Thinking about starting your own Fibershed Project?
Every fibershed project will have its own specific signature depending upon the landscape for which it begins. The level of involvement will also vary depending on your time, resources, and commitment level. Some individuals might be inspired to jump into a one-year challenge. Some projects may focus on the researching and developing of prototypes, while others may work towards the creation of a bioregional marketplace. And a few of you out there may take on all three focal points, like we did!
Start by finding out what is being grown and raised in your region, and who is doing that work.
Find out who has the knitting, weaving, spinning, dyeing, and sewing skills to bring the clothes to life.
Allow this research to inform the size of your Fibershed. Many of these landscapes will be bigger than 150 miles from your front door. Seek to create the smallest region possible while still honoring your needs.
Organize meet-&-greet lunches, teas, and house visits with the farmers, knitters, spinners, weavers in your region. Make sure to ask them what they envision, and invite them to participate with you. Fibershed garments are collaborations, and very rarely are the pieces simply an expression of one mind.
Seek to build collaborations between artisans and farmers. Introduce artisans to the farmers. Many artisans are curious as to what the raw material base of their region is like, and will happily take on an experiment with local raw materials for the experience.
Document these people in your region through image and word. Organizing a Fibershed project is reliant upon good narratives and stellar photography. Most of the work exists in taking the time to schedule these documentation opportunities, and requires a significant amount of organizational time to keep the relationships strong once you’ve made contact. Go to the artists and farmers—meet them at their homes, studios, and ranches. The organizer does the legwork.
Starting with conserving your own resources, make careful decisions about what a wardrobe really needs for it to be considered functional for your climate and day-to-day endeavors. And, or, decide what housewares are truly necessary– maybe your project will focus on wool housing insulation!
Are there heirloom animal and plant breeds in your region? How can you foster these breeders work by turning their fibers into the best possible garments and useful items?
Study up on your fibers so you can make the best decision regarding their first and best use. A Corriedale cross sheep will make you some excellent socks, and a merino might be better suited for a baselayer. By-product wool makes good rugs, blankets and housewares. Bast and cotton fibers are rare in most regions— think about how you could collaborate to bring in organic farming operations that grow the plants you need, and that will do well in your climate.
You are cultivating more than plants and animals… it is the people that make a Fibershed tick. Fibersheds bring people together under an umbrella of community co-creation, and for that reason they function as a means for collaboration.
Raw materials do need cultivating—the raw materials that you cannot find in your region might illuminate a good business opportunity for someone who has the time and energy
Cultivating relationships between your community members is vital. The sustainability of a Fibershed relies upon more than your singular relationship with each member, but your work as a liason making multiple connections between participants. Re-skilling days and workshops are a wonderful way to cultivate community.
Utilizing existing technological innovations are useful in birthing and sustaining Fibershed Projects. We utilized a kickstarter campaign to raise $10,000 to get the ball rolling, and pay for our photography and raw materials. This great web platform brought in enough support to pay for our photographer, videographer, and a range of raw materials we needed to make the bio-regional wardrobe. Other technological innovations we utilized: Google docs & maps, and doodle calendars.
As collaborations between skilled textile artisans and farmers evolve, innovation is inevitable. New patterns and ideas that make the most of local fiber resources are a natural outcome of a fibershed project. Our project saw many clever adaptations to issues such as– ‘What to do with by-product wool?’ and ‘How to make a natural rain-coat?’
As the project moves forward, larger scale innovations seem necessary to support more people in our community wearing locally farmed clothing. We are now looking at innovations such as solar powered milling for farms, full length bast fiber processing, and botanic dye extract manufacturing.
If you are looking for a little support in starting your own Fibershed project, we can assist you by providing you a fibershed logo, customized with your own region’s name (like the example at right)!
All projects utilizing this logo will be recognized as sharing a core set of values:
- Your resource base is defined by a clearly understood geography (it could be small or large; 20 miles or 300 miles)
- All the fibers and dyes used in your goods are grown in this region
- All the labor to create your goods is sourced in this region
- Our Fibershed has created a temporary caveat for milling and sewing notions (see details on our downloadable document)