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The Challenges and Rewards of Local Production

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Just fifteen minutes from my front door, mills used to transform locally-grown fiber into beautiful fabric. All that capability is gone now, off-shored in the 1990s. As someone who is  interested in local sourcing, I had to ask the question, “Is it still possible to dress locally?” So I decided to see for myself what it would take to make a garment – a little black coat – from resources right in my own area.

Where I live, the person to talk to about local fiber is Rebecca Burgess, the founder of Fibershed. She put me in touch with a group of independent women who collaborated to bring this single garment into being.

Making the Local Coat

The team included a rancher, a textile maker, a fiber artist, an alpaca, and a client – me.

Alan Good

Vicki Arns has been raising alpaca for 27 years, almost as long as alpaca have been imported into the United States.

Alan Good/Mali Mrozinski

Her Alpaca Shire ranch in Sonoma, California – about 26 miles from my home – provided 2.2 pounds of beautiful black fleece for this project. Alpaca was the team’s choice for local fiber because it can be felted thinly into a drapey, tailorable fabric.

Karen Brown

The fleece travelled to local textile maker and inventor Katharine-Ellen Jolda in Piedmont, California, about 22 miles from my home. Because we have no commercial means of processing this fiber locally, Katharine’s ability to card fiber and turn it into usable fabric was mission-critical to this project.

Karen Brown

Katharine is renowned as the inventor of the Cyclocarder, an ingenious device that uses a stationary bicycle to drive two carding drums. For Katharine, every garment has a “mpg” – miles per garment. She calculates that she rode 9.4 miles to card the alpaca for my coat.

Karen Brown

Katharine laid the carded batts in two layers – one horizontal and the other vertical – on top of sheer black silk chiffon. The silk was an element we could not source locally, and it acted like “rebar,” adding strength to the finished felt and becoming completely invisible in the process. Katharine poured hot water with a little olive oil soap over the fibers, rolled them in a bamboo window blind, and agitated them, repeatedly repositioning the cloth as it shrank and formed. The process produced two lengths of felted cloth – one about 2 yards long, the other about 1 1/3 yards – both about 30 inches wide.

William Boice

The finished fabric lengths – less than 1/8 inch thick with a texture something like handmade paper – were delivered a few miles away to Mali Mrozinski, an artist and designer who is an expert at creating avant-garde wearables from unconventional materials.

Mali Mrozinski

I had three fittings for my garment in Mali’s Oakland studio. The first two included adjustments to custom muslin patterns that Mali made just for me, the third was fine-tuning the garment itself. The coat included two things we could not source locally – cotton thread and tiny magnets (genius!) that Mali used for closures to avoid puncturing the felt with buttonholes. Her design – “sort of masculine from the front and feminine in back” – is original, perfectly fitted, lightweight, windproof, and warm. I love it.

Alan Good

When the coat was completed, we realized there was someone we needed to thank.

Alan Good

The last stop on the project included a team visit to Alpaca Shire ranch to meet the girl who started it all, a black alpaca named Chamomile. Chamomile is a sophisticated stylist herself, producing fleece from nothing but sunshine and grass.

The Economics of Local Sourcing

Right about now you might be asking, “So what did all this handmade wonderfulness cost?” This coat, including all materials and everyone’s time, cost me about $900, placing it roughly in the mid-price range of similar hand-felted coats I have seen on Etsy. It is by far the most precious and expensive thing in my closet.

Some of you may be thinking, “Most people cannot pay $900 for a coat, so this is just not realistic.” I hear you. I can’t afford more than one garment like this myself. But some of you may be thinking, “I’d love to make $900 on a coat. Tell me more.”

And maybe right there – right between what we want to pay as buyers and what we want to be paid as makers – is where we can begin a conversation about a new economy, an economy that we invent and own ourselves.

Mali Mrozinski

What do you think this coat should cost? It took Vicki about 20 minutes to shear Chamomile, but she has invested 27 years in land stewardship, husbandry, and vet bills. Katharine carded and felted for 12 hours; Mail designed and sewed for 35 hours. What do you think that knowledge, talent, and effort are worth?

And I wonder: are there ways some parts of this process could be mechanized – even on a very small scale – to make it more affordable and allow us to use what we grow right where we live? Could we live happily with fewer, better made things, exchanging our money directly with one another? Could that work as the beginnings of a new economy?

Karen Brown is an award-winning designer and creative director of the Center for Ecoliteracy. Her work has been included in the Smithsonian Institution and Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, and featured in The New York Times, Architectural Digest, House Beautiful, and on Today on NBC. She believes that the handmade movement is a fundamental force for transforming society and the economy.

5 Featured Comments

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  • KettleConfections

    KettleConfections from KettleConfections says: Featured

    If the question is whether or not if it's worth it to make something locally even if labor prices here is higher, the answer is yes, because a healthy marketplace is one where people have not just the freedom to buy what they need, but one where people also have the ability create something that is of value to their fellow neighbors. Making things locally also gives people living in the same area to interact, but right now, we know very little about the people we engage in business with besides our hairdresser, tailor, doctor. The marketplace is as much about people as it is about value but these days, profit takes precedence with more and more companies going public.

    2 years ago

  • pollyfoofoo

    pollyfoofoo from pollyfoofoo says: Featured

    Very well said. Localized production would be so great for our economy. I'd rather buy fewer things that cost more to produce because they are local, than have lots of cheap stuff that has been outsourced.

    2 years ago

  • Guchokipa

    Tiffany Key from Guchokipa says: Featured

    You are right. It does pose the question about our economic standards. While I am in that category of people who cannot afford a coat like this, I would not condemn the price because it is worth more than that. How much is a good quality coat from a major fashion house that has plenty of resources at their disposal? If more interest was generated in producing locally made garment, then the price would eventually become more affordable. 900 dollars for a coat that will keep you warm for many years is definitely a bargain, especially considering the good story you also get to wrap yourself up in. Thanks for sharing the process.

