As I began Burgess’ book, I started off with a few doubts. Despite the fact that I am an avid knitter and sewist with a penchant for natural fibers, I was still a little apprehensive about the book’s ideologies mostly because of cost. How could it be possible for the average person to truly curate a wardrobe of practical clothing essentials sourced from American and local farms without breaking the bank? How does fashion factor into my work as a farmer? I suppose the same concern came about when the local and organic food movement took off – yet here we are, with an increased demand and interest in supporting small-scale neighbor farmers growing produce in rural parts of the country with more affordable options offered through reduced cost CSA shares and agricultural non-profit programs. In my little sliver of the world (the hilltowns of western Massachusetts) it’s actually possible to source most of your food from area farms. I grow food, my neighbors grow food and I buy food grown by a farm less than 10 miles a way. I can’t say the same thing about clothing, however.
Have you been staring longingly at those wide eyed alpacas you see out to pasture on your way to work? Or maybe you’ve been mentioning to friends that you would love to have a couple sheep whose wool you could use in your knitting, crocheting, or weaving. If these thoughts have crossed your mind, you are in luck as author and fiber farmer Chris McLaughlin’s new book Raising Animals for Fiber gives an informed overview of owning your own fiber flock.
Flax is a native species of the Pacific Northwest and was widely used by Native Americans for basket weaving, rope making, and clothing. With the coming of Europeans the flax industry began to flourish around 1868 when numerous flax mills were established in the fertile Willamette Valley. These mills produced high quality linen, linseed oil used for paints and finishes, oil cake for cattle feed, as well as twine and rope, among countless other products.