Meet Katherine Lile of The Mountain Thread Company

When we met Katherine Lile, we knew right away we’d have some fun. The founder & owner of The Mountain Thread Company, a Fox Chapel Publishing author, a designer, and an overall fabulous maker, Katherine is down to earth, full of creative inspiration, and immediately makes you feel right at home.

We were delighted to have the opportunity to partner with her and the fine folks at Fox Chapel to create a mini series dedicated to Katherine’s debut book, Zigzag Rope Sewing Projects. Rope sewing and thread really go hand in hand and it’s been marvelous to see how perfectly Katherine has been able to feature Aurifil’s 50wt thread in all of her gorgeous creations.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll feature three of our Artisans as they take on projects from Katherine’s new book. It’s always exciting to see how different makers will interpret a project and we always love a good collaboration!

9/15 — Meet Katherine Lile of The Mountain Thread Company (YOU ARE HERE)
9/22 — Guest Post by Aurifil Artisan, Genesis Hall
9/29 — Guest Post by Aurifil Artisan, Ama Frimpong
10/6 — Guest Post by Aurifil Artisan, Tina Curtis

We hope that you find bits of inspiration within these posts and get to know a few new makers in the process. If you’re ready to try out your own rope bowl projects, we’d suggest grabbing one of Katherine’s fabulous kits by clicking on the button below.

Thanks again to Katherine for chatting with us!

Hi Katherine! Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today! Knowing that some of our readers might be meeting you for the first time, we’d love to kick things off with getting to know you and your background a bit. How did you get started in this wonderfully creative world? 
I’m so glad to be here – thanks for the chance to introduce myself. My name is Katherine, and everything I know I learned from my mom. I grew up learning and sewing alongside the creative women in my family, and worked on everything from doll clothes to quilts. After I finished college, my mom took a class on rope baskets and showed me that technique, too. I was immediately hooked!

Who or what has been your greatest creative inspiration?
I love that creativity can look like so many different things. I love how people can come together to learn and make things.  I’m inspired to build community by fostering connections between people, and that often looks like inviting friends into creative endeavors! Teaching people to sew and quilt has been a way that I have made new friends in places I’ve moved to.

What is your favorite thing to make?
I absolutely love sewing rope into baskets, bowls, and totes! I haven’t gotten over the thrill of starting with a small coil of rope and adding layers, incorporating color, and shaping a project from start to finish.  

Throughout your artistic career, have you ever had one of those ‘aha’ moments when something just clicked and you knew exactly your best way forward? 
In 2015, my family and I had the chance to move back home to the mountains of North Carolina to open The Mountain Thread Company. In spite of a lot of things I didn’t know about running a business, I was confident about taking the steps forward and trusting that it would work out!  

Tell us about The Mountain Thread Company and what unique experiences you offer as a fabulous local quilt shop? 
The Mountain Thread Company is a studio and shop located in Blowing Rock North Carolina, in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We sew coiled rope baskets with specialty rope that’s custom made just for us, in a workshop environment where we showcase the process alongside the finished product.  With DIY kits and other supplies, our crafty visitors can get the supplies to make their own coiled rope creations at home! Our fabric selection is something The Mountain Thread Company is also known for – unique, novelty quilting cottons with nature and outdoorsy themes (plus a good dose of whimsy). The Mountain Thread Company is located in a mountain paradise, so we try to “bring the outside in” with fabric prints that match the seasons and beautiful scenery around us.  

Your book, Zigzag Rope Sewing Projects (Fox Chapel Publishing), releases this month! First, Congratulations! Second, can you tell us more about this book, how it came to be, and what readers can expect?
Yay, rope! Everyone gets to be enthusiastic about something, and I am particularly fond of our specialty rope and the possibilities for creative outlets that this work has brought along. I began writing Zigzag Rope Sewing Projects in 2021, thanks to an invitation from Fox Chapel Publishing to explore the possibility. A book had been in the back of the back of my mind for a while, but was always pushed away by more pressing projects. So, when the opportunity opened up it was easy to say YES!  I didn’t do this alone – I “roped in” friends, family members, The Mountain Thread Company staff, and folks in my community to help with photo shoots, testing (and retesting) patterns, and so much more.  

Zigzag Rope Sewing Projects has 16 new coiled rope basketry projects for sewists of all levels! It’s a fresh approach to sewing rope – creating beautiful items that can be used & gifted. Each project comes with step-by-step photos, helpful tips, and ways to personalize the look of a piece according to the maker’s preference. I also added in a comprehensive reference section – again, with photos and lots of tips – to answer questions for the new and seasoned roper alike.  

What first inspired you to start creating rope bowls and what do you love most about the process?
I was first inspired to create rope bowls and baskets as a complement to the other quilting and sewing I was doing! Coiled rope basketry is a lovely way to revisit fabric scraps, and I found that I loved incorporating small leftover bits of favorite fabrics into new basket creations. From there, I experimented with thread colors, stitch options, size variations, and more. Something I really love about sewing rope is that I never make the same thing twice! The nature of using a fabric scrap in a project means that once it is used up, it’s gone, and there’s something new to try next time.

What brings you the most joy about passing your craft along to others? 
I love seeing how other people take the basics of the technique and add their own personal “flavor” to a project. Whether that means choosing thread colors that are just right or incorporating special fabrics from other projects, it is so exciting to see how a person can adapt a coiled rope project to be just right for them.

When did you first start using Aurifil threads and do you find that they add something in particular to your projects?
Aurifil threads were the perfect answer to the question I had as I was getting going – what’s the right kind of thread to use for coiled rope baskets? As I experimented with different threads, different needles, different ropes, and different machines, I realized that I needed a high quality thread that would withstand the rigor of being stitched through sturdy rope. Aurifil checked all the boxes – high quality, low breakage, large color selection, and widely available. 

What is your go-to thread weight for rope bowls and why?
Aurifil 50wt is the best bet for coiled rope baskets! I love it because it is lightweight and strong – the size of the thread is perfect for gliding through dense rope fibers, and strong enough that it won’t break under the pressure of multiple stitches. I especially love the Aurifil variegated threads in coiled rope projects. The variety and extra patterns that emerge from the layers of coils, zigzags, and color changes are really unique.

What tips would you have for rope bowl newbies, beyond running, not walking, to their local quilt shop to grab the book?
Just jump right in! Coiled rope basketry is very approachable with some sewing basics you probably already have – a sewing machine with a zigzag stitch, a denim needle, a length of rope, and of course – Aurifil thread! Everyone loves a handmade gift, and you’ll be able to whip up a coiled rope project in no time.

What are your plans for the coming and where can we find you for more inspiration?
Come visit us, please! The Mountain Thread Company is located in downtown Blowing Rock, North Carolina, just a few miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway and in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Our working studio is open to visitors of all ages; we love sharing the love of craft with everyone who walks through the door. You can also find our signature rope, DIY kits, fabrics, and even free tutorial videos at The Mountain Thread Company will also be at QuiltCon in Atlanta Georgia in February 2023. Stop by and we’ll “show you the ropes”. Yay, rope!

All images courtesy of Katherine Lile, The Mountain Thread Company, Fox Chapel, & Alicia Green / EddyLine Creative, LLC 


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