Sustainable Cloth – Confluence by Kerstin Zurbrigg

Kerstin Zurbrigg is an artist, teacher, writer, with a background in fine arts and natural history.  Kerstin has lived in the DC area for 17 years, homeschooling her three children, exploring multidisciplinary approaches to fiber arts through teaching, spinning yarns from local farms, gardening, working with plant pigments, and exploring healing aspects of our connection to plants and the earth.  Her entry in the Sustainable Cloth Challenge was titled “Confluence”, which plays on the watershed theme of the challenge.  

Her sweater embraced our fibershed resources.  She hand spun yarn using a Finn sheep fleece from Honeysuckle Farm in Maryland, Angora goat locks from Peavine Hollow Farm in Virginia and a Blue Faced Leicester x California Red fleece (a sheep named Lexie) from Sweet Gum Farm in Virginia.  The indigo dyes were processed from her garden-grown Japanese Indigo, Polygonum tinctorium, in Silver Spring, Maryland (the original seed source was Putnum Hill Nursery), with one small skein of homespun Finn wool yarn dyed with an exhausted date reduction indigo vat using Stoney Creek Colors indigo pigment.  She also used ink made with black walnuts from her garden and nearby trees in Silver Spring, MD.


I was inspired to create an organically formed knitting pattern, one which is informed by the passage of time, the shape of one’s own body and loosely based on the design of a favorite, thrifted cowl sweater.  My intent was to explore the color blue, the presence of pigment in woad and indigo at different times of the year, to work with color derived from local trees and to continue to find ways to bring vitality to the garden.  The project was a collaboration with the plants around me, to create a painterly experience of knitting and to develop a fabric which was woven from my immediate landscape. 

The sweater was knit over the course of the year, the wool was spun and dyed throughout the seasons.  The sweater is both a journal of working with the element of time and seasons in the garden and a journal of my own mark making. After each period of knitting I allowed a small length of the indigo-dyed working yarn to sit in a bowl of black walnut ink. The ink marked the intersection of my pauses and starts. I came to see these marks both as symbolic tree rings and as the confluence of two plant streams. The sweater became very much a process of meditation and connection, as I consciously chose to knit without other distractions, mostly in the early morning. 

The project provided an opportunity to observe the lightfastness of fresh leaf extractions on wool with the notion that should the colors fade, the whole sweater could be re-dipped in a summer indigo harvest to revive the color. In the end, through new processes and relationships, it appears the fresh leaf pigment expressions become less transitory. 

I ran into difficulties with the inconsistency of the yarn and color–but that was very much a part of the journey and ultimately enjoyed how the pigment gestures came together without my own careful direction. I was grateful to continue to work with the Finn wool fleeces from Honeysuckle Farm as my daughter and I had established a relationship with the small farm over the years–thank you to Mary O’Malley for your generosity, wool and inspiration. 





Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *