Material Matter: Community Supported Cloth

By Brittany DiBenedetto | Material Matter
Posted Feb 14, 2017

Transparency is a hot topic within the fashion industry, consumers are understanding the importance of knowing where their clothes actually come from. Now there is a new option for artisans to get non-toxic, regionally grown and woven textiles through a supply chain that never leaves the US.

Since 2012, a 501C3 non-profit organization known as Fibershed has been working to bridge together individuals with the biological materials that clothe them. Fibershed focuses on developing regenerative fiber systems with the ability to be produced regionally. They are working to expand the opportunities of independent producers, rebuilding the foundations of regional manufacturing through practices like carbon farming and education in order to connect end-users to to the farms and ranches that their clothes are grown. Their goal is to build a system of soil-to-soil textile processes to create supply chains that will be ‘climate beneficial’.

Using their Community Supported Cloth program, Fibershed is committed to build a transparent and regenerative textile economic models while supporting regional ranchers and artisans. This program is rethinking the way textiles are made and committed towards reversing the effects of climate change while providing better livelihoods for local communities. The base of the Community Supported Cloth program stems from creating fine wool and other natural fine fiber textiles that are developed all within the United States.

For the first Community Supported Cloth iteration, the program uses high quality wool from Rambouillet sheep based at the Bare Ranch, located in Surprise Valley, California. In recent years, the Bare Ranch developed a Carbon Farming Plan to dissipate the effects of CO2 and encourage soil health. Once the plan is fully implemented, it is expected to result in removing 4,068 metric tons of CO2 emissions. A typical passenger vehicle emits about 4.7 metric tons of CO2 a year, making the program expected to offset emissions of about 865 vehicles annually. To encourage and support the full implantation of these practices and transition more US land managers, the Community Supported Cloth program includes 3% of their proceeds to directly fund Carbon Farm implementation for Bare Ranch.

Fibershed’s new program is seeking to work with the most regional supply chain partners to influence their textile construction and design. To support the ability to scale larger, more accessible textiles, yarn quality is key and needs to withstand the high speeds and the heavy tensions of the industrial weaving equipment. For this reason, the Climate Beneficial Wool is first sent to Jamestown, North Carolina to be washed and combed at Charguers Wool USA. Then, as combed tops, the wool is sent to be spun into yarn Springvale, Maine at Jagger Bros and finally sent back to California to be woven in Rancho Cordova at a new, emergent textile manufacturer, Huston Textile Company.

This program is producing a beautiful and regionally grown 100% wool textile. In an effort to better support the regenerative value chain while accumulating the demand and support of like-minded artisans, the Community Supported Cloth program is offering a pre-sale reservation model ahead of its April 2017 production. Its initial production will only provide around 500 yards to reserve, leaving just over one month left for participation. Fibershed has already seen a huge swell of interest for this economic model across the US and hopes to continue to support regionally and regeneratively grown textile programs. To learn more about the program, and place your cloth reservations, please visit their website.

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