December 30, 2009
This holiday season our family received gifts of 100% locally raised fiber. Prototypes for my fibershed project are emerging, and the visual flavor of these pieces are as divine as a Napa Valley Chardonnay or a Cowgirl Creamery round of Mt. Tam cheese. My mom is wearing a delicately soft handspun and handknit angora (rabbit) and merino (sheep) scarf that I made. I sourced the raw materials from Mendocino fibers; Jean Gowan of Utopia Farm, and Charlie, of ‘Tall Charlie’s Angoras’ kindly raised the animals.
The making of this scarf provided yet another opportunity for connecting more deeply with the coastal California landscape. I am a fifth generation Marin resident, who still lives in the watershed I grew up in as a child. We’ve always loved where we live– and found every possible way of celebrating the bounty of the land we call home.
My great-grandmother and her family built tent cabins along the creek, they spent their summers enjoying the sun and warmth along the edge of the water. A concept like ‘fibershed’ would have likely baffled them– there was no ‘ecological footprint’, carbon calculations, or global economy of scale in place to define their reality. Local food and fiber were norms, not exceptions.
My brother is wearing a hat I made from Chileno Valley wool in brown, gray, and black; all handspun and plied to create varying color combinations. My brother is the photographer who refurbished the photo of my great-grandmother, and did a fabulous job taking shots of both my mom, and myself.
Here is my prized holiday garment– 100% Chileno Valley wool, that I handspun and dyed in native coffeeberry branches and twigs. When I put this sweater on, I feel as though I am truly wearing a second skin.
The relationship web created by the making of these pieces is intricate and transparent. The sun, water, and air of West Marin produce grass for grazing sheep, who in turn grow this wool– I befriend the ranchers– I buy their wool– I spin it– I grow and harvest dye plants to dye my wool– my neighbor knits– the resources remain local. Smiles emerge at every level of exchange- each transaction becomes a story, a part of a way of life.