    2 years ago

  • vilte

    vilte from vilte says: Featured

    Thanks for the article, Karen, and for including my coat from alpaca wool to related items. Some very good points in this article. Not really about local, but about the pricing, the time, talent and experience it takes for people to create things. The world has become wicked in its consumption at one point. We got used to getting lots of things cheap, no matter the quality, nor the conditions the items were made under, nor the long way it took to be "born" into this world - for most of us it's just like a trick of a magician - you wished for it - you have it. And then you can throw it away. I so much agree with the point of view - we could have less, but more special, more personal, more unique things for us and around us... And maybe it's stupid, but it's true - if we pay a higher price, we cherish that item much more, save it and mend it if it wears out, while the cheap things end up in the garbage back so soon... I don't think that the strongest point of this article is all about getting things local, no... I think the strongest point is in changing your attitude towards consuming, understanding the origins of things and how much it does take to be brought into this world. Also about less being more.. Thanks again, Karen.

    2 years ago

  • SimplyMaco

    Mackenzie (aka Maco) from SimplyMaco says: Featured

    I read about the Fibershed project about a month ago and put together an open source project to allow anyone to set up a website to list producers within their own fibershed. The code is here: https://github.com/maco/Fiber-Directory My local fibershed is here: http://midatlanticfibershed.org It's very much still a work in progress, but everything across the top up to Farming is pretty much done (except, of course, for filling in the database more--the alpaca farmers are all that's got substantial data). It's the "garment-making" last step that I'm not done coding. One of my friends is working on forms to let people submit entries, and I have the intention of giving each producer a page with a few images eventually...but that's not really a launch requirement. Oh, and if you know Python: PATCHES WELCOME!

    2 years ago

  • myvintagecrush

    Kathleen from myvintagecrush says:

    Yeah, but a $900 coat that you will more than get your money out of! Beautiful and made to last the test of time. Its all about where we choose to invest our money; high end, low end, they all have a place :)

    2 years ago

  • LeCoquetteCouture

    Georgia Griego from LeCoquetteCouture says:

    I Loved seeing this here! We watched a mini documentary about this project and used it as a springboard for our recent homeschooling lessons, This is a very important concept- I for one strive to be conscious of in my daily "acquiring"... Some very talented women up there! >^.^< xoxo Georgia

    2 years ago

  • ClothandINK

    Helen Peterson from ClothandINK says:

    This is so awesome, I loved reading this article. How thought provoking. I totally believe in quality not quantity and I appreciate spending more on something that is made to last, especially when it's handmade. Keep up the good work and sharing your message.

    2 years ago

  • dottywalker

    Dotty Walker from SewThoughtfulBlanket says:

    The article is so amazing. I wouldn't have the patience to do this but it's a fantastic coat! Thanks for sharing.

    2 years ago

  • mikiheather

    Heather Butler from MikiandHeather says:

    I love alpacas! We have a shop in the town closest to us- Ashbourne, that sells alpava fur clothes and panama hats!

    2 years ago

  • mattyhandmadecrafts

    Matejka Max from NattyMatty says:

    Beautiful!!!

    2 years ago

  • ACupOfSparkle

    ACupOfSparkle from ACupOfSparkle says:

    Alpacas are one of the cutest and softest animals ever. I have visited a place like this farm in Friday Harbor Island in Pacific Northwest and fell in love with them. It is definitely a lot of work towards a product but, the final product is nothing like any other wool, in my opinion. Totally worth the price tag. Thank you for the story!

    2 years ago

  • KMalinka

    Natalia from KMalinkaVintage says:

    Beautiful work!

    2 years ago

  • LoveFromCapeCod

    Sandi Pike Foundas from LoveFromCapeCod says:

    WOW. I am in awe of all this wonder-FULL-ness! Beautiful in every possilble way. with a smile from Cape Cod, ~Sandi

    2 years ago

  • funnydays

    funnydays from funnydays says:

    Beautiful work!

    2 years ago

  • hmmills

    Helen Mills from 1820BagCo says:

    I think this shows how much work goes into handmade. Great article.

    2 years ago

  • DecadesOfVintage

    DecadesOfVintage from DecadesOfVintage says:

    wonderful story thanks

    2 years ago

  • needlenerd

    Bonnie from needlenerd says:

    beautiful! seeing the process of where your wool comes from is such a treat! thanks for sharing your story!

    2 years ago

  • KettleConfections

    KettleConfections from KettleConfections says: Featured

    If the question is whether or not if it's worth it to make something locally even if labor prices here is higher, the answer is yes, because a healthy marketplace is one where people have not just the freedom to buy what they need, but one where people also have the ability create something that is of value to their fellow neighbors. Making things locally also gives people living in the same area to interact, but right now, we know very little about the people we engage in business with besides our hairdresser, tailor, doctor. The marketplace is as much about people as it is about value but these days, profit takes precedence with more and more companies going public.

    2 years ago

  • lesleykaye1

    Lesley Kaye from lesleykaye1 says:

    Wow..what a beautifully made coat, I loved this article and can appreciate the time and effort that has gone into the making....so I say its definately worth the price tag...it will last years !

    2 years ago

  • GRANDto

    Gülşah Sema Atabek from GRANDto says:

    hard work!wonderful

    2 years ago

  • lesleykaye1

    Lesley Kaye from lesleykaye1 says:

    Wow what a beautiful coat....I can appreciate fully the time and effort that has gone into the making. I think its definately worth the price tag and will last years!

    2 years ago

  • PreciousMeshes

    Emily from PreciousMeshes says:

    Gorgeous! Not cheap, nor should it be. I am sure there are those who would spend $900 on a high end mass-produced designer label coat, but this is so much more special! Great story!

    2 years ago

  • Cricketartworks

    Laurie from Cricketartworks says:

    I enjoyed reading this article. Every part of the process of your beautiful coat is highly valued to make a handmade and custom designed coat just for you! How amazing is that !! Quality over Quantity every time. .

    2 years ago

  • mazedasastoat

    mazedasastoat from mazedasastoat says:

    My better half built me a sander very similar to the cyclocarder... a set of runes takes about 50 miles to sand completely. I always thought we'd invented the concept between us, just goes to show there's nothing new under the sun!

    2 years ago

  • Stephaniemakesall

    Steph from OneStitchDesigns says:

    I love this article :) shows a lot of what goes into handmade. and felting is a lot faster than spinning! (yikes!) I think the coat cost a hair under what it's worth, but it's still way out of my budget, that's a lot more than a month's pay for me!

    2 years ago

  • karensstitchnitch

    Karen from karensstitchnitch says:

    Fabulous work! As you can see, I own a few alpacas and I am a fiber artist. I love these kinds of stories because it is important to see the progression of such a beautiful coat that can from such a wonderful creature. LOVE IT!!!!!!

    2 years ago

  • LivingVintage

    LivingVintage from LivingVintage says:

    Interesting! As a knitter, I worked with alpaca yarn. But, I've never seen the fabric.

    2 years ago

  • pinksnakejewelry

    pinksnakejewelry from pinksnakejewelry says:

    Superb -Awesome!!! Loved the Article, Photos and the Coat!!! WOW!!! Amazing!!! Kudos to Alpacas and their Keepers!!

    2 years ago

  • volkerwandering

    Jess from volkerwandering says:

    Fantastic article! Great job!

    2 years ago

  • arteentusmanos

    Monica Asseff from arteentusmanos says:

    Wonderful work!!! absolutely love that jacket!!!

    2 years ago

  • malimademe

    malimademe from malimademe says:

    Karen, Katherine, Vicki, Miss Chamomile and the etsy community! Thank you for this wonderful experience and for writing such a beautiful article about very important issues.

    2 years ago

  • JoyousCrafts

    Heather Salzman from JoyousCrafts says:

    Wow! I loved this article! It makes me want to make EVERYTHING by hand now! LOL!

    2 years ago

  • MadeForEwe

    MadeForEwe from MadeForEwe says:

    What a wonderful article....and a very beautiful coat!! I was tickled to see an article that addressed the time and labor that goes into a handmade article. I feel that sometimes the time, labor, and love that goes into a handmade article is unappreciated....especially when the price tag is seen. Kudos!! for bringing this into the light. Enjoy your new coat!!!

    2 years ago

  • DreamsandJewelry

    Andrea Bonelli from AndreaBonelliJewelry says:

    Great article and LOVE the coat!

    2 years ago

  • flourishingagain

    Lacey from FlourishingAgain says:

    I love this article even if I could never afford the coat! It reminds me what my mother taught me about spending money. One carefully made item of quality, regardless of where it comes from, is worth 10 cheap items, both monetarily and on time and frustration when cheap items fail!

    2 years ago

  • InfiniteCosmosGirl

    InfiniteCosmosGirl from InfiniteCosmosGirl says:

    great article!! It's interesting to see the whole process like that. That coat is gorgeous! We have 2 alpacas (Furio and Cortez), though we usually just use their fleece to stuff dog beds. They are very strange and interesting animals <3

    2 years ago

  • RoyalMint

    Sabina from MountRoyalMint says:

    this is super cool! amazing article. thank you for including me :) xo

    2 years ago

  • warmnfuzzies

    warmnfuzzies from warmnfuzzies says:

    This is the best article that I have read on here in a long time!!!! Bravo!

    2 years ago

  • SunshineFelt

    Olena from SunshineFelt says:

    This is so awesome! Beautiful work! And very beautiful coat! Thank you for the story!

    2 years ago

  • pollyfoofoo

    pollyfoofoo from pollyfoofoo says: Featured

    Very well said. Localized production would be so great for our economy. I'd rather buy fewer things that cost more to produce because they are local, than have lots of cheap stuff that has been outsourced.

    2 years ago

  • sheilasthings

    Sheila from PotteryOnEtsy says:

    I have signed on to your website, I'm extremely interested in this since I am now a weaver as well as a potter and I live nearby. Can't wait to hear more!

    2 years ago

  • alangood

    alangood says:

    Beautiful coat and a beautiful team effort. The alpacas afe so cute, too! This article reminds us of how much goes into a handmade object. Thanks, Karen!

    2 years ago

  • bedouin

    bedouin from bedouin says:

    love seeing this article ~ here in the pacific n west the alpaca / human ratio are neck and furry neck ! beautiful work all around ~ gentle and giving, alpaca's rock !

    2 years ago

  • debbyhillberg

    Debby from DebbysHandmadeGoods says:

    Thanks for the interesting article. I had no idea of the time and expense. Many blessings to you and all of the women involved in making your coat!

    2 years ago

  • FranceGallery

    France Gallery from FranceGallery says:

    The alpaca's look so sweet! An interesting article.

    2 years ago

  • uswatsons

    Sylvie Liv from SylvieLiv says:

    Totally its worth the money!! But you are right, most of us couldn't afford more than one garment of this price. I think that the fact that it was local as well as custom fitted are two factors in the price that could be lowered, if someone wanted a similar result for cheaper. But it sure is a pretty coat! And how neat that it was local. What an awesome project.

    2 years ago

  • studiorandom

    Dana Seilhan from studiorandom says:

    I think that the reason people can't afford things like a $900 coat is because their lives are so uncertain. You must spend so much of your life asking other people for permission to live. You don't have your own tribe, extended family, home territory, regular food supply or water or firewood rights. Every single thing you have, you must purchase. If I even wanted to live near my family again I'd have to be independently wealthy because the big corporate farms are where the farm money is, the professional jobs are all taken and the few wage jobs I can find don't pay enough money for living expenses. If people could just find that stability and NOT have to move around every three to five years, if they could keep their own property and control over at least part of their food supply, then whatever money they earned could go more toward luxuries. Some of this is within our control; I've gotten a lot of hope from the book Your Money Or Your Life, if only more people would read it before they went deeply into debt. The rest will require political change, and who knows how long that will take. In the meantime, if you've got the income or assets to afford locally-sourced crafts, please spend it in that direction whenever you can.

    2 years ago

  • EnterpriseAmericana

    Enterprise Americana from EnterpriseAmericana says:

    We need a Chamomile in our life. ...and 9 miles a jacket isn't too shaby. (Yes I know there's more to it than that) These creations are unique and gorgeous. I really love this article.

    2 years ago

  • rebourne

    Marni from rebourne says:

    Wow! I love it! I absolutely love the cyclocarder!!! We are a bike-light family (I tote my three littles around in our cargo trike and husband runs a local bike shop). I've always dreamed of having a farmette with alpacas/llamas and felting/weaving/stitching. Now I can even incorporate our love of bikes into the dreams!!!

    2 years ago

  • Guchokipa

    Tiffany Key from Guchokipa says: Featured

    You are right. It does pose the question about our economic standards. While I am in that category of people who cannot afford a coat like this, I would not condemn the price because it is worth more than that. How much is a good quality coat from a major fashion house that has plenty of resources at their disposal? If more interest was generated in producing locally made garment, then the price would eventually become more affordable. 900 dollars for a coat that will keep you warm for many years is definitely a bargain, especially considering the good story you also get to wrap yourself up in. Thanks for sharing the process.

