Borrowed from the Soil’ Design Challenge is an opportunity for textile designers in Northern and Central California to explore a new soil-to-soil vision for the future of our material culture. We hope this Design Challenge will encourage you to explore beyond the product, connecting your process and products with the farmers, the people, and the land in our region; while also looking at how your design choices can embed longevity, compostability, and respect for the soil. 

photos by Paige Green

Design Challenge Theme: Borrowed from the Soil

Although our current global textile system is reliant on exploitative petroleum-based practices, there is incredible potential to shift back to one that originates from the soil and supports the longevity and health of our ecosystems and communities. Designers have a unique place in these systems to turn natural materials grown on our regional landscapes into beautiful, long-lasting goods that serve our communities.

Throughout this 12-month challenge you’ll have the opportunity to create a prototype following the Commitments and Technical Design Focus Areas seen below. Fibershed will offer a variety of educational events, resources & farm tours to build our collective understanding of the interconnectedness between material and design choices, and the land and people whom these choices impact. All of which will culminate in a Fall gallery showing and final Spring 2024 showcase (see more info below).

>> We created this visually rich “Designing for Regional Resilience” Zine for designers to explore the impacts of their choices on ecosystems and communities.

Design Challenge Commitments: 

  • All participants are from the Northern and Central CA region (from San Luis Obispo to the Oregon border)
  • All designs must utilize 100% natural fibers and dyes. 
  • All designs must utilize regionally grown and processed/ manufactured materials. We encourage you to build a relationship with place, and explore the current sourcing possibilities within California and honor the intimacy of the local textiles available. Fibershed-certified products must follow these guidelines.  

We understand there are material and manufacturing limitations within our textile region. As we continue to work to invest and uplift our regional systems to grow more textile options in our state, we also value the important work happening in the Western States. Although these textiles are not eligible for Fibershed’s Certification/ tag system, you are welcome to explore these pan-regional materials for the Design Challenge.

For Whom:

  • Open to all textile designers (apparel, homegoods, bags, accessories, knitwear, wovens, etc.) in the Northern and Central CA Fibershed Region (from San Luis Obispo to the Oregon border).
  • Participants can join as individuals or as a group/ brand.
  • This challenge will include a special category for participation by students enrolled in collaborating local fashion and design school programs. 

Technical Design Focus Areas:

As you design with the local land and people in mind and the above components, we encourage you to incorporate the following technical design focus areas into your prototypes:

  • Compostability: Utilization of natural fibers and dyes that begin and end with the soil, including notion material choices such as threads and closures. 
  • Longevity: High quality designs and materials that reflect long-lasting use, repairability, adaptability, and mobility in every component of the piece.
  • Zero Waste Design: Garment and pattern design to prevent fabric waste.

Application/ Intake Form:

Participants can sign up until May 15 

If you are interested in joining our Borrowed from the Soil Challenge, please fill out our brief application form here.

We will review applications within a week of submission and get back to you as soon as possible.

Material & Dye Studio Scholarships:

If you have any questions on scholarships, please contact

Material Scholarships:

We are offering a limited number of material scholarships to cover the costs of all or some of the fabric yardage needed for your design sampling and final prototype. We offer 2-5 yards total of any (or combination of) regional textile (although you can consult with us if there are certain materials you’re interested in that you want covered). 

Note: We just released a NEW Cotton jersey developed by the California Cotton & Climate Coalition. ALL designers, regardless of applying for a scholarship, can order up to 5 yards of this jersey. Email for more information.


  • Scholarships are open until September 1. Applicants must submit a statement of design intent.
  • The materials will be purchased by Fibershed and sent to your mailing address. 
  • All scholarship recipients must have the intention to commit to the educational events and creating a final prototype design

Natural Dye Studio Scholarships:

We are also offering Studio Scholarships for our Natural Dye Studio at our Fibershed Learning Center in Point Reyes Station. Studio scholarships are open for 1-3 day uses. 

To apply for either scholarship, please fill out this Google Form, by September 1. 

What do I receive by being a part of this challenge?

  • Access to material sourcing resources, including a digital and physical cloth sample book
  • Access to apply for our Material & Studio Scholarships for sampling and final prototyping. See above Scholarship Section for details and application.
  • Access to 3-session (Free!) Speaker Series — In-depth education on our regional textile system and its impact on land, water, and communities. 
  • Access to 2 (Free!) Farm & Ranch Tours — Opportunity to visit a Climate Beneficial Northern California wool ranch and Central California cotton farm (limited availability based tour capacity)
  • Invitation to submit a design sketch to be a part of our two gallery showings (Fall 2023 & Spring 2024)
  • A cohort of like-minded designers creatively envisioning a new iteration of our textile system rooted in ecosystem and community health and resilience
  • Monthly E-newsletters with resources and event information


12 months — March 2023 through February 2024

Participants can sign up until May 15 (Scholarship recipients need to sign up and submit a sketch by June 1. See Scholarship section)

We will be hosting two gallery showings — One in Fall 2023 to showcase process, iterations, fabric explorations, and the stories behind your pieces; and another in Spring of 2024 as a final design showcase. All Design Challenge participants will be invited to submit design sketches for the gallery showings and to be considered for the final design showcase.

Resource Page:

We have a collected a variety of resources that will help you throughout this challenge.

Past Educational Event Recordings