Family Fibershed

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.

Great Grandmother paddling on the Corte Madera Creek

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.

7 Responses to “Family Fibershed”

  1. kelly Says:

    so beautiful. Hope you had a very Marin Christmas! our visit last xmas seems like years ago!

  2. ecologicalartist Says:

    thank you! Happy Holiday to you– next time you come to visit Jen, we’ll have to go for a walk, or have tea. My brother is leaving for Australia at the end of January to work on a farm or two.

  3. linda Says:

    This is tribal from ravelry…..aka Linda:)
    What wonderful presents! I have to say the more I visit here, the more inspired I am becoming. I also grew up in Northern California, in S.F. and your description filled me with longing for California! However I have sprouted roots in the midwest and will be rethinking my fiber work based on the information I find on your blog. Thanks so much for sharing.
    Have a great New Year.

    • ecologicalartist Says:

      Hi Linda,

      Thank you for your lovely commentary! I understand the process of establishing roots- and how important it is to create a sense of place with where you are- it precludes moving around a lot, but I much prefer it. Very happy new year to you!

    • Kourtney Says:

      Thanks for cogttiburinn. It’s helped me understand the issues.

  4. That sweater looks very nice and warm! Certainly magical.

    • ecologicalartist Says:

      Thanks for you comments. I’m wearing the sweater now- I need to make a couple more just like it so I can always be wearing clothes that feel this blissful.

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