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!

Research:

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.

 

Organization:

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.

Conservation:

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.

Cultivation:

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.

Innovation:

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.

Affiliate Program:

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)

Visit our Affiliates page to see a map and listing of our current affiliates. Here’s an application form for those interested in Fibershed’s Affiliate program: AffiliateApplication

31 Responses to Start your own Fibershed

  1. [...] more about their mission statement here. They also have a link devoted to starting your own fibershed. I will definitely be going back and looking at this page in more detail come [...]

  2. Susan Berlin says:

    Several months ago, a group of fibre animal farmers and local fibre artisans got together with the purpose of: building on this area’s history of textile production, educating the public about the value of ‘tomorrow’s heirlooms’; promoting local farms/artisans; and working to create a ‘buy local’ attitude with regard to fibre products as well as (other) agricultural products.

    Shortly after we got together here, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that similar groups are forming all over North America. (I was in San Francisco recently, and was able to meet with Karen Brown — great conversation, lots of ideas floated…to be continued). It occurred to me that we should all be engaging in a conversation network, to share promotional ideas, and perhaps even to create a traveling trunk show of items from each area that illustrate our (local and overall) goals.

    Your Affiliate program sounds like it’s organized on very similar lines — but for us, the ‘shared values’ you list are in some ways a problem. For example: at least one of our members raises alpacas, and uses the fleece to make nuno felted items. Certainly she does all the designing and felting herself — but 1) there are no mills in her immediate area — something we’d like to encourage, of course, but that’s where we are now — so her fleeces are carded out-of-area; 2) We live in a northern area, where few dyes can be locally grown; and 3) she uses silk as the base for nuno felting, and of course silk is not produced locally.

    Could we have a discussion about modulating the ‘core set of values’ to accommodate local conditions? We’d love to become an affiliate group, but couldn’t honestly subscribe to your value statement.

  3. Are you aware of any fibershed satellite communities in the Michigan -or- Midwest?

    Thank you!

    • fibershed says:

      Hi Jenny, We haven’t yet heard of a fibershed group in that area, but we are in the process of designing an interactive map for our website that fibershed groups will be able to add their contact information to. That way it will be easier for people to connect. Stay tuned…

  4. [...] here for full list of bay area producers. Don’t live in the bay area? Learn about opportunities here to start your own regional [...]

  5. Linda says:

    …are there any Fibershed initiatives in the New York City area? Thank you!

    • ecologicalartist says:

      Hi Linda,

      I just spoke with a woman who mentioned to me that a lady named Laura Sansone (teaches at Parsons), and does natural dye work at farmer’s markets…. sounds like she might be spearheading a project, more details are needed, I realize, the more we hear about it– we’ll certainly let you know. In the meantime, maybe you can find her on the Parson’s academic directory? Thanks so much for your interest!

  6. Polly Gray says:

    We are uniting as a group of fiber , herb, and natural dye growers in our area. This site was very on target. I am in the process of building a blog and would love a logo.
    Polly

    • fibershed says:

      Hi Polly, Thanks for your interest in fibershed. We are launching an affiliate program, and you can find more information and an application here: http://www.fibershed.com/affiliates/. Once you are an affiliate, we will send you a regional fibershed logo. Eventually we will be mapping all the fibershed groups so that people will be able to locate groups in their area.

  7. Elizabeth Toomey says:

    Hi from Martha’s Vineyard off the south coast of Massachusetts! I’m mailing off our affiliate application today. A permaculture friend and I introduced the Fibershed concept at our local agricultural fair this past summer and were surprised by the wonderful response. We plan on using this winter (our down time around here) to develop our own Fibershed, meeting with designers and fiber artists, etc. Right now, our boundaries stop at the waters edge but we may expand to include Cape Cod and the south coast area of Massachusetts which has a rich textile history.

    What do you think about “fair trade” between Fibersheds? This area is perfect for growing flax for linen but we can only use just so much linen in a small area.

  8. Hello,
    A few of us are spearheading a Fibershed in our area and are very interested in the affiliate program. For clarification before I submit the affiliate program application is the term Fibershed open for us to use if we preface it with our local area?

    • ecologicalartist says:

      Hi Monique!

      Yes, you’re welcome to, and encouraged to use Fibershed in the title of your project! The more the term is used, the more
      we are able to educate and clearly communicate to our audience of ‘wearers’ that they are supporting local agriculture with every purchase. We so look forward to sharing our work with you, and having you share your work with us!
      Many thanks,
      Rebecca Burgess

  9. Thank you and you will be receiving our application in the next few days. Thanks for being such an inspiration to us all!

    Monique

  10. Judith Grimes says:

    Is there any Fibershed initiatives in the Durango, Co. area. I just moved here 8 months ago. I have visited an alpaca farm and met some local knitters and spinners. But I am pretty new to these parts!

