Upper Canada Fibreshed

 

Becky Porlier and Jennifer Osborn are helping to create connections in their local fiber community. Image courtesy of UCFS.

Becky Porlier and Jennifer Osborn are helping to create connections in their local fiber community. Image courtesy of UCFS.

In 2013, Becky Porlier and Jennifer Osborn met at a Canadian agriculture conference and quickly discovered a mutual interest in the fibershed movement. They had each discovered Rebecca Burgess’s California Fibershed and together began envisioning a similar project for their own area. They “decided to jump into the current Fibershed model with both feet—as long as California would allow the Canadian spelling of fibre.” The Upper Canada Fibreshed (UCFS) is now developing a growing network, defined as “any producer, processor, farmer, or artisan, within 250 miles of Toronto give or take.”

The Upper Canada Mercantile, a UCFS member, "makes hand-woven, locally farmed wool blankets and textiles. Traditional designs are brought to life by weaver Deborah Livingston-Lowe, using soft wool that is spun at local mills and grown by passionate Shepherdesses." Photo: Upper Canada Mercantile.

The Upper Canada Mercantile, a UCFS member, “makes hand-woven, locally farmed wool blankets and textiles. Traditional designs are brought to life by weaver Deborah Livingston-Lowe, using soft wool that is spun at local mills and grown by passionate shepherdesses.” Photo: Upper Canada Mercantile.

On March 2nd, Becky and Jennifer will join the Burlington Handweavers and Spinners Guild, which lies well within the UCFS area in Ontario. The pair will share the fibershed vision with the guild and discuss ways that the local guilds and artisans can participate. Becky tells us more:

“Our talk is going to focus on the bio-regional approach to making garments and other textiles like blankets, slippers, and home goods. Seeking to connect people with the agricultural roots of their clothing, we emphasize that fibresheds are a place-based, regional economic network from which all the materials necessary for garments and other textiles are sourced. In Ontario this includes the raw fibre such as wool, linen, or hemp (the last two being a work in progress); the dyes which are derived from plants, nuts, mushrooms and other natural elements; the mills (which provide the labour); and the artisanal weavers, felters, knitters, and fashion designers. Of critical importance is the ecological and ethical aspect of the fibreshed, which places emphasis on sustainable, cruelty-free farming practices, as well as safe, living-wage labour and ecologically beneficial dyes.

“We also draw attention to the capacity-building opportunity of having a fibreshed as an organization in order to gather the materials, the people, and the skills to create, make, and market fibre-based goods within their own regional economies. Our goal is really to inspire people to shift their thinking to one of clothing being an agricultural product, and as such, localized.”

Follow the community-building activities of Canada’s Fibreshed on Facebook or sign up for the e-newsletter on the website.

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