British Columbia

Move over 100-Mile Diet: Vancouver Island fibre producers launch the 150-Mile wardrobe

Vancouver Island project advocates building a homegrown textile industry just as a local fleece-processing mill reopens

Co-creator says people need to 'think differently about what's in their closet'

Shearing time: The Vancouver Island Fibreshed initiatve is being launched to raise awareness and support for fully locally sourced textiles and clothing. (Inca Dinca Do)

A new initiative hopes to do for locally sourced textiles what the 100-Mile Diet movement did for local food.

Farmers, textile makers and a newly reopened fleece-processing mill are among supporters of the launch of the Vancouver Island Fibreshed project, which aims to help build a local textile industry. 

A fibreshed is defined as a geographic region that provides all the resources that go into the making of textiles including animal or plant-based fibres, dyes, processing and manufacturing. 

"We need people to start thinking differently about what's in their closet," said Linda Drury, a co-creator of the Vancouver Island Fibreshed project. 

Drury said the fibreshed for Vancouver Island and surrounding islands encompasses about 150 square miles. 

The goal of the project is to help create a local fibre economy on Vancouver Island by providing support for farmers to raise more fibre-producing animals and crops, and ensure links to processors and markets for products.

Inca Dinca Doo owner Tracy Brennan recently relocated the last operating fibre mill on Vancouver Island to new premises in North Saanich. (Inca Dinca Doo)

In an interview with On the Island's Khalil Akhtar, Drury said a "game-changer" for a local textile industry is the recent opening of the only functioning fibre mill on the Island.

Tracy Brennan bought the equipment from a struggling mid-Island business and moved it to a new barn in North Saanich. The new mill, called Inca Dinca Do, began advertising for employees earlier this month.

"She really is getting it organized so she can be processing thousands of pounds of wool which used to go to Alberta or sit for a couple of years before it got processed," Drury said.

Drury said Vancouver Island farmers and fibre artists currently promote the use of local materials through community organized events such as the annual 100 Mile Fleece & Fibre Fair in Coombs, B.C. 

Vancouver Island's only fibre mill recently opened in North Saanich, Inca Dinca Doo, provides custom processing of fleece from alpacas (shown), sheep and llamas. (Inca Dinca Doo)

The making and marketing of fibre products needs an overhaul.

"Once people start looking at it in much grander economic terms it helps them to think differently about the fibre arts and textiles in general." 

After an initial fundraising drive this week fibreshed project organizers awaited word on whether they will receive matching funds from the B.C. government to conduct an inventory of the needs of farmers who raise animals for their fleece on Vancouver Island and the surrounding islands.

Meanwhile, Drury said anyone who wants to make the first step toward dressing locally can start small. 

"Buy the $35 T-shirt that's been handmade and it will last you for years," she said. "You won't be simply discarding it onto a waste pile."


With files from CBC Radio One's On the Island