For quite some time I have been very concerned about our earth and what we seem to be doing to it, as though its resources and self-cleansing, self-correcting, self-healing abilities were infinite. I had been expressing my concerns in a Facebook page called "Slow Life". This page had become my platform to show my frustrated side anonymously. I had ranted about the condition of our earth and how, as humankind, we have used and abused our planet. I had asked people to take responsibility for their own mess, which becomes a pretty large mess if we really look at what and how we consume. I had made several comments about how our consumerism affects not only the earth, but animals, and people too. We humans can be pretty selfish and greedy. But I had also wanted to point out that even though we are very thoughtless in our dash to have more and more stuff, we humans can also be compassionate, tender, gentle people. I have come to know many of these wonderful people in this last year. They continually surprise me with their altruism, trust and optimism. I know that as humans, we are not perfect. I also know that many of us try our hardest to make up for those who aren't thinking about their footprint. I hope we can find at least a balance, so our species can survive, and our earth can thrive.
I have shifted from using the "Slow Life" Facebook page to another Facebook page called Small Dog Weaving Mill as well as this website, as a platform to share my knowledge and information about weaving local, natural fiber. It is the next step in a journey of getting to know about natural fibers, where they come from, and coming to understand how natural fibers can impact our lives and how this small segment in our lives can have a huge impact on the health and welfare of those around us and on our earth.
For the past few years, I have been working on a specific project of my own. I am a hand-weaver, weaving cloth from linen yarn. I love linen with all its positive and functional qualities! It performs much better than 'corporate' cotton in its strength, long life, and low impact on the earth. When I first decided that linen was what I wanted to weave back in 2000, I searched all over the US to find a flax processing and spinning mill. I found NONE. I looked north to Canada, but there were no mills for the flax fiber. There was NO linen yarn to be found in the western hemisphere!! I researched and found that most of the better quality linen yarn is found in or near Belgium. I had no choice but to import. But it set me on a mission. I eventually became involved with www.Fibershed.com, a non-profit group hoping to establish a new attitude in textile production . . . a regional approach rather than a corporate approach. An approach where there can be transparency from farm to body, with all vendors contributing a safe and low impact product to be used/utilized by the next vendor in the chain, from fiber to cloth to dying to construction of each piece to selling to consuming. This 'fibershed' approach encourages keeping the whole operation within a 150 mile radius. Conversely, the way things are produced today, it could be grown in Texas, shipped to China to be processed, dyed and woven, then shipped to India for construction, and shipped back to the US to be sold. All this is done for the cheaper labor translating to bigger profits for the corporations. But the impact on the earth and subsequently on us is huge!
Fibershed 's concept of keeping things local/regional would re-establish our lost textile industry, provide much needed jobs across the country, provide living wages locally rather than demanding that children in third world countries work in unsafe factories for wages that cannot provide enough to even eat, reduce carbon footprints by avoiding costly shipping (fuel), establish localized production (decreasing the large corporate holdings that seem to control rather than serve us, increasing local involvement, and establishing pride in one's work once again!) All of this was just what I had been looking to do! Fibershed has been working primarily with those fibers already currently established in the US. This includes animal fiber, cotton, hemp (experimentally),and other experimental fibers being developed. Flax and linen are way down the list, because no one currently grows it in the US. There are no established mills to process it, there are no mills to weave it. The whole linen industry has been outsourced and we have completely lost the whole linen fiber from our country. But in finding and coming to understand the Fibershed philosophy, I realized I could contribute by doing exactly what I loved doing: weaving! In order to contribute to the growth of the Fibershed philosophy I have established the first regional weaving mill in the Midwest which will weave local natural fibers for the growers of that fiber. In time, I hope to also weave linen grown and processed in the United States. And going forward I will weave for the local fiber farmers and growers who are working hard to preserve a local way of life and community!