The Details - The Challenge
My challenge to only wear local clothing is ON but there will need to be a few exceptions. I explain why below.
I am recreating Rebecca Burgess' fiber challenge. Her challenge produced a book and national nonprofit, Fibershed. She lives in California; her local climate and availability of fibers differ from the New England Region. I knew this but didn't realize the impact of this difference when I first set out to accomplish my challenge.
In New England, local fiber mainly means wool. It can be from sheep, alpacas, or fiber from Angora rabbits or goats. These are traditionally warmer weather fibers, or at least the type of animals that thrive in this more humid climate tend to have fiber more suited for colder climates. And that won't translate well to hot weather. Although flax or linen was a textile historically produced in this area, mills have essentially disappeared in this region that produces flax textiles.
I needed to find some materials that I could use to make clothing for the summer. I have found a few choices that I list below.
In previous blogs, I have written about flax yarn. I am working on pieces using the two-ply yarn, DK or sport weight, made by Patty of Aker Farms in Enfield, NH.
Catskill Merino Farm produces a lace weight yarn that is soft and bouncy.
I have also found some very light-fingering weight yarn from various sources that have allowed me to crochet some tops. One source of lightweight Shetland wool is Peaked Mountain Homestead. This yarn doesn't have the springiness of the merino but works for some garments.
It is worth noting that these fibers are fine, and the finer the yarn, the longer it takes to hand-knit or crochet a garment. Therefore, I will be wearing fewer garments when I start the challenge as I hope to engage others in creation as the challenge progresses. I also need some specific pieces that I cannot make myself nor commission with a seamstress - my solutions are below.
As you can see, my slips from previous years are all synthetic fibers. I won't be wearing these items for my challenge, but creating slips by hand is outside my ability, and no local yarn exists that I know of to do this work. I need an alternative.
Luckily New England has a local supplier of US goods made from wool and organic cotton. Rambler's Way, based in Maine, creates garments from fiber sourced from western US states and South America. Want to trace the origin of the garment's fiber you are viewing? Scroll down on the item page to see where the material was sourced and milled.
I will purchase a slip to wear under my summer crochet skirts from Rambler's Way. Although not locally grown fiber, their garments are constructed in Maine, sourced from sustainable US farms, and a good investment.
Sports Bra and Cycling Apparel
I enjoy sports, especially hiking, jogging, and cycling. Because I am a full-busted woman, I need to wear a sports bra for comfort. Designing a supportive wool sports bra is outside of my current skill set, and therefore I will wear existing bras during the challenge. If I need to purchase anything new, I will seek out a bra from a certified sustainable source and blog about it to let you know. Currently, I have an assortment of Sports Bras from various athletic companies. Unfortunately none that were sustainably sourced.
Sustainable makers of cycling shorts and apparel exist. Some garments are from recycled fibers, some from wool fibers. I could order a nice set from companies located around the world that makes such sportswear and are known to be sustainable. But, the most sustainable thing you can do is not purchase a new garment. So, I will wear existing cycling clothing.
I also own a Patagonia GuppyFriend laundry bag to minimize the leakage of microplastics into waterways. I decided that limiting the purchase of these materials and using what I have that is still functional is the best choice I can make since no local solution exists.
Sock Wool Yarn Available Locally
I noted in an earlier post that locally produced sock wool typically contains about 20% nylon/elastic fibers. These fibers are added to the yarn to increase endurance or help the socks stay in place. To support local businesses, I have purchased these socks. I will compare them to the socks I had made for me using 100% wool fiber. I can easily say upfront is that hand-knit socks are beautiful to look at and more elegant than traditional mill knit socks. Hand knitters currently do not make any money creating these garments. Thus, don't forget to thank the person that knits your socks. They are giving you a gift.