Virginia Fabricator Taps into Trivantage for Fabrics and Expertise to Make Durable, Colorful Yurts

Kathy Anderson, owner of Journey Designs, approached Trivantage Sales Representative Kevin Nieters in 2005 with an unusual request: What kind of fabrics would work best for yurts?

That’s right, yurts: the round portable structures that originated in Central Asia. These simple homes have become popular with families looking to live simply.

Anderson built her motorcycle luggage fabrication business over the years, but decided to add yurts to the mix after longtime friend Sharon Morley suggested they build a yurt for her Christmas tree farm in Floyd, Virginia.

The two women collaborate on yurts – Morley provides the woodworking and Anderson provides the sewn elements – which they market as Blue Ridge Yurts. The duo offers four yurt sizes: 16, 20, 24 and 30 feet in diameter. The 30-foot option can have either 7-foot or 10-foot walls. And they offer plenty of special features including door awnings, standard glass windows and French doors.

“That first yurt we set up was so magical inside,” Anderson said. “We decided it would be a fun niche market to serve.”

Most of the exterior wall components come from Trivantage. For the Roof, Anderson took Nieters’ advice and uses Weblon® Vanguard®for its heavy weight (17 oz.), water repellency, durability and color selection. Vanguard also meets California State Fire Marshall fire retardant requirements.

She uses two fabrics for the outer wall: Starfire®, a cotton polyester fabric with an acrylic top coating, forms the upper band, and Weblon Coastline Plus®, a vinyl polyester composite, forms the lower band (and sometimes the valance for a color accent on the roof). Both fabrics meet California State Fire Marshall flame retardant requirements and are available in a wide variety of fun and vibrant colors. Starfire has a cloth-like appearance, but its acrylic top coating brings added durability and soil-resistance. Coastline Plus has a Rain Kleen® finish that helps it stay clean, plus it’s UV, mildew and water resistant.

The windows consist of Phifer Fiberglass Screening 18×16 sewn into the Starfire wall fabric with a border of 2-inch VELCRO®. A corresponding panel of 0.030 Clear, Double-Polished Flame Retardant Clear Vinyl can be attached to the mesh opening with VELCRO. Roll up storm covers made of Starfire to match the wall are held up with 1-inch Black Nylon Webbing and can be zipped shut during inclement weather.

Anderson found it easy to add yurt fabrication to her repertoire. She uses the same sewing machines as are used to make her motorcycle luggage, and only had to buy a vinyl welder and add a larger sewing room just for making the yurt roofs.

“It’s a great partnership because we each bring our strengths,” Anderson said. “We’ve been friends for more than 30 years.”

Since yurts don’t have a season, they easily supplement Anderson’s and Morley’s other businesses. Anderson devotes most of her energy to her motorcycle luggage business, while Morely is an organic farmer, Christmas tree farmer and carpenter.

That doesn’t mean they aren’t busy. They already have orders for 15 yurts in 2015.

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