The Perth gang have finished our first round of site visits and all of us have some Fibershed fibers in our hands!  

And we are not the only ones: Elle in the UK has found wool and oilskin, the German group have found linen and wool, the East Coast Aussie are all looking at wool and alpaca,  and the North American participants are looking at hemp, organic cotton and wool. The enthusiasm from everyone participating in this challenge is infectious! 

Let me first update you on our adventures and then I will tell you my ostrich story (as in, I would rather stick my head in the sand than admit to my own stupidity.)

Our most recent site visits were to the Margaret River Hempco and Bilby Yarns.  

The Hempco confirmed that the fabric they sell is grown and processed in China, which does make it unsuitable for this challenge.  That said, Hemp still has a lot of positives and I hope to get an interview for you so you can make up your own mind.  You can buy the fabrics online.  We had a good feel of all the options and the knit (quite thick and sturdy), lightweight hemp/silk and lightweight hemp were my favourites for dress making.  

At Bilby Yarns we met the generous June who took the time to show us through her shop and talk us through all the options.   The shop sources coloured wool fleeces from South West Australian farmers, who are all women (isn’t that fascinating!)  You can buy the fleeces, or as tops or as yarn.  And thankfully for me, some of it is handspun right here too.  

   

June showed us all of the options for turning the wool into fiber, felting, spinning and weaving.  Megan has a great summary of our little felting lesson on her blog.  The spinning looked like it would take some getting used to and June described a simple hand weaving option that seemed doable.

I left the shop with a pile of squishy, delicious Fibershed yarn! Add to that my alpaca yarn and some information on silk cocoons and fish leather and I set about making a rough plan for my outfit.  And well, as usual, I am probably over stretching myself, but I don’t care.

I have plans to knit something, weave something and felt something.   And of course dye bits and pieces along the way.   Aside the suppliers, I have tracked down a bunch of people to help me – Jane Flower, the Handweavers’, Spinners’ and Dyers’ Guild and Poppy’s Patch Nursery – as well as the lovely talented Perth bloggers, so I am not feeling too alone at all.

Now to my ostrich story.  Wool in hand and keen to get started, I got myself all set up to do some dyeing last week.  Unfortunately, I made a couple of rookie errors on my first run, and ended up with this tangled mess in a colour I was not expecting:

 

Thankfully, the wool was not damaged at all.  The untangling did take 6 hours. Cry. Cry. At least I’m not alone in the dyeing dilemmas.

I had decided to use the local peppermint trees that line the streets here, as I wanted something that was in abundant supply, in case I needed a do over, and in a colour I would wear often.  The leaves of this native tree give a grey colour without needing a mordant. 

As you can see I got a soft caramel colour on my first run,  because, well I started out with clippings of the wrong plant left under a peppermint tree on my street.  Head in sand.  

As I extracted my tangled wool from the dye pot I realised my mistake in both plant choice and not tying the balls before plunging them en masse.  I was sheepish.  The very next day I found some freshly fallen peppermint tree leaves (below) and did a small sample dye which wasn’t turning grey either.  So after getting some advice from Jane Flower I just need a cast iron pot, and I can try again.  

Luckily there are loads of things that I love about this project to keep me going despite my inexperience. Like this post on the historical dyes of the UK, which made me realise how unique each garment made for this challenge will be. That’s the thing about making local, there is a story behind every step! And it just so happens that my story is about making mistakes. 

   

Let the swatching begin!