    2 years ago

  • ArchetypalTheatre

    Sarah Pogue from ArchetypalTheatre says:

    Thank you for this wonderful article! I do feel that we benefit from owning fewer, but more locally and artfully made, things because we know that each item has a story that is congruent with our beliefs and values! We are then able to appreciate how special the item is while at the same time keeping our space simple and uncluttered.

    2 years ago

  • Challand

    Sharon Challand from Challand says:

    Interesting story and photographs.

    2 years ago

  • gilstrapdesigns

    Debra Gilstrap from gilstrapdesigns says:

    Wow such a very interesting article. Those pictures are simply beautiful. Those alpacas are so beautiful they almost look like people in the face. I was really looking at the first picture there features are striking. I love that coat! Thank you for this article it was so good.

    2 years ago

  • QsGoodies

    Q from QsGoodies says:

    Enlightening article! Truly talented! Beautiful work! Thank you for sharing. Many blessings to you!

    2 years ago

  • TheMillineryShop

    Marcia Lacher from TheMillineryShop says:

    The very first thing I thought was "what a nice coat" and now I know why.

    2 years ago

  • BlueMoonLights
  • AnnaBear200

    Anna Woehling from JewelsByAnna says:

    That coat is beautiful

    2 years ago

  • Talking1

    Richard - TalkToMeGuy says:

    I really enjoy the photographic/word tour the author takes us on. Then the thought provoking : " Could we live happily with fewer, better made things..." WoW! What a Great piece!

    2 years ago

  • andiespecialtysweets

    Jason and Andie from andiespecialtysweets says:

    Move over Adam Smith!! Karen, you've put your finger on exactly how an economy works. : ) This is a beautiful and very inspiring way to start over (since our current economy is broken). The only way to survive the coming turmoil is to go into the local community, and to supply and purchase less -but of lasting quality. When you think about the investment and time that went into the coat, you really see what a bargain it was, in all reality. And the money spent, went to support 3 real people -so wonderfully inspiring! Thank you, Karen! HUGS

    2 years ago

  • ktoonl

    ktoonl from ktoonl says:

    Great article and beautiful work !!

    2 years ago

  • baleandtwine

    Bale and Twine from baleandtwine says:

    Love the cyclocarder, should be one in every gym:-) Great article and fab pics!

    2 years ago

  • baconsquarefarm

    baconsquarefarm from baconsquarefarm says:

    What a great article~ plus incredible workmanship. You all are an inspiration to all of us. Thanks for sharing your story. :)

    2 years ago

  • choisette

    choisette from choisette says:

    what it simply comes down to is: you get what you pay for.

    2 years ago

  • 63artlove

    Diane from LaughingWaveDesigns says:

    It will always be a classic look - well worth the investment!

    2 years ago

  • Caitiec23

    Caitie and Jamie C. from NuitHiboux says:

    Such cute alpacas!

    2 years ago

  • HandmadeIsAllAround

    HandmadeIsAllAround from iammieOWLshop says:

    What a cute animal!

    2 years ago

  • BijouxOdalisque

    Bijoux d'Odalisque from BijouxOdalisque says:

    Karen has done it again. She has captured the essence of what Etsy is. What does handmade mean? It means going to the source without having to "source out". Finding your supplies within your own community. Creating a life using the elements your neighbors are offering. I am amazed by every article this author has been so gracious to write.

    2 years ago

  • CopperheadCreations

    Sarah from CopperheadCreations says:

    Beautiful coats!!!

    2 years ago

  • BettyAtkins

    Betty Atkins from BettyAtkins says:

    Loved this article

    2 years ago

  • AsBoldAsLions

    Amanda Molandes from AsBoldAsLions says:

    Alpacas are such beautiful animals! Great write up and beautifully resourceful. I hope to one day have the ability to sew all of my own clothing. Very inspiring write up!

    2 years ago

  • thevicagirl

    VaLon Frandsen from thevicagirl says:

    First of all, I love that bike, so cool. The process is also very cool, fun to see it move from stage to stage. To answer the questions, is it a new form of economy? Isn't it old? Isn't that what they used hundreds of years ago, made things for each other? To ask that we go back to that is almost ignoring the fact that we don't have a 'local' economy, or even a 'national' one, but it truely is a global one. Local isn't just as far as you can walk anymore, but truely has become world wide. A better question is could we make a new economy on pieces done by artists and not machines? And I have my doubts about that, afterall, I am typing on a computer and not actually talking to someone in the same room as me.

    2 years ago

  • dizhasneatstuff

    deb fearon from dizhasneatstuff says:

    inspiring and thoughtful

    2 years ago

  • sparrowsalvage

    Sparrow from sparrowsalvage says:

    Good article, fits in with things I've been thinking lately along these lines. But like VaLon said, this isn't new, it's the old system of the economy- we're talking pre industrial revolution when artisans and craftspeople were the ones who made our products. Then steam and water came along and most were put out of a job by a bigger, faster, cheaper machines. Goods were made more accessible, the middle classes were invented and the luxury of consumerism was truly born. I don't think we can ever go back to pre IR, the social fabric is far too complex for it to work. In my opinion when it comes to fixing the economy (and the planet!), it's the wealthy who are in the position to change much of it by employing people to hand-make their quality goods rather than over-indulging on 'cheap' mass acquisition. (One reason why luxury brands are a good thing.) The poorer people must suffice with trade, salvage and DIY - and for everything and everyone else, it'll probably stay the same as it is now. These things work best when you realise you can't change everything- just something. Change where you can and the rest will even out, somehow..!

    2 years ago

  • sparrowsalvage

    Sparrow from sparrowsalvage says:

    Oh I meant to say for the two items you couldn't source locally (cotton thread and tiny magnets) - are their no thrift stores nearby? I seriously can't remember when I bought new thread.

    2 years ago

  • cottonbirddesigns

    Angela Cotton from CottonBirdDesigns says:

    Great article!

    2 years ago

  • Ayshma

    Ayshma from ArtPieces says:

    great article

    2 years ago

  • JasminBlancBoutique

    Erika Iozsa from JasminBlancBoutique says:

    this article is amazing! Love it, truly! And those alpacas are the sweetest, never seen one in real life, but I would love to :) It is a system which was fine back in the old days, back when we respected each others work and intentions of buying...And we don't need everything we see out there. I prefer to buy things from producers and not the ones that have gone through a million hands, and have no story...These products have a story, they have value! The tiny miracles of human relations!

