Knitting, sewing, embroidery, darning even… sit in their own time zone and set their own pace – which for me, is part of their charm. Of course I can be speedy and there are times when you just have to bust a project out… but I know I’d get myself into a blue funk if I joined in with MeMadeMay or home-made Dressember. I’d end up all fibre-frazzled at the end of the month, and besides, right when I’m trying to simplify my life and clear time and space for …er, more sewing, I’d end up with overspill in my newly decluttered wardrobe… No, slow and minimal is my current steer, so when I came across the #1year1outfit project started by Nicki of thisismoonlight in Australia, I got really excited – The idea of taking a whole year to make an outfit? Now this is something I could really sign up to.
#1year1outfit is inspired by and affiliated with the Fibershed project which “began with a commitment by its founder, Rebecca Burgess, to develop and wear a prototype wardrobe whose dyes, fibers, and labor were sourced from a region no larger than 150 miles from the project’s headquarters”
Reading this, suddenly a whole host of things that have been floating disjointedly in my mind came together: I am lucky to live deep in sheep country, surrounded by lush vegetation. I have dabbled in natural dyeing and knitting with local wool. I believe strongly in local food and love to forage. …And more. But I hadn’t considered foraging for fibre – or at least I hadn’t thought of it in exactly those terms. Yet, here was a way to engage with local craftspeople, create something specific to, and directly from my own natural ‘habitat’, and slowly create and wear clothes in time with the roll of the seasons: The textile equivalent of The Powys Diet.
There are people all over the globe participating in #1year1outfit, and when I thought about it, I realised that my habitat almost makes things a bit too easy. I think I may pull my radius in to 100 or so metres from my home. We have all kinds of wild vegetation in our rather unkempt acre of ‘garden’ and there are sheep in the field next door. Can you spot them in the picture below?
Our polytunnel is full of calendula (only calendula so far…) and there are berries of all kinds ripening on bushes and trees. I have always relished picking and nibbling berries, but for the first time since being a grown up I now have a brilliant big girl excuse for collecting petals too – I’ve taken out all the available books in the County library system on flower pounding and eco dyeing – and apart from anything, the rose petals in the living room make a scented backdrop to my reading. I think next I need to build a solar oven…
As for the wild green stuff – we have a huge patch of nettles for starters, so here is my new shirt-in-the-making:
From my initial research, the nettles won’t be ready to harvest until August. But there’s a lady called Birte Ford in Scotland who has finessed the art making fibre from nettles in a damp climate (and I reckon Wales qualifies there), so I’m going to order her book, Yarn from Wild Nettles, and read it while the nettles are growing.
In the meantime I’ll drop onto wool – it feels silly not to when you’re surrounded by fields of it on legs, and it just so happens that in the month of June, our town hosts an established ‘Wool and Willow’ festival (more detail on that to come). So all guns blazing, I signed up straight away for a weaving course, and here are my first faltering attempts at weaving yesterday with a rigid heddle loom:
Now I just need to work backwards to spinning… and get hold of some fleece sharpish. My weaving teacher, Dunja Roberts of All in a Spin informed me that most sheep will already have been sheared in Powys. So I got straight on the ‘phone to my neighbouring farmer, Andrew, who assured me he has bags full of fleece waiting to go to the Wool Board. He has Texels and Suffolks and Mules, which I’ve heard should be suitable for garment fibre. I’ve booked in to choose some fleece next week and will keep you posted.