. . . I tried to find linen yarn locally. I searched for over a year, calling and emailing yarn shops, universities, research centers, and finding that flax production for fiber had left the US between the 1930's and the 1970's. There was no linen being sold in any sort of quantity in the whole western hemisphere! I would have to import my fiber for weaving. Even so, I continued to research, in hopes of possibly finding a small pocket of linen producers closer to home. It seemed at odds that I would be weaving such a perfect fiber in terms of having very little negative ecological impact, and then have huge fuel carbon emissions added to it's footprint by having to have it shipped from half way around the world. Then I stumbled across Fibershed.com, a wonderful green resource of information centered around fiber! "They might know about linen!" I thought. But they were just starting out, and they were focused on wool and animal fibers. But, I ended up becoming a research assistant to Rebecca Burgess, the founder, and researching ways to combine wool and a bast fiber (hemp) in the processing line as it became yarn. While doing this I learned much about Fibershed and its philosophy. It was as if I had finally found a home for my value system! I traveled around Minnesota, establishing relationships with small cottage fiber processing mills, while continuing to research for Rebecca. I was still weaving linen, but I hoped that somehow, we could influence farmers to start growing flax for fiber, and to promote others to establish bast processing mills. As ideas often do, my idea of having a flax/linen industry spring up around me started to shift as reality made me realize that this would take a very long time. But I still wanted to take action somehow. I wanted to do something about our failing earth so my children and their children would have someplace to live other than a toxic ridden planet. The thought hit me that I could establish a small weaving mill and provide a weaving service for local fiber growers. I could do what I loved doing, and help the earth at the same time! It was a 'watershed' moment!
I have been saving and working to raise funding for the purchase of weaving equipment for about two years. It has been a very enlightening and demanding effort, with lots of ups and downs. But I have now achieved my funding goal, with the bank administrating the loan for the remaining funds in June, 2017! In just a few short months I will have set up a small weaving mill that will provide weaving services to the people raising and growing fiber, and who have gotten their fiber processed into yarn and are looking to enhance and add value to their product by weaving their yarn into fabric they can then take to be sewn into final products for sale. I also plan to provide bespoke yardage woven from these local fibers to local fashion designers, retailers, interior designers, fabricators, and furniture makers.
The intent of this project is to help the local growers and farmers make use of fiber they may not have been able to use in the past. It is a fact that many of the smaller sheep farmers end up throwing their fiber away, composting it, or even just giving it to the shearer as payment for services. It has been cost prohibitive for them to send their small amounts of wool or fiber east to the giant textile mills. By providing weaving services for the local fiber farmers, we contribute to building a better, stronger local economy, and help communities thrive as they have not been able since the corporate farming practices took over. We also want to help spread the great farming research and knowledge provided by Fibershed.com, in order to help draw carbon from our atmosphere down into our soil, and help build a more healthy way of living.
When first envisioning this project, I had planned on purchasing several automated floor looms and purchasing a facility to house them. As I got further into planning and researching equipment, I decided to take a step back and proceed a bit more conservatively since there was no current business model by which to navigate. I decided to make use of real estate we already own, and utilize 2 looms we already own, and purchase a semi-automated industrial dobby loom. This keeps our risk lower, and our ability to expand easier.
Now that I have probably given you way more information than you ever wanted, can I ask you why you managed to read this all the way to the end? Do you raise sheep or other fiber? Are you a weaver? A farmer? A Fibershed follower? Please contact me to tell me a bit about your interest in fiber and weaving mills. And please, feel free to ask more questions if I didn't answer what you were wanting to know.
We are really looking forward to opening our doors and letting the sun shine in!