    2 years ago

  • jananapa

    janana Paola Murgia from jananapa says:

    bellissimo lavoro, molto affascinante davvero, complimenti

    2 years ago

  • ingermaaike

    Inger from IngerMaaike says:

    I love how the whole process is shown, less stuff and junk and more quality would make everyone happier:)

    2 years ago

  • SijaFelt

    Sigita from SijaFelt says:

    I also create the felted coats and jackets but without sewing, and they cost even less, but needs even more efforts and work to create. But I agree the price of 900 $ is very normal, specialy if there participated in creating few producers. But I would not agree with all the 100 % with only local material using and selling only from local producers. For example if you want the jacket which you can wear not only everyday, felted jacket can be a very interesting and elegant accent for a bride, for the WEDDING! Yes the softest one, for the bride :) so then you need the softest wool of the best quality, which came from another continent, you need the silk the best of the best quality, which also came from another continent. The materials can come from all around the world, for such a special occasion. Everything depends on the needs and the quality you want to get. Even the artisan who can create you the beautiful your figure best fitting wearable, he can live thousands of miles from you! And Etsy makes you easier to find him / her and the required products and materials ! With love, Sigita from Lithuania, working and creating with wool and silk from all around the world.

    2 years ago

  • ProninA

    Angelina Pronina from ProninA says:

    I also like felted! Thank you so much!!!

    2 years ago

  • jewelkingthai

    jewelkingthai from jewelkingthai says:

    Interesting article

    2 years ago

  • jewelkingthai

    jewelkingthai from jewelkingthai says:

    Interesting to read the article. Good information. Thanks for the the wonderful article

    2 years ago

  • SatzDesigns

    Satz from SatzDesigns says:

    Lovely article, you can see how a real community can build up if enough effort is put in. Eventually everybody can co-work with each other, barter goods and and trade skills for goods. Excellent reply that Dana wrote and totally agree with her thoughts (43rd comment in this thread).

    2 years ago

  • paolafrusteri

    paola frusteri from paolafrusteri says:

    Yeh..It's a good idea and great job...So have fun and Enjoy yourself...A mean it's a good job in a good place and contact with animal...all great Cheers, PF

    2 years ago

  • TheHickoryTree

    Linda from TheHickoryTree says:

    Wonderful article. As far as the price, this is a handcrafted and tailored coat. I think the price is more than warranted.

    2 years ago

  • sweetandblue

    sweetandblue from sweetandblue says:

    Absolutely brilliant. This is so much more than just a conversation because you did it! You took all the steps to make this coat. I love your vision. If the design is classic, i think people will pay $900. It is clearly worth it! And besides, who doesn't love an alpaca

    2 years ago

  • LittleWrenPottery

    Victoria Baker from LittleWrenPottery says:

    That's one gorgeous coat! You have to think also about the longevity of the garment. I've bought clothing off Etsy before and yes although expensive they're my favourite items in my wardrobe! They hold up after washing better than high street clothing and I'm sure will endure many years of hard wearing not just a few months.

    2 years ago

  • SheriHillDesign

    Sheri Hill from SheriHillDesign says:

    thanks for caring enough to see this project through and to document and share the storey - fabulous coat at the end of it too!

    2 years ago

  • knitmystique

    Knit Mystique from KnitMystique says:

    Very interesting article and spot on since this is the issue that all us makers face these days. Those who do spend that kind of money on a coat want a famous label attached to it that guarantees more than the pleasure of wearing something special. But then again, we are working towards changing that mentality and sooner or later, it will all return to local production since it will prove to be the best we can do for our countries and communities. Thanks for the article, thoroughly enjoyed it.

    2 years ago

  • SPAULEY

    Susan Pauley from SPAULEY says:

    Great article. Beautiful coat.

    2 years ago

  • messinabella

    messinabella from BandBEstate says:

    Beautiful coat and great post!

    2 years ago

  • inwool

    Vilija from inwool says:

    The article is very interesting and alpacas are very beautiful. Thank you so much!

    2 years ago

  • MySelvagedLife

    Heather Torre from MySelvagedLife says:

    Terrific, insightful article. thank you for this! The coat is beautiful, and well-deserving of the price tag, even though I could never own it!

    2 years ago

  • megk8199

    Megan Morris from MadebyMegShop says:

    That coat is absolutely gorgeous! My best friend and I are contemplating a move to Colorado from NY, and one of the big draws for me is having enough land to have an alpaca or two. As a knitter, I loooove alpaca fiber, and to have my own would be a dream. Great article!

    2 years ago

  • eversolovely

    Ever So Lovely from EverSoLovely says:

    I loved seeing the process and the alpacas are so beautiful! Thanks so much! Really enjoyed it! :)

    2 years ago

  • jefrist

    Jenna Frist from FristVintage says:

    I friggin love this!!! This is the kind of economy that I can get excited about. Great post!

    2 years ago

  • goodbeads

    goodbeads from goodbeads says:

    So lovely,very beautiful...

    2 years ago

  • RedFernVintage

    Donna Clarke from RedFernVintage says:

    This article is incredible. How much is all that effort, time, talent and money worth? The coat is beautiful...

    2 years ago

  • Mithrakana

    Cara Hammer says:

    Yes, this is a lovely story, and alpacas are nice, and hooray for local artisans.. But let's be real, here. I'd rather spend my money on locally made (Or atleast NOT sweatshop made) clothes just as much as anyone here. In saying "$900 is more than I can spend on clothes in two years, let alone one jacket", I'm sure I am not a minority. This article is nice, and maybe even progressive if you're well-off, but it still leaves many of us with our tight farmer's market budgets and dumpster dive furniture scratching our heads, looking for a different solution. Also, I'm disappointed that they used non-local silk. Nitpicky hag says "Ah-ha, you say you pulled it off, but did you?"

    2 years ago

  • veryveraventage

    Vera Hall from veryveraventage says:

    Very Thought provoking article. Alpacas are such beautiful animals and make gorgeous wool. It would be an interesting project to look into in my area. We have a lot of "cottage industries" here in Southern Indiana.

