Designs and Dye Plants

The Fibershed talent is pouring forth like the waters of our rainfed creeks and streams. Monica has been working her magic with Sally Fox’s boucle color-grown cotton. This week was about test swatches and dye plants.  Monica and I made a plan to go the farm that she works at to see about dye plants, and on our way there she shared with me an amazing sample she had created from the local cotton.  One of the first questions about this project– is what can you do with fibers that come from within 150 miles of your front door?  What textures, flexibility and forms will derive from the local landscape?  These questions are just beginning to get answered.

I went to the ridges of Lagunitas to begin building relationships with more landowners, so as to extend the geography of my dye plant harvesting grounds.  For the  Fibershed project I will need to have access to rotating private lands to source the dye colors. This is the view from Mt. Barnabe farm in the San Geronimo Valley.  This beautiful farm is where Monica used to live, and where she continues to work.  I was fortunate to be able to join her during her morning routine.

When Monica and I discuss the act of wearing clothes that come from these farms, she compares it to her own relationship with food, ‘Eating the produce and drinking the water of this mountain creates strength, and health; I feel the place inside me.’  If the food can generate such an intimacy with the land– we both wonder about the effect of the clothes..

Monica stands in a patch of garlic whose seed has been selected from many years, and generations of the Mt. Barnabe crop.  I reflect on hundreds of generations of cotton seed, and years of breeding that have derived the basis of the fibers we are working with.  The test swatch Monica created shows us that fine form fitting, and flexible summer clothing will be quite possible from the organic cotton grown just 120 miles from my door.

Here is one of hundreds of coyote brush stands that exist on the farm.  These are the bushes I will be harvesting from to create some of my summer colors.  The farm needs to keep the coyote brush at bay to some degree, to keep their land in a state of cultivation.  The chaparral plants–particularly the coyote brush tend to encroach a bit into the fields.  I am more than happy to assist in keeping the plant pruned back.

I used my Mt. Barnabe coyote brush clippings to make a 6 gallon pot of dye.  This will be used for several handspun skeins that will be made into a Fibershed sleeveless shirt.  I am elated to have found this dye plant source, and especially to have the gift of being able to enter into a symbiotic relationship with such a wonderful landscape.  I look forward to sharing the colors of the ridge with you soon!

4 thoughts on “Designs and Dye Plants

  1. I love what you are doing Rebecca and i would love to make you something. I use to carry Sally Fox’s fabrics in my sustainable fabric store Ambatalia in Mill Valley. Now , Im learning to weave and will buy her thread. Im so interested in where her fields are and where she spins them. The spinning used to happen in Richmond, but closed down. I love that the colors are picked right off the plant in shades of brown , green and pink. I so would love to Volunteer for your project in any way that I would be helpful. Let me know if I can help!

  2. I would love to help organize a fibershed in the Fort Bragg, CA area. Where can I find a map that shows existing fibersheds? Is there a tutorial available?

    Where are the great non-traditional quilt motifs that I see here to be found? Is there a book of them?

    1. Hi Betty Lou, Thanks for your interest in organizing in your area. There’s a map that shows the affiliate Fibershed groups on our website: At the moment we don’t have a tutorial, though we hope to publish a document with useful information for those starting fibershed groups. For now we have some basic information on starting your fibershed on the website: And a useful resource for your area is shearer Matt Gilbert, who is fund raising to open a wool mill in Ukiah: Hope that gives you something to start with. And please keep us posted on how things are going.

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