chicibeanz Tula blankets or other fun collaborations are in the works. But I guess we will have to just wait and see."
We want to give a big thank you to Echo for chatting with us! If you would like to keep up with Chicibeanz, you can follow them on Facebook and Instagram. You can also get updates on releases, events, sales, and stockings by joining their facebook chatter group here.