what is a fibreshed

The word fibreshed is based on the geological concept of a watershed -- an area of land where all the water that falls in it drains towards a common outlet. A watershed offers a powerful image of the complexity of natural ecosystems and how actions in one location resonate throughout the whole area.

In describing a fibreshed, we focus on elements in our region that contribute to the ways we create fabric for clothing and other household uses. We connect producers, processors, artisans, and consumers in a dynamic system that sustainably manages resources and strengthens our ties to the land.

Here in southern Manitoba our fibreshed includes sheep and alpaca farmers; processors such as fibre mills and dyers; designers and tool makers; and artisans such as spinners, weavers, knitters and felters. We are not a cotton growing region, but there is potential here for making cloth from locally grown flax and hemp. There is also an ancient tradition in this land of working with wild animal skins and furs that we acknowledge and respect. 

We define the area of the Pembina Fibreshed as 200 miles in any direction from the Pembina river valley in southern Manitoba. This connects prairie farmland, aspen parkland, boreal forest, and urban centres, and deliberately crosses provincial and international boundaries to establish a community based firmly in geography and centuries-old patterns of trade. 

why A fibreshed is important

The focus on local fibre production parallels the rapidly growing interest in local food. Buying locally means products have travelled fewer miles, consuming less fossil fuel. Money stays in the local economy strengthening rural communities and small businesses instead of contributing to the profits of large corporations with questionable ethical practices. The rampant consumer pressure on the global textile industry to produce masses of cheap clothing leads directly to environmental problems of water pollution, soil degradation, and overflowing landfill sites. Cheap clothing depends on horrendous conditions in textile factories where workers are poorly paid, overworked, and often unsafe.

Within a fibreshed, valuable relationships form between producers and consumers. People know where their materials came from -- perhaps have met the sheep that grew the wool, or the weaver who created the cloth -- and appreciate the work of the many hands involved in the process. There will be opportunities to develop new skills, to work together, and to celebrate along the way.