    2 years ago

  • janicewd

    janicewd from janicewd says:

    Wow this is more than amazing! What a wonderful and inspiring story. And the Alpaca is such an adorable animal. Its making me want to paint one! One of the best stories that I have read!

    2 years ago

  • nicolerisinger

    Nicole Risinger from SoSewOrganized says:

    As someone who is a big fan of "living off the land" and using locally produced supplies whenever possible, I absolutely love this coat and the work that went into it. Kudos to you for setting out to do something like this! I fall into the "don't have $900 to spend on a coat" category, but this is inspiring to try to find those unknown, local industries to accomplish needs in my own life. Great post, enjoy your coat!

    2 years ago

  • SparkleLynn

    Jessica Lynn from SparkleLynn says:

    What a great story! I live in Rohnert Park, so it is fun to know this coat was made so close to where I am :)

    2 years ago

  • andichrisman

    Andi Chrisman from acpaintedpages says:

    That is a beautiful coat, they all did an amazing job, including Chamomile!

    2 years ago

  • Zaheroux

    Megan Weber from Zaheroux says:

    One of the best articles I've read! You really put that bug in my ear and make me want to think about the questions you pose. Very interesting and thank you for sharing!

    2 years ago

  • KaiceJoy

    Kirsti Joy from KaiceJoy says:

    Oh my word, I just LOVED this article!!!! Thank you-I so enjoyed learning the process and all that it takes to make a local product like your coat...and, I really appreciated your point could we live with fewer, better made things? A point worth thinking on!!

    2 years ago

  • Krissykrull

    Kristin Krull from CambaJewelry says:

    Very inspiring and thoughtful. I have some opportunities in my near future where I am required to have manufacturing capabilities. I was looking overseas but instead I think I'll round up some ambitious girls in town and get to work. If you have love in your heart, anything can happen. Thanks for this post!

    2 years ago

  • ItsInTheCloset

    Rita Watters from ItsInTheCloset says:

    Impressive article...well done. I enjoyed learning about the process of making the yarn, and the jacket, and I will have a better appreciation for the finished product next time I see something like it.

    2 years ago

  • Poppymann

    Poppymann says:

    Excellent article. $900 for a CUSTOM garment does not seem to be too high. Our society has been conditioned to accept the lowest price and to diminish the labor and craftsmanship that go into creating something like this.

    2 years ago

  • vilte

    vilte from vilte says: Featured

    Thanks for the article, Karen, and for including my coat from alpaca wool to related items. Some very good points in this article. Not really about local, but about the pricing, the time, talent and experience it takes for people to create things. The world has become wicked in its consumption at one point. We got used to getting lots of things cheap, no matter the quality, nor the conditions the items were made under, nor the long way it took to be "born" into this world - for most of us it's just like a trick of a magician - you wished for it - you have it. And then you can throw it away. I so much agree with the point of view - we could have less, but more special, more personal, more unique things for us and around us... And maybe it's stupid, but it's true - if we pay a higher price, we cherish that item much more, save it and mend it if it wears out, while the cheap things end up in the garbage back so soon... I don't think that the strongest point of this article is all about getting things local, no... I think the strongest point is in changing your attitude towards consuming, understanding the origins of things and how much it does take to be brought into this world. Also about less being more.. Thanks again, Karen.

    2 years ago

  • gigglergoose

    tawnis wohlers from SimplestSunday says:

    I am impressed, although it does seem a bit spendy to me. But it sounds like a better way to spend money than I have before so.. :) Super cool anyway!

    2 years ago

  • wearemfeo

    Van from weareMFEO says:

    Spot on! The biggest challenge is that in our society we vote with the dollar bill... more often than not, voting for the most affordable product. If we all continue to make the initial investment in local quality rather than international quantity,

    2 years ago

  • wearemfeo

    Van from weareMFEO says:

    ... prices will come down as supply meets demand.

    2 years ago

  • jmayoriginals

    jean from jmayoriginals says:

    as a fiber artist, this is right up my alley. gorgeous animals produce gorgeous fleece that produces gorgeous garments. it is a long, involved process but so worth it in the end. thanks for sharing.

    2 years ago

  • blainedesign

    Karen Brown says:

    Thanks, everyone, for your wonderful comments. This project demonstrated to me both how close AND how far away we are from being able to dress ourselves from local sources. In my area, we grow some of the best fiber in the world, and almost all of it is exported, much of it to China. I was left with the overpowering sense that being able to clothe ourselves from what we grow is a birthright and re-establishing our fiber infrastructure is critical to sustainability and self-reliance, second only to growing food. So much thanks goes to the genius team who made the coat, Vicki, Katharine, Mali, and Chamomile. I have had complete strangers comment on the coat, and I let them try it on right on the street! It always sparks a tremendous discussion about local resources and community resilience. Thanks, everyone!

    2 years ago

  • EllipsisBooksandMore

    Ellipsis Books from EllipsisBooksandMore says:

    Thank you for this article! This is a concept I strive for and want to pass down to my daughter.

    2 years ago

  • EnterpriseRanch

    EnterpriseRanch from EnterpriseRanch says:

    I love this coat. That is a good price for handmade alpaca coat. I raise alpacas too and can appreciate the amount of work that goes into making this. I mostly handspin yarns but am wanting to try more felting. That carder is really neat. I was thinking of a hand crank carder but this looks better and you get a workout at the same time. I also love to buy as much locally as possible and it's great that she could do it with that. I agree that alpaca fleece is really beautiful and warm Given the right care, the coat should last for years.

    2 years ago

  • lizworthy

    Liz Worthy from lizworthy says:

    <3 that it's a 9.4 mile coat!

    2 years ago

  • lisarouse2

    Lisa Rouse from lisarouse2 says:

    This is pretty cool. Where I grew up my neighbor raised alpacas so it's neat to see someone out there combining this and creativity!

    2 years ago

  • starking

    Anji King from partystarking says:

    Excellent article. Materials, skills, labour time should all be valued. We have become accustomed to expect cheap cheap all the time. We need to get back to these values.

    2 years ago

  • hollygreengeekcraft

    Holly Green from hollygreengeekcraft says:

    How terribly unrealistic and pretentious.

    2 years ago

  • PopLoveCouture

    Shai Wallach from PopLoveCouture says:

    I love hearing stories of other designers who also create locally. Fast-fashion has distanced most consumers so much from the creative process that most people couldn't even begin to imagine where the clothes they're wearing have come from. It's truly a shame, and it's wonderful to see people starting to become more interested in the stories behind their garments.

