Sunday, December 5, 2021

First Fashion Fiber Fest hits East Lansing

October 18, 2021

The first Fashion Fiber Festival took place this Saturday, the result of a collaboration between Seams Fabric and Woven Art. The event was a celebration of sustainable, local and handmade fashion. 

Vendors gathered in tents in front of Seams, selling everything from handmade jewelry to skeins of wool. One of the vendors, Junk Male Treasures, had a table full of crocheted phallic parts, while Flock Home sold block-printed tea towels and baby clothes. 

Many vendors worked with wool and yarn as the street was full of soft bundles of wool, ready to be spun; and a massive selection of yarn that was naturally dyed with vibrant colors. Michigan has a thriving wool industry, with a good climate for sheep, and for using wool products. 

Bridget Kavanagh is the owner of Happy Goat Lucky Ewe Fiber Farm and Michigan Merinos. She’s had her farm since 1987 and has dedicated herself to creating an environmentally friendly way of farming.

Her sheep are sheared annually to harvest their precious wool and also enforce “rotational grazing,” which means that the animals rotate pastures every three days to allow the land to recover from grazing. The manure from the animals acts as a fertilizer for the grass. This practice, among others, keeps Happy Goat Lucky Ewe a carbon-neutral farm. 

Because of these sustainable practices, Happy Goat Lucky Ewe is also environmentally verified by the state of Michigan. 

Why Knot Fibers, another one of the vendors in attendance, uses Kavanagh’s wool to make yarn, and Woven Art uses Why Knot’s yarn to make their products, resulting in a chain of sustainable crafts and fashion. 

Another objective of the event was to promote slow fashion and crafts. While fast fashion is accessible, cheap clothing produced to serve the never-ending trend cycle, slow fashion is its opposite — focusing on creating goods that are environmentally friendly, attractive and long-lasting. 

Sarah Williams of SarahJean Sews sat under her tent wearing a colorful coat made out of a thrifted quilt and surrounded by pillows, linens and decor covered in fun sayings.

“I go to thrift stores or estate sales and repurpose things and use my embroidery machine to make it a little bit sassier,” Williams said.

There was a ruffled apron on display that had the words, “B----, I am the secret ingredient,” while a floral pillow on the table read, “We had s-- in this room.” 

Williams said she likes the “juxtaposition” between “sweary things with birds or flowers because it's funny, but it's also very freeing because I can say what I want as a woman.”

Quilt coats also sat for sale at the table, which started as a creative outlet during the pandemic. These coats are sewn from thrifted quilts found at the thrift store. 

Theresa Roach of Purl You Crazy had unicorn cloaks, naturally dyed yarn and a 'Hunger Games'-inspired knit vest available for sale. Her yarns were dyed with a variety of naturally found items — coffee, which produced a light brown yarn, pokeberries and mulberries for soft pinks and lavenders along with avocado seeds for a muted brown. 

Pokeberries are a weed found in many backyards and produce a natural, pastel pink color. 

“It’s fun going and plucking all of the berries, getting the avocados and mashing everything up,” Roach said. “It’s messy, but fun.” 

Kamryn Whitfield of Color Square Vintage was another vendor that used recycled clothing to make new and trendy designs. 

Attendees at the Fashion Fiber Festival were encouraged to show off their own handmade clothing designs, and there was even a virtual fashion show that guests could participate in. 

Additionally, there were several demonstrations that guests could engage in, including a rug-tufting demonstration by Downy Tree Art, as well as onion and walnut dying and street printing demonstrations. 

The Fashion Fiber Festival was a way for East Lansing to come together and learn about sustainable fashion and craft options and support local businesses. Many vendors said they hope that this event will become an annual one, or even take place a few times a year.

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