Fibreshed and How to Bring the 100-mile Diet to Fibre Arts

Earlier this month, I learned a new word: fibreshed.

It happened when I took some time for professional development and attended a live webinar on Natural Dyeing in the Fibre Art industry.  It was not a word I was familiar with previously. Now I am fully on board and ready to work for the cause. There was a panel discussion on the state of the industry with experts from around all over North America. This was hosted by Craft Ontario  and the experts have been working in the textile and natural dye industry for many years. So, Fibreshed…it’s essentially sourcing your project or product materials and services from within a geographic region with ecological systems at the core.

It’s kind of like considering the 100-mile diet for fibre.

Raw Wool in bags from  fibreshed

The chain of custody of the sweater is a great example. Wool from sheep, spun a local mill, woven, turned into cloth, clothing is made, used and then recycled or composted all within close proximity of each other forming a cradle to cradle system.  The Upper Canada Fibreshed is working towards connecting the sources of the product in this geographic region. Wouldn’t it be great if we could track our origins of all of our needlecrafts?

It is so important to have these discussions, and how the fibre arts world needs to embrace sustainability more. The toxicity of current dye practices and the ecological impact is at the forefront of importance of many textile companies. It really fuelled my passion to pursue this as a core principle in my work.

Sheep in a fibreshed

The ways I integrate eco-art into my work

Every decision I make now in my work is framed around the question ‘can I add a sustainable element to this and what does that look like?’. My goal is to create sustainable fibre art that raises awareness of and evokes an intimate connection to the natural world, using materials from sustainable sources. I want to bring that narrative into all of the work that I do.

I source materials with these criteria in mind:

  • Organic
  • Certified
  • Natural fibre
  • Locally produced
  • Does it have recycled content
  • Location
  • Processing

I’m not always able to find these answers immediately on websites and sometimes have to contact the distributor directly. Sometime they have the answers, sometimes I never hear back.

Dyes and fibres sourced in a fibreshed

Finding notions and supplies is a little more challenging. I have had some luck with an organic cotton thread company from the US Fibreactive Organics. Their pallette is restricted but there are options to dye it yourself. I recently came across a brand of Guttermann Thread that is very exciting and I plan to bring it into my work this year. The Sew-all Thread 100 m rPET  is a 100% recycled content polyester thread. I’ll be writing a blog in the coming months on the testing of this thread. I am very hopeful as it has a range of 52 colours and combined with the organics should offer a good selection for the work I do.

Finally, I’ll be tracking sustainable supplies as I find them and will be updating my Supplier List quarterly. Get this straight to your inbox, join my Fibre Tribe and get the Monthly Thread Talks.

Do you have any recommendations for sustainable fibre suppliers?

Let me know! Send me your connections and links to someone who is already doing sustainable supplies.Contact