‘The Story of Cloth’ at Tilton Library explores importance of local wool economy

  • Western Massachusetts Fibershed member Katie Cavacco shows Laurie Francis a shoe made from wool, bicycle tires and inner tube material during “The Story of Cloth” at Tilton Library on Saturday. The shoe was created from Franklin County wool by Daphne Board, a Holyoke-based pedorthist and shoemaker. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • Western Massachusetts Fibershed member Michelle Parrish showcases the spinning of wool to Amherst resident Laurie Francis during “The Story of Cloth” at Tilton Library in South Deerfield on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • Western Massachusetts Fibershed member Michelle Parrish showcases the spinning of wool to Amherst resident Laurie Francis during “The Story of Cloth” at Tilton Library in South Deerfield on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • Amherst native Laurie Francis picks up a piece of wool at the Western Massachusetts Fibershed’s “Story of Cloth” event held Saturday morning at Tilton Library in South Deerfield. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • The Western Massachusetts Fibershed held a “Story of Cloth” event on Saturday at Tilton Library in South Deerfield. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer
Published: 7/18/2021 11:51:40 AM

SOUTH DEERFIELD — A regional chapter of an international nonprofit highlighted the creation of locally sourced and sustainable clothing during an event at Tilton Library Saturday afternoon.

The Western Massachusetts Fibershed, an affiliate of the California-based Fibershed organization, held an event called “The Story of Cloth” emphasizing the importance of local fashion industries.

Fibershed is an agricultural nonprofit whose mission statement, according to its website, involves developing “equity-focused regional and land regenerating natural fiber and dye systems,” while also expanding climate-beneficial agricultural options.

Michelle Parrish, one of the regional chapter’s members, said the nonprofit’s goal is to lay out ways to increase sustainability while also helping local farmers.

“The contemporary industries produce an incredible amount of waste,” Parrish explained. “We want to build realistic alternatives. There’s no shortage of raw materials. We’re lucky all the pieces are here.”

She said when someone buys something like a $6 T-shirt, the workers who manufactured it are not getting paid a livable wage.

“We want people to understand why local products are expensive,” Parrish said. “Everyone along the way gets paid fairly and the final product reflects the true cost.”

Parrish said the Western Massachusetts Fibershed wants to raise awareness about the economics behind local fashion and to help farmers by “creating more of a market and demand.”

“Margins in farming are tiny,” Parrish said. “Farmers who have sheep have to get them sheared no matter what. If they don’t get a good price, they operate at a loss.”

All the materials present at the event were sourced from Franklin County sheep. Parrish said the process takes a while and their next batch of cloth will not begin production until the end of the summer.

“It takes six to nine months,” Parrish said, “to just get to the stage of cloth and then someone has to sew it.”

In the realm of sustainability, fellow Western Massachusetts Fibershed member Katie Cavacco said wool is a “wonder fiber” that can be reused in many different ways, even if left out in the rain or thrown in the garbage.

She calls this process “creative reuse,” and has her own business called Free Ramblin’ Kids where she creates children’s clothes and toys out of recycled wool.

“The fashion and textiles industry has a blind spot when it comes to sustainability,” Cavacco said. “The fashion industry is the second top polluter in the world.”

Cavacco added there has been a “huge uptick” in the interest of sustainable fashion in the past five years and the increase in local products allows people to support the economy while also providing a chance to help the environment.

“We as individuals have a lot of agency in the choices that we make,” Cavacco said. “Now that we have more brands, farms and places offering local products, it becomes easier to make those good choices.”

Amherst resident Laurie Francis said she attended Saturday’s event because she is interesting in knitting and she had read a book about Fibershed’s efforts.

“I’m interested in the whole notion that we’re divorced from our clothes,” Francis said while tugging at her shirt. “The more you investigate, the more you learn.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.


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