Noticed: Fibershed, a revolution in fiber

By Kathryn Clark.

One basic idea can start a revolution.  Rebecca Burgess started out with the simple desire to create a sustainable wardrobe for herself.  The result was a non-profit organization called Fibershed that seeks to change the way we dress.

What is a fibershed?  Similar to a foodshed or watershed, a fibershed simply means that all materials and makers of textiles exist within a defined geographical boundary. And in the San Francisco Bay Area, the boundary is 150 miles.

Rebecca Burgess

Many of us don’t think about where our clothes originate. In 1965, 95% of wardrobes in an American’s closet were made in the United States. Today, it’s less than 5%. Shocking. Rebecca thought so too, and set out to fix it, all the way back to the source: the animals.

Because of Fibershed, local businesses have been started, and the relationship between the farmer and the maker has been renewed.

Where it all begins.

Johnny Sanchez sheep shearing at Windrush Farm in Chileno Valley.

Do textile mills exist in the Bay Area? You might have heard stories about textile mills in America. Most shut down long ago, but the Yolo Wool Mill in Woodland, CA remains. Started in 1991 by Jane Deamer, it uses a lot of the equipment from the shuttered mills. It’s very busy these days.

Sign at Yolo Wool Mill.

A search for natural dyes to color the cloth led Burgess, with the help of many friends, to plant a dye farm in Marin that grows indigo and coreopsis. And all of this led Burgess to write a beautiful reference book on natural dyes, Harvesting Color.

Burgess wears an indigo dyed tunic hand knit by Heidi Iverson using Sally Fox cotton.

Fibershed also needs regional designers, makers, and buyers. There’s a talented group of people creating amazing products with the cotton and wool.

Designer Mali Mrozinski in her studio

Fibershed offers natural dyes, seeds, fiber as well as finished products for sale online. These products are made so well they’ll outlast you if given the chance. I fell in love with the blankets, especially this stunning one.

White Foxes Blanket by Robin Lynde of Meridian Jacobs Farm.

Learn more about the Fibershed project here and look here for full list of bay area producers. Don’t live in the bay area? Learn about opportunities here to start your own regional fibershed.

All images by Paige Green.


Fibershed Project:

Yolo Wool Mill:

Harvesting Color book:

Designer Mali Mrozinski:

Fibershed Big Cartel site:

Fibershed Project:

List of bay area Producers:


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2 Responses to Noticed: Fibershed, a revolution in fiber

  1. Jo says:

    I love Rebecca’s project! I took a dye class with her when she very first started the fibershed project and have followed her amazing work ever since. I have indigo growing in my garden from seeds I bought at the fibershed marketplace and remain excited to see how the project grows!
    Look forward to following both your and Rebecca’s work in the future. Thanks Kathryn.

  2. I recently came across Fibershed’s website and enjoyed exploring it very much. Delighted to see it featured here. Greatly admire the concept, vision, and the execution. The adorable sheep portrait is eye-candy too 😉

    Working to increase that 5% figure here on the East Coast every day, as an independent wearable fiber artist and designer.