If you recall, during Slow Fashion October last year I made a commitment to try to only buy traceable fabrics from that point forward. One of the main reasons I felt safe in saying that was the existence of TN Textile Mill, so I’m sad on many levels that the mill is closing and one of our painfully few “slow” fabric options will no longer exist. (Although I’m selfishly incredibly happy that Allison is now working at Fringe part-time! And that I got to buy a few yards from her in December. Plus I still have this.) But the whole thing has me pondering again just how hard it is to find fabric with known and harmless origins.
Then last week I got an email from Jess Daniels prompting me to take a closer look at something I’d been hearing rumblings about: Fibershed’s Community Supported Cloth project in Northern California. In this case, the origins aren’t only harmless (no slave labor, no toxic dyes poisoning workers and rivers, no shipping of components and finished goods back and forth across the ocean), they’re actually beneficial. Sales of the fabric support the small, local startup mill that’s weaving it, Huston Textile, and the farm where the wool is sourced, Bare Ranch — helping to fund their efforts at climate-beneficial farming practices. That is, farming that enriches the land rather than polluting it.
Every time we talk about slow fashion, sustainable materials, etc., I see the puzzlement on our dead ancestors’ faces. These things we talk about used to be the only way to do things! But we live in a world where the very idea of such a “simple” supply chain is nearly impossible to accomplish. At every step of the process, it means doing things the hard way, and thus the expensive way, and I don’t mind saying the right way.
So what does Community Supported Cloth mean? It’s the same idea as a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). If you’ve ever subscribed to a CSA box, you know you’re fronting a local farm the money to grow their crops for the year, and you get a share of those crops. Same basic concept with this fabric. By buying a share up front, you’re enabling the farm and the mill to do this work. And in supporting it, hopefully helping to make it less difficult and thus less rare and costly.
I’m in. And I recognize that buying it from Tennessee is different from buying what would have been my local TN Textile Mill fabrics, and different from buying it were I still in CA. But as always, it’s a matter of reducing (rather than eliminating) the ills. For much more information on the project and the fabric, see the Community Supported Cloth site. And if you’re not a sewer or interested in the fabric, but want to support the ranch and the project, there are also other ways to chip in.
Photos © Paige Green, used with permission