Give Doris Harvest a sack of wool and watch her eyes light up. Heck, you don’t even have to do that – just give her a call and say you want to come see her creations. She’ll reply, “Okay, but I must warn you. My house is a very hairy situation.”
Seated at her wheel, the self-proclaimed “fiber freak” is in her own little slice of heaven. Her foot works the pedal as she spins a bundle of sheep wool into a long spool of yarn that she’ll use to make a sweater. Moments later, Harvest is giddy as she forms strands of alpaca wool into a fashionable hat.
What was once a way of life, Harvest’s craft is a lost art in today’s world. She sells her goods in hopes of making enough money to construct a schoolhouse next to her Buhl home where she can teach others to create fiber art.
“There’s a lot of magic in it,” Harvest says. “It comes from absolute nothingness. I believe that if you create from nature, you bring positive energy into the world.”
She speaks with passion and with an endearing accent. Born in northwest Germany, Harvest’s earliest memories are of her mother, Laila, spinning and weaving. In her teenage years, Harvest yearned to leave modern civilization and connect with a primitive world. At 18, she moved to India, where she lived off the land, built an oven in the side of a mountain, baked bread and sold it to tourists.
For the next few decades, Harvest became somewhat of a nomad, with stays in Sri Lanka, Japan, Korea, Hawaii, Oregon, Nevada and Arizona. Through her travels she worked as a model, translator, technical proof reader and ice cream salesman. She is trained in oriental philosophy, acupuncture and shiatsu; and she’s fluent in English, German and Japanese.
All of her travels, Harvest believes, led her to Idaho.
“I wanted to see the world, but now I don’t have a desire to go anywhere,” she says. “This is the most heavenly place I’ve ever been to. I have my fiber here.”
While in Arizona, Harvest saw the movie “A River Runs Through It,” and vowed that she would live in Montana. One day she told everyone along her ice cream route, “You better buy all the popsicles because this is my last day.” She packed her car and headed north toward Montana, but while traveling through Idaho, she spotted a sheep camp with thousands of bleating woolies.
“I had never seen anything so beautiful,” she says of the herd. “I fell in love with Idaho. It was just supposed to be; it’s not Montana, it’s Idaho.”
Most people have a passion, an innate sense of what they were born to do. For Doris Harvest, her world is made of animal fibers.
“When I have my creation, I forget about time, I forget about money – nothing else matters. I’m in a pinch of heaven. I get inspired that this is what I’m supposed to be doing,” she says.
Whether it comes from a sheep, alpaca, llama or buffalo, Harvest cherishes every bit. Through spinning, weaving, knitting, felting and hat making, her one-of-a-kind creations are gaining in popularity. She takes custom orders and has sold her goods at festivals, such as Trailing of the Sheep, and hopes to enter retail stores soon.
She has a website, naturalharvest.com, but photos of her creations don’t give them justice. You have to see the workmanship up close, as well as touch and feel its softness and warmth. “People put it on and they gotta have it,” Harvest says.
Her home, indeed, is a “hairy situation.” She has hundreds of pounds of wool, much of it given to her, some bought from growers, and the rest from her own modest flock.
“I have to create things, I just have to,” she says. “It’s like when you’re an artist, that’s a part of your life, it’s a part of you. You express yourself in your art.”
Her day job is working with disabled adults in Twin Falls, but she hopes to one day create fiber art full-time: “If it happens to me that I can make a living doing this, I’ll be blessed.” Harvest doesn’t own a TV or radio – all her spare time is spent with fiber.
“When I’m in my environment, I can’t get enough,” she says. “I’m sometimes until one or two in the morning pounding these hats out. I spin on that spinning wheel and it’s like meditation,” she says. “The most beautiful thoughts come to me, creative thoughts. When I’m with the fiber, I’m in a flow of beauty.”
Harvest would like to sell enough of her creations to start a spinning and weaving school.
“This is something I’d love to teach; even kids can do this. If we teach the younger generation to be creative, we’ll have a better world, I think. When you create, you’re positive; when you play video games, you’re frustrated,” she says.
Nothing would satisfy Harvest more than to pass along what her mother Laila taught her many years ago in Germany.
“If I could quit my job and just do fiber, I would be doing what I love,” she says. “If I do what I love, then I believe it will all be in place. I think for about $10 thousand I can build a really nice schoolhouse. If it’s all meant to be and fall in place, it will all pay for itself from the creations. Then I’ll have the opportunity to share this with the world.”
Contact Doris at 208-543-5063 for more information on her fiber products.
“There’s a lot of magic in it… If you create from nature, you bring positive energy into the world. ”