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Ellie Fisher Ethical Textiles Natural Dyeing Sustainable Textiles

Mothering Sunday conveniently fell on the weekend of Fibre Quest this year and, as my daughter and I were visiting my folks, we turned it into a family outing.

 Fernhill Farm Somerset

Fernhill Farm,  is an eco-farm in Somerset that has been breeding sheep for over thirty years and advocates the principles of Regenerative Farming (RF), a system of working the land that offers an alternative to intensive farming practices. It aims to work in harmony with nature to restore soil health and biodiversity, contributing to the enrichment of the local ecology and the mitigation of climate change.

Fibre Quest is a two-day event offering a wide range of talks, films, discussions, demonstrations and much more, including various hands-on experiences. We went on the second day and as we approached the main barn my six-year-old daughter was immediately drawn to the circle of women being taught how to weave in the round, a bit like a giant Nancy knitting.  Nearby were piles of fleeces in a full range of natural shades from darkest brown through fawns and greys to creamy whites.

Gorgeous Yarns Solar Dyeing

Moving on into the large marquee we found an impressive diversity of exhibitors including Ria Burns, Gorgeous Yarns, Sue Kimber, The Handloom Room & Tamarisk Farm, displaying their individual crafts and talents: spinning, knitting, crochet, felting, weaving – all in the name of farm to yarn – not to mention leather work, wood turning, ceramics and a local cheese stall. The beautiful range of naturally hand-dyed yarns was particularly interesting to us, and being able to talk to other natural dyers in person and to share ideas and experiences was a treat. Mum particularly enjoyed speaking with Caroline of 'Gorgeous Yarns', whose beautiful display of solar dyeing in kilner jars really stood out.

 Ria Burns Knitwear

 I couldn’t have been more delighted on entering the marquee to bump into Jane Grey of ‘Nettle Revolution’ and Brigitte of ‘BeeKay Makes’, both of whom I met through social media, connecting through our shared love of sustainable plant based textiles. It was the first time I seen Jane in several years having visited her Cornwall studio, and the first time I’d met B in person.

Ellie, B & Jane

Both Jane and B are on a mission to promote the magic of textiles made from nettles and are a fountain of knowledge, running workshops on processing and weaving nettle fibre.

Woven Nettle Scarf

 Though social media is excellent for casting your net wide and connecting with people you otherwise wouldn’t reach, this weekend has really driven home the importance of in-person connection and community, and what an immensely supportive and inspiring one it is to be a part of.

 South West England Fibreshed, an organization set up to create a collaborative network, linking regenerative fibre farmers with fashion producers, had set up some interesting display boards explaining the importance of UK plant fibres and why we should be using them, specifically flax and hemp, that historically were grown in the UK for centuries.

Fibreshed board

 I came away with a copy of the Fibreshed publication ‘Growing a Movement of Farmers, Fashion Activists and Makers for a New Textile Economy’ in order to understand more about the ethics, drive and practice behind this encouraging initiative.

 Contrary to a showery forecast the sun shone and the day blossomed into a welcoming spring afternoon.  The café provided a lovely lunch, all made on site and catering for all diets.  We sat outside in the warm sun (and our warm coats!) watching the sheep and their new-born lambs - an uplifting and inspiring way to spend Mothers’ Day.

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