Nancy Nagle, the owner of the Northern Liberties gallery and yarn shop Nangellini, finds joy and internal peace through weaving and creating fiber art.
At a young age, Nagle discovered her passion for symmetry, geometry, and color, three aspects vital to the artistic talent of weaving and creating what she calls “wearable art.” Nagle officially began working with fiber in 2000 and has since mastered the arts of weaving, knitting and spinning. She opened up Nangellini in 2014.
Nagle supports local artists, sharing her talents and skills with those who were once in her shoes.
How did you learn how to weave?
I’m pretty much self-taught at weaving. I got into it because when I was on South Street, the weaving studio up the street was teaching the homeless people how to weave and was also selling garments for them. They ended up losing their lease and sold their looms. I bought one of their tabletop looms, then I bought another loom from them and just kept going. I fell in love with the entire process.
What was your drive for starting your own business?
I found out about all the business licenses I would need and permits. I researched and explored funding and loans. Then I just took the plunge and I did it. I financed it myself. I figured out a way to create the store and space I wanted.
I think it works best when I strive for a win, win, win outcome. I want to have a win, win experience when dealing with my vendors and a win, win experience when interacting with my consumers. I want them to be excited about it. I like to support the local artists as much as a can. If you follow what brings you joy, it’s an indicator that that’s the right step. That’s our internal guidance system.
When did you open at this location?
We moved to this location November 1st. There are no yarn stores here and I teach classes for the community. I teach one-on-one classes by appointment, when I am able to help them create or learn a specific technique. We do a free knitting circle on Sunday from 3 to 6 pm.
Where does your yarn come from?
We use different yarn distributers but I also get locally spun and died yarn. I work with a couple different hand spinners. I have a couple selections that are hand dyed. Then I have a spinning wheel. I spin some and they spin some. I try to stock more interesting stuff. There are traditional yarns, sari silk yarn and different hand spun yarns.
What is carding?
Carding is a process. There are both hand carding and drum carding. Then there is manual and electric carding. There are brushes that have teeth on them like a fancy dog brush. You card the fibers and make bats by blending different fibers together to mix colors and texture. Carding is more to blend separate colors as opposed to dying the fabric. Using the hand spun yarn, which is carded to create separate colors, creates unique textures. It is fun to play around with carding. It’s like painting.
Can you tell me about your staple garment, the spiral shawl?
It is an interesting process. It is an upside-down-able garment. Depending on where you fold the collar, you can achieve a variety of looks. There is almost a mandala design on the back. You can flip the garment upside-down and it almost makes like a bolero jacket. The use of a shawl pin also helps add a lot of variety to the look. There are a lot of fun ways to wear this. People can pick out different colors they want and I can make it. The sleeves are offset so you can wear it the long way or the short way.
Can you explain what Saori weaving entails?
Saori is a Japanese approach to weaving. Ori means weaving and sai comes from the Zen alphabet. The character means there is a dignity in each ones individuality and weakness. There are four tenants to the philosophy which I put on my garments I sell. It says let’s consider the differences between machines and people, let’s look out with eyes that shine, let’s adventure beyond our imagination and let’s learn from everyone in the group. There is an international community of Saori weavers that share and talk about what they are doing. Saori says let’s do what we feel in the moment and just play and have fun with it. I love that free-form approach and I incorporate that into my knitting, crocheting, weaving and everything.
– Text and images by Laura Maguire and Kayla Oatneal.
Nancy – I”m not sure I understand your comments about SAORI weaving here. Since you aren’t an approved SAORI studio, how is it that you are speaking for and about SAORI weaving and philosophy? If you would like to learn more about SAORI, you are welcome to join the SAORI weaving community that has been gathering at Ready to Hand Studio: SAORI Philadelphia, which is the approved SAORI studio in Philadelphia.