Sustainable Cloth – Ready for the Next Sustainable Cloth Challenge!

Two of the Sustainable Cloth participants  embraced “slow fashion” and spun yarn to be used in the year to come.  We look forward to seeing more of their creativity in the 2023 challenge.  Consider joining them – it’s not too late to sign up and participate!


One Fleece Project (Year 1) – Roan Farnum

Stream: Embracing

I bought a raw Tunis fleece from Foxdale Springs Farm in MD – this particular fleece came from a sheep named Selena.  Tunis is a breed well suited for living in our climate. 

This project has challenged me to learn how to process a fleece from its raw state to the finished garment(s). My original plan for this project was to just make a sweater, but timing constraints have challenged me to rethink that plan and embrace the “slow” part of “slow fashion.” I am now considering this a two-year project, with an ultimate goal of demonstrating all that can come from a single fleece.At the start of this project last October I had only ever spun 100g of wool, and had never worked with raw fleece. I wanted to learn how the sheep-to-sweater process worked, and so I did! In this past year I have learned how to spin for real, how to understand different sheep breeds, how to evaluate, buy, and process a raw fleece, and so much more.  

So far I have made a sleeveless top as well as many skeins of yarn, representing about 1.3 lbs of the 5.9 lbs fleece (4.5 lbs after washing). I designed the yarn to be knit into a sweater, and I expect I have only spun about half of what will be needed for it. I hope to be able to get many smaller garments out of this fleece after the sweater, like gloves, socks, or a hat. I am excited to be able to show just how much you can do with only one fleece, as I think this lines up with our values of appreciating and embracing our local materials. Luckily, Tunis wool is both soft and durable, making it very versatile and suitable for many different applications.  I am also developing a fermentation indigo vat using “borrowed” indigo from Living Blue in Bangladesh. Not local, but indigo that is fairly traded and supports the farmers there that have historically been exploited for their indigo. I plan to use this indigo along with black walnuts to dye the yarn. Black walnuts are extremely local, coming from my neighborhood and the backyards of family and friends. Neither of these dyes requires a mordant.

I consider myself a sustainable craft explorer – a bit of a jack of all trades. I love the way textiles and material culture reflect and reinforce community values, and I hope to do work that utilizes this to connect people back to the land and to a sense of belonging and abundance. My current venture is helping out the Pennsylvania Flax Project in their efforts to re-establish a regional linen supply chain in the US.

Leicester Longwool Fleece to Yarn – Ikumi Kayama

Stream: Embracing

Leicester Longwool fleece from Blackberry Farms owned by Sara Ani in Westminster, MD. The sheep’s name is Linden. 

The golden color is from the native sand tickseed (coreopsis sp.) flowerhead grown in my pollinator/bird garden in Riverdale, MD. 

The blue color is from Indigo from Kirsten’s indigo pot during the meetup over the summer of 2022. 

The Leicester Longwool raw fleece was soaked using collected rain water and scoured with Unicorn Fiber Power Scour. After the wool was dry, it was then divided into 4 ounce heaps. I was inspired to make a shawl to showcase the shine and the length, and I wanted to experiment with natural dyes.

It was a bit of a challenge collecting the coreopsis flowerhead while competing with caterpillars, bees, and birds. I left at least 2/3 for them. I learned to wash and soak the flowerhead in cold water first to allow those living in the spent flowerhead time to find a new home. There is a universe in there! After soaking the flowerhead in cold water, I boiled the mixture in a stainless steel pot. The flowerhead and vm were strained using a recycled burlap bag and the colored water was returned to the pot. Four ounces of Leicester long wool locks presoaked in 10% of alum and 7% of cream of tartar by weight was then added to the dye bath. The wool simmered for one hour then dried flat.

For the indigo dye, I placed 2 ounces of the Leicester Longwool locks in a mesh bag to be dyed. I used the dip and squeeze method suggested and the wool was air dried. 

Once the dyed wool was dry, I separated them into locks to hand comb the wool into top. First pass was done with 1-pitch, then the subsequent passes were done with 2-pitch combs. This technique seemed to remove the short and weak fiber without tearing the wool fibers apart. Top was balled into nests for organization. 

The wool was then spun using a Canadian Production Wheel. I was careful not to over twist the longwool. Compared to spinning wool for socks, I went for about 1/4 of the amount of spin. The singles were bobbined, then 2-plied using a Schacht Sidekick wheel. 

The next step is to continue spinning the remaining naturally dyed Leicester Longwool (light blue from black beans and burnt orange from coreopsis+baking soda) to design and knit a striped shawl with faroese inspired wings for better fit on the shoulders.

I am a trained medical & scientific illustrator who has been knitting since 2001 and spinning since 2009. I love creating complex patterns in lace and colorwork while working in wool. 

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