Gust Post Written By: Sarah Jean Harrison
To the untrained eye The 50 Mile Coat looks like an average coat. Perhaps one with a very arresting felted collar, but a coat nonetheless. It isn’t until closer inspection that its secret is revealed: this Coat is the Upper Canada Fibreshed crafted into wearable art.
The 50 Mile Coat was an art installation presented by the Etobicoke Handweavers and Spinners Guildthis spring. From April 23 to May 15, Guild members worked in the gallery of Neilson Park Creative Centre, making a coat from raw fibre to finished product. All materials and skill came from within 50 miles, (yes, even the buttons and thread), and the public was able to watch the multiple processes and skill sets that were required. This ambitious project was part of EHS’ 50 th Anniversary celebrations,culminating with a well-attended Closing Celebration on May 15 th .
Fibreshed’ers know that simply acknowledging our homegrown resources is an important aspect of building successful local fibre-based economies. In our globalized fibre world it’s very easy to look half way around the world for those metaphorical greener pastures. Need to do some felting? Buy some Australian merino. Need to dye your yarns? Pick up some acid dyes online. Need some neon pink BFL combed top? Order a little from New Zealand. With so much material available via a single Google search it’s easy to forget what’s in our own backyard.
The 50 Mile Coat was an exercise in remembering. The gray warp was spun from Dover Farm’s Gotland ewe Brandy and the weft from Linc Farm’s Rambouillet ewe Sleepy. Decorative inkle bands used alpaca from Alpaca Avenue and llama from the High Park Zoo in Toronto. The felted cuffs and collar were dyed with madder, tansey and marigold all grown in the EHS Dye Garden and harvested last fall. Finally, the buttons were Black Walnut gathered from a Guild member’s backyard.
The 50 Mile Coat has quietly issued us a challenge. Rather than immediately reaching out to the global market for your next yarn purchase, look around the Upper Canada Fibreshed first and get creative. The number of excellent fibre farmers, millers, spinners and dyers producing astounding fleeces, rovings and yarns is growing steadily.
If EHS can make a whole Coat from within 50 miles, the possibilities for the rest of us are truly endless.
All Photo Credits: Sarah Jean Harrison.