Handmade Gifts with a Cause

March 3, 2019

Redesigned wool into creative pieces

Story Erika Heeren  Photo Kimberlee Miller

What started as a creative outlet for Sage Woolens owner, Jeanna Wigger, has become an opportunity to increase awareness about livestock welfare and the benefits of repurposing.

Sage Woolens is a Boise-based handmade gifts store. The business is dedicated to giving a longer life to high-quality second-hand materials and turning them into something fresh and new.

For Wigger, the practice of repurposing is a personal choice. Wigger took steps in her daily life to incorporate the principles of minimizing waste. She even committed to only buying second-hand clothing for an entire year – but she wanted to do more. While working full time as a speech pathologist, Wigger opened Sage Woolens as an outlet to explore her creativity and to address an important issue in the textile industry.

“There is so much waste in the garment industry, and I wanted to start taking steps to reduce my consumption of new materials that contribute to that waste and be a more mindful consumer,” Wigger explains.

When developing her products, Wigger pulls inspiration from her background raising sheep and llamas with her family in Alaska. An active 4-H participant as a child, wool quickly became her favorite medium for her creations.

“I’ve always been drawn to natural fibers… [but], I don’t just use the fiber, I use the hardware too – like the buckles and vintage zippers and elements from the original items to integrate that in interesting ways into my products.”

Wigger’s background also encouraged her desire to raise awareness about animal welfare issues prevalent in the industry – specifically regarding wool-bearing animals. Sage Woolens partners with RescEwe, a local nonprofit dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, and rehoming of abused and neglected sheep.

A portion of all sales from Sage Woolens is donated to RescEwe. Last year, the annual donation from the sale of her products provided enough money to cover more than half of RescEwe’s winter hay needs.

You can find Sage Woolens products online, at various craft markets, and at Idaho Made – a local artist cooperative gift shop in downtown Boise.

Community favorite items currently on sale at Sage Woolens include wool cozies and her unique “Idaho” shaped bags. Shoppers can also find one-of-a-kind gifts like wristlets and greeting cards. You can also commission custom projects to fit any occasion. A new addition to the Sage Woolens product line are hand-crafted fabric collages. For the sheep themed collages, 100% of the proceeds are donated directly to RescEwe.

For Wigger, it’s the art in her practice that keeps the ideas for her business going. “The concept of creative constraint plays a significant role in my business. When I chose to use high quality repurposed wool textiles as my primary material to make handbags, I hadn’t even scratched the surface of the creative possibilities…I have had no shortage of ideas to pursue, all within the constraints of making art from repurposed textiles.”

What’s next for Jeanna Wigger and Sage Woolens? She wants to use the business platform connect with other people in the community.

“I really like teaching, and I’m working towards being able to do workshops to share skills and information about reusing materials, minimizing waste within the context of learning useful sewing skills.”

For more information about Sage Woolens and RescEwe, please visit www.sagewoolens.com.