    • ecologicalartist says:

      Hi Judith,

      Thank you for contacting us! I am not aware of a Durango Fibershed, if you are interested in creating one it sounds like you have the resources to organize your community. Let us know if you have any questions or would like any guidance.

      Many thanks,
      Rebecca

  11. Hi,
    I am very interested in creating a Fibershed community here in Maine. I am quite certain I do not meet all the criteria. I have been natural dying for about 10 years and I do use purchased cochineal and logwood. We have owned alpacas for about 13 years. I also am going to start sending my wool out of state because I can’t get my fiber processed in a timely manner. Also I have indigo questions that perhaps you can email me privately about. I have grown for my own use but growing a much larger amount of it intrigues me. Perhaps you have info of procedures after harvesting to compost it.
    Thanks so much,
    Marcia MacDonald

  12. Hi
    Is there a Sierra Fibershed (or Foothills or Mother Lode)? I’m a weaver in Nevada City with a friend who has an alpaca ranch in Grass Valley.

    Jac

    • fibershed says:

      Hi Jacalyn, Currently there is not a Sierra Fibershed that we know of. One of our Fibershed Producers, Birdsong Sundstrom, lives in the area, so you could contact her to see if there is interest in starting a local group. Here’s her producer page (with contact information) on our website: http://www.fibershed.com/producers/directory/birdsong-sundstrom/. Technically you are within our Northern California fibershed (within 150 miles of Petaluma, CA), so if you are using local fibers and dyes you could join our Producer Program.

  13. Wonderful to know that we’re already in a fibershed district. I’m in the process of setting up an open weaving studio with a small art gallery. I plan to make locally-sourced materials for fiber artists available, from fleece to handspun to dyes to plant seeds. I’m a month away from a ‘soft opening’ to coincide with Nevada City’s first First Friday Art Walk, June 7th. I’ll peruse the links here for folks to contact to might want to consign stuff. Thanks!!!

  14. julie avery says:

    Sounds like we have some groups in MI who might be interested . . . several of us are investigating — growing from an MSU Extension Study Tour — in New Mexico!
    Exciting

  15. Trish Sparling says:

    Aromas, Ca. We are looking for fiber producers to start a brand new Fibershed.

  16. Dianne says:

    I just found out about your fibershed concept and know this is exactly what I have been looking for as the independent producers and users are still quite separate, although in my region there are 2 new fiber festivals started last year. I think it is great what you are doing and have managed to achieve. Unfortunately doing the research by visiting is just too costly for gas and weather six months of the year and this brutal winter especially. I like how you started yours by raising but I am wondering if starting a blog or website is the way to go to get it kicked off. Dianne, Manitoba Canada

    • fibershed says:

      Hi Dianne, Thanks for your interest in Fibershed. Rebecca began building the local Fibershed community by visiting and interviewing producers, introducing them to artisans, and by blogging about their work and their collaborations. This may also be a good way to start bringing producers and users together in your area. Good luck, and let us know how it’s going!

  17. Dianne says:

    Hi there
    Thanks for replying. Not possible for me to do that kind of travelling to interview people. First I am alone on a farm with animals so can’t leave for long..
    And the travelling in winter here is brutal especially with the past winter we have had. So that way of starting I don’t think would work very well. I thought about how I could host something here but even that would present difficulties. So probably the only thing is using the internet and phone and see what is possible that way. So any suggestions would be great.
    Dianne

  18. Dianne says:

    I got a notice that a new comment was posted but can’t find it.. While looking I read a post by someone who had diffic ulty subscribing to the values concept . I read it again and find that “all” the fibers must be local and dyes natural That can be very troublesome . For instance many producers and processors include a blend of silk which doesn;t grow here so would exclude anything with silk in the blend. And also did think the concept is great for availability of producers but agree with other person that yes that are more commercial. ny chance a percentage could be used rather than “all”. Like 75% must be locally grown.

    P:erhaps there could be some flexibilty in this area so we could still be included in the .listing.
    Dianne

    • fibershed says:

      Hi Dianne, To be a member of the Fibershed Producer program, at least some of your products must be made entirely of local fibers, local natural dyes and local labor. And those products may be labeled as Fibershed certified with the tags that members receive. We have found that local products connect us more deeply with our bioregion, and have a unique quality that people are drawn to.

  19. Dianne says:

    That’s good if only requires “some”. rather than all. All of mine are for the most of what I raise because I have natural colors but sometimes do use a dye. And hope to have some blends with silk. So that is good to know. Thanks\Dianne

    • fibershed says:

      You may have tried this already, Dianne, but one of our Producer members, Mary Pettis-Sarley, finds that using alpaca in place of silk produces a lovely soft yarn, so she no longer uses silk.

  20. Dianne says:

    I do have alpaca and use it but not for blending. I pretty well stick to 100% except for using silk. I have a ton of it. I raise butterflies and had hoped to raise silkworms but just not yet. But I am more concerned to be able to get others ion board who maybe do use it.
    Dianne

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