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5 Important Questions about Building a Local Fibershed

Fiber experts from around the Northern New England region spoke at Stonewall Farm in Keene, NH about their vision, regional history, and what we need to create farm to closet fashions.

northern New England fiber experts speak at event.
Fibershed Experts Lea, Jane, Katie, and Michelle

I had the pleasure of bringing together regional fiber experts and moderating a session about Fibersheds, our clothing, and our regional community. While I am awaiting the video to post (check back for recorded action!), I wanted to share what came out of the session both from attendees and participants.

It was a hot day, but that didn't stop people from gathering in-person and online to listen to the words of these wise women and ask questions.

"It was just overwhelming today to sit in a room with so many people that are so aligned with my beliefs." Nichole Bainer, Modern Saint Living

I've discussed in previous blogs the national Fibershed Movement as well as local affiliates and Fibersheds, but I wanted to add questions that came out of this meeting with the answers from the Fibersheds themselves.

Q. How can consumers tap into Fibersheds? How can local clothing come to the Monadnock Region (replace any regional name here)? What is missing for this to occur?

A. The answer is capacity. Presently, in the Monadnock Region, and likely many other parts of the US, there aren't manufacturing facilities to transform yarn into cloth. Although there may be mills to process fleece into yarn, facilities to create textiles are rarer.

Q. What does this mean?

A. For the northeastern region to build capacity, it would mean investing in industry that weaves or knits yarn into garments such as sweaters and socks or cloth for sewing.

You might think to yourself: But Darn Good Yarn creates socks on a big scale in Vermont. However, they are so large they cannot use local fiber and merino sheep aren't prevalent in this climate — the basis of their goods. Finally, as they admit on their website, their wool is superwashed, which coats the yarn with plastics. They want to move to something better, but for now, it is an industry standard for wash and dry wool.

North Carolina is an outlier, with textile facilities that can handle cotton. We see this in Solid State t-shirts, a regional effort to use local, NC cotton and turn it into yarn and then t-shirts all within a community. Check them out. This is a Fibershed in action from the farm to the textile end product!

Q. If others are listening remotely and don't have a regional Fibershed organization, how can they create one?

A. Fibersheds are communities gathered together to promote fiber farmers, processors, and creators in a mission to create clothing, improve soil and animal management, and reduce waste. Because of these multi-tiered goals, creating a local Fibershed means bringing together people who want to do this work.

Q. How?

A. This could mean creating value for any of these segments from the farmers to the makers. So, like so many other ventures, it is building community, reaching out, listening and learning about what people need and how they want to be supported. There is no cookie-cutter answer as each 'Shed is unique.

Step One: Share your desire with others in your community. It is amazing what a group of like minded people can do.

And, check out the Affiliate Information available from the national Fibershed that can help with this process. Sometimes the best way to start is to gather a few friends together and figure out a project that will work in your community.

Q. Where can we find out more about fiber events in our community?

A. A good website for events is Knitter's Review. It has many events and classes that take place across the country and the world. You will find local events there for anyone reading this blog. And — if you don't see your event — let them know! They ask for events not listed at the top of their page!

Q. There was finally a question about sourcing bras and underwear locally, especially those that are supportive. Even in the sustainable clothing realm, this is a big need as many bras are simply sized up from smaller cups and from my personal experience - it doesn't work.

me in wool panties
My first creation - crochet wool panties

A. This is a difficult question nationally and internationally. Thinking about how to do this locally goes back to the capacity question and would require devotees to this endeavor. Also, sustainable companies are on tight budgets and their ability to address all issues is limited. If we want change, we need to advocate for it.

Michelle Parrish mentioned my first creation — crocheted underwear. I let everyone know that they were a great way to get back into crochet and they were warm and odor-free during the winter. I followed Maya on YouTube and made my panties with a bit more coverage in the rear. After I made the waist with her and listened to her guidelines, I rounded the panties more than she did for hers. It was the first thing I made in over 20 years. If you have ever crocheted or even if you never have, give it a try! My panties now look a bit felted but still feel great on!

I am sure there were other questions and when I have the video in hand I will put up on YouTube and let subscribers know. Until then, let's keep working toward local clothing and create some items ourselves from local yarn! They don't have to be perfect — they just need to be our creations!


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