By Jess Daniels
It’s clear that our economy is shifting. A chasm has formed and it’s uprooting so many systems that have been dysfunctional for far too long — systems that harm human and ecological health. Fashion and material culture are part and parcel of those systems. We see that the industry that clothes us, blankets us, and shelters us, is — like many — in a tailspin as global supply chains are disrupted or halted, as fast fashion retail stores close up shop, and as many of us reconsider our purchases and actions for the betterment of our community.
As mentioned in our previous article, we at Fibershed have been working quickly to provide support for our producer network and to connect with colleagues and collaborators to ensure critical support for regional economies.
For those of us sheltering in place at home, this moment is an opportunity to contribute to reimagining and restructuring the value chains and relationships that provide for our basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter. This is a moment when our local producers and workers are providing vital services, so how can we do our part to strengthen local systems within our fibershed, while sheltering in place?
We invite you to join us by engaging with practices, key learnings, and actions so that together we can rebuild an economy rooted in right livelihoods, regional manufacturing, and material production that regenerates soil health.
1. Learn how regional fiber and dye systems are critical to climate stability and resilient economies
- In Fibershed: Growing a Movement of Farmers, Artists, and Fashion Activists for a New Textile Economy, Rebecca shares how the concept and community of a fibershed arose from a personal challenge to reimagine our relationships with the people who provide our clothing and textile goods — a decade later, there are 200 producer members in Northern California and nearly 50 global Fibershed Affiliates activating and modeling pathways to regional, regenerative fiber and dye systems. Fibershed, the book, can be ordered online directly from the publisher or through your local independent bookstore (many of whom are shipping orders while sheltering in place).
- On the first season of our Soil to Soil podcast, we hear directly from a Climate Beneficial verified wool producer, a scientist studying carbon sequestration, a writer whose journey into sheep shearing illuminated the many people involved in fiber supply chains, and more — available on our website, in the Apple Podcasts app, Google Play, and more listening platforms.
- For designers and brands, reshoring and regionalizing production offers a way to embrace resilience in this moment of global disruption, while continuing to advance climate and sustainability goals
- Our annual Wool & Fine Fiber Symposium has brought together insightful panels and advanced key updates in research from carbon farming to microplastics: browse our video archive to listen in or watch talks from the 2013-2019 Wool & Fine Fiber Symposia
- To engage the next generation, we have free PDFs of educational curricula on native plants, dye gardening, and the carbon cycle as well as resources for teens created by Drake High School intern Zoe Vavrek
2. Become a slow fashion steward of your wardrobe
- Download our free Clothing Guide, and share it with your friends and family: inside you’ll find 4 principles to changing clothing consumption, a guide to the common ingredients in your wardrobe, and recommendations for where to shop when new items are needed
- Learn to mend to extend the life of your wardrobe — now is a great time to try your hand at visible mending, patchwork, and darning to reduce textile waste and express creativity. In addition to the wealth of virtual inspiration for #visiblemending, artists including Katrina Rodabaugh, The Far Woods, and Heidi Iverson generously offer tutorials on social media to get you started.
- Brush up on best practices for clothing care to reduce your carbon and water footprint: we checked in with researchers, artists, and waste reduction enthusiasts to compile tips from the Fibershed community to shift the impact of our clothing.
3. Experience the alchemy of local color in your garden, neighborhood, or pantry
- Start your own dye garden in a raised bed or in a window box: find dye seeds as well as dried plant dye supplies in the Fibershed Marketplace
- For inspiration and recipes connecting food scraps and foraged materials from the urban landscape, visit the Urban Dyers Almanac organized by Laura Sansone of Parsons The New School of Design, and founder of NY Textile Lab, a member of the Fibershed Affiliate Network
- Dive deep into biosphere-based blue: read our 3-part report series on planting, harvesting, and processing indigo, with a look at field trials from the Northern California Fibershed’s True Blue project and research on indigo at scale
4. Make something to support your community
- As Spring arrives, the annual fiber production cycle continues, bringing more beautiful fiber into mills and the hands of makers. Your yarn purchases support producers in continuing the cycle from soil to skin. The Fibershed Knitalong patterns are designed specifically to support a range of yarn weights and qualities, and we invite you to cast on a locally grown garment or accessory with regionally raised yarn, or handspun created from local roving.
- Clothing manufacturers and home sewists alike are already springing into action to supply fabric masks to community members who lack protective equipment. It has been researched and reported that fabric masks are not well suited for medical teams working on the frontlines of the novel Coronavirus, making masks and gear available to others in the community may offer a way to ensure that frontline workers have access to the more technical protective personal equipment they need. Here are there emerging opportunities across the Fibershed community:
- In the region of the Southeastern New England Fibershed, The Mask Project is orchestrating a match-making effort between manufacturers and medical providers
- “Connecting the needs of the healthcare community with the talents of those who sew,” WeNeedMasks.org is a nationwide effort with listings for drop-off locations and sewing directions for makers who wish to contribute from home.
- For those in the Northern California Fibershed who have the ability to sew masks, the Saint Francis Homelessness Challenge in San Francisco has requested masks for their outreach team to provide to vulnerable community members in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco. Fabric masks (instructions available on WeNeedMasks.org) can be mailed to the Fibershed PO Box for drop-off with the Saint Francis team.
5. Enhance the drawdown of excess carbon from the atmosphere into the soil
- For land stewards in California, now is the perfect time to apply for funding for carbon farming practices through California’s Healthy Soils Program. Fibershed members can reach out to Molly and Heather for connections to technical service providers and Fibershed’s Climate Beneficial verification program
- Connect your dollars and climate commitment to local land stewards: donations to Fibershed’s Carbon Farm Fund are provided directly to farmers and ranchers to support land management that builds healthy soil, enhances biodiversity, and more.
- Learn more about how fiber producers at various scales are planning and implementing carbon farm practices on their land. Tune in to our video about how models like Climate Beneficial Wool and resources including the Healthy Soils Program are helping to establish a growing network of carbon farming practitioners on our landscape.