Little Fool Handwoven Textiles is Andrea Donnelly’s pride and joy, but it didn’t all start with scarves. Andrea fell in love with weaving in college and went on to complete an MFA in fibers, which gave her the opportunity to focus on large-scale woven works. After graduation, she decided to apply her skills to a more touchable art form and thus, the first Little Fool scarves were born. Woven on one of her three looms, Andrea’s scarves are made and painted entirely by hand. “I touch these materials every step of the way,” Andrea says. “They must feel lovely when I am working with them.” Wear a Little Fool scarf or display it in your home: We know you'll fall in love with this independent brand.
- Hello Andrea – can you please tell us a little more about yourself?
I grew up in Raleigh, NC and earned undergraduate degrees in Psychology and Art and Design from North Carolina State University. After leaving school I received a $15,000 Windgate Fellowship, which took me to Oaxaca, Mexico to study tapestry weaving and natural dyeing. I received my MFA in Fibers from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2010. I fell in love with Richmond and have set up roots in the city, where I work full time in my studio and part time at a coffee shop.
I don’t know any other 29-year-olds with three looms. I think being a weaver dedicated to making both scarves and large-scale works of art through this ancient technique makes me unique. I am passionate about the traditions of my craft, but even more importantly I want to introduce people to a different interpretation of this craft, my interpretation, which is completely contemporary and fresh.
- When did you know you wanted to become a scarf designer?
As an art student at VCU, my work was focused on very large-scale hand woven pieces. These pieces were, of course, not made to be touched. But the nature of cloth invites touch, so before I left school I decided that I would begin using the weaving, dyeing, and painting techniques I perfected in graduate school to make something touchable and wearable. Little Fool Handwoven Textiles was born, and I began to design scarves inspired by historical textile techniques, my love of color and pattern, and the visual beauty and chaos that I encounter every day in my city.
- Can you please tell us about your design process?
The inspirations for my designs come from two main channels. On one hand, I make scarves that are inspired directly by the processes I use to make them: the way colors interact when I am painting on threads, the shifting edges of an ikat resist, the beauty of cloth built slowly, line by line, by hand on my loom. I also make scarves that are inspired by the way I see the world around me.
My process begins with sketches, lots of them. Once I am happy with my design, the next step is math: determining the width and length of each scarf, then the number of threads and the length of the threads needed to make an entire series based on the sketch. Once I weave the scarves, they are removed from the loom and each is dyed a different color. I usually make six scarves from a design, but each scarf is entirely unique: every Little Fool scarf is an original piece of art that can be enjoyed on the body, draped over a chair, or even on the wall.
I use extremely high quality natural fibers, in fine and super-fine threads. I work with cotton, silk, alpaca, wool, and linen. I absolutely love to work with silk: it dyes in brilliant jewel colors and adds a softness and drape to my textiles that is unmatched. Most of my scarves are a blend of silk and mercerized cotton, which makes them both warm and light, and easy to care for, too.
- What sort of creative challenges do you face?
Weaving is an extremely slow process… one that I enjoy greatly, but when I have so many ideas for new scarf designs, it is easy to get impatient while I am weaving away on a single design! Needless to say, I have a sketchbook full of scarf patterns just waiting to be woven.
- You weave your scarves by hand using a large loom. What do you love about this particular process?
When visitors come to my studio, most are amazed that I have the patience to execute the many tedious processes required to weave: tying hundreds of knots, organizing miles of thread. Somehow, I was made for this! I simply love to weave, to watch cloth grow on the loom. I find it meditative, and I often get inspiration for new work while sitting and weaving for long hours.
- When you were setting up your brand, what challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?
When I began making scarves, I had to modify the processes I developed for my artwork. I did a lot of research and many trials (with lots of errors) to find the best materials, techniques, and cloth structures for my scarves. Patience and hardheaded optimism have kept me moving forward, and I learn something with each new scarf series.
- Who is the Little Fool Handwoven Textiles customer?
I think these scarves are for everyone (who doesn’t love scarves?), but I design for a person who can appreciate having a hand-made, one-of-a-kind textile around their neck: people who geek out at fabric stores, people who seek out traditional crafts, people who are drawn to color and pattern, people who want to make a statement. Firstly, I want to satisfy my own curiosity and exceed my own very high standards, and then I believe that each piece will speak to someone.
- Please tell us about your favorite Little Fool Handwoven Textiles piece.
I am really in love with the Color Field series. This series is about color interaction, and this is different depending on how you wear the scarf, which I have made in square and wrap sizes. But these pieces are also beautiful to look at as cloth: when you lay out one of these scarves, you notice where two colors collide in the stripes.
- Do you have any advice for other independent designers?
As an artist and a designer, I have taken my small business adventure slowly, so I still feel like I have a lot to learn. But I am sustained by my belief in what I make, and in the uniqueness of my product and vision. This advice is as much for myself as for others like me: work hard, with passion and optimism, and good things will come!
- You are based in Richmond, Virginia – where do you like to spend your free time?
I walk and bike all over the city: I love this place! The Fan, where my studio is located, is full of beautiful and charming row houses and lots of tiny restaurants. Richmond is a gem, with a thriving art community, delicious food, and a diverse population. Here, inspiration is everywhere.