Among our objectives as a non-profit are education and community building. We typically work toward these goals via outreach at the Denver Botanic Gardens, demonstrating at its free days and festivals, teaching sessions of its Kids Camps, and offering classes to members. We really love sharing our knowledge and passion for dye plants with fiber and horticulture groups, as well as with the casual garden visitor. Experiencing the wonder as people come to understand that plants can and do make color is its own reward! It’s always been our intention to branch out into the wider community and, last month, we had a remarkable opportunity to do just that.
On a cold, late February day the Mountains & Plains Fibershed sponsored Growing Good Fabric: A Community Roundtable on Soil Health, Fiber Farming and Natural Dyes. Are you familiar with Fibershed? Modeling it on the watershed concept, founder Rebecca Burgess coined the term to define a region providing all the resources needed to make an item of clothing. Fibershed is also a movement, promoting use of locally-produced, climate-beneficial textiles.
As its website states, “The goal was to illuminate that regionally grown fibers, natural dyes, and local talent was still in great enough existence to provide this most basic human necessity — our clothes.” The climate beneficial component is key, and a major concern of Fibershed is sustainability and environmental stewardship. Quoting its vision statement, “through strategic grazing, conservation tillage, and a host of scientifically vetted soil carbon enhancing practices, our supply chains will create ‘climate beneficial’ clothing that will become the new standard in a world looking to rapidly mitigate the effects of climate change. We see a nourishing tradition emerging that connects the wearer to the local field where the clothes were grown, building a system that can last for countless generations into the future.”
The mission of our local Mountains & Plains Fibershed is to “foster collaboration among textile artists, designers, fiber farmers, processing mills, suppliers, and retail businesses in and around Colorado.” Thus, the Growing Good Fabric event was an early step by this young organization to foster community among producers, artisans, and consumers. As a new member of Fibershed, we considered the day a great success! Engaging presenters included:
Philip Taylor, Ph.D. an ecologist and fellow at the University of Colorado, who studies ecosystems and sustainability, with a focus on carbon farming. Phil is the founder of Mad Agriculture, a local nonprofit whose goal is to restore our relationship to the land;
Katie Bell Miller, owner and operator of Heritage Belle Farms, a small, diversified, sustainable family farm and ranch operating on the high plains of Calhan, CO;
and our own Donna Brown, a Littleton, CO -based natural dyer with over 25 years of natural dyeing and teaching experience in venues across the US and abroad.
Along with other Mountains & Plains Fibershed members, the Janice Ford Memorial Dye Garden had an education table, loaded with samples and books, staffed by volunteers happy to chat — and chat we did!
We met fiber producers, spinners, knitters, weavers, and connected with other dyers in the Front Range area. We also took the opportunity to offer for sale our first Natural Dye Kits for Kids, stocked with French marigold and weld from last year’s harvest. The room was crackling with energy, good humor, communication, and connection. We’re glad to have participated, grateful to the Mountains & Plains Fibershed for making it possible … and can’t wait to see what comes next!