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What is a Fibershed?


"We develop regional fiber systems that build soil & protect the health of our biosphere."

- Fibershed.com

Last Fall I was introduced to the the Fibershed organization when I met Lydia (of Lydia's Flock) and Maddy (of Three Rivers Fibershed) at a fiber fair in the Twin Cities area. I immediately fell in love with Lydia's booth which smelled heavily of lanolin (one of my favorite smells) & had beautiful raw fleeces, yarn & pelts for sale. In the very next space, Maddy was representing the Three Rivers Fibershed and I was drawn to the information that she was presenting about creating a closed eco-system for fiber production.

If you've looked at any of my projects, you know that I adore bright, obnoxious colors in my knitting. I'm also kind of a crunchy hippie at heart and can fall just as hard for a beautiful, organic yarn that comes from happy, well-cared-for sheep. Finding these two booths at the fiber fair made my day and I happily chatted away with both Lydia and Maddy about the project for quite awhile. This was where I got the idea to create the Loving Local Trio as one of the installments of Club Yumi this year. I wanted to be able to share these gorgeous yarns from local producers who aren't in it to just make a wonderful product, but to do so in a way that actually helps to improve our world through every step of the creation process.

Soil to Soil illustration by Andrew Plotsky

Inside a fibershed farmland is consciously used to raise sheep, fiber plants like cotton & hemp and/or plants for dyeing like indigo. These fibers and dyes are processed locally then designs & garments are produced from the finished yarn or fabric. The remnants (things like fabric trimmings, unused portions of plants, etc.) are added into compost which is then applied back to the farmland so that the soil is improved & helps to provide better nutrients for the sheep & plants. (Which means happy, healthy sheep producing beautiful wool for knitters & crocheters!)

When we look at the production cycle that is followed in a fibershed, we can see how every step builds on the one before it & flows seamlessly into the next one. All these steps are restricted to a smallish land area to prevent wasted resources caused by shipping items across the country/world. The size of each fibershed varies depending on local resources, but usually is measured in what could reasonably be covered in a 1 day outing. (For example, The Three Rivers Fibershed focuses on a radius of 175 miles from the Textile Center in Minneapolis, and includes portions of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and South Dakota.)

Having said that, it may seem slightly counter-productive for me to include a focus on locally raised & produced yarns in a knitting club that ships kits all over the world. Club Yumi was developed as a way for me to share my favorite indie dyers & fiber producers with the world. Even though this movement is about creating a closed production circle, we need to share this idea and the amazing products that are being created through it with others if we want the movement to grow.

Conscious grazing practices mean that the flocks are being rotated through pastures on a regular basis so that they are continuously exposed to fresh vegetation and the land is never in danger of being over-grazed and depleted. This is hugely beneficial for both the flock and the farmland.

I hope that you've enjoyed this brief introduction to Fibersheds and that you're inspired to look for fiber producers in your area. I'm still learning and discovering more and more about this wonderful program so I'll be doing more follow-up posts as we progress through the Loving Local and Handspun Holidays portions of Club Yumi.

If you are interested in finding (or starting) a fibershed in your area please visit Fibershed.com. Ashley of Woolful did an excellent podcast with Rebecca Burgess, the founder of Fibershed. I highly recommend giving it a listen while you're crafting this week, it's extremely inspiring and delves even deeper into the mission behind Fibershed, it's history and the direction Rebecca hopes it will go.

On the subject of your crafting this week, I'd like to invite you to join the...

Loving Local Craft-a-Long!

In the vein of sharing this movement with others, I'm starting a Loving Local Craft-a-Long in the Yumi Yarnies Ravelry group and on Instagram. It's going to run from now through October 31, 2017 (11:59 PM, CST) & is very easy to participate in:

1.) Craft an item using a fiber or yarn that has been produced within 150 miles of where you live.

2.) Post a picture either to the Ravelry group or to Instagram (or both!) using the hashtags #LovingLocalYarn & #YumiYarnsCaL (please use both) so that I can find your entries. Make sure to mention where the fiber/yarn came from & that it is local to you.

3) (Optional) Get a Bonus Entry by making something from a Yumi Yarns pattern.

You don't even have to make one of my patterns to participate. Simply make something with a yarn or fiber that you've sourced locally & share it with the world. (You do get a bonus entry if you use one of my patterns, but it isn't required.) This means that spinners can spin up a locally sourced fleece or braid of fiber &crocheters, knitters & weavers can work their magic with a local yarn. Please make sure that 100% of the materials used are locally sourced (from within 150 of your home) and that you mention the producer in your entry. (Hooks, needles, looms, etc. are exempt from the local sourcing rule, but if you have them, by all means, put them to good use!)

I will randomly draw a winner & 3 runners-up from all entries on Nov 1, 2017 & will notify them by November 7th.

In case you're wondering, this can easily tie into the North Country Fiber Fair Craft-a-Long that I posted about a few weeks ago. Just remember to use the tags from above to enter and craft away!

Best of luck to everyone, I can't wait to see what you make!

Happy Crafting,

Shaina ^_^

The Yumi Yarns Blog

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