Sunday, September 27, 2020

Weekend Review: Fibershed


Rebecca Burgess & Courtney White
White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, c2019
281 p.

I picked up this book at my library and read it over one day. It was fascinating! Written by the founder of the Fibershed movement, it explains what a Fibershed is, and how it works, explaining along the way about sustainable agriculture, the false promise of synthetic fibres, and how a regional system of production helps fight fast fashion, climate change and precarious industries. 

So what is a Fibershed? It's a place-based textile system, as she says in the introduction:

Similar to a local watershed or a foodshed, a fibershed is focused on the source of the raw material, the transparency with which it is converted into clothing, and the connectivity among all parts, from soil to skin and back to soil... It is place-based textile sovereignty, which aims to include rather than exclude all the people, plants, animals, and cultural practices that compose and define a specific geography.

She introduces us to her own background, and the organization itself. She talks about natural dyeing, and her journey to farming her own indigo as well as other natural dyers in the area (really fascinating!) There are also featured farmers who raise specific breeds of sheep that are best for the microclimate their farm is in;  and a cotton farmer, Sally Fox, who breeds and grows naturally coloured cotton -- did you know that cotton grows in colours other than white? I didn't! 

There is talk about local mills (few and far between), how growing different kinds of fiber crops like flax, hemp or even nettle can work as regenerative agriculture and increase the ability of the soil to sequester carbon -- a very in depth and illuminating chapter that digs into the facts and felt really outside my knowledge and experience. From animal fibres to plant fibres, from the growers to the processors, to dyers, weavers, knitters, and sewists, she moves from the source to the end product and shows how and why it's important.

And then shares a bit about the organization and how it works with other groups interested in the same things, and how this might be replicated (they even have an affiliate system).

It's a great read, illuminating and inspiring. I felt hopeful when I was done, and very intrigued by all the information about local producers in her Fibershed, leading me to wonder about my own region. Fortunately for me, there is an affiliate Fibreshed group in my area, the Upper Canada Fibreshed! 

If this kind of thing interests you, be sure to give this book and their website a look. It's encouraging and brings up a wide range of subjects all connected to a new Textile Economy. 


Share your comments, ideas or suggestions here -- I am always interested in hearing from readers. It's nice to have a conversation!