    2 years ago

  • Sarious101

    Sarah Lust from HoppingTheFence says:

    Interesting coat. It is to much for me but, seeing how much time and work that goes into such a neat item, the cost seems fine. There are plenty of people who can afford such an item.

    2 years ago

  • SimplyMaco

    Mackenzie (aka Maco) from SimplyMaco says: Featured

    I read about the Fibershed project about a month ago and put together an open source project to allow anyone to set up a website to list producers within their own fibershed. The code is here: https://github.com/maco/Fiber-Directory My local fibershed is here: http://midatlanticfibershed.org It's very much still a work in progress, but everything across the top up to Farming is pretty much done (except, of course, for filling in the database more--the alpaca farmers are all that's got substantial data). It's the "garment-making" last step that I'm not done coding. One of my friends is working on forms to let people submit entries, and I have the intention of giving each producer a page with a few images eventually...but that's not really a launch requirement. Oh, and if you know Python: PATCHES WELCOME!

    2 years ago

  • TheBeautyofBoredom

    Gracie from TheBeautyofBoredom says:

    Those alpacas have some interesting hairdos. I especially enjoy the one of the group of them all staring at the camera. Kind of like they are following you...or chasing you...Otherwise, they are pretty cute.

    2 years ago

  • Loafer81

    Aimee Lindorff says:

    The coat is lovely. However, I wonder at your efforts to ensure it is all locally sourced. You could have made your own magnets, local cotton is very easy to source in that region as well. And was the silk and olive oil soap locally sourced? The project is admirable, but not at all realistic.

    2 years ago

  • atomicblue

    atomicblue from atomicblue says:

    Fabulous article! The carder-bicyle is a real hoot! I have three carders, and know how long it takes to card something super fine (about 4-5 repeats). Alpaca costs alot, yet I would DIY everything except actually growing the fiber. For me it would be time+fiber cost. See ma, the time spent in fashion school wasn't wasted. Personally, I feel $900 is too high for my budget. I could see spending about $395. being more like it.

    2 years ago

  • geekgirlunveiled

    Stacey HH from Halesque says:

    I'm still trying to understand why such a big deal is being made of this coat being so local. The alpaca and its production was local, and a local designer appears to have designed and sewn it, but seems to me that all of the other materials involved in its making were not local. Interesting exercise, and lovely design and materials, but sadly misrepresented.

    2 years ago

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage from accentonvintage says:

    The coat is priceless! The alpacas are adorable!

    2 years ago

  • CNDCowgirl

    Lisa Katsiris says:

    Its a beautiful coat, yes. However HOW is it local? The only things locally sourced were the alpaca fibre and the designer. The silk, magnets, for crying out loud even the thread weren't local. Now these weren't specified as local or not but what about the muslin for the pattern and the olive oil soap? Again, yes it is a beautiful coat but it seems to me the article is misleading.

    2 years ago

  • Furiousdreams

    Victoria Webb from Furiousdreams says:

    Fabulous article. This points up the huge difference between the high cost of low prices (Walmart/big-box stores) that pulls jobs out of our country and feeds not just corporate greed, but our own. Finding ways to have equitable and sustainable forms of commerce are the fundamental building blocks to saving our own economy and our vitality as a country. Factories can be efficient, but we must change the labor model to offer a fair wage to all. Thanks for some thoughtful insights, Karen!

    2 years ago

  • IncredibleThreads

    Lori Lawhorne from IncredibleThreads says:

    What a wonderful, thought-provoking article. As a professional tailor/alterationist, people are CONSTANTLY, and I mean almost on a daily basis, bringing me articles of clothing made overseas and bought for cheap that fall apart the first time they are worn. Your coat is definitely a work of art, and I think it's an excellent idea to buy things made locally, keeping in mind that not all of them involve so many people and so many hours of labor, therefore the average person CAN afford to invest in handmade clothing and get high quality. While they will pay more than they would at Wal-Mart, they will save in the long run on repairs. They will also get something they can resell or pass along to a friend because it will still have plenty of wear left.

    2 years ago

  • Alfonzi Admin

    Kimm Alfonso from KimmiePalooza says:

    Karen, this is an amazing and inspiring article!! It was so great to meet you in SF and hear this story first hand, its only made more amazing by the photos and faces that combined to create such a wonderful garment.

    2 years ago

  • ccoggins

    Carol Coggins from AmericanGirlClassics says:

    I love using the natural wools in my felted pieces.

    2 years ago

  • LusciousPearl

    LusciousPearl from LusciousPearl says:

    I have really mixed feelings about this post. On one hand, I make bespoke garments and understand the time and effort and years spent developing skills that go into them. However, I think this article lacks any understanding that $900 is several months of rent for a huge portion of society. Sure, people with money supporting artists is great -my side business wouldn't exist if it were not for people having extra income and wanting to ready themselves to a custom item. This article is NOT realistic as a change that society as a whole can make. Peoples' incomes just don't allow them to spend this much $ (which isn't to say that the artists who worked on this garment shouldn't be compensated at 15-20$/hr for their skilled labor). I see bartering as a much more likely source of underground change in our society. And I have to agree with some other comments - this coat isn't 100% local. Why was it nuno felted, requiring the imported silk, and not just dry felted? Why use magnets, a product that requires importing in this instance, and thus likely made in an area with terrible environmental effects? Buttons would have required cutting the fabric, but the yardage was already cut to make the coat.

    2 years ago

  • janeeroberti

    Jane E Roberti from janeeroberti says:

    Well done! As a former clothing designer, I was in the trenches during that period in the 90's when fabric mills-- and the whole apparel industry of cutters, sewers, finishers, ad infinitum -- we're outsourced overseas. It was extremely hard to create a small wholesale line, that was shipped all over the US, but made locally in Chicago ( with mostly imported fabric). And I'm not sure anyone except my little kids and close friends (who made my days in my little studio storefront super fun) cared one bit that those clothes were "made in the USA". I am glad that there seems now to be a little more awareness and care for locally sourced and made products, and hope we are at the Nadir of Cheapland, there now being nowhere to go but up. That Alpaca coat is awesome. and I had no idea alpacas were so cute (with mophead bangs!). At $900 it is a Bespoke Couture Steal, and I won't be surprised if it is knocked off by a major design house and on a couture runway in a few months for $9,000.

