It was only a matter of time before I went from buying fabric to making it myself, even if the first results are rather lumpy and the approximate size of a bookmark.
I blame it on Fibershed and a growing community interested in sourcing local materials for a handmade wardrobe. While the birthplace of Fibershed is my old home of California, the same principles of organizing a web of regional fiber producers and consumers can be applied anywhere. For drool-worthy examples, see the challenge from this is moonlight of #1year1outfit in which participants create an outfit sourced from their fibershed over the course of a year. That may sound like a long time in which to create a single outfit, but as demonstrated again and again, local fiber resources are not always easy to find, especially not in the form that we are used to working with. Interesting challenges ensue, such as what to use for thread and fabric when most of what is available is raw fiber or yarn. In addition to time spent researching local resources, many participants were forced to learn new skills such as spinning, weaving, felting, and dyeing in order to process the fiber available to them. Is it any wonder then that a single outfit could take a full year to research, design, prepare materials for, and produce?
The fibershed model of crafting a handmade wardrobe resonates with me deeply. It is more than just wearing me-made clothes, more than choosing organic cotton, more than using natural dyes. It is working with my environment and my community to clothe myself.
Going forward, I intend to buy only locally produced fiber and textiles. Now that I’ve had a chance to settle into my new home by finding the farmer’s market, public library, and neighborhood parks, it is time to start planning for the future. The future of how I will keep myself cool in hot and humid summers and warm in often brutal winters. How I will dress my daughter and perhaps start making clothes for my husband as well. How to make curtains, blankets, quilts, pillows, mattresses, and maybe even shoes. This is not an easy task.
The first step is learning about my local fibershed and what resources are available. This is where I am now. In the mean time, I have fabric, thread, yarn, and other notions purchased over the last four years to work through. As excited as I am about using local fiber, I can’t ignore the stash I have already amassed. Not only does it take up considerable space in my small apartment (four moving boxes worth of space, to be precise), it required considerable natural resources to produce. The least I can do is use it up before consuming even more.
In preparation for taking full advantage of my fibershed, I will also work on improving and diversifying my skills.
So I made a tiny loom.
The loom is cut out of a small cardboard box that once held a baby spoon. The sides are cut away to provide room to thread (the weft) yarn back and forth with my shuttle (a large, blunt needle I use for sewing in the ends of my knitting). The ends have many small, evenly-spaced cuts on which to thread the other direction of yarn (the warp). This tiny loom is perfect for using up very short bits of yarn left over from my natural dye experiments.
My first woven piece is the size of a bookmark. It uses six different colors of naturally dyed yarn, including both the warp (alpaca) and weft (cotton). It was an absolute joy to make. I worked from my childhood memory of using a small wooden child’s loom, but beautifully illustrated instructions can be found here by Sugarhouse Workshop.
What’s next? Making a second, slightly larger cardboard loom. There are only so many bookmarks one family can use…
Additional Weaving Resources: