It was great to visit the Little York Fiber Festival at the Cortland Repertory Theatre today. There were a variety of artisan, fiber farm, and mill entrepreneur vendors with a diversity of fibers from sheep, alpacas, llamas, and angora rabbits.
Special thanks to Linda Schwab for introducing me to Margaret Flowers, fiber artisan and fiber farmer at Trinity Farm with Icelandic and Shetland Sheep. It was a special treat to hear about Margaret’s expertise and unique skill set in natural dyeing and hand-spinning. To add color to her roving, she uses the natural color of Pokeweed, which she hand-picks from her farm, and applies to her wool. (I purchased some, and have started to hand-spin some of it. I’m excited to see the final yarn!) Margaret also uses cochineal, madder, sandlewood, indigo with saxon blue, and mixes to obtain purples and greens.
It is impressive that Margaret processes her fleeces primarily by hand, including shearing to hand-spinning steps. This adds greater social and cultural value to her fiber products, especially as she expresses her mastery as a fiber artisan, farmer, and entrepreneur. Her deep insight into fiber production processes, including recognition of fiber animals as valuable contributors, exemplifies Slow Fashion in action. Linda, a fellow artisan and fiber farmer, adds value to Margaret’s rovings by needle felting birds, a gift oriented product. Their collaboration is one example of collective action that supports a local fiber, textiles, and clothing economy in Central New York.
Fiber festivals provide opportunities for fiber artisans, designers, and the broader community to interact. Narratives from fiber farmers provide a distinct perspective that links agriculture, clothing and textile crafts. Taking time to reflect and learn about production processes gives greater insight into the true worth of our clothing and textiles. It provides greater motivation to use clothing and textiles for as long as possible, rather than easily forgetting, or disposing of them with a fleeting trend. The knowledge of fiber artisan-farmer entrepreneurs can significantly inform Slow Fashion and Textile designers who are interested in local and domestic production.