    2 years ago

  • FelttheSun

    Katharine-Ellen from FelttheSun says:

    Karan, you did a great job writing up this story, and addressed so much in a short space. Each paragraph could lead to a whole 'nother discussion! It was a great pleasure to work with you and Mali, showing off the gift of our fleecy friend!

    2 years ago

  • FelttheSun

    Katharine-Ellen from FelttheSun says:

    Karen you are such a thoughtful writer, and did a good job condensing this story into your word limit. It seems each paragraph could be the kernel for whole other discussions. It was a great joy to work with you and Mali to show off the gift from our fleecy friend!

    2 years ago

  • FelttheSun

    Katharine-Ellen from FelttheSun says:

    Regarding the silk... yes, totally imported and made by some factory process. The perennial challenge in making urbane felt garments is that we are accustomed to thin, drapey fabrics. I make wool felt vests and jackets where the thickness of the felt provides its own structure, but for this coat, because there was so much material being used I wanted the textile to have a nice drape and not feel stiff and bulky. As the article mentions, the silk acts like rebar, giving strength and durability, especially at the seams. And at $900, I wanted this coat to last! And we are definitely trading our skills in our home community, bringing new and exciting challenges to each other as we all do our part to create a beautiful world.

    2 years ago

  • MissCrackleberry

    Andrea Robinson from MissCrackleberry says:

    Very interesting blog!

    2 years ago

  • DiscordVintage

    Discord Vintage from DiscordVintage says:

    Aww, those animals :)

    2 years ago

  • OnlyOriginalsByAJ

    AJ Marsden from OnlyOriginalsByAJ says:

    So awesome! And I love that black jacket!

    2 years ago

  • bojacobson

    Bo Jacobson says:

    "right there – right between what we want to pay as buyers and what we want to be paid as makers – is where we can begin a conversation about a new economy, an economy that we invent and own ourselves" What a great angle on systemic community thinking. If we want our personal gain to also be our communal gain, cheaper and more disposable goods simply can't get us where we want to go.

    2 years ago

  • EastThomasLee

    Lee Thomas from EastThomasLee says:

    great job

    2 years ago

  • miriamhamsa

    Miriam Hamsa from MiriamHamsa says:

    I live locally where the fibershed project is ongoing, in fact, Rebecca Burgess will be speaking at the library in a week or so. I have noticed the prices that people are asking for their work in the fibershed website, and honestly, I think a lot of it is out of control. My daughter in law makes some of the same products, and charges $35 for them, instead of $135. Granted, she isn't using locally sourced wool, but that local wool shouldn't add $100 to a project. As far as the coat goes, it is lovely. But much of the price is due to the fact that she had it custom designed. Had it been done with a pre-existing pattern, it might have cut the cost by more than half. Still incredibly expensive by any reasonable standard, but a lot more realistic. I don't think that locally sourced artisanally produced clothing etc should only be for the wealthy. That totally offends me, and in a sense, runs against the whole grain of the movement.

    2 years ago

  • blainedesign

    Karen Brown says:

    Hi Miriam, I appreciate and agree with a lot of what you say. The custom "couture" aspect of the coat did add a lot to the price. You're right, making many garments from the same pattern would have reduced the price quite a bit. You and I live in an area where sometimes the annual lease on a piece of farmland costs more than buying the same amount of land in other parts of the country. That affects the price of everything we grow. I look at that as something we need to work on seriously as a community, so that we can bring things back into a better balance and make essential things like clothing more affordable for more people.

    2 years ago

  • JaneBoFelt

    Jane from JaneBoFelt says:

    Thank you very much for your article Karen, and for featuring my wedding shawl. That article is very interesting, great photos of proccess and alpacas) and many new facts. Even economy in Russia where I live differs most of your thoughts are appliable here too.

    2 years ago

  • yqsl66

    Ada Ada from idajewelry66 says:

    I Loved seeing this here!Thanks, everyone!

    2 years ago

  • MelinSun

    Melin Stockmann says:

    Fascinating! Love the blend of tradition and ingenuity!

    1 year ago

  • oldschoolhandwovens

    Kathryn from oldschoolhandwovens says:

    I'm surprised that no one ( that I saw anyway ) considered actually making the coat themselves! I live in Central NY where fiber animals and artisans abound. Alpaca fleece runs about $2/ounce raw. 4 lbs would be $84.00 from the farmer. I can wash and card and spin it myself. Probably take me 6 weeks if I put my mind to it. I am among the minority who owns a weaving studio with numerous antique looms so I can weave the yargage myself too. Or do the felt myself if I choose. Felting is fairly easy and lots of fun, not to mention instantly gratifying to see the cloth appear before your eyes. Making a pattern is fairly easy - get a book from the local library. Finally, cut and sew. Not a big deal, especially for the frugal, homestead movement types ( of which I'm one - kindof ). People have been making their own clothes for ever, and back in the 19th century if you needed a new item of clothing, off the rack wasn't an option. You either had a tailor make it or you made it. Sewing was considered an essential skill for any woman especially if she was married. Along the line in the process, think about hiring out what you can't or don't want to do. Such as the sewing for instance. This would reduce the cost of the finished product BIG time! What if that coat could cost $150 in materials and some labor? Who would own one then? What about "sweat equity" where your own labor replaces some of the expense in making it? Not a new concept at all. Geesh people.Seems to me this is whats' wrong with the economy - expecting to buy a finished, custom made product from locally grown sources made by local artisans at Wally - World prices. It seems to me that Fibershed is about mindset, not necessarily selling. Karen shows what can be done if people have the intention. Expand on this model, modify it, stretch it, as long as the orginal terms are still "use only local resources for materials and labor". Regards, Kathryn Old School Handwovens Weaving Studio Registered Finnish Landrace Sheep Central NY

    1 year ago

  • SienbluePottery

    Renee Ferguson from SienbluePottery says:

    Love this article about how we approach the Arts and Crafts in the 21st century. I'm not rich but I do buy expensive handmade mugs from fellow potters, will pay a lot for handmade almost anything that tells me a story and lets me feel where it {the product} came from. Keep encouraging such articles to circulate and be written. Oh, and I LOVE the cyclocarder gizmo! Am working on making one here at home to card some local Aussie wool this winter (June for us here Down Unda).

    107 days ago